Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in education, research, science, agriculture, energy, environment and natural resources, and intellectual property.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
Capitol News: Appropriations and Budget
CONGRESS: FY13 Appropriations Bill Amendments; Forest Road Fights; Pay to Delay; Energy QER; Horse Slaughter Ban; Countering a Carbon Tax; Energy Race to the Top Bill; Hearings & Events
ADMINISTRATION & INDEPENDENT AGENCIES: President’s Budget; Secretary of Commerce; Clean Energy Trust; Interior v Shell Oil; Nuclear Preparations; Obama Energy Meeting.
Noteworthy News: Climate and Market Incentives; Nuclear Roadblocks; Solar Successes.
In the Know: A Preview of Upcoming Events in DC.
Appropriations and Sequestration: March 1 came and went and the funding will not be restored in the final FY13 Appropriations bill, as some had hoped.
FY 13 Appropriations: The House already passed its version of the CR – and it does not bode well for education, research, or other discretionary accounts. Specifically, it includes funding for the Defense Department and the Veterans Administration for the full year, while clumping the rest of the funding bills in a CR (at last year’s appropriations levels). Further, it maintains the sequestration cuts. The Senate bill includes full-year funding for multiple subcommittee bills (i.e. Agriculture; Commerce, Justice and Science; Homeland Security; Defense and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs) and a CR for the rest. (See below more details on the Bill)
FY14 Budget. The President has yet to release his budget that was due out in early February (it is now expected April 8), so the Chambers are moving ahead with their own budgets. The dueling budgets from the House and Senate Budget Committees take different approaches. The House budget claims to eliminate the deficit in 10 years, primarily through cuts in funding (although it does include closing some tax loopholes), while the Senate budget is expected to focus on reducing the budget by raising revenues through closing tax loopholes and reducing some spending.
*Some notes on the budget process. The budget bills are not laws. The President does not sign them. They do not need to match. They are (usually ideological) documents used by each Chamber to provide guidance on fiscal matters.
Senate FY13 Appropriations Bill. The full Senate continues to work on the FY13 Appropriations bill, but with over 90 amendments, it is going slowly. A deal by leadership to cut down on the number of amendments didn’t succeed, so this weekend staff is working to cut the number down. Two amendments of interest remain. First, an amendment by Senators Coburn and McCain to eliminate funding for political science research at NSF and transfer seven of the $10 million to NIH (with $3 million “saved). Although expected to lose on a vote, the Senators insisted on a vote. Rumor has it that a deal may be struck before the Senate returns to votes next week, in an attempt to finalize the bill and conference with the House before the CR expires on March 27. Senator Toomey introduced an amendment to redirect funding from the Defense program for alternative fuels program.
Forest Road Fights. While the Senate Energy Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Sally Jewell to be Secretary of Interior, fights over her nomination loom. Ranking Member Murkowski (R-AK) is holding her nomination hostage in exchange for a road (for a remote village that now uses air transport) through the remote and pristine Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska that is crucial for wildlife, according to The Washington Post.
Pay to Delay Bill. Senators Franken (D-MN), Vitter (R-LA), Durbin (D-IL), Shaheen (D-NH), and Sanders (I-VT) introduced legislation that stops drug companies and generics from striking deals to delay introduction of generic drugs into the market. These deals are commonly called reversed payment deals, and the Federal Trace Commission has been trying to negate them for years. For more details, see the Patent Docs posting.
Energy QER Bill. Senators Wyden (D-OR), Pryor (D-AR), Coons (D-DE), Begich (D-AK), Tester (D-MT), Heinrich (D-NM), Udall (D-NM), Alexander (R-TN), and Boozman (R-AR) introduced legislation (available soon) to require a Quadrennial Energy Review. According to a press release, “would authorize a high-level government-wide coordination council to submit a comprehensive review of current domestic capabilities and future energy needs, as well as the resources, technologies, and policy recommendations to meet them.”
