Welcome back…Hope your holidays were restful and fun! Just a short intro today because 1) I want to get to the first five issues of the Top 15 for ‘15 and 2) I am completely overloaded with sports. From the Winter Classic at Nationals Park (AWESOME!) to the football playoffs, the firing of a bunch of NFL coaches (and then one of them being hired by UMich YEAH!) and the thrilling College Bowl season which concludes next Monday at the Cowboy’s ATT Stadium with the National Championship game between Oregon and Ohio State, there is a lot to watch and do.
As regular as the ball dropping in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, this week starts the “State of the (Fill in the Blank)” events that go on in Washington every January. Tomorrow at Noon will be the first and often most widely-attended hosted by API’s Jack Gerard at the Reagan Building’s Atrium.
Also a regular staple of January are AUTO SHOWS…Yes, the world-famous North American International Auto Show launches next week in Detroit followed closely by the Washington Auto show, which has recently become a great, policy-focused follow up to the big Detroit product car show.
On the job front, NRC has Mr. Burns (Stephen that is) in charge of NRC, taking over for Allison MacFarlane on January 1st and our friend Abby Hopper moves to the head of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management starting today.
Congrats to our friends Bryan Anderson and Christy Ihrig of Southern Company. Bryan was been elevated to senior vice president of governmental affairs where he will continue leading Southern Company’s Washington office and directing the company’s political, policy and regulatory activities. Christy, who moved over from subsidiary Mississippi Power, has been named vice president of corporate communication and will lead all aspects of external and internal communication strategy for Southern.
Finally, in case you missed it, Harvard Constitutional Law professor and environmental legal expert Laurence Tribe blasted the EPA GHG rules in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal just before Christmas, saying the agency is “asserting executive power far beyond its lawful authority.” It is an interesting read.
On to the Top 5 of the 15 for ‘15…
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Top 15 Issues for ’15 (TOP 5)
As you know, each year for the first update of the year, we highlight a number of important issues for you to put on your agenda for the year. This year, we are spreading the cheer over the first three updates doing five at a time. I will include the previous week for your review in case you miss any. So here we go with PART I of the Top 15 issues for 2015:
1) Republicans in Control – In 2014, Republicans won big victories in the Midterm Elections, winning key gubernatorial and congressional races in what many are viewing as a “wave election.” My colleague Scott Segal said in a video that several changes are anticipated in the new Congress, with both chambers set for Republican control. He adds key factors include more oversight of key Administration initiatives, notably in energy, the environment, and immigration; a return to a more traditional appropriations process; and the prospects for negotiations between the White House and Congress on key policy initiatives. Energy issues will be an important part of the in the 114th Congress, according to Segal. With Sen. Murkowski as Senate Energy chair and Sen. Inhofe as Senate Environment chair, both Committees will undoubtedly step up their oversight of EPA, with a particular focus on the President’s “Clean Power Plan.” Murkowski is a strong advocate of oil and natural gas development on federal lands, will work aggressively on reliability issues.
2) GHGs, Clean Power Plan – This epic battle began in full force in 2014. So much to say…but in 2015, this battle will hit it high point as the Administration tries to jump through the legal and procedural morass to finalize the regulations for both new and existing power plants. Most experts continue to say the challenges will be much more difficult, more costly and legally questionable. They also expect the timelines to slip even more than they did this year, which turned out to be an especially tough political year for the President and Democrats. A first test may be seen in in January when the Congress moves Keystone legislation, looking at what legislative amendments and/or riders may be advanced to curtail the scope and speed of the Clean Power Plan. Points of focus for States and Republican legislators include: the interim targets for emissions reductions states must meet by 2020, the impact the Clean Power Plan is likely to have on electrical reliability, and the enforceability of the Clean Power Plan in light of widespread opposition from numerous governors.
