Energy News for April 14, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 14, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 4/14/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Erica Martinson and Elana Schor

ENVIROS PREP ‘GREEN ROOM’ DEFENSE PLAY: Environmentalists plan to mark Mitch McConnell’s 100th day as Senate majority leader by mobilizing the war room they launched in January to counter the GOP at every turn. Climate activists have dubbed it the “Green Room,” a rapid-response messaging operation aimed at the new Senate Republican majority, and it represents a strategic shift in tactics for the advocacy sector that spent much of 2014 helping to make the case for President Barack Obama’s broad emissions-cutting agenda. When McConnell took the top spot in the Senate, environmentalists shifted into a defensive posture, with the sort of coordination last seen a decade ago, when the Republicans controlled both the Congress and the White House.
The result, as outlined in memos and other documents shared with POLITICO, is a classic Washington effort to siphon off political oxygen from the GOP at a time when energy policy occupies a dominant space on the new majority’s agenda — as shown in the long, freewheeling debate over McConnell’s Keystone XL bill that President Barack Obama ultimately vetoed. Elana Schor has more:

RUBIO’S PITCH FOR THE PRESIDENCY: Marco Rubio’s case for the GOP nomination is simple, POLITICO’s James Hohmann reports. He believes he can emerge as the consensus candidate who bridges the divide between the Republican establishment and tea party activists. And he thinks his odds are good enough that he’s willing to give up a second term in the Senate. The prospect isn’t as speculative as it appears.

RUBIO’S CAP-AND-TRADE BAGGAGE: Critics of Sen. Marco Rubio are digging up his support nearly a decade ago for a cap and trade-related bill in a bid to show that the new Republican presidential contender has shifted his views on climate change. Those critics, who requested anonymity, pointed to Rubio’s stance in 2007, when as speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives, he advocated that the state should become an early adopter of an emissions cap program. Alex Guillén has more:

LIBERAL MONEY MAY BACK CLIMATE WORK: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s fingerprints are all over this week’s spring meeting of the Democracy Alliance — an indication that the influential coalition of liberal donors intends to spend big to elevate climate change, and that Steyer plans to be at the forefront.

The former hedge fund founder is hosting three climate-focused sessions at the confab, according to an agenda obtained by POLITICO. The conference — which began on Sunday at San Francisco’s Four Seasons hotel and wraps up tomorrow — marks the unveiling of a new portfolio of advocacy groups to which the Democracy Alliance will recommend its wealthy members provide funding. Several groups focused partly or entirely on fighting climate change made the cut, including LeadingGreen, a joint initiative between the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund and the League of Conservation Voters launched in 2014 to raise the profile of climate change. Kenneth P. Vogel and Andrew Restuccia have more:

CALLING YOU REGULATION NERDS: Pro Energy’s Erica Martinson has put the world of energy regulation in the palm of your hand. Energy Regulation Watch:

HAPPY TUESDAY. I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and while I was gonna wait until Friday to say anything about Erica Martinson, she’s already yanked the Band-Aid off. Our illustrious, hard-working, ever-hilarious Erica is leaving POLITICO at the end of the week. I leave it to her to announce what her plans are. Erica came to our team as a colleague, and leaves as a friend. Send your energy tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

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AN OBAMA IN CLINTON’S CLOTHING? On energy and climate policy, Hillary Clinton’s biggest challenge may be showing how her presidency would go beyond serving as Barack Obama’s third term. Clinton and Obama agree in the broad strokes, of course. She’d certainly champion the president’s carbon regulations for power plants and whatever global climate agreement the administration reaches this year in Paris. Like Obama, she has promoted the role of natural gas — and by extension, fracking — in aiding the energy security of the U.S. and its allies. And until a few months ago her campaign chairman, John Podesta, was the White House adviser in charge of shaping Obama’s green agenda — a set of policies that will need the next president’s buy-in to bear fruit.

But the next president will also have to make big decisions that could take energy policy beyond the Obama mold. Among them: Should the U.S. lift the 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil? Should it expand federal regulations on fracking and widen offshore drilling along the East Coast and in the Arctic? Darren Goode breaks it down:

INTERIOR WAS SUPPOSED TO GIVE US SILVERWARE: The Interior Department proposed long-awaited rules yesterday to strengthen safeguards for offshore wells, a step that comes while coastal oil and gas production climbs — and just shy of the five-year anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s proposal comes as the Obama administration advances efforts to drill along much of the Atlantic Coast and in the challenging Arctic Ocean, much to green groups’ alarm. The rules incorporate seven oil industry standards, including guidelines for blowout preventers, the equipment that failed to seal BP’s Macondo well in 2010. It also seeks comment on whether drillers should ultimately have to install technology that shears all elements of a drill string in case of an emergency.

