Week ahead: Senators square off on EPA climate rule

The Senate will get its first crack this week at the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy will head to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday, where she’ll be the sole witness at the first Senate hearing on the power plant rule. The House started hearings on the rule June 19, a mere two weeks after it was unveiled.

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate committee, is a strong proponent of the EPA’s proposal, along with her Democratic colleagues. But the Republicans on the panel, led by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), will take the opportunity to grill McCarthy on what they see as an expensive, job-killing rule.

Meanwhile, as Congress inches closer to its August recess, time is running out for lawmakers to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank before its charter expires Sept. 30.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wants to roll back Ex-Im’s prohibition on funding coal projects abroad, an idea that has angered green groups. The issue caused some infighting in the Democratic Party last week, and it remains to be seen whether Democratic leaders will allow the provision to remain in the bill.

Senators will get an opportunity this week to consider President Obama’s nomination of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as deputy secretary of Energy, replacing Daniel Poneman. Sherwood-Randall is currently top defense adviser to the president.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider the nomination Thursday.

The Senate Energy Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss the benefits to states and local governments from further development of the country’s natural resources.

The Energy subcommittee on National Parks will meet Wednesday to hear testimony about 22 bills dealing with parks, including some to reauthorize programs, adjust park boundaries and study changes.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions’ subpanel on Employment and Workplace Safety will hold a hearing Tuesday on black lung disease, an ailment most commonly associated with coal miners.

The panel will hear from three federal government officials, in addition to some experts in the field and a former coal miner.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will meet about the domestic security implications of the United States’ energy and climate policies. Lawmakers have invited officials from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Defense Department.

A second panel at the Foreign Relations hearing consists of outside experts and stakeholders.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands will hold its second hearing in a series Thursday on allegations of threats, intimidation and bullying by federal agencies that manage land. The panel, headed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), has not announced witnesses for the hearing.

On Wednesday, the Natural Resources subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs will hold a hearing on four bills within its jurisdiction.

The Energy and Commerce’s power subcommittee will examine Thursday the impacts of the country’s energy policies in terms of encouraging democracy. The lawmakers have invited a panel full of think tank, academic and stakeholder representatives.

The committee’s environment and economy subcommittee is planning a Wednesday hearing on modernizing environmental regulation and protection. It has not announced a witness list.