Horse Slaughter Ban Bills. Two bipartisan, bicamerial bills were introduced that make illegal the slaughter of horses for consumption in the US or for slaughter abroad. The bills, introduced by Representatives Meehan (R-PA) and Schakowsky (D-IL) and Senators Landrieu (D-LA) and Graham (R-SC), comes partially in reaction to the recent revelation that beef in some EU countries was in fact horse meat, according to the LA Times. The bill would reinstitute a ban on slaughtering of horses that expired in 2011.
Countering Carbon Tax. Two Republican House Members, Scalise (R-LA) and Barton (R-TX), from oil states introduced a resolution, backed by the oil industry and the American Farm Bureau, opposing a carbon tax, claiming it will hurt jobs. In his press release, Barton declared “A carbon tax is a bad idea whose time has still not – and will never – come”.
Energy Race Bill. Senator Bennet (D-CO) re-introduced legislation, The Clean Energy Race to the Top Act (will be available soon), to create a competitive grant program worth $5 billion open to states and local governments that adopt favorable energy policies. According to the press release, some activities that may qualify include: Renewable electricity standards; Regional or statewide climate action plans; and increased percentage of energy efficient public buildings.
Congressional Hearings & Events
House Science Committee:
- Examining the Effectiveness of NIST Laboratories, March 20, 2013
- Improving EPA’s Scientific Advisory Processes, March 20, 2013
- The Register’s Call for Updates to U.S. Copyright Law, March 20, 2013
Senate Commerce Committee:
- Developments and Opportunities in U.S. Fisheries Management, March 19, 2013
Administration & Independent Agencies:
President’s Budget. The President typically releases his budget the first Monday of February. The budget is now expected April 8, 2013.
Clean Energy Trust. At a speech at Argonne National Lab, President Obama provided more details on the Clean Energy Trust he proposed his State of the Union Speech. The Trust will use $2 billion, collected over 10 years from oil and gas development revenues, for research on advanced, cost-effective, transportation alternatives.
Interior Demands a Plan from Shell. In response to serious safety issues, Interior is demanding a detailed plan from Shell Oil before it will allow Shell to continue drilling off the coast of Alaska, reports The New York Times. Secretary Salazar is demanding that Shell prove it has the resources and comprehensive plan for all contingencies after several serious mishaps.
Nuclear Prep Plans. Recently, speaking at a gathering, NRC Chairwoman Macfarlane, recommended that the nuclear industry and government be prepared for the unknown, including terrorist attacks and natural disasters, according to The New York Times. This is especially true with aging reactors that were designed with less understanding of geological workings.
Obama Energy Meeting. President Obama convened business executives and experts to discuss climate change and energy issues, including energy efficiency, modernizing the grid and the methane leaks from fraking, reports The Washington Post. Obama reportedly used the meeting to promote public-private partnerships, in addition to promising to use his executive powers to promote these issues.
Climate and Market Incentives. The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, in response to a request from Congressman Waxman (D-CA) and Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), sent a letter called “for Congress to enact comprehensive
market-based legislation that allows for flexibility and cost-effective emissions reductions, including carbon offsets.”
Nuclear Roadblocks. Plentiful and cheap natural gas, licensing questions, and an uncertain electricity demand are hurting the prospects for a revival in nuclear energy, according to The Washington Post.
Solar Successes. Although the House Republican Budget penned by Congressman Ryan contends that two specific solar projects that got federal loan guarantees are “ill-fated ventures,” The Washington Post reports that the companies are thriving. In fact, as The New York Times reports, last year was boom year for the domestic solar market. The Solar Energy Industries Association reported that from 2011 to 2012, there was a 76 percent increase of new solar electric capacity.
IN THE KNOW: EVENTS PAST & FUTURE
Upcoming Events (listed by date):
- CATO: A Looming Scientific Revolution in Environmental Regulation, March 21, 2013
- ITIF: The Social and Economic Case for Autonomous Vehicles, April 10, 2013