Under the proposed rules, which are set to become final later this year after a 60-day comment period, drillers would have to set up real-time onshore monitoring of offshore well control data that’s also available to regulators. More from Elana:

Still, Democrats and environmentalists didn’t hustle to heap praise on Interior, nor did they blast the proposal as insufficient. “These new regulations will make blowout preventers more ‘fail-safe,’ as they were touted to be before the BP disaster, instead of destined to fail,” Sen. Ed Markey said in a statement before pushing for hikes in offshore drilling safety fines and an unlimited oil spill liability cap for the industry. Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, slammed the sheer length of time the administration took to release the not-yet-final standards: “The fact that it has taken five years to get this rule out is an indictment of our regulatory process: It moves too slowly.”

YOUR AGENDA FOR THE DAY: There’s a closed-door all-senators briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry today at 10:30 a.m. going over the talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program (The House got their briefing yesterday). But since there’s a lot on today’s agenda let’s just get to it:

— ON CAPITOL HILL: A subpanel of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is reviewing federal environmental protection, chemical safety and fish and wildlife agencies starting at 9:30 a.m. Officials from the EPA’s and Interior Department’s inspector general offices are scheduled to testify. Dirksen 406.

— A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee is scheduled to discuss ongoing rail, pipeline, and hazmat rulemaking at 10 a.m. in Rayburn 2167. Rep. Jackie Speier plans to needle PHMSA for stronger pipeline safety measures, citing Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s 2010 San Bruno disaster.

— Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee plan to discuss EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulation for existing power plants and the Ratepayer Protection Act. EPA’s acting air chief Janet McCabe testifies during the first panel and is followed by six other witnesses. 10 a.m., Rayburn 2123.

— Just upstairs two flights, another set of E&C members plan to review the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 at 10:15 a.m. Rayburn 2322.

— All the while, a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will debate the crude oil export ban at 10:15 a.m. in Rayburn 2172. Rep. Joe Barton and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul make a visit.

— A Natural Resources subcommittee plans to take the administration to task over the Waters of the U.S. rule. Eight panelists had been lined up, but last night the committee told ME that Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez backed out of the 1:30 p.m. hearing. In a statement, committee Chairman Rob Bishop said BOR’s “stunning refusal to testify” was “unacceptable” and urged the agency to reconsider its attendance. Longworth 1324.

— For good measure, E&C kicks off a markup at 5 p.m. on three bills, including the Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act, and H.R. 906, a bill to modify the efficiency standards for grid-enabled water heaters. Rayburn 2123. The markup will then reconvene tomorrow morning.

— OFF THE HILL: The Energy Information Administration unveils its Annual Energy Outlook at 1 p.m. today. EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski is scheduled to give a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The webcast:

LET’S MAKE IT OFFICIAL: President Barack Obama has nominated Jonathan Elkind to be the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for international affairs. Elkind, who is principal deputy assistant secretary for international affairs, has been tapped to fill a position that’s essentially been vacant since David Sandalow resigned almost two years ago. Elkind has taken on the role in an acting capacity. Last month, he traveled to China with U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern to discuss environmental issues.

RURAL COMMUNITIES DO HAVE ACCESS TO POWER: The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association brought four member CEOs to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy yesterday afternoon to discuss their concerns about EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan — in particular the threat of stranded assets and debts related to coal-fired power plants. The officials run electric co-ops in Arizona, Florida, Kansas and Arkansas and said they’re worried the plan’s strict interim goals — cuts required by 2020 — could have a disproportionate impact on their customers, who are largely rural and often low-income. The CEOs said that EPA’s proposed rule overshot what is possible in their states, in terms of transmission infrastructure needs, and especially when it comes to energy efficiency. “Electric coops have been in the energy efficiency business for decades. The low hanging fruit is long gone,” said Mel Coleman, CEO of the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative. “It’s just not feasible from our perspective,” said Patrick Ledger, CEO of Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives. The CEOs said they found McCarthy to be engaging, a good listener, and encouraging on issues related to reliability and cost. Lisa Johnson, CEO of the Seminole Electric Cooperative will testify at today’s Energy & Commerce subcommittee hearing on the rule.

END OF AN ERA: The NRC today officially terminated the license of the decommissioned Ford research reactor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor:


— Harvard Dismisses Climate Change Protesters While MIT Negotiates With Them. Bloomberg:

— Americans Choose the Environment Over Energy Development. Gallup:

— Penn. Gov. appoints business recruiter to advise on energy and manufacturing. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

— Maine Governor Wants Nuclear Power Back on Energy Table. Maine Public Broadcasting:

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