President Obama on March 26 signed the continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through September 30, the end of its fiscal year. Though the stopgap measure included $85 billion in sequestration cuts, the White House stated that the President’s signature should not be interpreted as endorsement of the sequester as a deficit reduction strategy. Soon thereafter, the White House announced it would release its long overdue Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal to Congress on April 10. As we previously reported, a White House Fact Sheet outlines several requests for increased funding of energy programs, including a 20 percent increase at the Bureau of Land Management for permitting of oil, gas, and renewable energy, and $40 million in research to ensure safe and responsible natural gas production.
The House and Senate meanwhile voted on their own FY 2014 budget resolutions before leaving Washington for recess March 23. The respective budget proposals were non-binding, meaning a last minute “votarama” for hundreds of amendments to the Senate proposal was largely symbolic, though revealing of lawmakers’ priorities on a number of key issues – including a 62-37 vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to support job growth and investment during the pipeline’s construction. Notably, 17 Democratic senators joined their Republican counterparts in favor of the amendment, marking the first time the Senate has gone on record in support of the pipeline project. They also voted down Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) amendment calling for more studies to be done before allowing the project to proceed.
Now, over a week later, a Pew Research Center poll demonstrates that 66% of Americans are in favor of the pipeline, even as two recent pipeline spills in Arkansas and Utah reinvigorate Keystone’s opponents. This comes out alongside a new Gallup poll finding that 76% of Americans want the U.S. to emphasize domestic production of solar power, while 71% urge wind power and 65% natural gas. Oil, nuclear, and coal fall well behind.
On the Hill
The Senate will hold confirmation hearings next week for Ernest Moniz and Gina McCarthy. Moniz, President Obama’s nominee for energy secretary, will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 9. His confirmation is expected to be relatively painless, especially since most of the backlash against his candidacy has come from the left, which sees him as too closely tied to conventional energy. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has tentatively scheduled an April 11 confirmation hearing for McCarthy, Obama’s pick for EPA Administrator. The full Senate will also consider the nomination of Sally Jewell for Secretary of the Interior after she received a ringing 19-3 endorsement from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee March 21.
In the Agencies
EPA rolled out its long-awaited, politically controversial Tier 3 rules to reduce smog-producing sulfur in gasoline. While the agency said it would increase prices just 1 cent per gallon, refiners say the impact will likely be 9-cents, as it could impact refinery operations.
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