On January 2, the Senate confirmed a lengthy list of President Trump’s nominations by voice vote. Some of the confirmed geoscience-related agency nominees include Kelvin Droegemeier as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Daniel Simmons as assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the Department of Energy, and Teri Donaldson for inspector general at the Department of Energy. Mary Neumayr was also approved to head the Council on Environmental Quality and Alexandra Dunn to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemicals office.
Throughout January, several bills were introduced in the House relating to natural resource sustainability. Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) and Frank Lucas (R-OK-3) cosponsored the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2019 (H.R. 34), which directs the Department of Energy to consider the critical link between energy and water use in its programs. Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) later introduced two energy-related bills, the Planning for American Energy Act (H.R. 785) and the Education and Energy Act (H.R. 786), to support responsible energy development and additional funding for education.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy met on November 29 to consider a series of energy-themed bills as Congress begins look toward the next session. The hearing considered fourteen pieces of legislation, including bills to provide for the full operations of a fast neutron nuclear reactor by 2025 and to change access to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The House passed the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Reform Act (H.R. 6511) on September 25, which would create a pilot program to lease underutilized storage facilities in the reserve to private entities. Under current policy, the Department of Energy (DOE) may only lease those facilities to foreign governments.
The House Committee on Natural Resources held a field hearing, entitled “Energy and Education: What’s the Connection,” on August 29, 2018, in Roosevelt, Utah. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) led the hearing, which considered testimony from two panels of local stakeholders and aimed to explore energy development on federal lands as a potential revenue source for public education.
On September 28, President Donald Trump signed NEICA, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S. 97), into law after the House passed the bill by voice vote on September 13. The bill, sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), encourages partnerships between the Department of Energy (DOE) and private companies to develop new nuclear energy technologies.
On September 28, President Donald Trump signed the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act (H.R. 589) into law after the House passed the bill by voice vote on September 13. Originally sponsored by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, H.R. 589 establishes the Department of Energy’s policies for science and energy research and development programs.
On August 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal-fired electric utility generating units and power plants across the country. The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule would replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule. On August 24, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks and establish new standards for model years 2021 through 2026.
On July 17, two subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee – the Subcommittee on Energy and the Subcommittee on the Environment – held a joint hearing to discuss the future of fossil fuel as a primary energy source. The hearing also focused on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) partnerships with industry groups to develop technology that aids in the management of carbon dioxide.