Week ahead: Obama budget to tout green priorities

President Obama introduces the final budget of his presidency in the coming week, giving a glimpse into what he hopes to accomplish on climate change and other environmental policies before leaving office. 

Few of Obama's proposals are likely to find support in the GOP-controlled Congress, including some he has already outlined. 

Republican leaders, for example, immediately ridiculed Obama's proposed $10-per-barrel tax on oil produced in the United States. 

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"This plan is little more than an election-year distraction," Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said. "As this lame-duck president knows, it's dead on arrival in Congress, because House Republicans are committed to affordable American energy and a strong U.S. economy."

The White House budget, though, has big plans for the funds such a tax would bring. Funds raised from the fee, the White House said Thursday, would go toward a $32.4 billion annual push to green the transportation sector by funding public transit, an urban planning initiative and clean vehicle research.

Obama defended the proposal on Friday, saying with gas prices as low as they are, now is the time to raise money through a new tax on oil. 

"It's right to do it now, when gas prices are really low," Obama said. "And they will be low for quite some time to come, so it's not going to be a disruptive factor in terms of the economy."

Obama will also ask Congress to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), fully fund it in 2017 and make some of its spending mandatory. 

In a Thursday statement, the Interior Department said the plan would "help sustain our nation's public lands and waters for present and future generations." Parks and conservation supporters cheered the proposal, but to meet Obama's request, Congress would need to double its 2016 funding allotment for the LWCF. 

Environment America put out a list of 10 policies it hopes to see in Obama's budget, including LWCF funding, support for the Park Service, funding for drinking water in the wake of the Flint, Mich., crisis, new funding for Energy Department programs and a boost in spending for an international green energy fund.

Obama's budget comes out on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Michigan senators say that they hope lawmakers will resume consideration of the Senate energy reform bill after a weekend of amendment talks. 

Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, had wanted more time to work on a Flint aid package before voting began on the energy bill. The Senate, though, went ahead with a cloture vote on Thursday, which failed thanks to a Democratic filibuster. 

"We thought we were very close [Wednesday] night, and then it became apparent we weren't quite there," Peters said on Thursday. "And we just needed more time. We now have time to work over the weekend."

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will appear before the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday to discuss "the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency's actions on the rural economy." Lawmakers will likely prod McCarthy on the agency's role in the Flint crisis. 

A House Natural Resources subcommittee will hold a hearing on four public land bills on Thursday. On Wednesday, a panel will probe the "costly impacts of predation and conflicting federal statutes on Native and endangered fish species."

In the Senate, an Environment and Public Works subcommittee will hold a Tuesday hearing on fish and wildlife regulations on the federal and state levels. It will hold a hearing on a water resources bill on Wednesday. 

 

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