Energy News for March 24, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 24, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 3/24/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Darren Goode, Alex Guillén and Elana Schor

CAN CRUZ WIN THE OIL PRIMARY? Even in a strongly pro-fossil-fuel GOP presidential field, Ted Cruz stands out for his devotion to his home-state oil industry and its agenda. Republicans widely champion an energy platform based on expanded oil and gas drilling, opposition to EPA climate regulations and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. But Cruz has gone beyond that by pushing legislation to lift the 1970s-era ban on crude oil exports — a prime industry cause that has some congressional Republicans nervous about catching the blame if gasoline prices rise. And while some of his potential White House rivals also want to phase out the federal mandate for blending ethanol into gasoline, Cruz made a point of starkly staking out that position in corn-rich Iowa.
Unlike former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Cruz doesn’t have any past ambivalence about offshore oil drilling to explain away. Cruz has also raked in more than $1 million in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry since 2011, outstripping rivals like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Still, the industry has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to finding allies among the GOP primary field — see: Bush, Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry — and no reason to alienate any of them at this stage. Andrew Restuccia and Elana Schor teamed up for this one:

THE DEPARTED: BP has dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, but the oil giant declined to give its reasons for leaving the group: “We continually assess our engagements with policy and advocacy organizations and based on our most recent assessment, we have determined that we can effectively pursue policy matters of current interest to BP without renewing our membership in ALEC,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton said in a statement.

The industry-backed ALEC has long pushed conservative model legislation on a number of topics, some controversial. Its environment-related efforts have included attempts to roll back state-level renewable portfolio standards, a campaign that in most places has not succeeded. However, earlier this year, West Virginia became the first state to repeal its RPS. BP joins a list of high-profile companies that have left ALEC recently, including a string of tech firms that departed after Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt slammed its climate change policies. At least one energy company, Occidental Petroleum, also ended its involvement with ALEC last fall, and ConocoPhillips cut ties several years ago.

ALEC: YEAH YEAH, WE KNOW: BP told the American Legislative Exchange Council in December that it was dropping its longtime membership, according to a statement from ALEC. “In December 2014, ALEC officials were informed that BP would not renew its membership based on a routine assessment of changing priorities,” according to the statement emailed to POLITICO. “The business perspective is being chased out of the public policy arena — a place where diversity of opinion is paramount to developing real plans for action,” the statement stated, adding that U.S. businesses “must not be ashamed of advancing their goals, maximizing shareholder value and providing opportunity, innovation and careers to millions of hardworking taxpayers.”

HAPPY TUESDAY! I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and I can’t say that I’m fretting too much about RadioShack’s failings: The company’s been a soulless husk of its former self for a decade. How could a do-it-yourself enabler survive in a culture that prefers Apple, which can’t fix anything more than two years old? Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

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BRING ON THE BUDGET RESOLUTIONS! The House Rules Committee late last night approved a structure rule for that chamber’s fiscal 2016 budget resolution debate, which declared three GOP and three Democratic amendments to be in order ( The approved rule set aside four hours of debate for the Budget Committee and the Joint Economic Committee, and according to the majority leader’s office, amendments won’t be considered until tomorrow. But on the other side of the Capitol, the amendment process is just getting fired up…

Senate Republicans plan to target EPA’s draft carbon rule for power plants: Republicans are starting to stumble over one another to secure budget resolution amendments that undercut EPA’s proposed climate regulation. Sen. Rob Portman filed an amendment to allow states to opt-out of the rule if a governor or state legislative body determines that the rule would increase retail electricity prices with a disproportionate impact on low-income or fixed-income households, pose a risk to electric reliability, decrease employment, or decrease State revenues. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans may file their own amendments challenging the rule, and it’s unclear which one would get a vote this week.

— On LNG: Sen. Cory Gardner said he’s working on an amendment to expedite liquefied natural gas exports. He said it wouldn’t limit expediting permitting decisions for exports to any particular countries, reflecting the need to leave out such prescriptive policy language to make sure it holds water within the tight rules for amendments to the budget resolution. He’s also looking at an amendment promoting energy savings performance contracts.

— On fracking: Sen. James Lankford said he’s looking at the proposed fracking rule the Interior Department released last week but isn’t yet sure how to address that. “We’re still trying to evaluate exactly how to do that and what that would be,” Lankford said yesterday.

