The week ahead: Fracking, biofuels, offshore oil cash in focus on Capitol Hill

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings Tuesday and Wednesday to gather testimony on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires growing volumes of ethanol and other renewable fuels in the nation’s motor fuel supply.
 
The mandate, created by Congress in 2005 and expanded two years later, is under heavy criticism from oil industry groups and some lawmakers who say it’s essentially unworkable.
 
Its defenders say it’s a major tool for promoting homegrown fuels that help displace oil imports.
 
The marathon hearings will feature testimony from the oil industry, various facets of the biofuels industry, corn growers and livestock groups that are at loggerheads with environmentalists over the ethanol mandate, among others.
 
On Thursday a House Natural Resources Committee panel will hold a hearing on GOP legislation that would thwart planned Interior Department regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public lands.

On Wednesday, the House Science Committee will hear from senior EPA officials on the agency research into potential water pollution from fracking.
 
Across Capitol Hill, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will gather Tuesday for a hearing on proposals to expand state revenue-sharing from energy development in federal waters.
 
A 2006 law gave Louisiana and several other states on the Gulf of Mexico a slice of the federal revenue from some Gulf oil-and-gas production royalties and leasing bids.
 
But advocates want the Gulf program to be more generous to states. They also want it to be expanded to Alaskan leases and other states that could have offshore leasing in the future.
 
The legislation under consideration would also expand revenue-sharing to include renewable energy development revenues.
 
Also Tuesday, the Environment and Public Works Committee will hear from nominees for several senior-level Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) positions, including the nominees for general counsel and head of the agency’s water quality office.
 
Those are just a few of the many energy-related hearings and markups this week. Here's even more:

On Tuesday House Republicans will launch new efforts to strip the EPA’s power to move ahead with regulating carbon emissions from power plants and other sources.

A panel of the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday will mark up fiscal 2014 EPA spending legislation.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who heads the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies subcommittee, said in June that the bill will become a “battleground” over the White House climate change agenda.

It’s not clear if the underlying bill will contain language to thwart the EPA or whether amendments will be added, but Simpson said in late June that one way or another, the spending bill will be used to challenge President Obama’s climate agenda.

“I expect that when my bill reaches the House floor we’ll have a robust debate on the President’s contempt for the congressional processes envisioned by our Founders and on the overreach of his upcoming actions on greenhouse gases,” he said in a statement.

On Tuesday a House Natural Resources Committee panel will hear from a senior Interior Department mining official about potential rules, which have drawn heavy GOP criticism, that would toughen environmental restrictions on the dumping of waste from mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia.

On Wednesday an Energy and Commerce Committee panel will hold a hearing about Energy Department project management, and on Thursday a House Science Committee panel has a session on “the future of coal.”

Off Capitol Hill, the federal Energy Information Administration on Thursday will roll out its 2013 International Energy Outlook, which examines production, consumption and other trends in coming decades.
 
Also Thursday, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will be the keynote speaker at a Bipartisan Policy Center forum on the U.S. shale gas boom.
 
Wyden, whose committee has been focusing heavily on gas policy, said recently that he’ll soon roll out long-awaited policy proposals.