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Obama to Attend U.N. Climate Summit


By Ben Geman (@ben_geman) and Jason Plautz (@jason_plautz)

OBAMA TO ATTEND CLIMATE SUMMIT. It's official: President Obama will be among the world leaders at a big United Nations climate summit in New York City on Sept. 23. The White House, in a statement to National Journal, has confirmed a report in Responding to Climate Change that Obama would attend. Obama's decision comes as the White House is making climate change a major second-term priority. The September event is designed to provide momentum for separate, formal UN-led negotiations aimed at finalizing a new global climate accord in Paris in late 2015. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres told RTCC that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be attend the Sept. 23 summit too. China is the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitter. The U.S. is No. 2.


STUDY SHOWS EPA CLIMATE RULE WOULD BOOST TEXAS. Bloomberg reports: "A study ... from the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies and Rhodium Group, finds that the Environmental Protection Agency's plan could lead to a boom for natural-gas production—and revenues—in states such as Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. Coal producers would lose out." (Mark Drajem, Bloomberg)

DEMS PRESS TOP OBAMA ADVISER TO WALK BACK CUTS TO BIOFUELS MANDATE. Senate Democrats with biofuels production in their states urged White House adviser John Podesta to soften EPA's late 2013 proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel and ethanol that must be included in the nation's fuel mix.

"It was a frank and honest exchange by about a dozen senators who feel that the future of alcohol fuels has a lot to do with energy picture in America and employment in the middle west," said Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, after leaving the meeting in Sen. Al Franken's office. "I think he got a very strong message from all of us that we hope the president will expand this industry."


EPA's November 2013 draft plan was a victory for oil companies that say the national Renewable Fuel Standard—which requires use of escalating amounts of ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels—has become increasingly unworkable. But Franken told reporters that his conversations with Podesta and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy have left him believing that EPA will soften its proposed cuts when the regulation is finalized.

Franken said, "We definitely believe" the levels in the final EPA rule will be higher than the proposed regulation and "we are hoping that they are going to be significantly higher." Other senators in the meeting with Podesta included Democrats Tom Harkin, Amy Klobuchar, Maria Cantwell, and Patty Murray.

THE OBAMA SAFETY ADMINISTRATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF. The Chemical Safety Board is supposed to issue reports and recommendations after chemical accidents or disasters to help prevent them in the future. But that's a mission that hasn't been happening lately; the CSB's reports take years to come out, and a backlog looms over the agency. Management says that's because of a small staff doing more difficult work, but employees and critics say the problem is dysfunction and mismanagement directly from the top. (Jason Plautz, National Journal)

ENERGY DEPT. NOMINEE SEES 'OPPORTUNITY TO LEAD' ON GAS EXPORTS. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, President Obama's choice for the No. 2 slot at the Energy Department, sounded bullish notes on liquefied-natural-gas exports, during her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. When Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski asked if Sherwood-Randall agreed there is a limited window to boost exports before other gas-rich nations fill the global export market, the nominee replied, "I believe it is a very competitive environment, and I believe we have an opportunity to lead in it." DOE has approved seven applications to export gas to nations that lack formal free-trade deals with the U.S. (those applications undergo detailed vetting), but a large number of other applications are piled up before regulators.


GREENS GO ON OFFENSE AGAINST CLIMATE-RULE ATTACKS. The League of Conservation Voters is going after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups for attacking EPA's carbon limits for existing power plants. In a $250,000 ad buy that launched today, the green group calls the opponents "dirty, desperate, and dangerous" and references the since-debunked report the chamber used to attack the plan. The ads will run in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., the sites of four EPA hearings on the rule next week.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Karen Harbert, president of the chamber's Institute for 21st Century Economy, said the study used the best available numbers at the time and that, given EPA's state-by-state approach, it will require "49 different models" to update. The chamber is among many industry groups asking for an extended comment period on the rule to do additional study.

DID THE SUPREME COURT PREVIEW ITS EPA RULE ARGUMENTS? Greenwire's Jeremy P. Jacobs looks at the Supreme Court's recent ruling in a complicated immigration visa law case that could be a preview of how the Court would handle EPA's power-plant rule. The visa case that featured "an administrative agency interpreting seemingly unresolvable statutory text" poses a question similar to EPA's interpretation of the Clean Air Act. (Jeremy P. Jacobs, Greenwire)

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U.S. MAY DROP OPPOSITION TO KURDISH OIL SALE. Over at our sister publication Quartz, Steve LeVine reports that "people with knowledge of the situation say the U.S. has signaled that it may stop actively discouraging potential buyers" of a tanker full of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan.

"If these people are right—and the U.S. warnings are tempered—the market could see a fresh supply of 500,000 barrels of oil a day of Iraqi Kurdish oil by the end of 2014 and double that volume a year later. Kurdistan already operates under relative autonomy, but such new oil would probably accelerate its advance toward independence from Iraq, as the region would be able to stand on its own feet economically," he reports. (Steve LeVine, Quartz)

SCIENTISTS: NUCLEAR INDUSTRY NEEDS TO PREPARE FOR THE WORST. A National Academy of Sciences report commissioned after the 2011 nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant says that the U.S. nuclear industry and regulators should prepare for extraordinary events, like earthquakes or floods that can cripple a plant. (Jason Plautz, National Journal)

NUCLEAR DISASTER LINKED TO ABNORMAL BLOOD IN MONKEYS. Wild monkeys in the Fukushima region near the site of the nuclear-plant disaster were found to have low white- and red-blood cell levels and low haemoglobin, a possible result of exposure to radiation, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. But skeptics say the link is unproven and radiation doses may have been too small. (Damian Carrington, The Guardian)

For the latest energy news throughout the day, check out National Journal's Up-To-The-Minute Energy.


HOW SHOULD CLIMATE CHANGE BE TAUGHT? Should there be a national set of science-education standards that mandate teaching climate-change consensus, or is it better left to individual states, counties, schools, or teachers to decide?

"In my opinion, nothing good will come of efforts to teach students what a consensus of scientists currently think about a phenomenon like climate change. Teach them the underlying science and let them reach their own conclusions." — Michael Canes, distinguished fellow, LMI.

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


RESILIENCY DISCUSSION. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute hosts a briefing on managing climate risks in the Northeast.

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