Ambreen Ali

Decades-Old Fight Over ANWR Rages On

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska consists of 19 million acres — including a 1.5 million acre coastal plain seen as the potential source of at least 7.7 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.

But in addition to reservoirs of untapped oil, the coastal plain is home to caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, migratory birds and threatened polar bears, and it has been labeled by conservationists as “America’s Serengeti.”

Alaska Governor Pursues New Strategy in Push to Open Arctic Refuge to Drilling

After being frustrated for decades in their efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, Alaska politicians are trying a new approach that may shift the battleground from Congress to the courts.

Buoyed by support from the state’s senators, Gov. Sean Parnell is on a publicity blitz touting a 7-year plan to study and explore oil and gas resources in the refuge known as ANWR. His campaign is premised on what he believes is a requirement, set in law by Congress 33 years ago, that the Interior Department must allow him to conduct a three-dimensional seismic study to determine how much oil resides beneath the region’s coastal plains.

Ceiling Fan Makers Strive to Block Efficiency Rules They Once Sought

The House fanned an old debate this week by adopting a provision that would block the Energy Department from setting energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans.

Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn offered the policy rider to the Energy-Water appropriations bill (HR 2609), saying companies such as Memphis, Tenn.-based Hunter Fans cannot afford burdensome regulations that would drive up the price of products. The amendment, which would block funding for writing the regulations, was adopted by voice vote.

Spectrum Auction Controversies Revived
Disagreements center on whether projected $15B sales figure is realistic

Lawmakers are reviving the debates that nearly stalled spectrum auction legislation cleared by Congress earlier this year as the Federal Communications Commission begins to implement that law.

The spectrum auction, approved as part of the payroll tax cut extension (PL 112-96), could generate an estimated $15 billion for the federal government over the next decade. But disagreements arose at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing Wednesday about how that money will be spent and whether the auction will even succeed in generating it.

Thune in Line for Top Commerce Slot

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota appears likely to inherit the top-ranking Republican seat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Jim DeMint of South Carolina had been expected to assume that job when the new Congress convenes, but he announced Thursday he will leave Congress in January to head a conservative think tank. The top two Republicans on the panel currently — Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — are retiring.

Former Aide Has Had 'a Lot of Different Seats'

During her five years at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Jessica Rosenworcel helped assess the nation’s communications needs a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the public safety interest in spectrum policy. She has served since May on the Federal Communications Commission, where she previously was a legal adviser to then-Commissioner Michael J. Copps. She also has worked as a telecom lawyer at a private firm.

The 41-year-old is the mother of two young children who she says are “bound to be digital natives.” She insists she has time for little else than work, but she does enjoy the occasional concert by the acoustic pop band Guster. Her younger brother is the drummer.

Storm Clouds Hang Over Cellphone Backup Rules

Former Senate staffer Jessica Rosenworcel has been described as shy, but the recently confirmed Federal Communications Commission member sounded the alarm after superstorm Sandy left huge swaths of the East Coast without cellphone coverage.

“It is time for an honest conversation about network reliability in the wireless and digital age,” she said in a pivotal Nov. 13 speech. “It is time to ask hard questions about backup power, and how to make our networks more dependable when we need them most.”

Online Sales Tax Backers Peg Last-Ditch Pitch to Holidays

Proponents of Internet sales tax legislation are pinning their hopes on Senate action during the lame duck, while using the holiday shopping season to highlight the tax disparity between brick-and-mortar and online stores.

This time last year, members of Congress “were hearing and seeing stories in their local papers about people buying products inside stores on their smartphones to evade sales tax collection,” Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in an interview.

Revised Privacy Bill Doesn't Win Prosecutors' Support

Privacy advocates continue to support an online data protection measure revised by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. But the new version does not go far enough to win over some key law enforcement opponents.

Leahy’s proposal would still require search warrants for law enforcement officials to access consumer emails and data stored online. With a Thursday markup looming, he released a tamed version Monday night to quell critics concerned that the proposal could impede criminal investigations. The revisions provide officials more time to notify individuals that their data was accessed, and it clarifies that existing federal surveillance laws will not be overridden.

