Energy News for March 4, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 4, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 3/4/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Erica Martinson

HOUSE GOP CREEPS INTO CRUDE EXPORT DEBATE: House Republicans aren’t barreling toward lifting a 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude oil exports. Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) promised yesterday that any move by his panel to lift the ban “will only happen after an open review of the current policy,” and he cited the process in the previous Congress to expedite liquefied natural gas permits, which took more than a year to produce a bill. “We thoroughly studied the potential impacts,” Upton told a hearing in the Energy and Power Subcommittee, and then “acted only after listening to all of the interested parties and concluding that LNG exports would be beneficial for the economy and a net jobs creator, and we passed it in a bipartisan way.”
ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance told an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the export ban was outdated and gave foreign companies an edge over U.S. oil producers. “We shouldn’t put U.S. producers at a competitive disadvantage by limiting access to global markets,” Lance said. Darren Goode has more:

CHANGE OF PLANS: The expectation of more snow here tomorrow morning has led the House to fold its hand and pack up earlier than expected this week. The chamber had been scheduled to consider two bills related to EPA scientific review processes once lawmakers dealt with Rep. Bill Shuster’s Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act. But last night House leadership announced that they were scrapping Thursday’s agenda, which essentially kicks those EPA bills to a future date. They’re expected to wrap up by mid-afternoon.

Thus far, the Senate is not impressed. While the House is cutting its week short, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office says that they intend to keep his chamber remain open for business. Lawmakers will have a cloture vote today — probably in the early afternoon — to break a Democratic filibuster on President Barack Obama’s veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Assuming the weather holds up after that, the Senate is expected vote on the actual veto override sometime Thursday, an effort that’s widely expected to fail.

FOR THE LOCALS: A winter storm watch goes into effect at 7 p.m. and will run through 7 p.m. tomorrow.

IT’S WEDNESDAY, so you’re halfway there. I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and to demonstrate that I’m more than just a collection of science facts, lover of things New York, and Star Trek evangelist, I have a treat for the political nerds among you. Columbia University produced 13-part collection of debates about the Constitution back in 1984 and the series is one my favorite things ever. A congresswoman by the name Barbara Mikulski participated in a couple of the debates — as did Orrin Hatch, Gerald Ford, Lamar Alexander, Barney Frank and Ed Koch, among many others. I stumbled across this seven years ago and it still sucks me in. The Constitution: That Delicate Balance: Check out Mikulski’s glasses!

Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

DEAD BILLS WALKING: The White House threatened to veto both GOP EPA bills, EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act (H.R. 1029) and the Secret Science Reform Act (H.R. 1030), not long after the House Rules Committee brought them up yesterday. H.R. 1029 would expand industry access to EPA’s Science Advisory Board and, according to the White House, would weaken its “scientific independence and integrity” by altering requirements for who can serve on the panel. H.R. 1030, the White House said, “would impose arbitrary, unnecessary, and expensive requirements that would seriously impede the [EPA’s] ability to use science to protect public health and the environment.”

THE KEYSTONE WHAC-A-MOLE BEGINS: Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe said yesterday that he’s “open to trying anything” to advance Keystone XL, including adding the pipeline’s approval to a federal highways and transit bill. Current funding for the transportation programs run out in May. Although he acknowledged that the move “could” sour transportation bill talks with Sen. Barbara Boxer, his Democratic counterpart, Inhofe said, “But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.”

Unsurprisingly, Boxer wasn’t having any of it, telling Elana Schor that it was “a ludicrous idea” to pin Keystone to the highway bill. Don’t mix the streams! But even if the project doesn’t stick to the highway bill, Dear Reader, Republicans are likely to test several permutations of the Keystone strategy — including and especially on must-pass appropriations bills — until they find a way to force the president’s hand.

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT: Just because the cloud of a possible Homeland Security shutdown has lifted, bringing the system from orange to yellow or something, doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of energy-related activity on Capitol Hill today. So, for the sanity of all involved, here’s the lowdown:

— EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at 9:30 a.m. The real question is whether or not EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe will produce another snowball like he did on the Senate floor last week. Dirksen 406.

— Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Conner are testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment at 10 a.m. Dirksen 124. Jewell has to face down Sen. Lisa Murkowski yet again just eight days after she had to defend herself at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, which the Alaska Republican chairs. You may want to pack another snack.

— The four sitting members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water at 2:30 p.m. in Dirksen 192. This is a little different. Your host has never seen the NRC sit in front of the Appropriations Committee and while it may have happened in 1998, this could be the first time regulators have been brought to this panel. Appropriators don’t usually fuss over the NRC’s spending because the agency is self-funded with fees it places on those it oversees. But Sen. Lamar Alexander, an especially vocal supporter of nuclear power, has made it clear that he doesn’t want regulators to create unnecessary hurdles for the industry. The Tennessee Republican is also sure to bring up the stalemate over the Yucca Mountain project and the broader challenge of nuclear waste. While still a proponent of Yucca, Alexander has equally stressed the need for a new process for picking waste sites since the amount of waste currently sitting around the country would already exceed the project’s design specifications.

CALIF. REGULATORS HALT WASTEWATER INJECTIONS: California regulators have ordered a halt to wastewater injection operations at 12 underground well sites in Kern County as part of a systematic statewide review of injection related to the oil and gas industry. The state has been evaluating thousands of wells after it was discovered that some injection was taking place into zones not approved by the EPA under the terms of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. A state official said that protecting the region’s groundwater supplies are particular important because of the state’s drought. Calif. Department of Conservation: A memo from California EPA:

IS THERE A CALIFORNIAN EMBASSY IN CHINA?: The Asia Society is out with a new report today outlining the myriad of joint programs that California has established with Chinese cities and provinces in an effort to address climate change. “The Obama administration has taken some important steps on climate change, but with federal climate protection legislation still not forthcoming from Washington, D.C., there is an opportunity for U.S. leadership in this area from state and local governments,” the report states. “Recognizing that subnational cooperation will play an important part in any meaningful overall agenda for addressing the global climate challenge, the state has stepped up its efforts to share its own experience and expertise through direct exchanges with counterparts in China.” The report is being unveiled at an event in San Francisco at noon with California Gov. Jerry Brown, former Energy Secretary Steven Chu and others. More info: The report:

LET’S CALL THE CLIMATE RULES ‘ENVIROCARE’: “States should think twice” before refusing to comply with EPA’s upcoming greenhouse gas rules for existing power plants, according to new essay by Daniel Selmi of the Sabin Center for Climate Law at Columbia Law School. With numerous states opposed to EPA’s Clean Power Plan, many expect some level of refusal to comply. Selmi argues that by refusing to submit plans to meet the climate rule, states will legally cede control to the federal government, which will impose a Federal Implementation Plan on their behalf. Ratepayers may be worse off under a federally-controlled plan, with less flexibility and lost time to choose more efficient methods of cutting carbon dioxide emissions, Selmi says.


— Jeff Immelt’s Overhaul of GE Impeded by Falling Oil Prices. The Wall Street Journal:

— Japan’s Solar Power Growth Falters as Utilities Balk. The New York Times:

— Lukoil Hurt by Falling Oil Price. The Wall Street Journal:

— Transmission line dispute heads to court. The Houston Chronicle:

— Oil up as Netanyahu blasts Iran, Libya forces strike terminals. Reuters:

— Company proposes building 2 gas-fired power plants in W.Va. The Associated Press:

— Nuclear power debate returns to Minnesota Legislature. St. Paul Pioneer Press:

— Willie Soon, Academic Freedom, and How We Can Deal with Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest. Union of Concerned Scientists:

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