Major policy developments that will drive the agenda in Washington DC over the next two years are outlined in Squire Patton Boggs’ 2014 Mid-Term Congressional Elections Analysis, What to Expect From the 114th Congress in the Run-Up to the 2016 Presidential Election. Key environmental policy developments include the following:
- Climate Change
Look for the President to continue to pursue his climate change agenda through regulatory action by the US EPA, including rulemaking initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions from both new and existing power plants. Congressional Republicans will push proposals to slow down or prevent US EPA from implementing that agenda. Looming in the distance is The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will convene in France in November 2015 to create a binding international treaty addressing climate change. Now that Republicans control the Senate, which must approve any treaty by a two-thirds vote, it will be difficult for the Obama Administration to win support for any climate change agreement, particularly one that would impose limits on US greenhouse gas emissions.
- Domestic Energy
Expect the Senate and House to focus on narrowly-defined energy policies that stand a realistic chance of securing bipartisan, bicameral and presidential support, such the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2014 introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in the current Congress. Prospects for a comprehensive energy bill reaching the White House that addresses issues such as crude oil and LNG exports, energy infrastructure policy, energy efficiency and even the Keystone XL pipeline application are not promising, not because of what such legislation may contain but rather because it will be viewed as too limited. With respect to the oil and gas industry, look to the Department of Interior to continue its pursuit of regulations that would govern hydraulic fracturing on federal lands and U.S. EPA to pursue regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas production and delivery, as well as the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.
- Chemical Safety
The prospects for modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) could be improved by the change in leadership of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) used her position as Chair to block bipartisan TSCA reform legislation, known as the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. This legislation was co-authored by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA) and co-sponsored by more than two dozen senators Senator Boxer’s concerns have included the preemption of state chemical laws, such as California’s Green Chemistry Initiative. Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) is expected to lead the TSCA reform effort again in the House in his capacity as Chairman of the Environment & the Economy Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.
This comprehensive analysis is available here.