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It is very likely that President Obama's second term will feature energy and environmental policies that build on those of the last four years. Whether it is investments in clean energy technologies or regulatory efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous air pollutants, the president is expected to remain focused on reducing America's dependence on fossil-based sources of energy and, in their place, substantially increasing the amount of energy that we obtain from alternative and renewable sources.
Key Pillars of a Second Term Energy Policy
Some of the key areas of President Obama's second term energy and environmental policies will address climate change and carbon regulation, make further investments in alternative energy production and promote energy efficiency. Some examples are below:
Regulatory Agenda — The second Obama Administration will also likely build upon its regulatory agenda of the first term via the EPA. The most likely candidates for regulatory action are:
It is very likely that the Administration will address these and related issues due to judicial and statutory requirements, as well as pressure from environmental interests. For example, a legal settlement with environmental groups requires EPA to write new source performance standards for the current coal-burning fleet as well as refineries, and the Clean Air Act requires that EPA write a new rule to address both cross-state air emissions and update its National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone.
There have also been a few changes in Congress that will be of interest to those looking to influence energy and environmental policy in Washington, D.C. On the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) will remain as chairman while Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will stay on as ranking member. However, two key Energy and Commerce subcommittees will be under new leadership. The Subcommittee on Oversight will be led by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) will chair the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. The Committee on Appropriations will see a big change, with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) ascending to the position of ranking member. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) will remain as chairman of that committee.
The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is also undergoing a key change at the top, Rep. Bill Schuster (R-PA) becomes the chairman while Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) remains the top Democrat. The Committee on Science, Space and Technology will also undergo a key personnel change with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX ) taking the chairmanship. The Committee on Natural Resources' leadership will remain unchanged, with Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) continuing as chair and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) staying on as ranking member.
In the Senate, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will become the new chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, while Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will remain as ranking member. The Committee on Environment and Public Works will also experience a key change with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) serving as the new ranking member, alongside Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
While it is difficult to predict exactly what President Obama's energy and environmental policy will look like over the next four years and how the new committee leaders in the House and Senate will influence that agenda and specific policy outcomes, it is safe to assume future energy policy will look a lot like that of the last four years. One should expect President Obama's second-term energy and environmental policies to remain focused on decreasing American reliance on fossil-based energy sources and increasing the amount of energy that is generated from renewable and alternative fuels. These will likely remain amongst the highest priorities of the Obama Administration for the next four years.
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