Mark Udall Can't Escape His Keystone Headache
Mark Udall is in a tough spot, again.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline next week Wednesday. And that creates a political headache for the senator.
The Colorado Democrat is trying to hold onto his Senate seat in a state with extensive oil and gas development and a strong environmental streak. Udall has tried to play to both sides. He supports oil and gas drilling, but has also won applause from green groups. On Thursday, LCV Action Fund officially endorsed the senator in his race against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.
Observers on both sides have been clamoring to put Udall on record on the pipeline. He voted against a nonbinding pro-Keystone resolution when it came to the Senate floor last year. He managed to sidestep a vote, however, last month when it seemed likely that a bill to fast-track the project would come to the Senate floor. He's unlikely to catch a break this time around.
Rather than siding with one group over the other, Udall is making his vote a judgement call on the approval process rather than the pipeline itself. "Sen. Udall intends to again reject the notion that lawmakers know better than the engineers, scientists and experts whose responsibility it is to evaluate the pipeline application on its merits," a spokesman for the senator said Thursday.
And don't expect Udall to get any sympathy from committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu. The Louisiana Democrat is also up for reelection. But for Landrieu, a vote to approve the pipeline is a political winner. And she's the one pushing for a vote. Landrieu is sure to tout her support for the project next week. She'll also use the occasion to highlight her power as chair, despite the fact that the bill may never make it out of committee.
Landrieu and Udall may be members of the same political party. But when it comes to the midterms, it's every woman for herself.
TOP ENERGY NEWS
SHOWDOWN OVER ENERGY NOMINEES DRAWS NEAR. In addition to voting on the Keystone XL pipeline next week (see above), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will also vote Wednesday on a pair of nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: Norman Bay, who is President Obama's pick to lead the agency, and Cheryl LaFleur, the acting FERC chief who is up for another term.
But on Capitol Hill, there's plenty of palace intrigue over who should get the nod to run FERC, with talk of a possible deal that would confirm Bay but keep LaFleur in charge.
EPA: FORD'S AUTO-MILEAGE CLAIMS RAN OUT OF GAS ... EPA said Thursday that Ford has overstated the miles-per-gallon of six models and will relabel vehicles still on dealers' lots.
"Ford will re-label four versions of the Ford Fiesta, the Hybrid and Energi versions of the Ford Fusion, the C-Max Hybrid and Energi, and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Most labels will change between 1-5 miles per gallon (mpg). The largest change is for the Lincoln MKZ hybrid whose combined city and highway fuel economy value has been reduced by 7 mpg," EPA said. Click here for specifics on the downgraded mileage claims.
... AND DRIVERS WILL GET CHECKS FROM FORD. The Detroit News has much more on the mileage screw-up and payments Ford will make to 200,000 owners of the models. "The move is a significant embarrassment to the automaker that has emphasized the efficiency of its vehicle lineup. Payments will range from $125 to $1,050 depending on which vehicle and if it was leased or purchased," the paper reports.
The automaker self-reported the inaccurate info to EPA. Company CEO Alan Mulally issued an apology Thursday. (David Shepardson, Detroit News)
DEMOCRATS' CLIMATE WEAPON NEXT WEEK: REPUBLICAN EPA CHIEFS. Senate Democrats have scheduled a hearing next week on the need to "act now" on climate change. The star witnesses at next Wednesday's Environment and Public Works Committee hearing? Former heads of EPA who were appointed under Republican presidents. The hearing arrives as Democrats are seeking to politically isolate Capitol Hill Republicans on the topic. The four former EPA administrators and the presidents they served are: William D. Ruckelshaus (Nixon and Reagan), Lee M. Thomas (Reagan), William K. Reilly (George H.W. Bush), and Christine Todd Whitman (George W. Bush).
EPA CHIEF: EFFICIENCY KEY TO CLIMATE PLAN. Playing to the crowd at an energy-efficiency forum, agency Administrator Gina McCarthy played up the role efficient technology would play in meeting EPA's Clean Power Plan. Reducing demand through efficient technology, she said, was the key to making sure the climate plan would lower consumers' energy bills by 2030 as promised.
"The biggest bang for the buck, by far, take a look at this rule, is efficiency … [and] getting this waste out of the system from power plants to the plugs," McCarthy said, adding that the industry was a "poster child" for turning the risks of climate change into a business opportunity.
