Capitol Comments

Last week, the House of Representatives approved the energy portion of a surface transportation package, the “Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security (PIONEERS) Act” (H.R. 3408) by a vote of 237-187. The amended bill included several provisions to significantly expand offshore oil and natural gas development off the Pacific, Mid-Atlantic, and Gulf Coasts as well as Alaska as a way to fund transportation projects due to a shortage in federal-gas tax receipts for the Highway Trust Fund. In addition, HR 3408 would open up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to exploration, incentivizes the development of oil shale reserves and it includes language to expedite the approval process of the Keystone XL project. Prospects for final passage are uncertain at best as the bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate and a veto threat from the Administration.

The President unveiled his $3.8 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2013 which resonated broad themes from his State of the Union speech last month before Congress. Energy and environmental issues were key highlights of the budget’s rollout, with a heavy focus on developing new clean energy, advancing research and development funding for alternative energy, as well as promoting advanced manufacturing jobs.

On February 10, several states filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in New York to require the EPA to issue more stringent air quality requirements for soot emissions. The states filed their suit in response to the agency missing an October 2011 deadline to update its standards for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) or soot, which is produced by diesel vehicle emissions and power plants. Many health problems are linked to particulate matter emissions such as respiratory illness, heart disease, and asthma. 

According to press accounts, the Pennsylvania Senate may vote as early as this morning on a compromise proposal to direct upwards of $211 million a year in impact fees to local counties and communities from natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. 

Yesterday, the Department of Interior gave the go-ahead for a plan to make a lease sale available by the end of 2012 for commercial-scale wind farms off the Mid-Atlantic coast.The approval by the Obama Administration would forego the need for a formal Environmental Impact Statement, and may shave two years off the permitting process according to the Offshore Wind Development Coalition