Energy News for February 12, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 12, 2015


By Darius Dixon

With help from Andrew Restuccia, Elana Schor, Darren Goode, Alex Guillén

HOUSE SENDS KEYSTONE BILL TO WH DOOM: The House easily passed a bill yesterday that would allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up President Barack Obama to issue the third veto of his presidency, our Elana Schor reports. Keystone backers lack the votes to override the veto.

The roll: 270-152, with ten not voting. Twenty-nine Dems gave a thumbs up.

The countdown clock: Obama would have 10 days, excluding Sundays, to act once it reaches his desk, which may happen on Friday.

KEYSTONE BACKERS’ ALAMO MOMENT: The odds are stacked against them but, doggonit, Republicans are going to leverage the Keystone XL oil pipeline for all it’s worth. Sen. John Hoeven said yesterday that Senate Republicans are mulling a vote to override Obama’s expected veto of legislation now approved by both sides of the Capitol. ‘I think there’s a good chance we may do that,’ he said. ‘We may very well want to test to see if there is support to override,’ he added. Keystone backers are likely four votes short of the 67 yeses needed to overcome a veto in the Senate.

Not to be left out, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton told reporters before yesterday’s vote that the House GOP would also have a vote aimed at overcoming Obama’s threatened veto – a vote Republicans are poised to lose, Elana says. But about three hours later Upton seemed more equivocal. “This is probably it,” the Michigan Republican told reporters after a GOP press event following the bill’s passage. The Senate would move first in an override attempt but “if they don’t have the votes to override, then it’s over,” Upton said. Based on previous Keystone vote counts, about 20 more votes are needed in the House to reach the two-thirds majority – assuming supportive House Democrats don’t bail if asked to openly jab their party’s president.

THE LONE (R-ANGER): Rep. Justin Amash was the only Republican to vote no. Amendments added in the Senate version made it too big-government for his taste.

HAPPY ALMOST-FRIDAY. Welcome to Morning Energy. I’m your host Darius Dixon, and unlike other tipsheet writers, I’m just not that into trivia. I’m a New Yorker, which means three things: I like my bagels and pizza a certain way, empty public spaces make me uncomfortable and I’ve got an argument for every occasion. But I’ll entertain your opinions, too, so send scoops, thoughts, comments, questions, and interesting documents to, and follow on Twitter @dariusss, @ Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

MONIZ WATCH, PART DEUX: The Energy Secretary is headed to Capitol Hill once again today as part of his two-day speaking tour defending the president’s fiscal 2016 budget for the Energy Department. Ernest Moniz sailed through his hearing yesterday with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and isn’t likely to have anything blow up in his face today either. He has put a lot of effort into defusing tensions with lawmakers well before they get publicly aired. But concerns over EPA’s draft rules on power plant carbon emissions and how they play into electric grid reliability are likely to get some airtime, and of course, the oil export ban has been the subject of much chatter over the last several months. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 366.

WRITE ME FROM CROATIA: Obama has tapped Moniz’s No. 2, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, to lead a U.S. delegation attending the inauguration of Croatia’s president-elect Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic this weekend.

NUCLEAR TRADE RULE SEEMS IMMIMENT: Moniz offered one dog whistle for nuclear community when he testified in the House yesterday, saying that new export rules would be done “very, very shortly.” The Energy Department has been conducting a major remodeling of the regulations that govern unclassified U.S. nuclear tech exports – a rule, known rather efficiently as Part 810, that the nuclear industry has a lot riding on. With the number of nuclear power plants being built overseas dwarfing the five under construction stateside, U.S. companies desperately want to tap into an international market that’s expected to exceed half a trillion – yes, with a T – dollars. DOE spent more than three years on the rule before sending the final version to OMB in October. OMB sent the rule back a week ago. This is the first overhaul of the rule since Aliens, Star Trek IV, Labyrinth and The Golden Child changed my life forever.

READER WISDOM: Yesterday, your nuclear waste- and Yucca Mountain-tracking host made a quip about trying to make it to Moniz’s testimony in the House if I could find clothing unsanctified by baby spit. As a reward, I got this priceless reader comment: “Those of us who have been working this issue for the past few decades would argue that clothes with baby spit-up on them are more than appropriate for a Yucca hearing. And some of the sources of that spit-up may well be working the issue long after we have paid for their college education and retired!”

DUCK, DUCK, RANKING: Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee intend to announce their roster of subcommittee ranking members today.

NEI DESCENDS ON THE BIG APPLE: Nuclear Energy Institute chief Marv Fertel is on his annual pilgrimage to Wall Street today to give analysts a rundown on the nuclear industry fortunes and headaches. Fertel intends to echo his concerns about the sort of “market deficiencies” that led to closure of the Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin and the Vermont Yankee plant, two operating facilities whose plugs got pulled for economic reasons. But he plans to highlight how grid operators such as PJM and regulators have started to consider mechanisms that account for nuclear power in a more holistic fashion. The NEI leader also plans to press the industry’s frustration with the cumulative impact of regulations, which has become a consistent issue raised at congressional hearings as well at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission spring conference over the last few years. Fertel’s presentation starts at 8:30 a.m. and will be webcast here:

JERSEY CHECK OFF PEPCO-EXELON MERGER: The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Commissioners approved the merger between Exelon Corp. and Pepco Holdings Inc. last night. The Commission’s order finalizes a settlement agreement approved about a month ago. Commissions in Delaware, D.C. and Maryland have yet to approve the merger and the latter two jurisdictions were also the least likely to welcome the deal. More from Pepco:

BRATTLE DEFENDS CLIMATE RULES: The Brattle Group is out with a new 79-page report today that cast doubt on potential electric reliability woes the North American Electric Reliability Corp. flagged about the EPA’s draft climate rules in November. In its preliminary assessment of the proposed rules, NERC that they would impact more power capacity than previous EPA rules “in a relatively short time frame, potentially posing greater grid reliability impacts compared to prior environmental compliance programs.” On the other hand, Brattle argues that NERC’s concerns about potential reliability issues connected to complying with EPA’s regulations were “unlikely to materially affect reliability” and that the group didn’t consider a variety of solutions that would resolve potential red flags. The report’s lead author, Jurgen Weiss, said that NERC’s reliability concerns were “largely overstated.” The report:

NOMINATION STATION: Obama plans to nominate Allen Croff to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent scientific panel that reviews DOE’s radioactive waste analyses. Croff is an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University, served as senior technical advisor to the president’s blue-ribbon commission on nuclear waste and has held a number of posts with the NRC, Oak Ridge national lab, and the National Academy of Sciences. Also, the next time you see the NWTRB chairman, ask him about the colorful past we have together.


– John Kitzhaber planned to resign, changed mind Wednesday, sources say. Oregonian:

– Apple deal, tax change could spark corporate solar stampede. Reuters:

– New Mexico considers more fines over rad leak at WIPP. AP:

– Danish wind turbine maker Vestas to pay first dividend in 12 years. Reuters:

– Croatia, Poland Plan LNG Terminal Link to Boost Security. Bloomberg:

– Private equity and energy: Refilling the pipeline. The Economist:

FORMER OBAMA ADVISER AXELROD TALKS WITH POLITICO’s GLENN THRUSH about his new book, “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics,” and defends his claim that the president hid his true feelings on same-sex marriage for political reasons.


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