3) Falling Oil, Gas Price Impacts – The most amazing change we’ve seen in 2014 was the rapid fall of the crude price toward the end of the year, and the requisite fall of the gasoline price. While I haven’t put gas in my Volt for almost two months, my wife’s SUV has welcomed the change, saving us $30 a fill up, and the diesel price for our Jetta is also sunk to $2.70 That cost drop has had a positive impact for consumers, but it has hurt production, especially offshore drillers who have been hit not only by the price drop but by a long-term demand slide. The implications for 2015 will be as dramatic, both from a domestic and foreign policy perspective. Here at home, the boom has brought us closer to energy independence than we have ever been since the 1970s. From an international perspective, our domestic boom and the international price drop has put significant pressure on many oil-producing countries like Iran, Venezuela, Russia and OPEC nations.
4) Ozone 2015 – One of the biggest political and policy fights of 2015 reared its head the day before Thanksgiving: the Ozone/NAAQS fight. While the low end of the range in the proposed rule (65ppb) is very troubling for industry and states, as low as background levels of ozone in many parts of the country and pushing as much as 94% of the nation out of attainment, EPA is also taking comment on 60ppb, which would be devastating for manufacturing, oil and gas production and agriculture across the country. The approach seems to be part of EPA’s typical proposing an unreasonable standard; take comment on a more unreasonable one; and claim the government is reasonable by comparison. But the Administration only has so much political capital at its disposal and it has made clear that controlling greenhouse gases is its legacy issue. It is unclear that the Administration has the bandwidth to sustain both rules. There is no doubt that many in Congress and the states will demand that the proposed ozone NAAQS be placed on a more realistic course. One thing to keep in mind with Ozone/NAAQS: Oil and gas production has been one of the only bright spots in the jobless recovery, and the range proposed for ozone may impose real, practical limitations on that production. The expense associated with the rule could reverse what economic gains we have seen recently.
5) Keystone – Is it finally time? Probably yes given the new makeup of Congress and the fact that is it one the agenda in the first week. Many question why this has become such a flash point for some environmental activists and they will turn all their focus to lobbying the Administration to stop the pipeline and veto any legislation. Last year, I expected the President to eventually accept the pipeline, but a year later and with the current Congressional change, now I’m not so sure. He probably gets more political mileage by fighting the bipartisan Congressional effort (although somewhat less bipartisan that in the last Congress). No matter the decision, it is vital to remember implementing the new GHG rules, will have a much more dramatic impact on the environment and the economy.
6) UN Climate: We’ll Always Have Paris
7) NatGas 2015: Still Booming
8) Nuclear Over the Top
9) Crude Oil Exporting New Policy
10) Tax Reform Finally?
ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
Gerard to Address State of Energy – API will hold its 2015 State of American Energy luncheon on Tuesday, January 6 at the Ronald Reagan Building. API head Jack Gerard will speak.
DC PSC Holds Public Hearing on Exelon-Pepco Merger – The DC Public Service Commission will hold a community hearing to receive comments from the public tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. to determine if the proposed Pepco Holding, Inc. and Exelon Corporation merger, transaction is in the public interest. They will also hold meeting next week in Montgomery and Prince Georges County Maryland.
Senate Energy Committee Keystone XL Hearing – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. looking at legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. Witnesses will include Andrew Black of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, CAP’s Greg Dotson and LIUNA’s David Mallino, Director, Legislative Department, Laborers’ International Union of North America. A business meeting to move the legislation will be held on Thursday.
Moniz on 2015 Global Policy Outlook – On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will host Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz to keynote an event at the Wilson Center looking at the 2015 U.S. Energy Policy Outlook. An additional panel of experts from academia, government and the private sector will discuss current global challenges and opportunities in energy markets and politics.
WRI’s Stories to Watch 2015 Set – On Thursday at 9:00 a.m. at the National Press Club, Andrew Steer of the World Resources Institute will discuss the issues and stories that will shape the world in economics, business, natural resources, and the environment in 2015. Now in its 12th year, Stories to Watch is a popular event among D.C.’s media, policymakers, business executives and consultants.
WCEE to Hold Brainstorming Event – On Thursday at Noon, the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE) will hold a kick off planning meeting for the coming year. Topics will include climate change and clean air, energy, water, sustainability, and international issues and how WCEE will cover them this year.
