Geof Koss

States Aim to Pre-emptively Block Power Plant Regulations

The breadth and complexity of President Barack Obama’s plans to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants are probably a nightmare to some of the many Hill staffers, reporters and interest groups following the issue, but it may be a dream come true for civics teachers.

Boom Puts Spotlight on Renewing Key Solar Tax Break

Solar energy is booming in the United States and the industry wants everyone to know it. But winning an extension of a key solar tax break in a GOP Congress suspicious of green energy won’t be easy, especially as regulatory and market forces continue to batter fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Remember That Time a Senator Flew an Autogyro Around the Dome?

Florida man Doug Hughes landed a gyrocopter Wednesday on the West Front of the Capitol. Maybe he was inspired by the late Sen. Hiram Bingham, who liked to fly his autogyro, a forerunner of the helicopter, around the campus as well.  

Bingham was a famous explorer best known for discovering Machu Picchu in 1911, but he later served two terms in the Senate as a Republican from Connecticut.  

The 40-Year Saga of The EPA's Coal-Ash Rule

The path to the Environmental Protection Agency’s December release of its final rule for coal-ash disposal stretched for nearly 40 years through the halls of Congress, the bureaucratic web of federal agencies, and in and out of courtrooms across the country. Here are a few key milestones:

Noting the Irony, Republican Praises EPA Coal-Ash Rule

An unusual event transpired last week in the House: A senior Republican opened a hearing by praising the Environmental Protection Agency.

Upton Eyes the 'Architecture of Abundance' for Energy

The following is a special report, which CQ Roll Call subscribers received last week.

After peeking inside Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s, R-Alaska, energy manifesto Monday for clues on how she’ll run the Energy and Natural Resources Committee next year, we turn today to the corresponding plan by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

Murkowski's Energy Manifesto Hiding in Plain Sight

The following is a special report, which CQ Roll Call subscribers received last week.

There’s plenty of speculation about what Republicans will do on energy in the 114th Congress, and while a lot of details remain to be sorted out, the House and Senate chairs with primary jurisdiction have dropped plenty of hints about their thinking.

Repairing a Frayed Connection

Federal energy regulators trying to implement the Obama administration’s ambitious energy and climate agenda have found plenty of hostility in Washington during the past few years.

Energy Secretary Calls Industry Criticism of Natural Gas Export Overhaul 'B.S.'

Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz in a one-on-one interview Friday with CQ Roll Call signaled that any further changes to how his agency processes natural gas export applications will have to come from Congress, as the Energy Department tries to end a controversy over how the United States ships gas to nations that are not trading partners.  

In addition, Moniz dismissed industry complaints that DOE has moved too slowly on export applications as “B.S.,” noting the department can’t take final action until a separate Federal Energy Regulatory Commission review is completed. Some U.S. energy companies eager to expand new overseas markets say the Obama administration is dragging its feet.  

States Battle to Recover Royalties for Energy Production on Public Lands

Western governors won a rare — though potentially short-lived — victory last month when the Interior Department reversed plans to withhold roughly $100 million in fiscal 2013 royalty payments to states for oil, gas and coal produced on federal lands within their borders.

To the dismay of state governments, the Interior Department had said it would withhold roughly 5 percent of the royalties owed under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (PL 66-146) to comply with across-the-board spending reductions under the sequester. They were relieved when the department relented, after concluding as part of a legal review urged by the states that mineral payments qualified under a 1985 budget law that allows certain sequestered funds to be withheld initially, then disbursed in subsequent fiscal years.

Obama Nominates Energy, EPA Heads

President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and MIT professor Ernest J. Moniz to serve as Energy secretary during his second term.

“They’re going to be making sure that we’re investing in American energy, that we’re doing everything that we can to combat the threat of climate change, that we’re going to be creating jobs and economic opportunity in the first place,” Obama said in introducing his nominees at a White House news conference. “They are going to be a great team. And these are some of my top priorities going forward.”