McCarthy added that the agency is creating a 100-point scoring system for EnergyStar to measure the energy efficiency of multifamily buildings to incentivize owners of rental units to improve efficiency.
#TRANSPARENCY. McCarthy took only two questions from the audience and did not meet with reporters after her speech.
CANTOR'S DOWNFALL AND CLIMATE CHANGE. Eric Cantor's loss to tea-party insurgent Dave Brat could doom immigration reform and fuel the next battle over raising the debt ceiling. But when it comes to climate-change policy, emboldening the GOP's conservative wing won't push the House rightward much—if at all. That's because there's little room to move any further in that direction. (Ben Geman, National Journal)
CANADA RATCHETS UP KEYSTONE PRESSURE. Bloomberg reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, which badly wants the White House to approve the Keystone pipeline, took new steps this week to "turn up the heat on the U.S. administration."
"Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird traveled to New York this week, arguing in media interviews and at an energy conference that Obama has unfairly entangled the $5.4 billion pipeline with U.S. politics. According to Oliver, Canada's intention is is to keep the issue alive with the U.S. public and business," their story states. (Theophilos Argitis and Andrew Mayeda, Bloomberg)
INSIDE THE 'BLACK BOX' OF CRUDE OIL EXPORT REQUESTS. The Houston Chronicle explains the opaque federal process for reviewing crude-oil export applications. "At least one company has asked the government for permission to send crude overseas, but whether and when the public will know about the government's verdict on Continental Resources' bid depends largely on an obscure agency and a process shrouded in secrecy," the paper reports.
A division of the Commerce Department, the Bureau of Industry and Security, runs the the process that one analyst calls a "black box." (Jennifer Dlouhy, Houston Chronicle)
HOUSE DEMS TO SEC: STOP DITHERING ON ENERGY-PAYMENT DISCLOSURE. Fifty-eight House members aren't pleased that the Securities and Exchange Commission is taking so long to issue rules that force oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. The SEC doesn't plan to issue a revised draft rule until next year, and the members are pressing for action by the end of 2014. Here's their new letter to the SEC explaining why.
IN 2016, REPUBLICANS WILL HAVE FRACKING ON THEIR SIDE. The road to the White House could be paved with oil and gas for a trio of Republican presidential hopefuls. Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal all come from states where fracking has created new jobs in the oil and gas industry. And if any of the Gulf State lawmakers launch a presidential bid, fracking will bolster their economic track record. (Clare Foran, National Journal)
BIDEN'S FINANCIAL ADVICE: DON'T 'GO LONG' ON FOSSIL FUELS. The International Business Times has a dispatch from Vice President Joe Biden's remarks at a Goldman Sachs energy summit in New York City yesterday. "What is the long play? To state the obvious, I'm not an investment banker, but I wouldn't go long on investments that lead to carbon pollution. I'd bid a little more on clean energy," he said. But he also applauded the U.S. oil and gas production surge and the economic boost and energy security boost it's providing. "We should look at this energy boom as a transition not only to greater energy independence, but also renewable energy," he said. (Maria Gallucci, International Business Times)
MCCLENDON MAKING A COMEBACK. After being dumped last year as CEO of Chesapeake Energy, Aubrey McClendon has been slowly making a comeback, raising $10 billion in the last nine months for his new venture, American Energy Partners. (Daniel Gilbert, Wall Street Journal)
GULF RESTORATION FUNDS BEING BLOCKED. The head of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said that one of the four other Gulf states is blocking the release of $627 million set aside by BP for restoration projects as part of the settlement over the 2010 oil spill. Which state, however, remains a mystery. (Mark Schleifstein, New Orleans Times-Picayune)
WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING
WILL THE CLIMATE RULE BE A POLITICAL LIABILITY? The administration is moving forward with regulations to cap carbon emissions from power plants. But where does that leave moderate Democrats facing tough reelection fights?
"The Obama administration's climate rule isn't a political liability. It's smart policy. For decades, poorly regulated power plants spewing toxins and excess carbon into our atmosphere has been the status quo. This proposal challenges that status quo and calls for positive change." —Jamie Rappaport Clark, president, Defenders of Wildlife
MCCARTHY PUSHES CLIMATE RULE WITH POLITICAL FUNNYMAN. EPA Administrator McCarthy will appear on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher to discuss the Clean Power Plan.