Monday, November 30, 2015

Capitol Hill This Week - What to Watch For

Below are the U.S. House and Senate activities currently scheduled for the week that relate to Mississippi River Basin and Coastal Louisiana water resources. Links are provided to the relevant committee web pages and appropriate pieces of legislation.

In addition to Committee activity, today (Monday), the House is scheduled to consider S.611 - the Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act - a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in June that would reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) program providing technical assistance to small public water systems).

The middle of the week should see the beginning of House floor debate on a comprehensive Energy and Commerce Committee energy bill. Opposed by most Democrats, the bill includes some of the Department of Energy's quadrennial review recommendations, and focuses on energy infrastructure improvements. Of interest to Mississippi River Basin stakeholders will be amendments likely to be considered during the floor debate, including those designed to expedite permit (including environmental impact) reviews of certain pipeline projects and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as Democratic amendments addressing climate change. You can check out the current list of filed amendments here.

A draft fiscal year 2016 omnibus discretionary spending bill will probably be released during the week. Democrats are said to be unhappy with the low levels of funding being provided for EPA and Interior Department programs, and will push for increases during floor debates in both chambers. The measure will be accompanied by an unknown number of riders that would restrict funding for the implementation of select environmental and energy programs (possibly including the Interior Department's proposed Stream Protection Rule and the administration's final Clean Water (or "Waters of the United States) Rule). Strategists believe that the administration may swallow some otherwise unpalatable environmental riders in exchange for Republicans easing up on proposed refugee restrictions.

Finally, this week the House and Senate will either have to reconcile two differing long-term federal surface transportation authorization bills ahead of a Friday (December 4) deadline, or pass yet another in a long line of authority extensions. The measure would authorize many highway and rail programs, including those relating to trails and scenic byways, of interest to river advocates.

Many Congressional proceedings are webcast live, and those listed below should be, as well (follow the respective meeting or hearing link). All times are Eastern. This information will be updated as warranted.

Monday, November 30
  • House Rules Committee meeting to set the rules for the full House consideration of H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015; 5:00 PM. room H-313 Capitol Building (possibly continuing into Tuesday, December 1, at 3:00 PM).
Tuesday, December 1
  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to receive testimony on the Department of Interior's proposed Well Control Rule and "other regulations related to offshore oil and gas production;" 10:00 AM, room 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Interior hearing "examining invasive species policy" (the impacts of non-native species and the effectiveness of the National Invasive Species Council); 2:00 PM, room 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.
Wednesday, December 2
  • Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hearing on the agriculture industry’s role in combating global hunger; 10:00 AM, room 328 Russell Senate Office Building.
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands legislative hearing to review H.R. 3556, the "National Park Service Centennial Act," a draft bill that would raise funding for the National Park Service ahead of its 2016 centennial; 10:00 AM, room 1324 Longworth House Office Building.

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