Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Senate E & PW Committee Hearing Today


By Norris McDonald

I attended the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing today on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), which is cosponsored by committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Ca) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. Panelists included: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff (listed in order below). I sat two rows behind EPA Administrator Jackson.

Secretary Chu asserted that conservation is the best near-term solution to energy independence. Secretary LaHood said the $8 billion stimulus package money assigned to his department was a good 'down-payment' on a good mass transit program. Secretary Salazar said he would coordinate his energy programs with Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack to assure that biofuels are a significant part of the energy mix. And Jon Wellinghoff discussed the role of regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs) in the establishment of a new grid.

EPA Administrator Jackson assured the committee that she still believes legislation is the best way to address global warming. She also assured the committee that her agency would proceed with climate change regulations in the absence of legislation. The agency is drafting regulations under the Clean Air Act's New Source Review to address global warming. Senator Inhofe continued with is global warming denial.

Of course, the hearing was riveting. Public turnout was huge. The senators had many questions and promoted their own agendas, from energy conservation to nuclear power. All of the Republicans left before the end of the hearing. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar also had to leave early. The press briefing in the hallway was one of the biggest I've seen with at least 20 members of the press filling the hallway as Secretary Chu, Secretary LaHood and FERC Chairman Wellinghoff fielded questions. Administrator Jackson bolted out of the hearing through the majority office just as soon as the hearing adjourned and did not take any questions from the press. The press bolted back into the committee room to finish their stories after Chu, LaHood and Wellinghoff finished.

There are two more days of hearings with several panels.

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