Academic journal article Energy Law Journal

Report of the Legislation Committee

Academic journal article Energy Law Journal

Report of the Legislation Committee

Article excerpt

This report provides a summary of select federal energy legislative activities occurring during the Second Session of the 113th Congress, from September, 2013 through August, 2014.

I. Efforts to Curb the EPA ' s Regulatory Powers under the Clean Air Act

With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having launched into several significant regulatory actions in 2013 and 2014, both the House and Senate responded by ramping up oversight, activity, and legislation. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was a frequent guest on the Hill explaining the Agency's intentions on a range of issues. This section focuses on the most sweeping and controversial regulatory action-the EPA's proposed rules for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for new and existing fossil-fuel power plants.

In response to the EPA's Climate Action Plan,1 first announced on June 25, 2013 by President Obama,2 and followed by the September 2013 release of the draft proposal for new plants3 and the June 2014 proposal for existing plants,4 Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) partnered on H.R. 3826/S. 1905, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act,5 commonly referred to as the Whitfield-Manchin bill. The bill sought to slow down or turn back EPA proposed rules to limit GHG emissions from new and existing fossil- fuel power plants.6 On the new plants side, the bill would prevent the EPA from issuing limits on power-plant greenhouse gas emissions unless standards are based on proven technologies, with "proven" defined as in use for a full year at commercial scale at six plants.7 It would also block the EPA's existing plants rules until Congress set the effective date.8

The House passed H.R. 3826 on March 6, 2014 by a vote of 229 to 1839. Two days prior, on March 4, 2014, the White House issued a veto threat.10 In the Senate, blocked by opposition from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the bill failed to attract additional Democratic co-sponsors required to make it viable.

II. Pipeline Infrastructure

Legislative interest continues in streamlining Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) review and approval of proposed natural gas pipeline infrastructure projects. On November 21, 2013, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act,11 by a vote of 252 to 165.12 As passed by the House, H.R. 1900 amends section 7 of the Natural Gas Act.13 The new sections direct the Commission to approve or deny a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a "prefiled project" within 12 months after receiving a complete application that is "ready to be processed, as defined by the Commission by regulation."14 A "prefiled project" is one that has been assigned a prefiling docket number to facilitate a formal application process.15 H.R. 1900 requires other federal agencies to grant licenses or permits for siting, construction, or operation within ninety days of the Commission's issuance of its final environmental document16, subject to the Commission granting a thirty-day extension.17

As background, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced H.R. 1900 on May 9, 2013 when it was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.18 On July 8, 2013, subcommittee hearings were held on H.R. 1900.19 Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, submitted H.R. Report 113-269 to accompany H.R. 1900.20 The report observes that the legislation "will help address the critical need to build new natural gas pipelines and improve upon the existing pipeline infrastructure by creating greater regulatory certainty in the permitting process."21 H.R. 1900 is awaiting consideration by the Senate.22

III. Cybersecurity

The 113th Congress has seen a high level of interest in cybersecurity issues from the public, the administration, and policymakers in 2014. …

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