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Dems Want Sunlight on Commerce Department Crude Export Plans Dems Want Sunlight on Commerce Department Crude Export Plans

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Dems Want Sunlight on Commerce Department Crude Export Plans


By Ben Geman (@ben_geman), Clare Foran (@ckmarie), and Jason Plautz (@jason_plautz)

DEMS WANT SUNLIGHT ON COMMERCE DEPT. CRUDE EXPORT PLANS. A pair of liberal Democrats want to force the Commerce Department's closed-door decision-making on crude oil exports into public view.


Sens. Edward Markey and Robert Menendez, in a new letter, demand details on the legal rationale for recent decisions allowing two companies to export very light crude oil called condensate that has been minimally processed.

The lawmakers, who both oppose crude-oil exports, say the so-called private rulings to Pioneer Natural Resources and Enterprise Products Partners seemingly run afoul of the decades-old U.S. ban on most crude exports.

The letter also asks about other pending industry export requests and whether future export approvals would be limited to condensate or include other types of oil, among other questions. It arrives roughly a week after news emerged that the Commerce Department approved the two companies' exports.


The revelation led to a flurry of conflicting analyses about whether the Obama administration is substantially opening the taps on exports.

WHITE HOUSE FLACK JOINS STEYER'S GROUP. Bobby Whithorne has left the White House press office to become the press secretary for NextGen Climate, which is billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer's group. He started this week.

Flashback: We reported last month on other Democratic political operatives on Team Steyer.

VOTERS: OBAMA'S GOOD ON ENVIRONMENT, BUT IT'S SO WHATEVER. There's a bright spot for President Obama in a new Quinnipiac University poll that's otherwise stuffed with lousy numbers for the White House. Fifty percent of voters approve of Obama's handling of the environment while 40 percent do not. But the same poll shows that just 2 percent of voters list the "environment/pollution" as the biggest problem facing the country.


YOU HAVE FOUR EXTRA DAYS TO YELL AT EPA. The agency is lengthening the public hearings that begin later this month on its big new draft rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants. EPA is adding a second day to each of what had been planned one-day hearings in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington.

EPA CLEARS NEW FUELS FOR RFS. The agency finalized a rule that will allow certain new fuels produced from biogas to qualify as cellulosic or advanced biofuels under the renewable-fuel standard. The rule-making will expand availability of compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and electricity for transportation fuel. The agency also finalized a voluntary Quality Assurance Program to help combat RFS fraud. More information on both rules is here.

THE COSTLY LOBBYING WAR OVER AMERICA'S DYING HONEYBEES. Honeybees are dying off in droves, frightening environmentalists and scientists who fear the unfilled natural niche that collapsing bee colonies leave behind. Green groups have long argued that a widely used class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a major cause of bee die-offs. All that has made the pesticide industry nervous, and now pesticide makers are loading up on high-powered lobbyists. (Clare Foran, National Journal)

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WYOMING'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH COAL. Despite looming federal regulations to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, Wyoming lawmakers aren't making much effort to diversify the energy mix in the leading coal-producing state. And far from cutting back on coal production, state lawmakers are eyeing ways to ship the state's coal abroad. (Dan Frosch, Wall Street Journal)

DEM LEADER GETS PERSONAL IN REFUTING GOP'S 'NOT A SCIENTIST' CLAIM ... Obama's not the only top Democrat taking aim at Republicans who cite their lack of scientific credentials to beg off questions about global warming.

"When I was told by my doctor that I had breast cancer, I didn't reject their diagnosis because I wasn't an oncologist myself. I listened to the advice of people who knew more than I did and started immediately on a course of action that would solve the problem," writes Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in The Huffington Post.

SOLAR COMPANIES SUE IN ARIZONA. Residential solar-panel companies Sunrun and SolarCity are taking the Arizona Department of Revenue to court over a tax on leased solar-panel systems. The companies say that the tax will burden their customers and discourage the spread of solar. (Ryan Randazzo, The Arizona Republic)

IRAQ UNREST RESTARTS SANDERS'S WAR WITH WALL STREET. Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to intervene in the energy market, where he says speculators are using the unrest in Iraq to drive up oil prices. Sanders has tried to push the CFTC to act on oil prices in the past, but his legislation been unsuccessful. (Jamie Lovegrove, National Journal)

THE FADING PROMISE OF BRAZIL'S GREEN OLYMPICS. Brazil had billed the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as the "green games for a blue planet." But construction delays on emissions-reducing transportation projects and budget overruns mean that promise may fall well short. (Jason Plautz, National Journal)

INSIDE THE CHANGING OCEANS. Newsweek tackles the impact of climate change on oceans, including the rising temperatures and acidity levels that are wiping out certain marine species. "There's a profound game-changing event going on in the life of the sea," Callum Roberts, a professor of marine conservation at the University of York, England, says in the story. "We're heading for a car crash here." (Alex Renton, Newsweek)

CARBON SATELLITE TAKES OFF. After technical difficulties prevented liftoff on Tuesday, NASA successfully sent a new climate-tracking satellite into space on Wednesday. The device will monitor carbon in the atmosphere. (Laura Barron-Lopez, The Hill)

VIRGINIA TAKES STEP TO DEAL WITH RISING WATERS. Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has resurrected a state panel that will examine and look at ways to address rising sea levels that threaten coastal regions in the state. (Associated Press)


WHAT'S NEXT FOR OIL EXPORTS? After the Commerce Department signed off on exports of an ultralight form of minimally processed crude oil, has the Obama administration taken a step toward lifting the decades-old crude-export ban? How does this stand to affect energy markets at home and abroad?

"A practical path might be for the DOC to gradually expand amounts of crude oil eligible for export, especially where gluts exist in the field and producers are being forced to accept prices well below worldwide levels." —Michael Canes, distinguished fellow, LMI

Read the full responses from National Journal's Energy Insiders.

PROGRAMMING NOTE. The Energy Edge will be off starting Thursday for the holiday weekend. Coverage will resume Monday, July 7.

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