House GOP schedules hearing on Obama greenhouse plans

In what should be an interesting piece of political theater, the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power said Aug. 22 that it will hold a hearing to examine the administration’s current and planned climate change activities, including the actions identified in the President’s Climate Action Plan, issued in June.

The hearing, entitled “The Obama Administration’s Climate Change Policies and Activities,” will be held on Sept. 18. The panel is chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., who is from a major coal-producing and consuming state and has often been critical of Obama policy related to coal.

On Aug. 6, the subcommittee sent requests to 13 federal agencies seeking witnesses to testify at the hearing. In the letter to each of the agencies, Whitfield wrote, “At the hearing, we seek to hear from relevant Federal agencies about U.S. climate change policies and the administration’s second term climate agenda, and to obtain fuller information regarding the Federal government’s past, current, and planned domestic and international activities, climate research programs, initiatives, and new regulatory requirements.” He also requested that the agencies provide specific information relating to various aspects of climate change activities in the submitted testimony from each agency.

The subcommittee requested testimony from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., the Office of Science and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Additional hearing details, a list of witnesses, as well as the Majority Memorandum, will be available later.

Said the Obama plan from June about the power generation sector: “Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting forroughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. We have already set limits for arsenic, mercury, and lead, but there is no federal rule to prevent power plants from releasing as much carbon pollution as they want. Many states, local governments, and companies have taken steps to move to cleaner electricity sources. More than 35 states have renewable energy targets in place, and more than 25 have set energy efficiency targets.”

Despite this progress at the state level, there are no federal standards in place to reduce carbon from power plants, the plan noted. In April 2012, as part of a continued effort to modernize the electric power sector, the Obama Administration proposed a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The EPA’s proposal, which is now being rewritten after a storm of industry protests, reflects and reinforces the ongoing trend towards cleaner technologies, with natural gas increasing its share of electricity generation in recent years, principally through market forces and renewables deployment growing rapidly to account forroughly half of new generation capacity installed in 2012, the plan said.

Obama is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the EPA to work “expeditiously” to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. In developing the standards, the President has asked the EPA to build on state leadership, provide flexibility, and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies includingmany actions in this plan.

During the President’s first term, the U.S. more than doubled generation of electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources. To ensure America’s continued leadership position in clean energy, Obama has set a goal to double renewable electricity generation once again by 2020. In order to meet this ambitious target, the Administration announced a number of new efforts in the following key areas:

Accelerating Clean Energy Permitting: In 2012 the President set a goal to issue permits for 10 GW of renewables on public lands by the end of the year. The Interior Department achieved this goal ahead of schedule and the President has directed it to permit an additional 10 GW by 2020. Since 2009, the Department of Interior has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms, and 11 geothermal plants. The Administration is also taking steps to encourage the development of hydroelectric power at existing dams. To develop and demonstrate improved permitting procedures for such projects, the Administration will designate the Red Rock Hydroelectric Plant on the Des Moines River in Iowa to participate in its Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard for high-priority projects. Also, the Department of Defense is committed to deploying 3 GW of renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, by 2025. In addition, federal agencies are setting a new goal of reaching 100 MW of installed renewable capacity across the federally subsidized housing stock by 2020.

Expanding and Modernizing the Electric Grid: Upgrading the country’s electric grid is critical to efforts to make electricity more reliable, save consumers money on their energy bills, and promote clean energy sources, the plan said. President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum in June that directs federal agencies to streamline the siting, permitting and review process for transmission projects across federal, state, and tribal governments.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.