Chances for Senate Keystone Vote Vanishing
The Senate's high-stakes Keystone vote now appears to have gone bust, thanks to a disagreement over amendments on the Shaheen-Portman energy-efficiency bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filled the amendment tree on the energy bill Wednesday after he and minority leader Mitch McConnell failed to reach a deal on what amendments to offer on the bill. McConnell had asked for five Republican energy amendments, a deal that Reid rejected on Wednesday.
Reid had countered with a deal that would bring up Shaheen-Portman in exchange for a vote on Keystone before May 22, which McConnell batted down. That left Reid to file cloture on the bill, setting up a vote expected on Monday evening. Several Republicans Wednesday expressed their disappointment with the process and said they wouldn't be going along with the bill, although negotiations are still open.
Dying with it, it seems, is the Keystone vote, which was always in a state of flux. The bill from Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu and North Dakota Republican John Hoeven was likely to fall short of 60 votes, but sponsors said they were getting close to recruiting enough Democrats to reach the magic number.
Vulnerable Democrats will breathe a sigh of relief about being able to dodge a binding vote on the pipeline. But both sides have begun their obituaries on the bipartisan energy-efficiency bill, which had broad support. Republicans had asked that the Senate consider a set of amendments that would deal with the EPA's greenhouse-gas rules for power plants, a carbon tax, and air standards on ozone, among other issues.
New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen said that she and her cosponsor, Ohio Republican Rob Portman, would continue to push for an amendment deal before Monday, but it now seems the chances of the Senate's latest attempt to move the modest bill are dwindling.
TOP ENERGY NEWS
By Jason Plautz (@Jason_Plautz) and Clare Foran (@ckmarie)
FEDS CUT CHECKS FOR OFFSHORE WIND. The Energy Department will give $47 million each to help three offshore wind demonstration projects take off over the next four years. The cash will go to projects off the coast of New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia in a bid to lower costs and show the viability of offshore wind, the administration said.
EX-GOP GOV. HUNTSMAN KNOCKS GOP ON CLIMATE. Back in 2011, Jon Huntsman caused a stir during his short-lived White House run with a single tweet: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." It was a shot across the bow from the moderate Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, at his climate-skeptic Republican rivals. Now Huntsman, who hasn't ruled out another White House bid, is at it again. He's out with a New York Times op-ed that knocks the GOP's "obtuse" dialogue on climate change and wonders whether party leaders have buckled under pressure from the Tea Party on the topic. "Republicans need to get back to our foundational roots as catalysts for innovation and problem solving," writes Huntsman, who also served as President Obama's ambassador to China. The whole thing is here.
NUCLEAR PUSH GAINS STAR POWER. Nuclear Matters, an advocacy organization focused on defending the nation's existing nuclear fleet, announced Wednesday that Blanche Lincoln has joined its leadership council. Lincoln, a former Democratic senator from Arkansas, left Congress in 2011 and has since worked as a special policy adviser for the law firm Alston & Bird LLP. Nuclear Matters has been racking up high-profile political allies lately, with former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner announcing her decision to join the group at the end of last month.
ARIZ. SENATORS ASK EPA TO PULL WATER RULE. Arizona Republicans Jeff Flake and John McCain wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy today to ask her to pull the agency's proposed rule to clarify what waters it can regulate under the Clean Water Act. Arizona, the senators write, has many desert washes and man-made canals that would be subject to new regulation.
AERIAL STUDY REPORTS HIGH METHANE EMISSIONS FROM GAS FIELDS. A new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado has reported higher methane emissions from Colorado's oil and gas fields than detected from traditional equipment. The study was conducted aerially and also reported emissions of benzene at seven times higher than official estimates and emissions of volatile organic compounds at double previous estimates. The study will be published in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research–Atmospheres and is part of the Environmental Defense Fund's ongoing study of emissions from gas development.
SIEMENS TAPS SHELL EXEC AS ENERGY CHIEF. As part of a restructuring, German manufacturing giant Siemens will bring in Lisa Davis, a senior U.S. manager with Shell, to lead its energy team. She replaces Michael Suess. (Reuters)
FEDS ROLL OUT NEW CRUDE RAIL MANDATE. The Transportation Department is out with a new rule for crude-by-rail shipments. Shippers will now be required to notify state authorities when train cars hauling crude oil are moving through their borders. DOT also wants shippers to use newer tank cars, rather than the DOT 111 cars, for shipments of more than a million gallons of oil. The latest mandate comes on the heels of a recent crude-by-rail derailment in Lynchburg, Va., that sparked a massive fireball. (Patrick Rucker, Reuters)
WHO KNEW EPA WAS A HOTBED OF ILLEGAL ACTIVITY? The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General unleashed a torrent of information at a House Oversight hearing today—most of which agency officials would undoubtedly have prefered to keep under wraps. The EPA watchdog told members of the panel that agency employees have been viewing pornography at work, hawking jewelry on the job, and stashing away federal money they didn't work for. Expect the hearing transcript to become fodder for future conservative attacks on the agency as it prepares to roll out its power plant regulations. (Robin Bravender, E&E Publishing)
COAL LOBBY SLAMS GINA MCCARTHY'S TRAVEL PLANS. The EPA administrator is heading up the U.S. delegation to Costa Rica to mark the inauguration of the country's newly elected president, Luis Guillermo, and that doesn't sit well with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. ACCCE is slamming McCarthy for her making the trip to Costa Rica when she still hasn't been to coal country. "Administrator McCarthy still hasn't made the short trip to West Virginia or Ohio or Kentucky or any of the other states where her agency's costly regulations are taking the greatest toll. Instead, she is adding another leg to her exotic jetsetting tour, soaking up the sunshine in Costa Rica," the group said.
WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING
WILL MIDTERMS MOVE THE NEEDLE ON ENERGY ISSUES? A major push is underway in Congress to create a legislative path forward on liquefied natural-gas exports and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. How will electoral politics make a mark on those battles?
"This week, we hope that Senate leadership can rise above the perceived short-term gains of spurning bipartisan cooperation. Instead, we urge the Senate to throw their efforts behind passing good energy-efficiency legislation that helps advance the nation on a path to reduced consumption, greater energy security, and a better economy—things that benefit all voters in the long term." – Elizabeth Tate, director of government relations, Alliance to Save Energy.
INFRASTRUCTURE MARKUP. The House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a full committee markup of H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act; H.R.4342.
ENERGY-BOOM HEARING. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a full committee hearing on "The North American Energy Boom."
ELECTRICITY-TRANSMISSION EVENT. The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Energy and National Security Program holds a discussion on "Electricity in Transition," including the results of the Energy Department's Quadrennial Energy Review.
CHINA OIL EVENT. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace holds a discussion on "China's Oil Future: Balancing Economic, Geopolitical, and Environmental Concerns."
CLIMATE ASSESSMENT TALK. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute holds a briefing on "The National Climate Assessment: Measuring Domestic Climate Impacts."