Energy News for July 22, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 22, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 7/22/2015

By ANDREW RESTUCCIA, with help from Darren Goode, Alex Guillén, Matt Daily and Darius Dixon

ENERGY BILL FRENZY: The House and the Senate are simultaneously moving forward with multi-part energy bills — and this could be a crucial week for the both chamber’s efforts. Here’s what we know:
THE HOUSE: The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power panel will mark up its 95-page energy bill today. The legislation [] — which includes titles on modernizing infrastructure, building a “21st century workforce,” energy security and energy efficiency — is the product of months of public and private discussions with Republicans and Democrats on the committee. While committee Republicans are confident that the bill will enjoy bipartisan support, the big question is how much. Though Democrats generally praised the bill, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Frank Pallone, and Energy and Power Subcommittee ranking member Bobby Rush said Tuesday that “there is much work still left to be done.” But don’t expect too many fireworks during the subcommittee markup. A Democratic aide signaled that Democrats would hold much of their fire, instead working to improve the bill before it gets to full committee.

THE SENATE: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski suggested that she and ranking member Maria Cantwell were getting closer to agreeing to a base bill to start off panel debate on its four-part energy strategy. “Well, you saw us, we were walking, we were laughing,” Murkowski told reporters who had spotted her and Cantwell headed to a floor vote together. The two met at least twice Tuesday to try to agree to the text, which Murkowski still plans to release this week. She wants to finish up the bill in her panel before senators leave for the summer in early August. “There’s still a couple of little outstanding pieces,” spread throughout the bill’s four sections, Murkowski said before her first meeting that day with Cantwell. But nothing that can’t be worked out, she predicted.

Murkowski stressed that she and Cantwell want to keep contentious items out of the base text, including the Alaska Republican’s desires to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and lift the 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude oil exports. “It is important to me and I think it’s important to her that we be able to produce something that the two of us can be there together in committee,” Murkowski said.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING ENERGY! I’m Andrew Restuccia, and I thought I was a hero for running through DC’s humidity this week — then I read the news [] that somebody is hoping to run 50 Iron Man triathlons in 50 days. Yikes. I’ll be your host for the next couple days, so send your energy news, tips, and commentary to, and follow us on Twitter @AndrewRestuccia, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

ARE ROADS GETTING SMARTER? When we talk about “smart roads,” nobody thinks of the pavement itself — but there’s a coterie of engineers trying to literally make roads out of smarter stuff, which Courtney Humphries reports would have huge effects on American energy use, water conservation, and wildlife. Read more in the Transportation Issue of The Agenda:

LATE NIGHT WATCH: President Barack Obama joined Jon Stewart last night in one of Stewart’s last days as host of The Daily Show. And as well as talking up the Iran nuclear deal, Obama cited climate change as one of the issues he’ll work to address in his remaining time in office. He cited the rules that increased fuel economy standards and the sharp jump in solar power as examples of achievements the U.S. would take to the Paris climate change talks in December as helping the drive for a global pact, “if we can get China, India and some of the other big countries to take a look at what we’ve already done and finally get something global.”

HOUSE TO VOTE ON COAL ASH BILL FOLLOWING VETO THREAT: The House is slated to vote today on Rep. David McKinley’s coal ash bill, which attracted a veto threat from the White House, the first time in several years of McKinley offering similar legislation. McKinley’s bill would permanently designate coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity, as a non-hazardous waste, and would give states more control to manage coal ash. The bill, according to a Statement of Administration Policy released late yesterday afternoon, would undermine the protection of public health and the environment.” The White House specifically complained that the legislation weakens protections on coal ash pond proximity to drinking water sources and warned that states could create permit programs that don’t meet national standards. The SAP:

Amendment watch: Aside from a GOP manager’s amendment, there are five Democratic amendments up for grabs. They would require retired ponds to follow certain groundwater monitoring standards, promote public access to information, require pond owners to survey nearby drinking water sources, authorize EPA to reject the legislation if it would “diminish protections for vulnerable populations,” and cut a provision allowing states to use remediation of non-groundwater releases to comply with the bill. Details:

Spoke too soon: McKinley noted the lack of veto threat on a conference call with reporters yesterday shortly before the White House wagged its finger. The West Virginia Republican said he’s had “good meetings” with EPA solid waste chief Mathy Stanislaus, and that he appreciates EPA’s rule not designating coal ash as a hazardous waste. “But they reserve the right to call it hazardous in the future,” he said. “The science isn’t going to change, it’s all going to be driven by politics. And that’s why I’m trying to get the politics … out of this issue and deal with it on science.”

