Energy News for June 26, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on June 26, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 6/26/2015


ON EPA, TO CHEVRON OR NOT TO CHEVRON: The legal logic the U.S. Supreme Court used to affirm Obamacare legislation Thursday, in King v. Burwell, could be a good omen for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports. The suite of EPA rules at the heart of Obama’s climate program will not even be finalized until later this summer, but experts say it’s only a matter of time before they wind up in front of the high court. Judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals have already decided not to consider the merits of the case against EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations until the rules are finalized. Still, the arguments made by EPA’s challengers in the first climate case run parallel with those made by the health care law’s challengers. Both cases ask how executive branch agencies should proceed when implementing laws whose language is unclear — what the court in King called “inartful drafting” — and whether agencies should receive deference to interpret the law.

Everyone who deals with federal regulations should know a little something about the Supreme Court’s decision on Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council in 1984. The case set a precedent for giving deference to executive branch agencies in interpreting ambiguous laws and its implications are littered all over court cases involving government rules. Well, Chief Justice John Roberts did his best to toss the “Chevron test” out the window Thursday in the Obamacare case, saying that it’s “the Court’s task to determine the correct reading.” And EPA has been leaning on Chevron to defend its plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plant. Yet, on the flipside, some experts said the EPA can draw hope from the decision since Roberts took a fairly holistic view and sided with the Obama administration in the health care case because the literal interpretation of the legislative language would’ve contradicted the goals of the law. Eric has more for Pros:
OBAMA, ROUSSEFF TO TALK CLIMATE: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will be in town Monday and Tuesday and the White House has made it clear that President Barack Obama plans to make sure climate change is on the agenda. “We believe that this discussion with President Rousseff is another key milestone on the road to Paris,” White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said on a press call, according to a transcript. “The President will be able to lay out for her our approach to the international climate negotiations and the commitments that the United States is preparing to take. At the same time, he’ll be able to hear from her about what Brazil’s approach is going to be with respect to the international climate negotiations.” Rhodes added that Brazil has “a critical role to play as a major economy — one of the largest countries in the world — and, frankly, a country that has done significant work in the area of clean energy that will be relevant both to what Brazil can do, but also I think can help provide impetus to other countries, developed and developing, who are looking at ways to transition to cleaner forms of energy.”

JUST A LOT OFF THE TOP: The House wrapped up its first day of debate Thursday on the fiscal 2016 Interior-EPA spending bill, adopting more than a dozen amendments by voice vote and leaving the EPA nearly $100 million poorer than the original bill proposed. The House adopted 15 amendments to the $30 billion appropriations measure, most of which shifted sums away from EPA and toward other programs or to deficit reduction. Arizona Republican Paul Gosar secured the largest cut to EPA, trimming $61 million from its environmental programs and management account to offset a $50 million increase for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Thursday’s floor debate also setup four amendments for roll-call votes when Congress returns to the bill after the Independence Day recess, including one from Democrat Lois Capps — whose California constituents are still dealing with last month’s Plains All American oil spill — seeking to shift $5.4 million from Interior Department offshore drilling programs to EPA’s Inland Oil Spill Program. Of course, Capps’ amendment stands little chance of success in the Republican-controlled chamber.

But wait, there’s more: Lawmakers only got through about 75 pages of the 133-page Interior-EPA bill, so issues such as the White House Council on Environmental Quality, EPA’s climate rules, Interior’s fracking rule and social cost of carbon calculations haven’t been broached yet. Also, once lawmakers get to the end of the bill, all sorts of amendments come up.

The amendments are listed here:

HAPPY FRIDAY! AND YOU’RE CONGRESS-FREE. I’m Darius Dixon, and your host, the Mrs. and mini-ME are most likely flying to Austin, Texas, as you read this. I know, I know, I know. We’re flying to Texas in the summer. We’re going to a wedding, which demonstrates how much we like this cousin. We’re not there long but do you all have any food recommendations? Send your energy news, tips and commentary to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

BEFORE WE GET BACK TO BUSINESS, I just want to tell you, Dear Reader, that I’m transitioning out of the regular Morning Energy spot for less nocturnal reporting pastures. I’ll still pick up the fiddle from time to time and make sure you’re not missing great xkcd comics but Eric Wolff — who put together Thursday’s edition — will be the new comMEnder-in-chief, starting with Monday’s edition. I hope you’ll keep me in your Rolodex.