— On the crude oil export ban: Nevertheless, Lankford was clear that now is not the time to offer language lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. “We’re still trying to work to build a coalition on it. There’s a pretty significant group that’s here. I think there’s a majority but we want to make sure before we actually get a vote on record,” he said. “That will take longer than this week.”

— On a carbon tax: Sen. Roy Blunt said he is looking to offer an amendment preventing a carbon tax similar to the one he offered during the 2013 budget debate. He also said that Republicans aren’t likely to revisit having an amendment requiring that Senate to sign off on international climate deals.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are working on amendments to the budget resolution to again try to pin Republicans on the science behind climate change. “We will have a package of amendments for consideration,” Sen. Brian Schatz told reporters. “Every time there is an opportunity for us to advance the conversation on the importance of taking action on climate, we’ll take that opportunity.” The Hawaii Democrat said that their amendments will include trying to put Republicans on record on the reality of human-induced climate change. But he said the language may be different than an amendment he offered during January’s Keystone XL floor debate, which said humans are a “significant” factor in climate change. Schatz said he was working with Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Barbara Boxer and Ed Markey on budget amendments.

Whitehouse was less forthcoming on the details. “Ehhh, still planning,” he said. “You guys take all the fun out of this stuff. Ever been to a surprise party?”

THE SUPERCOMMITTEE OF THE GAS TAX: A bipartisan duo in the House is set to introduce legislation that would force Congress to deal with the recurring crises afflicting the Highway Trust Fund or suffer the political price of a gas tax hike. The legislation from Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), both members of the Ways and Means Committee, would index the 18.4 cents per gallon gas tax to inflation starting this year. The money generated over the next decade from that change would keep the trust fund, which pays for most federal road, bridge and transit funding, solvent until the end of the 114th Congress.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t major hurdles. “I think it’s very, very difficult to do anything with the gas tax,” House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster said. Kevin Robillard and Heather Caygle have more:

DEMS GIVE JEWELL ARCTIC REFUGE PROPS: Thirty Senate Democrats gave Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a thumbs-up yesterday for her department’s plans to manage more than 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness. The letter:

NRDC DOLES OUT A LITTLE LOVE AND HATE: Natural Resources Defense Council is launching a six-figure multi-state ad campaign today targeting GOP Sens. Rob Portman and Pat Toomey for “backing a big polluter agenda” while giving some love to Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, and Mark Warner for their votes earlier this year for supporting efforts to acknowledge climate change, and promote renewable energy. The ads are running in online editions of newspapers in New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia, on Facebook, and as digital display ads in various outlets, NRDC said. The anti-Portman ad for Facebook: The pro-Ayotte ad:

RELEASE THE WINDS: Distributed wind power could reach 30 gigawatts and create 150,000 jobs by 2030 with the right policies, according to a paper from the Distributed Wind Energy Association. Distributed wind projects — which range from a single kilowatt up to a couple of megawatts — totaled 842 megawatts at the end of 2013, according to the Energy Department. To increase that figure more than 30-fold, the group recommends several policies, including a long-term extension of the wind investment tax credit, a 40 percent ITC for residential systems, more DOE R&D money for distributed wind and continued funding of the Agriculture Department’s Rural Energy for America Program. DWEA holds its annual gathering in Washington today, and will hit the Hill for a lobbying day tomorrow. Report:

CENTRUS IS OFFICIALLY PONEMAN’S BABY: Former Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman officially took the helm of Centrus Energy Corp. yesterday, according to an SEC filing released just after markets closed. Interim chief John Castellano, who led the company formerly known as USEC following the firm’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings last fall, had previously spent a year serving as the company’s chief restructuring officer. Poneman is now Centrus’ CEO, president and a member of its board of directors — a job that raised quite a few eyebrows — around this town, as your morning host explained last week:


— California’s push for clean energy has a problem: no place to store it. The Los Angeles Times:

— Lawrence Berkeley Lab boss stepping down. San Francisco Business Times:

— Chesapeake Energy Cuts Capital Budget, Production Outlook. The Wall Street Journal:

— Oil train disaster fund grows with Irving Oil’s contribution. The Associated Press:

— California is first state to feel hydro-power crunch. The Associated Press:

— Florida cities expand solar offerings. The Tallahassee Democrat:

— U.S. oil drillers scrambling to thwart OPEC threat. The Associated Press:

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