Week ahead: Senators put spotlight on W.Va. spill

Senators will hold a hearing on Tuesday to examine the chemical spill in West Virginia that left roughly 300,000 people without water.

West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Jay Rockefeller (D) have called for stronger water regulations in response to the spill and are co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that would bulk up states’ powers on oversight of chemical facilities.

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The hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Water and Wildlife will review the “effectiveness of the policies and procedures” used to protect drinking water sources.

The senators will also consider what added measure might be necessary to ensure drinking water sources are safe and protected from hazards.

Witnesses will include top West Virginia officials and representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council and International Liquid Terminals Association.

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Randy C. Huffman, of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, will also testify.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider two of President Obama’s nominations to the Interior Department: Rhea Suh as assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife Parks and Janice Schneider to be assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management.

On the House side of the Capitol, a working group on Tuesday will release its final report and recommendations for improving the Endangered Species Act.

A House panel held a hearing on the endangered species law in December, where some Republicans voiced concern over the disruption to commerce they say the law creates.

The Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday will hold a hearing on strengthening fishing communities and increasing flexibility in fisheries management.

Environmental hearings continue on Wednesday, as the House Science Committee will take a look at the science behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations, with a specific look at how it is applied in Texas.

Later on Wednesday, a House subpanel will take a look at the impacts of the Bureau of Land Management’s “red-tape” on the nation’s energy production.

Off Capitol Hill, the Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on the future of electric utilities on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Environmental Law Institute will host a former White House official for a conversation on key legal environment and energy issues facing the Obama administration this year.

Gary Guzy, a former White House Council on Environmental Quality deputy director, will speak at the event.

Finally, on Thursday the Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on the clean energy challenges facing China.