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: Providing more than 60% of America’s carbon-free electricity, existing, state-of-the-art nuclear energy plants play a vital role in achieving our clean-energy and carbon-reduction goals. The industry also supports more than 100,000 jobs nationally and provides critical tax revenue locally for roads, schools and other public priorities. Learn more at **

OH YES, THERE’S EVEN MORE TO SAY ABOUT INTERIOR-EPA: Pro’s Elana Schor gives readers the longer view of the perennially controversial Interior-EPA spending bill. Republicans may control both sides of the Capitol, but don’t count on any momentum for their push to cripple the White House’s environmental agenda using the power of the purse. The bill is running straight for a budget-politics buzzsaw in the Senate, where Democrats are moving to block all funding bills to force negotiations over a broader fiscal deal. And green groups are starting to exude confidence about the White House’s willingness to go to bat for climate and energy policies that Republicans have spent six years slamming as job-killers. Elana has more for Pros:

Recall: It’s worth remembering that this has been one of the toughest bills to bring to the floor. Sure, EPA’s climate regs are controversial but everyone tends to like the items that play well back home, like money for local water and sewer authorities. The House hasn’t had a floor vote on a standalone Interior-EPA appropriation bill since June 26, 2009, before the tea party rise to power in the 2010 elections.

HOOOOLD UP, WAIT A MINUTE, RFS CRITICS: The oil industry and conservative Republicans have been bellowing for Congress to either fix or scrap the EPA’s biofuel program for years — but, Pro’s Darren Goode reports, that doesn’t mean they support a tea party Republican’s effort to cut off funding for it next year. Industry and the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee have come out against freshman Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s plan to offer an amendment to the fiscal 2016 Interior-EPA spending bill that would wipe out the Renewable Fuel Standard. The Georgia lawmaker’s criticism of the program is in line with complaints from fellow conservatives and oil companies who have long contended the program is badly run and sets unrealistic requirements for blending corn ethanol and more advanced biofuels. But cutting off funding even for one year would splinter House Republicans, especially given farm-state lawmakers’ support for corn ethanol. And the intraparty war could put a broader EPA and Interior Department spending bill filled with Republican red-meat policy riders in jeopardy. Darren has more for yinz:

Amendment offered: Valero spokesman Bill Day — who had earlier declined to comment on specific amendments or legislation — clarified by email after Darren’s story was published that while Valero “has significant misgivings about the current structure of the RFS (as noted in the article), we have not advocated for the Loudermilk amendment and are not actively supporting it.” That leaves the Georgia Republican’s effort high and dry of any evident oil industry support.

LCV TO HOUND KIRK ON EPA FUNDING VOTE: Last week, Sen. Mark Kirk, one of the more vulnerable lawmakers up for reelection next year, sided against a Democratic effort to remove language blocking funds for EPA’s forthcoming power plant emissions rule. And today, the League of Conservation Voters is putting $50,000 into online ads in the Chicago area trying to make sure voters back home know how he voted on the appropriations bill. The 15-second ads will run for a week saying in part, “Illinois overwhelmingly support the Clean Power Plan, but Senator Kirk stands with polluters NOT Illinois. …Tell Senator Kirk — Your Vote was Wrong.” When Kirk voted against Sen. Tom Udall’s amendment to strip the anti-EPA language — leaving the effort tied 15-15 and thus failing — LCV, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund all dished out attacks.

E&C DIGS INTO SANTA BARBARA SPILL: Republicans and Democrats atop the House Energy and Commerce Committee agree on something when it comes to last month’s oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.: They want answers. E&C Chairman Fred Upton and ranking member Frank Pallone have sent letters Plains All American, the company behind the 100,000-plus-gallon May 19 spill, as well as the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Lawmakers raised a series of questions about Plains’ response to the failure of its Line 901 pipe and are looking into the company’s maintenance records and spill response plans. On PHMSA, committee members are grilling the agency for 17 congressional mandates under the Pipeline Safety Act that are still unfinished and have missed their statutory deadlines.

Among the decisions and regulations behind schedule: Pipeline damage prevention, automatic and remote-controlled shut-off valves, maximum allowable operating pressure verification, pipeline integrity management programs, public education and awareness, and accident and incident notification.” Reps. Ed Whitfield, Bobby Rush, Joe Barton and Lois Capps are also signatories to both letters. Letter to Plains: Letter to PHMSA:

NEW RULE — SET YOUR DVR: EPA chief Gina McCarthy is set to be on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher tonight at 10 p.m. to talk about global warming. If you missed her new snappy reply for when she’s asked whether climate change is real, it involves the Pope, one of Maher’s favorite topics.


— How Barack Obama joined hands with Republicans to conquer his party on trade. POLITICO:

— GM CEO Mary Barra: Electric Vehicles for Everyone, Not Just the Elite. LinkedIn:

— How utilities are leveraging new software to help customers go solar. Utility Dive:

— Rare-earths Miner Molycorp Files for Bankruptcy Protection. The Wall Street Journal:

— Why India’s solar sector has turned into a $100 billion investment magnet. Quartz:

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