Energy News for May 1, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 1, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 5/1/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén and Jennifer Scholtes

THE NATGAS NIMBY: A pipeline project that would cut across a storied American landscape is under attack. One opponent says the pipeline would be “a tragedy,” and the slogan of the campaign to thwart the project is “All Pain, No Gain.” Oh, and said campaign’s leadership includes politically active Republicans. A core group of Virginia Republicans and other landowners is leading the charge against a proposed natural gas pipeline near their backyards, Pro Energy’s Elana Schor reports, and using tactics similar to the environmental crusade against the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Financial services super-lobbyist Phil Anderson is joining other politically active Republicans in carrying out a well-funded campaign against Dominion’s $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would cross Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley while running 550 miles from West Virginia’s fracking fields to North Carolina. “Job One is to stop this route — it would be a tragedy for the state of Virginia,” said Anderson, whose family has owned land for more than a century along Atlantic Coast’s proposed path 20 miles west of Charlottesville. His allies include other landowners in the area, as well as George H.W. Bush administration national security staffer Tom Harvey and Taylor Keeney, a former spokeswoman for Republican ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell. Elana has more for Pros:

THE DIGESTS ENERGY AND WATER AMENDMENTS: The House churned through its first batch of amendments to the chamber’s $35.4 billion fiscal 2016 energy and water spending bill late last night. While debate over E&W amendments has happened on and off for the last two days, passing the fiscal 2016 military construction appropriations measure was given priority so none of the energy amendments actually received floor votes until after 11 p.m. last night. Before the House wrapped up for the night just before 2 a.m., it voted on 13 amendments. A half-dozen more were stacked up for votes today, and potentially more measures to be offered but the House wants this thing put to bed in the next few hours. The only vote series today is expected around 11 a.m. and noon.

Here are a few amendments that caught my eye:

— An amendment from former South Carolina governor and Rep. Mark Sanford to nix funding for DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program sank on a vote of 171 to 250.

— Rep. Michael Burgess came back with his perennial amendment to defund DOE enforcement of incandescent light bulb efficiency standards. Usually it’s been approved by voice voted but Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the top Democrat on the energy and water spending panel, requested a roll call vote on the measure this year, which passed, 232-189.

— An amendment to block DOE from consolidating its National Energy Technology Lab or putting it in private sector hands was adopted by voice vote.

— Competing amendments from Republican Rep. Morgan Griffith and Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell both went down in flames by similar margins last night. Griffith wanted to transfer $50 million from DOE’s energy efficiency and renewable energy office to the agency’s fossil program, while Swalwell sought to boost EERE by $25.5 million and cut fossil by $34 million.

— Another amendment from Swalwell sought to increase funding for ARPA-E by $20 million but narrowly lost on vote where flipping nine votes would’ve gotten it approved.

— Rep. Marsha Blackburn secured an amendment to defund DOE’s ability to finalize and enforce residential furnace efficiency standards.

— Ceiling fans! Although this amendment was approved by voice vote last night, it seemed worth highlighting. The joint amendment from Reps. Charlie Dent, Marsha Blackburn and Todd Rokita would prevent DOE from finalizing, implementing or enforcing new efficiency standards for ceiling fans. Blackburn even gave a shoutout to Hunter Fans Co., in her Tennessee district, which apparently invented — and dominates in the market of — ceiling fans.

TGIF! I’m Darius Dixon, and your morning host will be in the Seattle area for all of next week but Darren Goode will churn out Monday’s edition so fill up his inbox: And since the Hubert Humphrey quote was so popular yesterday, here’s something his dad said: “Stay out of bed as long as you can. Most people die there.” Follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

** A message from the Auto Care Association: The auto care industry is a coast-to-coast network of more than 500,000 independent manufacturers, distributors, parts stores and repair shops that keep every motorist moving. Our four million employees generate 2.3 percent of America’s gross domestic product. Our network delivers products at the speed that keeps America’s cars on the road. **

WHO’S ALSO OUT OF TOWN? The House is not in session next week. The Senate, however, will be back Monday. Sen. Bob Corker’s Iran sanctions bill is on the agenda.

THE OIL TRAIN FRIDAY NEWS DUMP: The Transportation Department is expected to reveal the final version of a much-anticipated rule strengthening tank car and operating standards for trains carrying crude oil at 10:30 a.m. today. According to Pro Transportation’s Kathryn Wolfe and Heather Caygle, Federal officials wouldn’t comment for the record about the rule’s anticipated roll-out, but sources from Capitol Hill to K Street were girding for a Friday reveal, possibly in conjunction with Transport Canada. Elana Schor has more details:

Rep. Peter DeFazio last night told our friends over at Morning Transportation: “The secretary’s calling me tomorrow before the public announcement. I’m hoping for the most robust tank car and certainty. … There’s going to be a very strict phase-out. It’s going to be harmonized with Canada, and we’re going to get rid of the old, sub-standard cars very quickly.”

KEEP AN EYE OUT for a new slate of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearings today. Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski is planning to have discussions about various titles she’s trying to fit into broad energy legislation, which will include sections on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, and accountability.

