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federal agencies & administration
Following unanimous approval by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to advance the nominations of Penny Pritzker for Secretary of Commerce and Anthony Foxx for Secretary of Transportation, the full Senate followed suit and smoothly confirmed both candidates this June. Pritzker, a prominent businesswoman and Hyatt Hotel heiress, succeeds John Bryson as the 38th Secretary of Commerce. Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx succeeds Ray LaHood as the 17th Secretary of Transportation. Both nominations were noncontroversial and cleared the Senate without an issue.
On June 18, 2013 the Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing to discuss the Department of Energy’s (DOE) science and technology priorities. Testimony was heard from the newly appointed Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz.
Moniz emphasized the DOE’s commitment to the President’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, as well as interest in natural gas and carbon capture and sequestration technology. DOE plans to evaluate natural gas exporting permits as quickly as possible, and expects to begin issuing permits within the calendar year. DOE is also working to lower the cost of renewable energy, and continuing to support research and development efforts in carbon capture and sequestration.
Opening statements and witness testimony, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing, are available from the committee website.
On June 6, 2013, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a full committee hearing to review programs and activities of the Department of the Interior (DOI).
Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Rob Portman (R-OH) urged Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to consider partnerships with the private sector to improve funding for the National Park Service (NPS) that has been limited due to the sequestration. Secretary Jewell reported that the DOI and NPS Director Jon Jarvis are “very willing to support and enhance private sector engagement.” However, Jewel pointed out that "Private philanthropy should be the margin of excellence for the parks, not the margin for survival” and that the federal government needs to step up to support these assets.
A report released May 23, 2013 by the House Committee on Natural Resources detailed the effects of sequestration on the NPS. The report found that, among other impacts, sequestration will delay much-needed maintenance, reduce hours, delay openings, close campgrounds, and reduce the number of employees hired to meet seasonal demands. A report released March 19, 2013 by the National Parks Hospitality Association and National Parks Conservation Association suggests several possible funding sources, including establishing a National Park Endowment based on non-federal contributions and income from developing natural resources on federal land.
On June 6, 2013, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a full committee hearing to review programs and activities of the Department of the Interior (DOI). Witness testimony from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell addressed the various programs and activities of the Department, as well as issues DOI will face in the future.
John Barrasso (R-WY), Al Franken (D-MN), and Rob Portman (R-OH) focused on hydraulic fracturing and the Bureau of Land Management’s revised proposed rule on Oil and Gas; Well Stimulation, Including Hydraulic Fracturing, on Federal and Indian Lands. The new rule would provide standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Sen. Franken and Sen. Portman both had questions about the permitting process, with Sen. Franken asking about the consideration of water issues when issuing permits, and Sen. Portman expressing concern about the length of the permitting processes, even in states with well-established regulations.
Opening statements, witness testimonies, and an archived webcast of the hearing can be found on the committee’s web site.
President Obama revealed his new Climate Action Plan on June 25, 2013. Building on his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, the plan is primarily concerned with cutting carbon pollution in America, preparing for domestic impacts of climate change, and leading international efforts to combat and prepare for climate change. The proposed plan includes a variety of executive actions, and would institute new pollution standards for power plants, set new fuel and energy efficiency standards, and help to strengthen the US’s position as a top natural gas producer.