Next steps: McKinley said he could see it passing as either a standalone or attached to a bigger bill (a more likely outcome given the looming veto), but that he doesn’t want it stapled to any short-term highway funding “because I want to get this issue resolved. Thirty-five years of uncertainty of dealing with a product that we create, 140 million tons annually. We need to put this to rest and not have it come back to us a year and a half from now.”

** A message from Fuels America: EPA, the choice has never been more clear on the Renewable Fuel Standard. Will you cater to oil industry lobbyists? Or will you stand with the hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans who delivered a strong message that the RFS is working for rural America? **

REPUBLICANS SAY EPA SNUBBING THEM ON ENDANGERED SPECIES: House Natural Resources Committee Republicans say EPA is snubbing their request to testify next week on whether it abided by Endangered Species Act rules that the GOP hopes will provide a new weapon against the Obama administration’s power plant emissions rules. Chairman Rob Bishop’s species-protection probe began in the spring, when Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe admitted that EPA had not sought FWS input on the upcoming climate regulations despite evidence that the expected retirement of a Florida coal-fired power plant would eliminate a warm water habitat for some manatees. The ESA requires consultations with agencies such as the FWS to determine how its regulations would affect at-risk species, and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe last month joined Bishop in prodding EPA over whether it was complying with the law. EPA is the only one of the four invited agencies that has so far declined to testify at the committee’s July 29 hearing on ESA, according to Natural Resources aides. Elana Schor has more for Pros:

PHMSA NOMINEE FACES SENATE: President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Marie Therese Dominguez, will face lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee today for a confirmation hearing. The hearing is likely to give lawmakers an opportunity to criticize the agency for failing to fulfill a series of congressional mandates on pipeline safety and other issues. Dominguez is a former adviser to Sen. Mark Warner and she previously served as deputy assistant Army secretary for civil works. PHMSA has been without a permanent leader since October, when former Administrator Cynthia Quarterman stepped down. Obama announced plans to nominate Dominguez in May.

WILL TRUMP GO TO THE BAKKEN? Via the Williston Herald: “Organizers behind an upcoming oil-related festival are starting a social media campaign asking Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump to pay a visit to Williston [North Dakota] … Jason Marmon, who, along with his father, put together the roster for the Bakken Energy Festival, said he has spoken with Donald Trump’s campaign manager, who recommended persistence. ‘He said if he’s available, and if he gets enough attention in that area, he’ll come,’ Marmon said. ‘He didn’t say he wouldn’t come.’” Read the story:

COURT SIDES WITH INTERIOR ON ANWR: A district court sided with the Interior Department on Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by the state of Alaska that sought to extract approval of an oil and gas exploration plan for areas within the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Interior had argued that its power to review and approve a plan for that section of the refuge expired while Ronald Reagan was president. Several conservation groups joined in support of Interior, including the Alaska Wilderness League and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The District Court of Alaska said that the relevant statute was ambiguous — Interior’s argument — so the agency should be allowed to interpret meaning. “Whether the statute authorizes or requires the Secretary to approve additional exploration after the submission of the 1987 report is ambiguous,” the court said, and the agency’s interpretation “is based on a permissible and reasonable construction of the statute.” The court order:

ME FIRST: The American Farm Bureau Federation is out with a new policy paper that calls for expanding pipeline infrastructure in order to lessen congestion on freight rail. “The region where rail traffic of crude oil has grown the most covers exactly the same states we think of as the Upper Midwest states — Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana,” the paper says. “As rail congestion continues to worsen, especially if the main driver of that congestion is additional crude oil traffic, grain producers in the Upper Midwest states will feel the effects.” Read the paper here:


— Big challenges lie ahead for BP, The Wall Street Journal reports:

— “Walmart seeks to opt out of state energy conservation costs,” via the Tampa Bay Times:

— Arnold Schwarzenegger will advocate for climate action ahead of the Paris talks, Time reports:

— Western oil companies will face competition in Iran, the Journal says:

— Ken Ward Jr. asks, “Will the Chemical Safety Board survive?” The Charleston Gazette:

— “R K Pachauri, accused of sexual harassment by an employee working under him in Teri, has taken back charge as director-general of the environmental NGO, even as the police investigation in the matter continue and cases are being tried in the court.” Business Standard:

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