TOP ENERGY NEWS
LIBERAL DEMS PUSH BACK AGAINST MANCHIN EX-IM COAL MEASURE. Sen. Joe Manchin's bid to ensure that the Export-Import Bank can finance construction of coal-fired power plants abroad is facing resistance from the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Manchin, who is leading a legislative effort to reauthorize the bank's expiring charter, wants to thwart a 2013 Ex-Im policy that prevents coal-plant financing except in limited circumstances. But the West Virginia Democrat's coal proposal drew strong pushback Tuesday from EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer.
"What his language does is just throws out practically everything that would lead to cleaner air," Boxer, a California Democrat, told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday. Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state also said she opposes the Manchin coal provision. The bank helps open markets for Boeing, a major employer in Cantwell's state, and she's pushing hard for the agency's reauthorization.
Manchin is planning to meet with Senate Democratic leadership tonight about the upcoming bill, his office said. A spokeswoman said that the provision on coal-plant financing is part of the underlying bill he plans to introduce.
But Boxer said she believes a "clean" reauthorization bill without that language will be brought to the floor, and that Manchin would need to offer the coal provision as an amendment.
Environmentalists are lining up against the Manchin provision. But Manchin, a coal-industry ally, argues that his language will help enable the export of technologies that help burn coal more cleanly.
It's one skirmish in a much wider political fight over Ex-Im. Conservative Republicans want to kill the bank, while many Democrats, joined by Republicans aligned with major business groups, are fighting to reauthorize the agency that helps finance overseas projects that use U.S. goods and services.
ENERGY NOMINEES CLEAR SENATE. The Senate cleared the nominations of Cheryl LaFleur and Norman Bay to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Bay, the head of FERC's enforcement office, was approved by a narrow 52-45 vote, with Republicans and coal-state Democrats opposing his nomination over a lack of experience and for what they say is a history of targeting carbon-intensive business.
LaFluer, the acting chairman of the board, had an easier time, passing the Senate by a 90-7 vote. Under an agreement between lawmakers and the White House, Bay is expected to become FERC chairman after nine months as a member of the commission.
HOUSE COMMITTEE MOVES RIDER-LADEN SPENDING BILL. The House Appropriations Committee approved its interior and environment spending bill, which comes with plenty of riders to block recent EPA actions. The $30.2 billion bill passed by a 29-19 vote over Democratic objections that the committee should strip out provisions blocking EPA's rules limiting emissions from power plants, barring its clarification of Clean Water Act jurisdiction, and delaying an Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse. There's no schedule for the bill to reach the floor yet.
A number of attempts to strip the controversial riders failed, including subcommittee ranking member Jim Moran's hefty amendment that would have stricken 24 policy provisions from the bill. The committee did approve an amendment that would block EPA from finalizing a rule permitting the collection of fines and penalties by garnishing wages, as well as one requiring that steel and iron used in drinking water infrastructure be sourced domestically.
AND IN BIRTHDAY-RELATED AMENDMENTS. The committee approved an amendment from Rep. Frank Wolf that would change the celebration of George Washington's Birthday to Feb. 22, the actual day of his birth. The federal celebration was merged with Lincoln's birthday to what's commonly known as President's Day in 1971, but Wolf has been trying to change the designation for years.
UPTON EYES GOP SENATE FOR ENERGY POLICY. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton is banking that Republicans will take back control of the Senate, and if they do he says the time is right to advance a new energy policy. "The great economic news coming from energy-producing states is going to increase awareness of these issues, and I'm convinced the American people are going to expect us to act," Upton said at the Energy Information Administration conference, adding that he hoped to move from a policy built on scarcity to one built on energy independence.
SHELL ANNOUNCES GULF OF MEXICO DISCOVERY. The onshore fracking boom gets a lot of the spotlight, but the Gulf of Mexico remains a big draw for oil companies with the capital for the costly projects. Like Shell, which on Tuesday announced a "major discovery" in the Gulf. The company said its Rydberg exploration well, in waters nearly 7,500 feet deep about 75 miles off the Louisiana coast, hit pay dirt.
"Shell is completing the full evaluation of the well results but expects the resource base to be approximately 100 million barrels of oil equivalent," the company said. It joins two other Shell discoveries in recent years in what's known as the Norphlet play. "Together with the Appomattox and Vicksburg discoveries, this brings the total potential Norphlet discoveries to over 700 million barrels of oil equivalent," Shell said.
LOBBYING TUSSLE OVER CRUDE-OIL EXPORTS ESCALATES. Look for energy companies' second-quarter lobbying-disclosure reports to provide a glimpse into the growing fight over whether the U.S. should lift the decades-old ban on exporting crude oil. Valero Energy, the nation's largest refiner and an opponent of lifting the ban, lists crude exports among its various lobbying areas in a newly filed second-quarter report.