GAO Highlights Financial Risks to Government of Climate Change

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office on Thursday identified climate change as posing serious financial risks to the U.S. government, fueling further calls by Democrats for actions to curb emissions.

In testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Comptroller General of the United States Gene L. Dodaro announced that the GAO for the first time is adding climate change to its list of highest risks to the U.S. government.

Obama Faces New Pressure on Canadian Oil Sands

Northeastern lawmakers are planning to ask the Obama administration to require an extensive environmental review process for any efforts to utilize an existing pipeline to ship crude oil produced at Canada’s tar sands to Maine.

Led by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, the lawmakers are drafting a letter to freshly minted Secretary of State John Kerry calling for a new presidential permit and full environmental impact statement should the operators of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline attempt to ship tar sands crude to Maine through the decades-old conduit.

Interior Pick Wins Praise, Cautious Responses From Lawmakers, Interest Groups

President Barack Obama’s surprise nomination of Sally Jewell, head of the outdoor recreation equipment cooperative REI, to lead the Interior Department is drawing a mix of praise and wait-and-see responses from lawmakers and interest groups.

With a diverse background that includes extensive business experience — including work in the oil and gas sector — along with strong conservation credentials, the 55-year-old Jewell would seem to hold appeal across the political spectrum.

Salazar Is Latest Departure From Obama's Energy-Environment Team

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will step down from his position in March, the department announced Wednesday.

The 57-year-old Salazar, who resigned his Senate seat in 2009 to take the helm of the federal agency that oversees millions of acres of public lands, will return to Colorado to spend time with his family. His departure has been rumored for months, although there was considerable speculation in recent weeks that he might stay on in the position. The Denver Post, which first reported Salazar’s intentions Wednesday, noted that he and his wife are the primary caregivers to a 5-year-old autistic granddaughter.

Inhofe Sees Senate Deference on Next EPA Chief

The top Republican on the Senate’s environment panel and leading EPA critic predicted Friday that the president’s yet-to-be-named nominee to replace Lisa P. Jackson as EPA administrator will be confirmed.

Despite speculation that confirmation for a successor to Jackson may be difficult, Oklahoma Republican James M. Inhofe said enough Republicans will likely defer to President Barack Obama’s nominee to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to defeat a filibuster.

Tea Party Conservative, Liberal Team Up in New Efficiency Caucus

A tea party conservative and Northeastern liberal teamed up last week to give energy efficiency efforts a symbolic push in the House by creating a new bipartisan caucus focused on increasing the federal government’s use of private contractors that specialize in reduced energy use at public buildings.

Launched by Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., the 10-member caucus aims to expand the use of energy-saving performance contracts, under which federal agencies pay private firms to make energy efficiency upgrades at their facilities.

Modest Bill's Success Sets Stage for Bolder Effort
Energy efficiency, which typically enjoys strong bipartisan backing, has been caught in recent hyperpartisan battling

Late in the afternoon on Dec. 6, the Senate did something unlikely — it unanimously cleared an energy bill.

Perhaps more striking was the lopsided 398-2 vote in the House a day earlier to pass the same measure (HR 6582).

GOP Critics Urge Treasury-Led Panel To Block Sale of Stimulus-Funded Firm

Republican senators said Monday they expect the Obama administration to consider possible security risks related to the weekend sale to Chinese investors of a bankrupt U.S. battery company that received stimulus funding.

Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which must approve sales that could transfer control of U.S. companies to a foreign entity, should consider whether the sale of the advanced battery maker A123 Systems to Wanxiang Group compromises “American military and energy security.”

Biofuels Fight Flares Before Possible Defense Debate

More than one-third of the Senate is calling for removal of provisions in the defense authorization bill that would limit military efforts to develop alternative fuels.

In a Nov. 16 letter to Senate leaders, 38 senators backed Pentagon biofuels programs as worthy investments, given that the U.S. military is the largest user of oil in the world.