Energy News for March 27, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 27, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 3/27/2015

By HEATHER CAYGLE, with help from Kevin Robillard, Kathryn A. Wolfe and Kelsey Snell

ARMED OFFICERS AT TSA CHECKPOINTS? It’s been nearly a week since a man carrying a bag of Molotov cocktails and wielding a machete attacked TSA officers in New Orleans. And this latest checkpoint rampage has prompted lawmakers to start rallying around the idea of putting armed officers at airport checkpoints. The union that represents TSA workers has for years been calling for the creation of special teams of armed TSA agents to guard the security screening area. But lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee seem to be leaning instead toward proposals to give local law-enforcement agencies extra money to staff checkpoints. Jen brings it:
RYAN, SHUSTER WORKING ON FUNDING PATCH: Talk of a short-term Highway Trust Fund patch is picking up steam. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s working closely with House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster on a temporary funding fix to bide more time for business-focused tax reform. “If tax reform is going to be a piece of the highway bill, we’re going to need to go past May 31,” Ryan told reporters. “It is just not conceivable [with] the way this place works that we’ll get it done by then.” He did not indicate how long the extension could be or how he would pay for it but did reiterate his opposition to a one-time repatriation holiday to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. “Tax reform can help facilitate a [longer-term] highway bill, that’s plan A,” he said.

SAVE THE VOTE-A-RAMA DRAMA FOR YA MOMMA: The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body (and reporters) stayed up late last night, eating pepperoni rolls provided by Sen. Joe Manchin and voting on a long, long list of amendments to the budget resolution. But don’t worry that you missed something — those votes are nonbinding and mostly for show, basically just allowing members to be on the record for or against something. The Senate did approve an amendment that would prevent the feds from withholding a state’s highway funds if that state fails to submit an implementation plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the administration’s Clean Power Plan ( After all the budget-rama drama, expect things to be quiet around the Capitol for a while — both chambers don’t return until mid-April following a two-week recess.

GERMANWINGS CRASH COULD ADD TO TERRORIST PLAYBOOK: House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul says he worries that details of the Germanwings crash provide “a playbook for terrorists” to take down planes, even if the incident was not a terrorist attack. He told Jen there’s no indication that the crash, which killed all 150 passengers, was linked to terrorism. But the fact that the captain was locked out of the cockpit while the plane descended into the French Alps “has exposed a great vulnerability,” McCaul said. His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Bennie Thompson, said the crash exposes vulnerabilities the panel leaders will look into in the coming weeks, likely along with their colleagues on the House Transportation Committee.

-How cockpit security varies around the world. USA Today:

-And from POLITICO Magazine: “Could anyone have saved Germanwings?”

Related: Several airlines, including Norwegian, moved to change their flying procedures on Thursday to now require two crew members in the cockpit at all times. “Norwegian has been looking into changing its cockpit procedures for a while. However, in light of the tragic Germanwings accident, we are speeding up the process so that two crew members always are present in the cockpit,” the carrier said in a statement. Two crew members are required to be in the cockpit at all times in the U.S., but several other countries don’t have the same rules. Reuters has a rundown of other airlines following suit:

HIGH FIVE FOR FRIDAY, Y’ALL. Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Thanks for tuning in for Friday’s edition and if you need a little laugh going into the weekend, be sure to check out this video of a basketball player failing big time after trying to dunk over a car: He did land the dunk the next time around though, so kudos!

Don’t be shy! Send scoops, tips, complaints and transpo trivia to or shoot a tweet my way @heatherscope. And don’t forget to follow Jennifer Scholtes @jascholtes And as always, follow @morning_transpo and @POLITICOPro.

“But before I could get to the station in the pick-up truck, she got runned over by a damned old train…”

** A Message from Americans for Fair Skies: Would you give a 40-point head start to a team in March Madness? Of course not. It’s unfair and it’s certainly not allowed. So why are Qatar and the U.A.E. allowed to give their airlines a $40 billion? These protectionist subsidies violate international agreements. Learn more at **

RSVP FOR LUNCH WITH FOXX: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will join POLITICO’s Mike Allen and Kathryn Wolfe on Monday to talk all things transportation — the Highway Trust Fund, driverless cars, his upcoming road trip and a lot more. RSVP for the can’t-miss event: And be sure to tweet your questions for the secretary: #PlaybookLunch. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Monday for the noon event at the Newseum.