Forum to Look at U.S. Energy Diplomacy Priorities for 2015 – On Thursday at 2:00 p.m., the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center will hold an event featuring Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the US Department of State Mr. Amos Hochstein. Hochstein oversees US foreign policy engagement in the critical intersection of energy and national security. In his role, he advises the secretary on global energy security and diplomacy. Hochstein will share his insights into the US energy diplomacy priorities for 2015. Welcoming remarks will be made by Ambassador Richard Morningstar, founding director, of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, followed by a discussion moderated by David Koranyi, director of the Eurasian Energy Futures Initiative.
Detroit Auto Show to Roll Out New Vehicles – The 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) will open for Press Preview January 12-13th at Cobo Center in Detroit. Now in its 27th year as an international event, the NAIAS is among the most prestigious auto shows in the world, providing unparalleled access to the automotive products, people and ideas that matter most – up close and in one place. On January 16th, rock legend Steve Miller Band will perform at the largest single night fundraiser in the world: the North American International Auto Show’s Charity Preview.
CP Chair To Discuss Oil, Gas – On Wednesday, January 14th, the CSIS Energy and National Security Program will host Ryan Lance, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, to discuss the new North American oil and natural gas resource abundance and its U.S. energy policy implications. Burgeoning tight oil and shale gas development in the United States, oil sands development in Canada and underexplored conventional resources in Mexico combine to make North America one of the most dynamic oil and gas development plays in the world. The ability to continue developing these vast resources and benefiting from the resulting job creation and economic stimulation represents great opportunity, while also posing non-trivial challenges, particularly in the face of new price realities and impending surpluses. Mr. Lance will discuss these and other key issues. Frank Verrastro, Senior Vice President and James R. Schlesinger Chair for Energy and Geopolitics at CSIS, will moderate.
IIHS President Adrian Lund to Look at Vehicle Safety – On Thursday January 15th, WAPA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) will hold a luncheon to discuss “Vehicle Safety Improvements and What’s Ahead.” The Institute’s president, Adrian Lund, will be sharing research on how better vehicle crashworthiness is saving lives and how technology – both new and old – can improve safety in the future.
Forum to Feature UN Environment Programme, Climate Change – On Thursday, January 15th at 12:00 p.m., the Environmental Law Institute and the DC Bar will host Patricia Beneke, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office of North America, to discuss UNEP’s work on climate change. As time allows, Beneke will also address UNEP’s work to support governments in establishing, implementing and strengthening the necessary institutions, laws and policies to achieve sustainable development. UNEP is the leading environmental authority in the United Nations system. Created in 1972, UNEP uses its expertise to strengthen environmental standards and practices while helping implement environmental obligations at the country, regional and global level.
DOE Webcast on Hurricane Metocean Environment – On Thursday, January 15th at 3:00 p.m. the Energy Department will hold a live webcast on design conditions for the Hurricane Metocean Environment. Joel Cline from the Energy Department will moderate speakers including NOAA’s Mark Powell, Peter Vickery of Applied Research Associates and George Hagerman of Virginia Tech.
SOTU Set – President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, January 20th.
DC Policy Auto Show Set – The 2015 Washington Auto Show Public Policy Days are set for Wednesday, January 21st in the Cannon House Office Building and Thursday, January 22nd at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The annual Sneak Peek Reception, the highly anticipated social and networking event held before Washington’s largest public show opens to attendees, offers automotive industry thought leaders and decision maker’s exclusive early access to the most impressive new models and technological innovations on display at the 2015 Washington Auto Show. Set for Thursday, January 22, from 5-8 p.m. the Sneak Peek Reception marks the finale of the 2015 Public Policy days, which brings together executives and legislators who influence the automotive sector to address the key issues affecting the industry, its employees and customers, including energy conservation, the environment, and consumer safety technologies. The Show opens on January 23rd and runs through February 1st.
FCC Chair to Address NARUC Winter Meetings – The 2015 NARUC Winter Committee Meetings will be held on February 15-18th at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. The Winter Meetings is the first substantive utility-regulatory conference of the year. Discussions will focus on the new Congress’ outlook for energy and telecommunications priorities. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will be among the keynote speakers.
Geothermal Event Set for February – The Geothermal Energy Association’s State of the Geothermal Energy Industry Briefing will be held on Tuesday, February 24th at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill.