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EPA Chief: What Congress? - Energy Edge Brought to you by Chevron

EPA Chief: What Congress?

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's Monday night appearance on The Daily Show underscores the fact that the White House is well past pretending there's a chance to work with Congress on big efforts to curb carbon emissions.


Right after McCarthy called climate a top priority, host Jon Stewart asked: "Is the first part of that issue getting over half the Congress to admit that it's happening?"

"Actually we tried that first," McCarthy responded as the audience laughs died down.

Stewart: "How did that go?"


McCarthy: "Not well, not well, not well."

The subtext there is the failed first-term effort to win congressional approval of a sweeping cap-and-trade bill, which died in the Senate in 2010 (and wasn't a top White House political priority).

Now all the action is within the administration. The Environmental Protection Agency is slated to unveil a major draft rule in June to limit carbon emissions from the nation's existing power plants.

The sizable number of GOP lawmakers who don't believe there's human-induced global warming was clearly on Stewart's mind during the interview.


He asked what McCarthy would do if she didn't have to convince Congress that climate change is real, and again she looked right past Capitol Hill.

"I don't think we do have convince them it's real. I mean, the scientists tell us it's real," McCarthy replied.

McCarthy's appearance is one of several "Earth Week" events for the EPA chief this week. 

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Ben Geman


By Clare Foran (@ckmarie), Jason Plautz (@Jason_Plautz), and Ben Geman (@Ben_Geman)

NUCLEAR GETS A GREEN FRIEND. Nuclear advocacy group Nuclear Matters announced today that Carol Browner has joined its ranks as a member of the organization's leadership council. The organization is pushing to protect the nation's existing fleet of nuclear plants and was founded last month with former Sens. Evan Bayh and Judd Gregg as cochairs. As both a former EPA administrator and director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Browner has serious green credentials. She also chairs the board of directors for environmental heavyweight the League of Conservation Voters.

But the environmental movement has been largely hostile to nuclear energy despite the fact that some scientists say the zero-emissions energy source is a key ingredient in the fight against global warming. When asked whether she thinks the tide may be turning when it comes to support for nuclear, Browner said: "You'd have to ask other environmentalists but I don't think I'm alone. There are folks in the environmental community who have exactly the same view as I do—our priority is climate change and when we look at what we need to do to reduce carbon emissions, maintaining the existing nuclear fleet is an important part of the puzzle."

PROBE FAULTS LAX ENFORCEMENT IN TEXAS BLAST. A year after a fertilizer-plant explosion killed at least 14 people in West, Texas, the Chemical Safety Board said that the accident was preventable with better federal regulations. In preliminary findings, CSB investigators say that a lack of federal, state, and local guidance on the explosive fertilizer ammonium nitrate—despite its known dangers—hampered the response. In particular, investigators say there ought to be codes keeping ammonium-nitrate storage sites away from populated areas.

"The fire and explosion at West Fertilizer was preventable. It should never have occurred," said CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso. "It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it."

CSB, which investigates chemical incidents and issues recommendations, will release its preliminary findings at a public meeting in West this evening.

NEBRASKA GOVERNOR WANTS KXL CHALLENGE THROWN OUT. Republican Gov. Dave Heineman is asking the Nebraska Supreme Court to dismiss a previous ruling that contests the proposed route of the controversial oil-sands pipeline through the state. (Andrew Harris, Bloomberg)

ONE IN FOUR SKEPTICAL OF GLOBAL WARMING. A new Gallup Poll found that 25 percent of Americans are considered "cool skeptics" on global warming, up from just 12 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, 39 percent of Americans fall under the "concerned believer" category, with the remaining 36 percent defined as the "mixed middle." The latter category has dropped from its peak of 45 percent in 2012. (Lydia Saad, Gallup)

U.S. PETROLEUM EXPORTS JUMP. While battles over crude-oil and natural-gas export policy rage, the U.S. keeps boosting exports of other petroleum products including gasoline and distillate fuels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that exports of petroleum products averaged 3.5 million barrels per day in 2013, a 10 percent jump over the prior year.

EXPORTS DRIVE UP GAS PRICES. As the U.S. exports more refined petroleum products, the price of gas at the pump has begun to rise. (Nicole Friedman, Wall Street Journal)

ENERGY COMPANIES EMBRACE DRONES. Inspecting pipelines, checking wind-turbine maintenance, finding broken solar panels, and scouting power lines are among the tasks energy companies are increasingly outsourcing to drones. (Todd Woody, New York Times)

WATCH THE MAD SCIENTIST THROW A FASTBALL. The Energy Department is out with a video showing Secretary Ernest Moniz as he practices his pitch ahead of tonight's Red Sox game in Boston.

TOSS YOUR IPOD FOR FREE. Apple will offer free recycling of all of its products as part of the company's sustainability push, which also includes a commitment to power all of its offices, stores, and data centers with renewable energy. (Michael Liedtke, Associated Press)

THE PARTISAN DIVIDE OVER THE ENVIRONMENT IN TWO GRAPHICS. For years, mentions of Earth Day have sprung up each April from members of both parties. In April 2010, Democrats spoke of Earth Day over 150 times, mostly in commemoration of its 40th anniversary. But no Republican has uttered the words "Earth Day" on the House or Senate floor since 2010. (Peter Bell and Brian McGill, National Journal)

GULF WILDLIFE STILL REELING FROM SPILL. A Washington Post graphic looks at how wildlife in the Gulf Coast is faring four years after the Deepwater Horizon spill. (Washington Post)

WHITE HOUSE GREEN-LIGHTS COAL DUST RULE. The Office of Management and Budget has signed off on a regulation to limit coal-dust exposure in mining operations. (Timothy Cama, The Hill)


"Unfortunately, there are some within bureaucracies in Washington who will kind of look down their nose at an agency—'You're an agency, not a department.' So you don't get quite the same respect from time to time." —Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, speaking to Greenwire about the challenges of EPA not being a cabinet-level position.


ARE STATES MISSING OUT ON MILLIONS FROM THE FRACKING BOOM? Can a balance be found to make sure state residents benefit from the boom without driving drillers away? Or are the policies that already exist detrimental to the industry?

"Frequent changes in tax regimes create uncertainty for producers and can be counterproductive. For example, if a state auctions leases on state-owned lands the upfront bonus payments will be reduced, the more uncertainty producers are experiencing. Stable tax regimes that take account of market conditions (prices), taking more when prices rise and less when they fall, and that avoid wedges between market prices and costs at the margin of production, tend to be the most efficient and result in the best outcomes all around." —Michael Canes, distinguished fellow, LMI

Read the full responses from National Journal's Energy Insiders


ENERGY SECRETARY HEADLINES EVENT. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will offer the keystone address at the U.S. Energy Association's annual membership meeting and policy forum. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chief Allison Macfarlane is also among the speakers.

BIOFUELS CONFERENCE. The Alliance Biofuels Conferences LLC hosts the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference with the theme, "The Bioeconomy Comes to D.C.: Stand and Be Counted."

RAIL SAFETY FORUM. The National Transportation Safety Board holds a forum on "Rail Safety: Transportation of Crude Oil and Ethanol."

KEYSTONE PROTEST. The Cowboy and Indian Alliance holds an event titled "Reject and Protect," featuring a weeklong series of actions by farmers, ranchers and tribes to protest the Keystone XL pipeline."

WHEN FAITH AND ENVIRONMENTALISM COLLIDE. The Center for American Progress, the Sierra Club, and Climate Desk hold a discussion on the new film Noah and the "Nexus of Faith and Environmentalism."

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