Top five stories: Energy and environment

Top five stories: Energy and environment
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It was a busy year on the energy and environment front, from another delay in the review of the Keystone XL pipeline to President Obama unveiling his controversial climate regulations for power plants.

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Despite being accused of a “war on coal” by Republicans in their successful campaign to win control of the Senate, Obama shifted his climate agenda into high gear after the elections by revealing a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions with China.

And the battle over climate policy is far from over as Republicans prepare a new legislative assault aimed at forcing approval of Keystone and dismantling the administration’s emissions policies.

Here are the five energy and environment stories from 2014 that set the stage for the coming year.

1.) State Department freezes Keystone XL review

In April, the State Department moved to freeze its review of the contentious oil sands pipeline, citing litigation in Nebraska that could put the route of the project in doubt.

The State Department put its interagency review of the $8 billion project on hold just as it neared the finish line, saying agencies needed more time to consider the impact of the case, and that there was no “intent to delay the process."

The oil industry, building trades unions and Republicans didn’t buy it, lambasting the administration for punting a possible decision on the pipeline past the election and into 2015.

Nebraska has yet to determine whether Gov. Dave Heineman (R) had the authority to approve the pipeline’s route through the state, but a decision is expected early next year.

2.) EPA unveils climate rule

The Environmental Protection Agency pressed forward with its regulation on carbon pollution in June, outraging the GOP and the oil industry.

The proposal, if finalized by summer of next year, would require the nation’s fleet of existing power plants to curb carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Republicans denounced it as unprecedented federal overreach that will hurt the coal industry and eliminate energy jobs, while Democrats and environmentalists cheered the move, calling it a win for public health and efforts to combat climate change.

The administration is pushing to finalize the rule by summer of next year, but it faces a battle to get there.

3.) U.S. and China reach climate deal

When the White House announced it had convinced China — the world’s No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases — to put a cap on its pollution, most of Washington was caught off-guard.

China agreed in the pact to put its first-ever cap on emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030, and possibly earlier, though critics on Capitol Hill noted the agreement is nonbinding.

The administration is betting the deal and other actions on climate change will build momentum for negotiations next year in Paris to finalize a global treaty on global warming. Those talks involve some 190 nations.

4.) Oil boom gathers force

President Obama took a moment at his year-end press conference to give a shoutout to the nation’s oil and natural gas industry.

“The U.S. is now the No. 1 producer of oil, the No. 1 producer of natural gas,” Obama said, while also boasting of the record-low gasoline prices at the pump.

The recent drop in gas prices are in large part thanks to a glut in the global market that has raised questions about whether the shale boom in the United States is sustainable.

But officials from the Energy Department’s stat shop predict America’s oil renaissance will continue despite the decline in profits.

5.) GOP wins midterm’s ‘war on coal’

Republicans are about to take the reins of the Senate in January after winning the majority at the ballot box in November. The very first item on their to-do list: approving Keystone XL.

Senate Republicans will almost certainly have the votes to pass legislation that would approve construction of the pipeline in January, provided Democrats who support the pipeline don’t change sides.

With support from fossil-fuel friendly Democrats such as Sens. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampSenate Dem undecided on 2018 reelection run Trump ‘regulatory czar’: Two-for-one rule can work Congress should just say no to more green energy handouts MORE (N.D.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerDonna Brazile: Congress has duty to halt Trump on Russia sanctions Lawmakers told of growing cyber threat to election systems DHS official: Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states MORE (Va.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinZinke hits Dems for delaying Interior nominees Manchin faces primary challenge from the left Sessions sequel falls flat following Comey drama MORE (W.Va.), Republicans could have 61 votes in favor of the project, giving them a supermajority to send the pipeline to the president’s desk for a likely veto.

Also high up on the GOP’s agenda is the president’s carbon pollution rule.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism Sanders: I hope McConnell listened to protesters outside his office MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to do everything in his power to delay or block the rule.

“Whatever we can think of to try to stop it we're going to do,” he told The Associated Press this month.