Kathy G. Beckett Presides as Chair of the US Chamber of Commerce Energy, Clean Air, and Natural Resources Committee

On December 3, 2013 the U.S. Chamber Joint Fall Committee Meeting was held of the Committees whose primary issues are energy, environment and regulatory at the U.S. Chamber offices in Washington, DC.  As a Member of the U.S. Chamber Board of Directors, Kathy Beckett, Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC, was appointed to Chair the Energy, Clean Air and Natural Resource Committee for 2013-2014.  In coordination with Harry Alford, CEO and President of the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce who chairs the Government Operations, Oversight and Consumer Affairs Committee and Don Sterhan, President and CEO of Mountain Plains Equity Group, Inc. who chairs the Environment and Agriculture Committee, Kathy provided an overview of her committee’s efforts as follows: 

GHG Regulations on Power Plants

  • In response to the President’s June, 2013 Climate Action Plan and its emphasis upon the power industry, the U.S. Chamber filed a September 9, 2013 letter along with other trade associations with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting that, as representatives of the business community, the Chamber should be

included in EPA discussions on regulating GHG emissions from the power sector. On September 20, 2013, EPA proposed regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.  Those regulations, in essence, would require any new coal-fired power plants to employ carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS.  Contrary to Clean Air Act requirements, CCS has not been demonstrated in a large scale power plant and has not been shown to be commercially viable.  The Chamber will be continuing its efforts relative to the EPA proposal.

  • The Chamber also has announced its support of draft legislation from Rep. Whitfield and Sen. Manchin that would provide a more reasonable approach to regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.  This draft legislation would provide for a 12- month demonstration of commercial viability of any proposed new source performance standard applied to power plants.
  • Finally, the Chamber has joined with other trade associations to form a new coalition – Partnership for a Better Energy Future.  The coalition is leading an advocacy campaign in response to the current Administration’s greenhouse gas regulatory agenda.

Social Cost of Carbon

  • A significant calculation that almost certainly will be used to further the President’s climate change agenda is that of the “social cost of carbon” or “SCC.”  The “social cost of carbon” has been defined as an “estimate of the monetized damages associated with an incremental increase in carbon emissions in a given year.”  In essence, it is a price tag for carbon emissions, factoring in the costs of everything from health effects to weather events.  SCC has been used, and likely will continued to be used, as a benefits driver for justifying a variety of regulations, including DOE energy efficiency standards and EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.
  • In spite of the significance of SCC in establishing federal policy, the 12 federal agencies that worked on its development failed to provide any notice, public comment or peer review.  As a result, on September 4, 2013, the Chamber, along with several other trade associations, submitted to the Office of Management and Budget an Information Quality Act petition on the “social cost of carbon.”  In the petition, the Chamber sought the withdrawal of the use of the “social cost of carbon” in any rulemakings or policymaking until it is subjected to a more rigorous notice, review and comment process.  As a result of these efforts, EPA published a Notice of availability and request for comments on November 26, 2013.  (78 Fed. Reg. 70586).  The close of the public comment period is January 27, 2014.
  • The Chamber also has supported legislation that would prohibit the use of the SCC until it receives Congressional approval.  Additionally, the Chamber has filed numerous comments on final and proposed regulations that rely upon the “social cost of carbon” in their cost-benefits analysis.

Energy Efficiency

  • As part of the Chamber’s “all of the above” energy policy, they have been a longstanding supporter of energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs).  These contracts are tools for using private sector investment to upgrade federal facilities without any upfront costs to taxpayers.  They lead to job creation in the private sector and increased energy efficiency within the federal government.  Since the President’s December 2011 Memorandum on ESPCs, in which the Chamber played a significant role, federal agencies have committed to a pipeline of nearly $2.3 billion of ESPCs for over 300 reported projects.
  • The Chamber, along with several member companies, has been actively working with the Administration to secure a renewal of the earlier initiative, including a goal of $1 billion a year for the next five years in federal agency energy savings using performance-based contracting.  The Chambers’ efforts include supporting legislation on ESPCs, sending a letter to President Obama requesting that he renew his earlier initiative, and attending several meetings at CEQ and the White House to show our support.  We are hopeful that the Administration will soon announce an extension of the ESPCs initiative.

Helium

  • With strong support from the Chamber, the House and Senate passed H.R. 527, the “Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act,”and the President signed it into law on October 2, 2013.
  • This law will secure the supply of helium, which is an essential component of numerous advanced manufacturing processes, including hospital equipment, solar panels, and silicon chips for computers and cell phones.  A number of Chamber members are involved in these effected industries, as well as the refining, distributing, and selling of helium.  This bipartisan victory for business is a welcomed development by our Congress.

For additional information about the US Chamber and its advocacy on energy and environmental issues, please feel free to contact Kathy Beckett, kathy.beckett@steptoe-johnson.com or 304-353-8172.

Twenty-seven years of experience practicing environmental, regulatory, and natural resources law have enabled Kathy Beckett to develop a national reputation for her ability to influence environmental policies on behalf of her clients. She has been instrumental in the development of national and state regulatory programs and the drafting of environmental legislation.
 
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