Coalition Opposes Reducing Royalties for Web Radio
Record labels, artists, others fight to protect lucrative Internet royalty rates on digital music streams

Ludacris, meet Grover Norquist.

The rap star and the anti-tax activist are among a strange-bedfellows coalition lining up against legislation that would reduce the royalty rates that Internet radio stations, such as Pandora and iHeartRadio, pay to play songs.

Petraeus Scandal May Complicate Leahy's Push for Email Privacy

The widening scandal involving the email of top military brass could further politicize an ongoing Senate effort to limit law enforcement access to consumers’ online data.

FBI officials accessed Gmail accounts that former CIA Director David H. Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell used to communicate discreetly. The FBI also reportedly looked at email between Gen. John R. Allen and Jill Kelley, a Tampa woman.

Issa Plans Bill to Clarify Digital Copying Rights

The California Republican contends that the U.S. Copyright Office was out of step last month with most people’s understanding of “fair use” when it questioned whether such activity is legal.

House Democrat Questions FCC’s Plans for Unlicensed Spectrum

Disagreements are emerging between Congress and the Federal Communications Commission over how much spectrum should be set aside for unlicensed uses, such as Wi-Fi, as part of upcoming spectrum auctions.

The auction legislation passed by Congress earlier this year as part of the payroll tax cut extension (PL 112-96) nearly stalled over the issue of unlicensed spectrum. This free spectrum is used in technologies such as remote controls and wireless computer mice and could be deployed in the future for citywide wireless Internet access known as Super Wi-Fi.

House Panel to Look at Radio Royalty Rates During Lame-Duck Session

The music industry and radio stations are preparing to square off over royalty rates as Congress signals its interest in taking up the issue after the elections.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on music policy this fall, an aide confirmed to CQ. The panel likely will focus on two distinct, recently introduced proposals for leveling royalty rates among various radio providers.

Small Businesses Balk at Online Sales Tax That Could See Lame-Duck Action

Members of Congress are facing new pressure to oppose Internet sales tax legislation as proponents try to iron out differences in the leading proposals with the goal of passing a bill in the lame-duck session.

More than 1,300 small businesses that sell their products out of state using the Internet recently formed the We R Here Coalition to lobby against legislation (S 1832, HR 3179) that would require them to collect sales tax on behalf of their customers.

Tea Partiers Plan to Chill Out

This article originally appeared in the CQ Weekly 2012 Republican Convention Guide.

Although many tea party activists denounced Mitt Romney during the primaries as an establishment Republican moderate who doesn't reflect the diverse movement's upstart ideals, tea partiers seemingly have no desire to play into the Democrats' hands by hijacking the Republican convention.

FCC Approves New Rule on Political TV Advertising

The Federal Communications Commission approved new regulations Friday requiring broadcasters to publish political advertising data online, a move that could shed light on who is trying to influence elections amid unprecedented campaign spending.

Television stations already are required to track purchases of political advertising and make the information publicly available, but posting it on the Web will make it easier to access. Only stations affiliated with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox in the top 50 media markets will be required to post data on new ad buys this year, with smaller stations expected to follow in 2014.

Technology: Tackling a Daunting Task
A Search for Better Computerized Data Mining, Coordination Tools

The federal government is drowning in computerized data. A single research experiment can produce terabytes — trillions of bytes — of data every second. Managing the sea of information that accumulates each year and finding ways to mine it for the most useful information is becoming extraordinarily difficult.

“Looking for a specific message or a page in a document would be the equivalent of searching the Atlantic Ocean for a single 55-gallon drum,” Ken Gabriel, acting director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said at a government forum last month on the modern-age deluge.

GOTV a Mission of Hispanic Media

Updated: 4:38 p.m.

In the steamy world of Spanish soap operas, a plot about the U.S. Census may seem out of place.

Keystone Pipeline Finds New Opponents

The latest obstacle to the Keystone XL oil pipeline project comes from tea partyers, much to the delight of

Property-rights conservatives, water supply activists and landowners are banding together along the pipeline’s proposed route through Texas, challenging plans to claim land for the proposed pipeline that will run from Canada’s oil sands to Texas’ Gulf Coast.