U.S. TRAVEL RESPONDS TO SCATHING LETTER (KIND OF): U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow has responded to a scathing letter sent by four union leaders criticizing the group for siding with Gulf carriers in the Open Skies spat. The letter ( — sent by the Teamsters and three flight attendant unions to U.S. Travel’s board of directors — upbraided the board for siding with Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines instead of U.S. airlines and their labor allies, and accused it of supporting Gulf airlines that discriminate against women and gay people.

Dow didn’t directly address the carriers’ employment practices, beyond suggesting that the letter was a smear campaign. “If the Big Three airlines and their unions are ever able to present compelling arguments for breaking the agreements with those priorities in mind, we’re all ears,” he said in a statement. U.S. Travel’s board members run the gamut of interests, from blue chip companies such as American Express and Hyatt Hotels to a host of regional travel associations and airports.

TRUCK WEIGHT FIGHT RESURFACES: A group of House and Senate Democrats has written to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to question the results of a still unreleased study on the impact of commercial trucks on the nation’s roads. The group, which includes Sens. Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal and Reps. Jim McGovern and Jerry Nadler, said the study’s author has a conflict of interest and raised questions about the study’s methodology. “It is … troubling that DOT could release a study that recommends bigger, heavier trucks that will lead to more potholes and even greater problems — like safety risks, environmental damage, and economic harm — not to mention higher expenses to maintain our infrastructure,” the four wrote. Read the letter:

NORQUIST GIVES PFC HIKE TWO THUMBS DOWN: The Grover Norquist-led Americans for Tax Reform has come out against a hike in the passenger facility charge. “Investing in our nation’s air travel infrastructure is certainly an important cause,” Norquist wrote in a letter ( to members of Congress. “However, it is unfair and illogical to ask air travelers to pay more when there is already plentiful funding for important infrastructure projects.” But Marc Scribner from the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute said while his group normally agrees with ATR on issues, in this instance “they are both wrong on the facts and inadvertently supporting a tax-and-spend federal regime that the PFC and other facility user charges can help counter.” Read his blog:

STOP THE PRESSES: NEW METRO CARS DEBUTING SOON — They may be four months late, but Metro’s fancy-schmancy new rail cars will finally make their debut in mid-April. Mark your calendars, D.C. denizens — the first 7,000 series cars will debut on the Blue Line on April 14. If you’re a Metro nut, you can go to the Franconia-Springfield stop at 7 a.m. that morning to see the first train of new rail cars rolling down the tracks. The Metro cars of the future were originally supposed to debut in January but that was held up due to a dispute over safety tests ( And now for a sneak peek video:

GRAB BAG: IT’S BILL INTRO TIME, Y’ALL — Following several high-profile events involving drones and heads of state, including the White House lawn crash in January, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman plans to introduce legislation intended to force more attention to security threats caused by drones. The bill would order the DHS to study how commonly available drones could be used by terrorists and to develop policies on how to stop such an attack. Kevin has the deets: and bill text:

-Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey are out with a new bill that would require auto dealers to fix a car’s safety defects before the vehicle is sold or leased. Earlier this month, the duo introduced a bill that would require state DMVs to notify car owners about outstanding recalls and would mandate owners fix the defect before renewing their registration. Sen. Chuck Schumer is also working on a related bill that would require rental car companies to fix defects subject to a recall before renting or selling vehicles.


-Metro’s safety culture doesn’t exist, employees say. The Washington Post:

-The Barack Obama International Airport? Maybe, if Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his way. POLITICO:

-Uber announces new programs aimed at making riders feel safer following allegations of sexual assault by drivers. Engadget:

-Most automakers beat White House emissions standards for second year in a row. Pro:

-Toyota divulges new manufacturing process, built on sharing components among vehicles. Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 65 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 187 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 593 days.

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