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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Renewable Funds, EPA Review, Belo Monte Dam

The House appropriations subcommittee on energy and water yesterday passed a bill that cuts renewable energy funding by 27 percent to $1.3 billion, or $1.9 billion below what Obama sought in his budget, the Hill reports. The panel’s bill cuts $97 million for solar power, $46 million for fuel-efficient vehicle technologies and $200 million for vehicle technology deployment. The bill also cut the Department of Energy’s science budget, which funds research into early-stage technology, by $42 million from $4.8 billion. The budget now goes to the full appropriations committee.

The House energy and commerce committee yesterday approved, 34 to 14, the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act (HR 2021). The legislation introduced by Reps. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gene Green (D-TX) aims to remove regulatory barriers to offshore oil and gas exploration.

One of the House energy and commerce committee’s panels will today review a broad energy bill sponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), with over 70 co-sponsors, the Hill says. The bill would block EPA climate change regulations, open huge offshore areas to oil and gas drilling and require dozens of new nuclear reactors to be permitted over the next 30 years. It would also require the Department of Defense to build a plant to make transportation fuels from coal. “The legislation is largely a messaging vehicle because it’s stuffed with provisions that have no chance of passing the Senate,” the Hill says.

Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House’s office of information and regulatory affairs, will appear before the House energy and commerce committee’s oversight and investigations panel today. The Hill says he’s likely to get grilled on whether proposed reforms to Environmental Protection Agency regulations go far enough. The Obama administration published regulatory reviews by 30 agencies last week. The committee will also be hearing from business and industry groups critical of the EPA regulatory review, including U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior vice president William Kovacs. On Wednesday the American Petroleum Institute said the proposals don’t go far enough because they don’t address greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources, or a planned tightening of ozone standards.

The Brazilian government gave final approval this week for a huge hydroelectric power plant in the Amazon rain forest, the New York Times reports. The 11,200 MW Belo Monte dam has been in the planning for three decades, and would be the world’s third largest. Opponents said they would continue to fight the dam, which they said would force thousands of indigenous people from their lands, and would also affect local fishing.

Some house Republicans are urging the Obama administration to speed up permitting for renewable energy projects. At a House natural resources committee hearing, chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said that “bureaucratic delays, unnecessary lawsuits and burdensome environmental regulations” are slowing the growth of renewables as well as oil and gas, Bloomberg reported.

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