Congress Tries to Undermine EPA on Climate Change

Clean Energy Investments in Obama Administration’s FY 2015 Budget Proposal

As part of the never-ending attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants, the House this week passed the Whitfield-Manchin bill (HR 3826) by a vote of 229-183.Climate change is the number one threat to birds and global biodiversity.

This bill would require Congress to set a date before EPA could move forward on its proposed rule to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants. Getting such a date from Congress is highly unlikely, so this bill effectively strangles the EPA’s ability to work on climate change.

While passage in the House was a foregone conclusion, more troubling is a possible strong bid in the Senate (S 1905) as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) buttonholes his colleagues to give it a serious look.

EPA has held a series of listening sessions and is working closely with states to get advice on the best way to reduce carbon pollution—the leading cause of climate change—without creating undue burdens on the economy. The draft rule on regulating carbon from existing power plants, responsible for 40% of the carbon pollution in the U.S., is expected this summer. In the meantime, EPA is also collecting comments on the final rule to curb pollution from new power plants, wrapping up a multi-year process to finalize this first, but important, step.

Another, even more technical attack on EPA’s ability to move forward on climate change may come from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in coming weeks and its effect would be much the same—shutting down EPA’s ability to limit carbon pollution. If either of these bills starts to get traction in the Senate, you can expect to to hear from us that your urgent help is needed to keep EPA on the job.

Research, Manufacturing, and Grid Modernization Prioritized

The Department of Energy is one of the few agencies slated for a funding increase in the fiscal year 2015 federal budget proposal, which President Barack Obama unveiled to Congress on Tuesday. The $27.9 billion request is 2.6 percent higher than the fiscal 2014 enacted funding level and includes a 21.9 percent increase for the DOE’s core energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

“The president’s budget request signals a strong U.S. commitment to clean energy research, demonstration, and deployment,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the clean energy program at The Pew Charitable Trusts.  “Pew’s research has shown that such investments are essential to America’s competitiveness in the global clean energy economy, which is expected to grow to $7 trillion by 2035.”

Summary of Clean Energy Investments

Energy Program FY 2014 Enacted Level FY 2015 Budget Request Change from FY 2014
Department of Energy (total) $27.2 billion $27.9 billion +2.6%
Office of Science $5.07 billion $5.11 billion +0.9%
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy $1.9 billion $2.3 billion +21.9%
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy $280 million $325 million +16.1%
Innovative Technology Loan Guarantees $20 million $7 million -65.0%
Advanced Technology Vehicles
Manufacturing Loans
$6 million $4 million -33.3%

Source: Department of Energy   FY 2015 congressional budget request, budget highlights

The DOE’s budget request would provide near-level funding of $5.11 billion for the Office of Science, the single largest federal supporter of basic research in the physical sciences.

A 21.9 percent increase, to $2.3 billion, is proposed for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), including additional money for its bioenergy, fuel cell, solar, wind, water, geothermal, and state and tribal energy programs.

In the transportation sector, EERE would make robust investments in the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, which seeks to reduce costs and improve performance of plug-in electric vehicles, and continue its collaboration with the Navy and Agriculture departments to achieve commercial deployment of drop-in advanced biofuels.

Emphasis on Manufacturing and Advanced Technologies

The proposal includes a 69.1 percent increase, to $305 million, for advanced manufacturing, supporting President Obama’s goal of creating 45 institutes under the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation over the next decade. These regional hubs will combine public and private funding to accelerate the development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which provides equity financing in early stage technologies and research and development, would receive $325 million in fiscal 2015, an increase of 16.1 percent. Many ARPA-E investments are matched with private-sector funding.

The two major debt financing programs currently managed by the DOE’s Loan Programs Office—the Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee program and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program—are gradually being ramped down as their existing loan authority is exhausted. At least one more solicitation for renewable energy projects will be issued in fiscal 2015.

Cross-Cutting Themes

A number of cross-cutting initiatives are planned for the agency’s programs in fiscal 2015.  One such initiative would devote a total of $314 million toward grid modernization efforts, including microgrids, energy storage, energy systems integration, and enhanced energy security.

The president’s budget proposal also includes $1.5 billion for operational energy investments on U.S. military installations. Along with the DOE budget, these investments in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency help strengthen energy security and reduce costs.

Department of Energy: budget request and related documentsfunding opportunities
Fact Sheet: U.S. Leadership in Innovation
Video: Energy Innovation: Cheryl Martin Shares ARPA-E Mission
Pew’s Clean Energy Business Network: http://www.pewtrusts.org/businessnetwork
Report: Power Surge: How the Department of Defense Leverages Private Resources to Enhance Energy Security and Save Money on U.S. Military Bases

Contact: Tracy Schario, 202.540.6582
Campaigns: Clean Energy Program
Topics: Clean EnergyInnovation

EPA Decision Delays Proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay

At the end of February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would take official steps to identify the options for protecting Bristol Bay from the potential dangers of the proposed Pebble Mine. The proposed mine, which would be one of the world’s largest open pit copper mines, threatens the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and many global Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

Audubon submitted detailed comments to the EPA about the enormous importance of this region for birds. Bristol Bay is home to 27 global IBAs, from coastal areas to seabird nesting colonies. In addition to the food provided by spawning salmon, the rivers that empty into the bay provide nutrients that support other rich sealife that in turn feed millions of waterbirds. Some key species that rely on the bay include Steller’s Eiders, King Eiders, Black Scoters, Emperor Geese, and Bar-tailed Godwits.

The EPA said it received more than 850,000 requests from people ranging from sport fishermen to jewelry companies to Alaska Native corporations asking the agency to protect the incredible wildlife resources of the bay. EPA’s announcement is a tremendous step towards protecting a resource that will last for generations—for people and birds.

Additional Resources

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