The company spent $310,000 on total lobbying in the April-June period, more than the $200,000 it spent in the second quarter of 2013 and among its highest quarterly totals ever. Valero also listed the ban in last quarter's filing. The deadline for companies to file second-quarter reports is July 21.
GLOBAL GREEN-ENERGY FUNDING CLIMBS IN SECOND QUARTER. Worldwide investment in clean-energy sources grew to $63.6 billion in the second quarter, a 33 percent jump from the prior three-month period, according to newly released data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Investment remains below levels reached a few years ago but is on the upswing, the company said in the report that tallies financing of wind, solar, and other projects.
"The past two years have seen investment decline by over 20 percent from its 2011 peak, driven equally by the European fiscal crisis, policy uncertainty, and plummeting costs for renewable-energy equipment. Now, what we are seeing is the new competitiveness of renewable energy winning through, driving a surge in demand," said Michael Liebreich, advisory board chairman at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
CARBON-CAPTURE PROJECT BREAKS GROUND IN TEXAS. The Energy Department said Tuesday that construction has begun on a federally backed project to trap carbon emissions from a coal-fired power plant in the Houston area. It's the first commercial-scale project underway to retrofit an existing coal-fired power plant with carbon-capture technology, DOE said.
The $1 billion Petra Nova Project by NRG Energy and JX Nippon, backed by $167 million in DOE funding, aims to capture carbon from part of the power plant and pipe it 80 miles to a depleted oilfield. It will be injected to help boost the aging field's production. Reuters has more on the project here.
NYT-STEYER BEEF ESCALATES. Tom Steyer's camp is firing back over a New York Times story last week over the climate impact of investments made by Steyer's Farallon Capital Management. In an op-ed in Politico, Steyer wrote that his priorities changed as he learned about climate change and said The Times had declined to reschedule an interview or run his op-ed.
Later on Twitter, NextGen Climate spokesman Heather Wong followed up, saying that Times reporters claimed a "tight deadline" after scheduling difficulties with a sit-down interview, then held the story. Wong also accused The Times of ignoring blog posts on Steyer's divestment and rejecting his op-ed. Reporter Michael Barbaro fired back on Twitter, writing, "This is deeply disingenuous. You offered us 1 intrvw time. I was in Paris, as I told you. I asked for more times. You gave none."
STUDY: CALIF. DROUGHT TAXING GROUNDWATER RESERVES. The drought that has ravaged California for months has cost the state's agriculture community $1.5 billion, including half a billion in groundwater pumping costs, according to a new study from the University of California (Davis). Should the drought continue into 2015, as expected, the researchers warn that the state's groundwater resources will dwindle thanks to a failure to replenish the reserves during wet years.
For the latest energy news throughout the day, check out National Journal's Up-To-The-Minute Energy.
WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING
WHAT'S AT STAKE WITH THE EX-IM BANK? Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia is pushing legislation that would reauthorize the expiring charter for the Export-Import Bank, but with a provision weakening a White House effort to limit the bank from lending money to foreign countries to build coal plants. Should the legislation succeed, what would be the economic and environmental consequences?
"The Export-Import Bank plays an important role in the competitiveness of U.S. exports and the health, if not survival, of many of the firms that are developing and deploying the energy technologies expected to dominate the global energy markets of the future. So, do we continue this critical support for small businesses and innovators?" -- Karl Gawell, executive director, Geothermal Energy Association.
OBAMA TO MEET WITH CLIMATE TASK FORCE. President Obama will huddle Wednesday with state and local officials to discuss ways to make communities more resilient to weather extremes linked to climate change.
HOUSE PANEL TO VOTE ON ANTI-EPA BILLS. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will mark up a number of bills, including one limiting EPA's clarification of its Clean Water Act jurisdiction and another on the agency's Clean Water Act permits.
CHEMICAL RULE HEARING. The House Science Committee's Environment Subcommittee holds a hearing on the EPA's Integrated Risk Information System program for testing the human-health risks of environmental contaminants
GREAT LAKES BILL HEARING. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on a number of bills, including the Great Lakes Water Protection Act.
CARBON RULE WEBINAR. The American Council on Renewable Energy holds a webinar on EPA's work to limit carbon from power plants and transportation fuels.
MIDDLE EAST OIL DISCUSSION. The Foreign Policy Initiative and Securing America's Future Energy host a discussion titled "Geopolitical Flashpoints in Oil Producing Countries: Implications for U.S. National and Energy Security."