CLIMATE BACKSIES: The Republican budget passed in the House last night, on a 226 to 197 vote, does not include a climate change amendment from Sen. Michael Bennet that the GOP Senate effectively cleared twice — once by voice vote. The symbolic Senate-approved provision that Republican leaders removed from the budget during bicameral conference talks endorsed “responding to the economic and national security threats posed by human-induced climate change.” The Senate is expected to give final approval to the budget conference next week.

KEYSTONE CALL LIKELY TO AVOID TAMPERING WITH CANADIAN RACE: Attention all watchers of the Keystone XL oil pipeline: Reuters says you can go on vacation between mid-June and mid-October. Canadian elections are set for Oct. 19 and “three Ottawa-based sources familiar with the matter” said President Barack Obama wants to avoid becoming a part of campaigns. “The announcement will not be made while Canada is focused on the election,” said one of the sources. Mind you, both Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party as well as the opposing Liberal Party support Keystone.

Interesting historical tidbit about U.S.-Canada relations in the Reuters story: “In 1963, when relations between President John F. Kennedy and Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker were poisonous, the United States accused Ottawa of not meeting its commitments to NATO. The move triggered a crisis for the Conservatives and prompted Diefenbaker to call an election, which he lost. It is widely accepted in Canada that Washington had interfered.” Reuters:

THE OTHER KEYSTONE: DeSmogBlog has an interesting Freedom of Information Act find: “Documents obtained by DeSmogBlog reveal an alarming rate of corrosion to parts of TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline. A mandatory inspection test revealed a section of the pipeline’s wall had corroded 95%, leaving it paper-thin in one area (one-third the thickness of a dime) and dangerously thin in three other places, leading TransCanada to immediately shut it down. The cause of the corrosion is being kept from the public by federal regulators and TransCanada. … Only after DeSmogBlog made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to PHMSA in August 2013 — which the agency partially responded to this April — was the information revealing the pipeline had deeply corroded in multiple spots exposed. The documents also disclosed a plan to check for a possible spill where the corrosion was detected.”

WATCHDOG DINGS SECURITY AT INTERIOR HEADQUARTERS: The Interior Department’s headquarters at the Stuart Lee Udall Building just blocks from the White House has several security issues with vehicle and pedestrian entrances, a new inspector general report says. The IG’s biggest complaint was about retractable “vehicle-restraint bollards” — those posts that sink into the ground so a car can pass — “that continually malfunction” and are backed up by unarmed security guards with plastic traffic cones who don’t always check IDs. The bollards have long been a problem, and the IG questioned the $4.4 million spent installing them (and to make matters worse, the warranty is about to expire). The report also flagged pedestrian entrances, where guards once again weren’t properly checking IDs. Each day some 2,000 people, including Secretary Sally Jewell and various bureau heads, work in or visit the building, which has three miles of hallways, 2,200 rooms, a day care center and a museum. The IG report, parts of which have been redacted:

NEW MEXICO, DOE SIGN $73 MILLION SETTLEMENT OVER WIPP: New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a “mutually beneficial” $73 million settlement yesterday that resolves 31 violations levied against the Energy Department and its contractors over an incident last year that shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. As part of the agreement, DOE will spend the largest chunk — $34 million — of the settlement pot to improve roads and transportation routes around WIPP. Another $12 million will go to transportation routes in and around Los Alamos. The drum of waste that investigators blame for last year’s radiation leak was packaged at Los Alamos National Laboratory. DOE will also pay for additional training for local emergency responders and mine rescue teams in the Carlsbad, N.M., area. In a statement, Martinez commended DOE for “taking responsibility.” The settlement:

NELSON TO OBAMA: DON’T SHAKE US LIKE A POLAROID PICTURE: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is browbeating the Obama White House over the administration’s plans to let oil and gas exploration teams conduct seismic testing off the coast of his state. And today, the Democrat is offering legislation to block such work. A ban already exists for putting drilling rigs off Florida’s Gulf Coast until 2022 but that doesn’t apply to the Atlantic-facing side of the state. Nelson’s office says that 18 coastal communities in the Sunshine State have passed resolutions in opposition to seismic testing and that the senator is concerned about the impact on marine life.

EWG: BIPARTISAN TSCA BILL STILL A ‘SHAM’: Amid all the debate on Capitol Hill over the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the Environmental Working Group is out with a new report today arguing that a 2005 EPA settlement with DuPont over a chemical used in making Teflon may have had mixed results. “Under the broken 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA,” the report states, “EPA has managed to limit or ban only five dangerous chemicals over nearly 40 years. (GAO 2013) The lack of teeth in the law allowed DuPont to phase out C8 over 10 years while the company continued to reap profits and prevented EPA from punishing DuPont more severely.” The report also calls the TSCA reform bill from Sens. David Vitter and Tom Udall a “sham.”

TRANSCONNECT FINAL EIS IS UP: A final environmental impact statement is being published in today’s Federal Register for the TransWest Express 600-kV transmission line. The project, which is awaiting approval through the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and the Energy Department’s Western Area Power Administration, would swing through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. A 30-day comment period kicks off today. The FR:


— Oil Firms’ Refining Business Softens Blow From Crude Drop. The Wall Street Journal:

— Edison denies misconduct in San Onofre settlement process. The Los Angeles Times:

— North Dakota Overhauls Tax on Oil Producers. The Wall Street Journal:

— FBI Probes Suspected Bribery in Russian Uranium Sales to U.S. The Wall Street Journal:

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