Federal Environmental Legislative Update
On January 23, 2002, Congress reconvened for the second session of the 107th Congress. The Congressional leadership has announced October 4, 2002, as the target adjournment date. The early departure date will allow members time to return to their districts to campaign. With much of the limited calendar being devoted to the war on terrorism, campaign finance reform, economic stimulus legislation, and Enron-related issues, there remains little time to consider any significant environmental legislation.
The only major environmental issues likely to be addressed this year are in the context of energy legislation. This includes debate on both oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and global climate change issues. The Senate has recently begun debate on an omnibus energy bill (S. 517). Early indications are that the Senate will not allow companies to explore in ANWR. At the same time, it appears that senators are unlikely to mandate increased fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, a move that would anger labor, manufacturers and energy interests.
Meanwhile, on February 14, President Bush announced his "Clear Skies" proposal. The President's plan would gradually increase mandatory cuts for three emissions: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. Under the plan, power companies could buy credits from other companies to reduce their emissions levels below standards. Absent from the plan are restrictions on carbon dioxide. These restrictions are supported by many Democrats and environmental organizations. As a result, the President's plan faces an uncertain future on Capitol Hill.
Given the focus of Congress on defense and economic issues, and the short election-year schedule, it is unlikely that any major environmental legislation will be considered in 2002.