OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Big test for climate regs

It’s crunch time in Washington, where Congress is entering its final legislative week before lawmakers head out of town for a five-week recess. Here at OVERNIGHT REGULATION we’ll cover the last-mute scramble through a regulatory lens and, as always, offer a preview of tomorrow’s emerging storylines.

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Now, let’s talk about regs.

 

THE BIG STORY

After months of spin from industry and green groups, regulations at the core of President Obama’s climate change initiative will go before the American public in the coming days.

Tuesday sees the launch of a series of four Environmental Protection Agency meetings that present a major test of the administration’s proposal to impose new limits on carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants.

The agency is expecting to hear from hundreds of people during marathon hearings in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.  At the same time, members of Congress are planning efforts to bolster their side of the debate.

Given that the president’s initiative to counter the effects of global warming hinges on the power plant rule, the stakes couldn’t be much higher.

--Three things to watch for during the hearings:

1) Public sentiment: The hearings will serve as perhaps the best measure yet of where the American people stand on the proposal. Both sides have touted polling numbers in their favor and sought to shape public opinion through studies and events, but the hearings will include testimony from ordinary people, as well as major players. Look for both sides to buoy their presence with voter turnout-style efforts. Green groups, for instance, said they anticipate their members showing up by the busload at the hearing sites. http://j.mp/1qHnWbr

2) Congressional response: It is no coincidence that members of Congress and their allies in Washington have chosen this week to schedule a host of hearings and events that will allow lawmakers to push their message on the proceedings.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) are holding dueling hearings on the proposal on Tuesday and Wednesday. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) will jump into the fray with a Wednesday presser to highlight the cost of the proposed EPA regulations on coal country. The debate’s ferocity was evident Monday, when Kelly likened the EPA to a terrorist organization during a speech at the Heritage foundation.http://j.mp/1rTcBDw

3) How EPA reacts: The EPA has stressed that the hearings are more than just a formality, as the agency moved toward a final rule. "Listening to people right now is the most important thing for the EPA and country to understand what the American Public wants us to do as an agency," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said.

But McCarthy is taking some heat for not appearing personally at the hearings. “Even before public hearings begin on her agency’s highly contentious carbon proposal, Administrator McCarthy already has her mind made up about the fate of the rule,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

 

ON TAP FOR TUESDAY

Obama’s request for billions of dollars to address the crisis on the Southwest border will occupy both chambers of Congress in the last week before summer break. Meanwhile, the House is expected to move toward a vote on Republicans’ proposed lawsuit challenging the president’s use of executive power and is scheduled to vote on new enforcement standards for prescription drug abuse and a package of bills involving the Endangered Species Act. The Senate is expected to vote on legislation to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent.

Obama has meetings at the White House before heading to Kansas City for a Wednesday speech on the economy.

The EPA hearings will begin and continue throughout the week in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Denver and Washington. http://j.mp/1nDzLfc

Murray (D-Wash.) will convene a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee looking at the economic costs of inaction on climate change. http://j.mp/1rFksnZ

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing examining how the president’s Clean Power Plan will impact the nation’s power grid. http://j.mp/X5Oh5Q

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY:

The Obama administration will publish 168 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register.

Highlights include:

-The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will issue new rules protecting whistleblowers who allege wrongdoing at NASA contractors and subcontractors.

Government contractors will not be allowed to fire or demote employees who warn NASA about contractors that abuse their authority, mismanage government contracts, waste taxpayer money, or endanger public health and safety, under the new rules.

"Such reprisal is prohibited even if it is undertaken at the request of an executive branch official," NASA says. http://j.mp/1tTSO6f

-The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may ease the import restrictions on Mexican pork, which are intended to prevent the spread of swine disease in the U.S.

The USDA says it is looking to replace certain import prohibitions and restrictions on Mexican pork with stringent regulations that would pave a way for this meat to be sold in the U.S. http://j.mp/1nAfXd8

-The USDA may also relax the import restrictions on certain oranges from South Korea, including two types of Unshu oranges. http://j.mp/1l7NdUx

-The Department of Energy will withdraw portions of its energy conservation rules, after they were overturned in federal court. The Energy Department plans to vacate rules for mobile home furnaces and vented hearth heaters. http://j.mp/1qbyDhG

-The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may ease the regulations for natural gas pipeline companies. Under the new rules, they would no longer be required to send updated maps to FERC after they make changes to a pipeline system. But they would still be required to post the updates on their own websites. http://j.mp/1AqLa7Y

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

DC GUN BAN: Gun owners will no longer be arrested for carrying registered firearms around town, The Washington Post reports. After a federal court struck down the city's gun ban, Police Chief Cathy Lanier told officers to stop enforcing a rule that made it illegal for people to carry guns in public. http://j.mp/1uAHdNA

FINED: Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson will pay $2 million in fines to settle charges with the SEC that it illegally bribed foreign military and law enforcement agencies to supply them with firearms. http://j.mp/1rTraqA

TURBULENCE AT SOUTHWEST: Federal regulators fined Southwest Airlines $12 million on Monday. The Federal Aviation Administration accused the company of flying airplanes with mechanical problems and putting their customers in danger. http://j.mp/1zn2dq2

INSIDE BASEBALL: The Federal Communications Commission is being asked to umpire a dispute between Time Warner Cable and other television providers over broadcasting Los Angeles Dodgers games. http://j.mp/1uAPFfG 

McCARTHY A NO-SHOW: The nation's top environmental regulator says she doesn't plan to attend public hearings for one of the Environmental Protection Agency's most controversial rules, which would allow the EPA to regulate emissions at existing coal plants. These hearings give the agency an opportunity to hear from the public before they move forward with the rule, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says she won't be there. http://j.mp/1oAWXvu

COMMUNITY BANKERS are pleading for relief from certain quarterly reporting requirements that they say are overly burdensome and unnecessary. http://j.mp/WJKdZ5

FISHERMEN: New England lobster fishermen are complaining about federal rules protecting whales, which often become entangled in lobster nets, The Cape Cod Times reports.http://j.mp/1rLtt0o

ASSAULT ON REGS: Pickup truck drivers who have diesel engines are protesting new environmental regulations, The Boston Globe reports. http://j.mp/1l7ZbNY

DRONING ON: The LA Times's editorial board is calling for state regulations for drones to address privacy issues, in the absence of stronger federal regulations. http://j.mp/1mVWAWZ

 

BY THE NUMBERS:

4: The number of public hearings scheduled this week in support of the EPA’s contentious power plant regulations.

11: The scheduled duration, in hours, of the first day of the Washington hearing, which is slated to run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

1,600: The anticipated number of comments the agency is expected to hear.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“You talk about terrorism, you can do it in a lot of different ways... But you terrorize the people who supply everything this country needs to be great – and you keep them on the sidelines – my goodness, what have we become?” — Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) on the EPA.

 

We’ll endeavor to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, via bgoad@thehill.com or tdevaney@thehill.com. And follow us at @ben_goad and @timdevaney.