Energy News for April 20, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 20, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 4/20/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén, Darren Goode and Andrew Restuccia

OIL HOPE IS NOT LOST: The U.S. oil industry has gone from boom to gloom. Oil prices have plunged to half the level they were a year ago, triggering a wave of layoffs and spending cuts even as the Obama administration tightens regulations over how and where the industry can drill. Headlines boasting record domestic oil and natural gas production have been replaced by worries about a glut that’s poised to turn output lower in the next few months. Contributing to the woes is Saudi Arabia’s strategy of battling for market share by allowing global prices to fall in a bid to drive out its higher-cost competitors. That’s led to belt-tightening among U.S. companies, who Goldman Sachs predicts will cut their spending by 25 percent this year, and layoffs that have topped 100,000 so far. But even with the drop in prices that is squeezing many of the midsized and smaller energy producers, giants like ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell still posted strong profits last year.
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Industry experts expect the dark mood to show when the oil leaders gather in Houston this week for the annual IHS CERAWeek conference, where top U.S. government, corporate and international players will chew over the uncertain future. (More on that below.) Darren Goode explains:
OBAMA EARTH DAYING IN THE EVERGLADES: President Barack Obama will travel to the Florida Everglades on Wednesday to mark Earth Day and “talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy,” he said in his weekly address this weekend. “The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country. But it’s also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure — and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry — at risk. So climate change can no longer be denied, or ignored,” he said. Obama reeled off his usual list of clean energy and climate accomplishments and predicted success at this December’s international climate gathering in Paris, saying that “there’s new hope that with American leadership, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.” The last sitting president to visit the Everglades was George W. Bush, who spoke there in June 2001.
Brian Deese, a senior adviser to Obama on energy and climate issues, will also announce a lineup of climate-related activities for the week in a blog post this morning. Today: The White House plans to issue a presidential proclamation highlighting the impact of national parks on local economies. Tomorrow: Four “landscapes” throughout the country where the administration intends to focus its conservation and climate resilience efforts will be announced. Later in the week, the White House will explain how it plans to spend millions of dollars to protect parks, as well as new efforts to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions through the Agriculture Department.
ME FIRST — DCCC TARGETING GOP ON CLIMATE: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to go after several House Republicans this week in honor of Earth Day and the anniversary of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a source tells ME. DCCC plans to do some in-district targeting of Florida lawmakers on their energy and environmental positions to coincide with Obama’s Everglades trip. Operations this week also include local media campaigns against newer lawmakers in what DCCC deems the “Climate Denier Caucus”: Reps. Lee Zeldin, Frank Guinta, Bruce Poliquin, Rod Blum and Dan Benishek. Democrats also plan to air the latest fundraising data totaling up how much money Republicans have received from the libertarian Koch brothers — a figure the DCCC claims is $58,000 across 12 GOP lawmakers in the first quarter of this year.
HEY FOLKS, IT’S MONDAY. I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and I got to catch up on a bit of xkcd this weekend (Don’t know what xkcd is? It’s a comic strip for nerds, basically) and I was pretty amused by these two recent entries: and Send your energy tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.
** Fresh for Earth Day, a new Business Roundtable report, “Create, Grow, Sustain: Leading by Example,” features testimonials from 148 CEOs covering a variety of Earth-friendly initiatives. By employing sustainable business practices, CEO-led efforts are improving communities throughout the United States and around the world. Learn how at: **
THE THIN GREEN (PIPE)LINE: Hillary Clinton is maintaining her years of silence on the Keystone XL pipeline — and environmental groups are increasingly divided on how hard they should push her to take a stand. It’s a further sign that the never-ending pipeline drama will remain one of the biggest policy minefields facing Clinton’s White House campaign, even if Obama rejects the project in the coming weeks or months. Elana Schor has more:
… BUT BACK TO CERAWEEK: Many of the president’s top energy and environmental officials are speaking at IHS CERAWeek in the coming days. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell speaks at the summit tonight, which is also the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joins his Canadian and Mexican counterparts on a panel Wednesday and will be the star attraction of a dinner the same day billed as a “unique opportunity” to chat with Moniz in a “relaxed and informal … discussion among industry peers and experts.” Of course, the dinner will be closed to the media. (Moniz is planning to hold a press conference Thursday morning). EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will give a luncheon speech Thursday and top State Department climate envoy Todd Stern speaks on a panel that afternoon about the upcoming climate talks in Paris.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, who is speaking on an opening panel at the conference this afternoon, affectionately called CERAWeek “kind of like an industry overload,” to reporters last week. “You’re meeting with some of the heads of companies not only from around the country but from around the world,” said Murkowski, who made her first trip to the conference last year. “I expect that again it’s just going to be a learning session that’s pretty extraordinary. So I’m ready to go back.”
