- The Associated Press: House set to pass Keystone XL approval bill
By Darius Dixon, with help from Darren Goode
DEAD BILL WALKING: The Senate’s Keystone XL approval bill goes to the House floor for a vote this afternoon, sometime between 3:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., according the House majority leader’s office. The rule approved for the bill Tuesday allows for an hour of debate and no amendments. Although the GOP might want to see a bright future for the measure, the pipeline’s opponents are taking comfort in knowing that President Barack Obama intends to go through with the death sentence. We all know how this ends – and how it will actually continue for a long time – but we just can’t avert our eyes.
Meanwhile, the White House continues to talk tough on climate change. At Tuesday’s press briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest expanded on Obama’s comments to Vox, saying that there are “many more people on an annual basis who have to confront the impact – the direct impact – on their lives of climate change or on the spread of a disease than on terrorism.’ The climate-change-sucks-more-than-terrorism line continuously baffles Republican lawmakers. Cue a tweet from Rep. David McKinley: “President Obama thinks #climatechange is more dangerous than terrorism. #Really”
MONIZ WATCH, DAY ONE: The Energy secretary is headed to Capitol Hill this afternoon to make the first leg in his defense of the president’s fiscal 2016 budget for the Energy Department. Ernest Moniz has proven himself to be quite the operator in his dealings with lawmakers and, honestly, a lot of Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that he’ll face today are on respectful if not downright friendly terms with him. Still, that doesn’t mean he will be able to avoid uncomfortable questions. DOE is one of the few agencies where President Barack Obama has repeatedly urged Congress to spend more money, putting Moniz on the defense a bit in a time of tightening budgets. Obama requested $29.9 billion for the agency, a $2.6 billion increase over fiscal 2015 enacted levels. Moniz goes to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday morning. Moniz’s written testimony to E&C includes a 21-page summary of the agency’s spending request: http://1.usa.gov/1z5WzGW
We’ll always have Yucca: And in case you thought Congress may have forgotten, Moniz will likely have to contend with a grilling over Yucca Mountain. After a court decision forced the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue its review of the nuclear waste project, the agency asked DOE for a supplemental groundwater study – a request that DOE has turned a deaf ear to despite saying it would comply with the court’s decision. Of course, the court decision targeted the NRC and not DOE. But a decent debate club competitor could argue that DOE is skirting the spirit of the court’s direction. The hearing starts at 2 p.m. in Rayburn 2123 and your host intends to go if he can find clothing without baby spit-up on them.
HAPPY HUMP DAY, folks, and welcome to Morning Energy. I’m your infant-abused host, Darius Dixon. And as far as I can tell, I didn’t start World War III yesterday on my first day as ME-in-chief so maybe there’s hope for me yet. Send me a welcome scoop at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.
NERDFEST 2015: Before Moniz marches up to the Hill, you can catch him onstage in National Harbor for the last day of the agency’s annual ARPA-E summit. Others speaking at the conference today include former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Senate energy and water spending Chairman Lamar Alexander, Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, and SolarCity chief Lyndon Rive.
ENR MUSICAL CHAIRS TO COME: Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee intend to announce their roster of subcommittee ranking members this Thursday. Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee shuffled their pecking order yesterday, sending Sen. Tom Carper back to the leading Dem spot on the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee after Sen. Barbara Boxer successfully bumped him from the transportation and infrastructure panel. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, yours truly hardly pestered ye.
FURNACE FIGHT LIGHTS UP: A hotly debated – and long-delayed – Energy Department efficiency proposal seeking to beef up standards for certain residential natural gas-fired furnaces will grace the pages of today’s Federal Register. But the battle remains heated. DOE estimates that its proposal would save Americans $3.1 billion to $16.1 billion by 2050. But for months, industry groups like the American Gas Association have pressed the agency to create separate product classes for condensing and non-condensing furnaces to avoid forcing homeowners to do costly structural modifications if they choose to continue using gas. The proposal being published today says the method of venting a furnace wasn’t enough for DOE to heed industry’s position.
If finalized , AGA said late last night the agency’s proposal could “mandate the installation of condensing natural gas furnaces.” And Salo Zelermyer, an attorney at Bracewell & Giuliani and a former DOE senior counsel, said the proposal admits to pushing people from natural gas to electric furnaces. While the proposal notes projected reductions in CO2 and NOx emissions, it says that increases in other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and mercury are expected “due to projected switching from [non-weatherized gas furnaces] to electric heat pumps and electric furnaces under the proposed standards.” DOE still has its defenders. “Based on DOE’s analysis, even higher standards would be cost effective for consumers and would boost energy savings substantially,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. An all-day public meeting to discuss the proposal is scheduled for March 26 at DOE headquarters. The draft rule: http://1.usa.gov/1FwpGrA
BABY BREAK: Fun fact: A 5.5-month-old is not very good at finding the grammatical errors in my drafts of ME: http://politico.pro/1KHOOhY OK, now where were we? Right!
UTILITY CEO TO EPA: A FEW TWEAKS WON’T KILL YOU: The CEO of Ameren Corp., a St. Louis-based utility, is out to make the case that a few extra years to comply with the EPA carbon rules coming down the pike wouldn’t upend the process. Warner Baxter is out with a white paper today arguing that there are four changes to the draft rules that would go a long way for the power sector, including the flexibility to breach the suggested 2030 compliance deadline “if a clear path to meaningful reductions is evident in a reasonable time frame.” Baxter doesn’t call for a wholesale scrapping of the carbon proposals, but he’s also made it clear that he’s not a fan of the EPA. He writes, “The EPA’s plan reflects scant interest – if any – in the actual ability of utilities to achieve the EPA’s aims without sparking severe repercussions to American homes and businesses in the form of higher costs and reliability risks.” The EPA has long disputed this sort of allegation, saying it has analyzed emissions-cutting strategies already in use and that the agency has been working with grid operators, and federal and state commissions, to ensure electric reliability. The white paper: http://bit.ly/1IQ0p0X
Speaking of the EPA, the agency’s acting air chief, Janet McCabe, is testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this morning on the EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide emissions rules. She’s also in the unenviable position of being the first EPA official to testify to an EPW dominated by the GOP. The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. The deets: http://1.usa.gov/1M2HIWO. And for those who want to grace Dirksen with your presence, the hearing is in 406.
AGA TO POST INDUSTRY STATS: The American Gas Association today will release its annual Playbook, a rundown of natural gas-related stats, including on pipeline efficiency and updates on state-level structures used for pushing pipeline replacement projects. https://www.aga.org/playbook
MAKING MOVES: Berkeley Research Group Managing Director Robin Cantor has been elected to serve as president of the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment, a nonpartisan, policy-neutral organization. Cantor specializes in environmental, energy, and health economics, statistics, and insurance claims analysis.
– Oil & Gas Industry Gave 10 Times More Money to Senators Voting for Keystone XL. MapLight: http://bit.ly/1CfVYWS
– Apple building big solar energy project in California. The Associated Press: http://apne.ws/1DZvgSh. (Hmm, Lisa Jackson’s handiwork?)
– Union says little progress in U.S. refinery contract talks. Reuters: http://reut.rs/1CfYEDV
– Oil’s slump a blow to Mexico amid touted energy reforms. AP: http://apne.ws/1DDAAfW
– Nuclear Blasts May Prove Best Marker of Humanity’s Geologic Record. Scientific American: http://bit.ly/1CTxYLY
– Montana coal-fired power plant is latest to shut down. AP: http://apne.ws/1KL6ZkZ
Tags: climate, energy, fuel, gas