Clean-Energy Experts to Obama: You Don’t Need Congress

Deputy assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal will soon step down.
National Journal
Amy Harder
Jan. 21, 2014, 6:48 a.m.

A new re­port re­leased Tues­day lays out a path for Pres­id­ent Obama to by­pass Con­gress and move for­ward on clean-en­ergy policies by us­ing ex­ec­ut­ive powers and col­lab­or­a­tions with states and private com­pan­ies.

“Wheth­er it’s 129, 200, or 72, the num­ber of ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions is go­ing to be ro­bust,” Heath­er Zichal, who stepped down late last year as Pres­id­ent Obama’s top en­ergy and cli­mate ad­viser, said at an event an­noun­cing the re­port in Wash­ing­ton.

Zichal helped co­ordin­ate the re­port, which was led by former Demo­crat­ic Col­or­ado Gov. Bill Ritter and has been al­most a year in the mak­ing. The re­port of­fers the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion 200 re­com­mend­a­tions, in­clud­ing de­vel­op­ing cli­mate rules with­in the EPA that pro­mote the use of re­new­able tech­no­lo­gies, en­sure that re­new­able en­ergy re­ceives the same tax treat­ment as fossil-fuel en­ergy re­sources, ap­ply strict frack­ing rules, and de­vel­op meth­ods that can count “ex­tern­al­ized” costs of fossil-fuel en­ergy, such as pol­lu­tion.

“Use these meth­ods to es­tab­lish pri­or­it­ies for fed­er­al sup­port of en­ergy re­sources and dir­ect it to the ‘best of the above’ rather than ‘all of the above,’ ” states the re­port.

The White House dir­ec­ted Ritter and some 100 oth­er in­dustry ex­perts who helped write the re­port to fo­cus on six main areas: en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, re­new­able mar­kets, re­new­able-en­ergy fin­an­cing, al­tern­at­ive-fueled vehicles, new busi­ness mod­els, and nat­ur­al-gas rule­mak­ings.

The re­port doesn’t tackle some of the most con­tro­ver­sial top­ics fa­cing Obama right now, in­clud­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline and ex­ports of nat­ur­al gas and oil.

Ritter says that wasn’t the point of the re­port.

“This wasn’t about us tak­ing on one of the biggest dis­putes around en­ergy,” Ritter said. “This was about the pres­id­ent mov­ing ahead on a clean-en­ergy eco­nomy.”

Re­ports are pub­lished al­most daily in Wash­ing­ton, with much fan­fare upon their re­lease, but without much last­ing at­ten­tion. This one is dif­fer­ent, Zichal said, namely be­cause its im­petus came from a 90-minute meet­ing Ritter and oth­ers at­ten­ded with Obama last March.

“At the end of the day, what’s go­ing to keep this re­port rel­ev­ant is that the pres­id­ent is go­ing to keep the pres­sure on his agen­cies to find new ideas, to find ad­di­tion­al areas of op­por­tun­ity, so that when he leaves of­fice in three years, he will have full con­fid­ence that we have done as much as he pos­sibly can do.”

The role of Con­gress was barely men­tioned in the hour-long event Tues­day morn­ing, which Ritter im­plied was in­ten­ded: “They’re not our audi­ence here. It was the pres­id­ent and the agen­cies.” 

What We're Following See More »
HE ‘WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT’
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

FIRST CHANGE IN FOUR DECADES
Congress Passes Chemical Regulations Overhaul
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."

Source:
NO MORE INDEPENDENT VOTERS?
GOP Could Double Number of Early Primaries
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over making fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party." Among the possible changes: forbidding independent voters to cast ballots in Republican primaries, and "doubling the number of early states to eight."

Source:
LEVERAGE
Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Source:
EFFECTIVE NEXT MONTH
House GOP Changes Rules for Spending Measures
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Speaker Paul Ryan is changing the rules of how the House will consider spending measures to try to prevent Democrats from offering surprise amendments that have recently put the GOP on defense. ... Ryan announced at a House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning that members will now have to submit their amendments ahead of time so that they are pre-printed in the Congressional Record, according to leadership aides." The change will take effect after the Memorial Day recess.

Source:
×