Others speaking at the conference include the heads of BP, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and other top private and state-run oil companies; former Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman, whose new job as head of Centrus Energy Corp. has sparked a congressional inquiry; and other leaders from the power and natural gas sectors. Also, sprinkle a little Dan Yergin everywhere. Full agenda is here:
HOUSE SET TO APPROVE ‘MINI’ SHAHEEN-PORTMAN BILL: The House is poised to pass the “mini” Portman-Shaheen energy efficiency bill tomorrow night under a process used for the quick passage of uncontroversial legislation. S. 535, which cleared the Senate during a 4 a.m. voice vote before the chamber broke for its spring break last month, contains several provisions on building efficiency, but the most anticipated section exempts large grid-enabled electric resistance water heaters from a DOE efficiency regulation that took effect last week. The exemption — backed by efficiency groups, environmentalists and electric co-ops — will allow manufacturers to continue making a type of water heater frequently used in rural demand response programs. House leaders last week started to move their own version of the bill that contained just the water heater provision, but have added the Senate bill to tomorrow’s scheduled votes.
THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK IN CONGRESS: The Senate gets back today while the House gavels in tomorrow. Here’s the energy Hill list of next few days:
— Wednesday is the peak of the week. In the House: The Appropriations Committee is marking up the energy and water spending bill (and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill) that morning. That same morning, the Science Committee is marking up the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act a week after Republicans unveiled the bill, the Natural Resources Committee is discussing safety changes since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and an Oversight and Government Reform panel is reviewing DOE’s excess uranium plan.
— In the Senate: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx testifies to an Appropriations subcommittee, and Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Conner appears before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday morning while Sen. Lamar Alexander puts on a hearing about nuclear power in the afternoon.
LIBERAL GROUP LAUNCHES DEEPWATER AD DIGS ON OIL: Americans United for Change, a liberal advocacy group, is unveiling a six-figure multi-platform ad campaign today to mark the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and press presidential candidates and other officials to give up oil. TV ads are running in Chicago (, where city officials are considering an E15 ordinance, and Des Moines, Iowa, ( The group is also running print ads in the Chicago Sun-Times and launching a website,, as a collection point of news stories about oil-related accidents.
SHAKING, MOVING: Elizabeth Tate, the senior director of government relations for the Alliance to Save Energy, is leaving for the D.C. office of Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee-based Fortune 500 company with interests in building efficiency, auto parts and batteries. Before joining ASE in 2013, Tate worked at the American Public Gas Association. She starts at Johnson Controls on May 4.
EPA ASKS JUDGE TO TOSS PEBBLE MINE FOIA SUIT: EPA on Friday asked a federal judge to toss out one of at least three ongoing lawsuits brought by the developers of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. Pebble Limited Partnership argued that EPA has not handed over a number of documents it requested under the Freedom of Information Act, especially alleged communications between EPA and environmentalists. But EPA argues that it has fulfilled the FOIA request that is at the heart of this suit. Read:
WHATTA MANCHIN: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced Sunday that he won’t run for governor next year and instead plans to seek reelection to the Senate in 2018.
Manchin, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, had been seen by many Democrats as likely to leave Washington, expressing frustration with the inability of the parties to cooperate. Instead, he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he had seen progress in breaking gridlock and wanted to continue to try to make an impact at the federal level. “It’s been challenging, but I think we’ve made some inroads,” the first-term Democrat said. POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney:
— Canada’s Own Oil Pipeline Problem. The Wall Street Journal:
— Marco Rubio on climate change, same-sex marriage. CBS News (video):
— Oil Rigs’ Biggest Risk: Human Error. The Wall Street Journal:
— Worries surface as drills push deeper, 5 years after BP spill. The Associated Press:
— Volatile climate in the energy sector puts billions at risk. The Financial Times:
— Utah’s oldest coal plant retired in face of new EPA standards. The Salt Lake Tribune:
— Dominion to close coal ash ponds in Virginia. The Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Wednesday — The Environment and Public Works Committee reviews the nomination of Vanessa Sutherland, the chief counsel at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, to be the new Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board chair. Sutherland testifies. 9:30 a.m. Dirksen 406.
Wednesday — The Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the reauthorization of and potential reforms to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Conner testifies. 10 a.m. Dirksen 366.
Wednesday — The Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and HUD reviews the fiscal 2016 budget request of the Transportation Department. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx testifies. 10 a.m. Dirksen 138.
Wednesday — The Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water holds a hearing about the U.S. without nuclear power. DOE’s John Kotek, Nuclear Energy Institute’s Alex Flint and CSIS’s John Hamre testify. 10 a.m. Dirksen 138.
Wednesday — The Appropriations Committee marks up the fiscal 2016 energy and water spending bill as well as the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations measure. 10:45 a.m., Rayburn 2359.
Wednesday — The Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the “Innovations in Safety Since the 2010 Macondo Incident.” 9:30 a.m., Longworth 1324.
Wednesday — An Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee holds a hearing on the Energy Department’s excess uranium management plan. 10 a.m., Room TBA.
Wednesday — A Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee holds a hearing on the fiscal 2016 budget requests of the Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority. 10 a.m., Rayburn 2167.
Wednesday — The Science Committee marksup the GOP’s America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. 10:15 a.m., Rayburn 2318.
Thursday — The Science Committee holds a hearing on hydraulic fracturing. 9 a.m., Rayburn 2318.

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