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Groundhog Day in the Senate – Energy Edge Brought to You by Fuels America

TOP ENERGY NEWS

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

YOUR GUIDE TO CONGRESS'S BUSY WEEK ON ENERGY. House Republicans are making energy a top messaging priority this week with a trio of bills that are serving as platforms for political attacks against White House policy.

 

The House is slated to vote late this afternoon on House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton's bill to speed approval and cut environmental review of cross-border pipeline and transmission projects in North America.

The bill is a reaction in part to the years-long, ongoing White House review of the Keystone pipeline, although the project would not be covered by the law because the application has already been filed.

But a GOP aide said that if President Obama rejects Keystone, and the bill becomes law (although that's extremely unlikely), TransCanada could reapply under the friendlier approval process. The bill, which will likely pass easily, counts several conservative Democrats among the cosponsors.

 

Don't look for it to advance in the Senate. And the White House threatened to veto it earlier Tuesday, saying in a statement that it would set an "unreasonable deadline" for project approvals and could result in "serious security, safety, foreign policy, environmental, economic, and other ramifications."

VOTING ON GAS AND FREEDOM. A second bill up this week is sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who happens to be challenging Sen. Mark Udall in a race where both are touting their pro-gas credentials.

The bill would require much faster Energy Department decisions on liquefied natural-gas export projects. A vote is expected Wednesday on what's called the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act.

DRILLING DOWN EVEN FURTHER IN THE HOUSE. Later in the week the House will debate House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings' bill aimed at paring back oil-and-gas drilling restrictions and speeding up project approvals.

 

The bill would force the Interior Department to make far more offshore regions available for drilling, including some East Coast areas that are now off-limits. It would also set 60-day deadlines for federal approval of onshore oil-and-gas drilling permits, and speed up lease sales and development approvals on a huge swath of federal land in Alaska called the National Petroleum Reserve, among other provisions.

GROUNDHOG DAY IN THE SENATE. Not to be outdone, Senate Republicans are also pushing this afternoon for a floor vote approving the Keystone XL pipeline, a month after their last attempt for a floor vote was rebuffed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Even though the effort has no legs, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming made it clear that it was better than the Mary Landrieu-led Energy Committee vote on Keystone last week, which he dismissed as a "show vote."

"What I want to do is actually see a vote on the Senate floor." Barrasso said. "You have to actually get it through the Senate before you've actually accomplished anything."

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WHITE HOUSE TOUTS CLIMATE FOCUS . . . The White House, meanwhile, is trying to rally support for President Obama's second-term climate-change agenda that he unveiled a year ago.

Officials are staging a series of events this week. The one attracting the most attention is a meeting Wednesday between administration officials including Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and others.

Steyer, Paulson, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a report Tuesday called Risky Business that aims to quantify the economic risks of climate change.

. . . AND DEFENDS MEETING WITH STEYER. White House press secretary Josh Earnest fielded a question today about whether he had any "misgivings" about opening White House doors to Steyer, who is donating heavily to pro-environment Democrats this fall.

"The administration is committed to making progress in addressing the causes of climate change and reducing carbon pollution. That's something that Mr. Steyer has obviously well-known views on," Earnest said. "But there are a lot of other people with well-known views on this that the White House is consulting." (Justin Sink, The Hill)

'SECRET' SCIENCE BILL CLEARS COMMITTEE. The House Science Committee approved a bill that would require EPA to publicize the data and science behind its regulations. The Secret Science Reform Act passed 17-13, with no Democratic support. Republicans, including chairman Lamar Smith of Texas, have said that the agency is basing its regulations on studies that can't be replicated.

Democrats, however, slammed the bill as a backdoor way for the GOP to block EPA regulations, since many of the studies that EPA uses include confidential health data and may not even belong to the agency.

FORMER TREASURY CHIEFS AGREE: GET THE SEC INTO THE CLIMATE MIX. Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson—who served under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, and who both have deep Wall Street ties—said Tuesday that the Securities and Exchange Commission should do a better job of forcing companies to disclose the economic fallout they face from climate change. (Ben Geman, National Journal)

EPA ATTACK COULD COME UP SHORT. Federal appropriations experts don't think that efforts by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to block the EPA power plant rules by attaching a rider to appropriations legislation will work. (Corbin Hiar, SNL Energy)

MAY TEMPS HIT RECORD HIGH. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last month saw the highest temperatures across the globe since records started in 1880. That's lead to speculation that 2014 might be on track to become the hottest year to date. (Adam Vaughan, The Guardian)

CANADIAN RAIL CHIEF CALLS FOR ACTION. Canadian National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Wendy Tadros is calling on U.S. regulators to follow Canada's lead and phase out older models of rail cars that haul crude oil entirely. (Kristen Hays, Reuters)

SCIENTISTS: PESTICIDES CONCLUSIVELY LINKED TO BEE DEATHS. After a four-year review of scientific literature, researchers say that the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and worldwide deaths of pollinators is now "impossible to deny." (Matt McGrath, BBC News)

D.C. UNIVERSITIES GO GREEN. George Washington University, American University, and the George Washington University Hospital inked a deal to buy solar power from Duke Energy, a contract that will allow GW to get more than half of its electricity from renewables. Read more about the project here.

LAWMAKERS CAN'T ESCAPE LNG PUSH. Act on LNG Exports, an advocacy campaign for increased liquefied natural-gas shipments abroad, is sponsoring an ad calling on Congress to signal their support for exports. It will play on Wednesday during the annual congressional baseball game in Washington.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

GREENS TEAM UP IN IOWA SENATE FIGHT. Environmental heavyweights the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Fund are ponying up close to $1 million in a bid to knock Republican Joni Ernst in her Iowa Senate race against Democrat Bruce Braley. As part of the effort, LCV will sponsor a television ad that will play in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines linking Ernst to Sarah Palin and conservative financiers Charles and David Koch.

WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING

COULD THE CLIMATE RULE COME UNDONE? What are the immediate and long-term threats to the president's regulations to limit carbon emissions from power plants?

"The power-plant rule may or may not be cost effective on its own. EPA claims it is, but its methodology will come under close scrutiny, as it should. The bigger uncertainty is whether it will change the year-to-year pattern in worldwide fossil-fuel consumption, in the short or the long run." —Michael Canes, distinguished fellow, LMI

HAPPENING TOMORROW

EPA'S MCCARTHY, VITTER SQUARE OFF. The House Oversight Committee holds a hearing on oversight of the EPA, featuring testimony from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Environment and Public Works ranking member David Vitter, and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

WATER-POLICY HEARING. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the "Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability" act, which would increase coordination between the Energy and Interior Departments on energy and water production projects.

'RISKY BUSINESS' FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, TREASURY CHIEF. White House officials and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will be with climate activist Tom Steyer, George W. Bush-era Treasury chief Henry Paulson, and others about the economic risks of climate change.

OBAMA IS STAR ATTRACTION AT ENVIRO DINNER. President Obama will give remarks at a League of Conservation Voters dinner, one of several ways the White House is touting Obama's climate agenda this week. LCV will also host Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at a morning event.

CARBON-SEQUESTRATION HEARING. The House Natural Resources Committee hosts a hearing on carbon soil sequestration on public lands.

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