The Week Ahead: Congress barreling toward clash over Keystone, EPA

President Obama vowed to veto the House Republicans’ plan because of the Keystone measure, which would require the administration to fast-track a permit decision on the project. The administration delayed a decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 election, angering Republicans who said the project would boost the economy and create thousands of jobs.

Republicans said Obama is preventing the country from reaping the economic benefits of the pipeline, which would carry oil-sands crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas. But Democrats argued that Republicans are holding the broader payroll-tax package hostage over unrelated measures, including Keystone.

Separately from the payroll-tax package, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold two markup meetings Thursday that are expected to advance legislation requiring the administration to act on the pipeline proposal.

Also on our radar: House and Senate conferees are working on an omnibus end-of-year spending package. E2 will be watching closely for potential Republican-backed riders targeting EPA regulations. The package could be unveiled as soon as Monday.

Later this week, EPA will announce its mercury and air toxics standards for power plants, regulations that environmental groups are eager to see. But Republicans and industry groups have mounted an opposition campaign against the rules, arguing they will harm the economy and perhaps even cause large-scale power outages.

The Obama administration has sought to counter those allegations in recent weeks, releasing an Energy Department report stating that the regulations won’t threaten electric reliability. The EPA regulations should be released by Friday.

Meanwhile, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will host members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Wednesday for a hearing on Chairman Gregory Jaczko’s leadership of the body.

Issa released late last week an Oct. 13 letter from the four NRC commissioners to the White House alleging that Jaczko is causing “serious damage” to the agency that could harm the body’s ability to protect health and safety.

Read more here and here.

In addition to the House Oversight hearing, a panel of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will examine the post-Fukushima task force’s recommendations at a hearing Thursday.

Another thing to watch: a bipartisan pipeline safety bill is slated for a vote Monday night in the House.

The Senate is slated to hold a handful of energy-related hearings this week:
• A Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee will examine the country’s water infrastructure Tuesday.
• A Senate Finance subcommittee will hold a hearing on alternative energy tax incentives Wednesday.
• The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing Thursday to examine the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s post-Fukushima safety recommendations.

Off Capitol Hill, the National Press Club is hosting an event Wednesday on the “Need to Extend Renewable Energy Programs and Challenges Surrounding Natural Gas Drilling.” And the EnergyBiz Leadership Forum is hosting a webcast Thursday with Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.