Senate Speeding Toward Keystone Vote
Anticipation is building that the Senate's long march to holding a vote on the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline is coming to a head.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters there was a "75 to 80 percent chance" of a deal to hold a standalone vote on approving the pipeline. Other supporters indicated confidence that a vote was coming to the floor next week, likely as a standalone bill rather than as an amendment on the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. (A standalone would give the White House cover to veto it without disrupting the modest energy-efficiency bill.)
The expected vehicle is a bill introduced Thursday by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La., and member John Hoeven, R-N.D., that would require approval of the controversial pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf Coast refineries.
All Republicans and 11 vulnerable Democrats have already signed onto the bill, leaving supporters four shy of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Republicans are targeting a group of Democrats who voted for a nonbinding resolution on the pipeline last fall but haven't yet signed on to this bill, including Sens. Tom Carper and Christopher Coons of Delaware, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Bill Nelson of Florida.
Already reports have indicated that Coons, Johnson, and Nelson would be no votes.
Hoeven said that beyond the talks about his bill coming as a standalone, discussions were ongoing about what amendments would be attached to the energy bill. Among the offerings from the GOP, he said, is language blocking the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse-gas standards for power plants and language to increase liquefied natural gas exports from Wyoming's John Barrasso.
Of course, in the ever-unpredictable Senate, there's no guarantee things will move that smoothly. Sen. David Vitter could gum up the works again over an unrelated plan to cut the federal support that Congress and Capitol Hill aides receive for their health insurance. He's been pushing to attach the plan either as an amendment or a separate vote to the energy bill, but even offered to drop the request for a vote on Republican energy proposals.
When Democrats rejected the deal, Vitter said on the floor that he didn't know "why they can't take yes for an answer," portending another possible showdown like the one that helped to derail Shaheen-Portman last year.
TOP ENERGY NEWS
GREEN HEAVYWEIGHT NAMES NEW LEADER. Delaware Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Collin O'Mara is next in line to become president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. O'Mara will take the reins from Larry Schweiger, NWF's president and CEO of 10 years, who is set to step down Friday. O'Mara will start his new job on July 7. The switch-up comes at a time when the top dogs at a number of prominent environmental organizations—including Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace USA—are heading for the exits.
REGULATION HANDOFF HOURS AFTER FIERY CRASH. The Transportation Department shipped a regulatory package that aims to bolster the safety of crude-by-rail shipments to the Office of Management and Budget for review just hours after crude-oil tankers crashed and exploded in Lynchburg, Va. (Clifford Krauss and Trip Gabriel, New York Times)
COAL TRAIN RUNS OFF THE TRACKS. On Thursday morning a freight train hauling coal through Bowie, Md., suffered a similar fate when it derailed. The train cars were owned by freight operator CSX, the same owner of the cars that derailed in Virginia the day before. (Kevin Rector, Baltimore Sun)
EXXON: RUSSIAN PROJECTS ON TRACK. The oil giant said Thursday that planned expansions in Russia are proceeding despite new sanctions against the country. Exxon has partnered with state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft on multiple projects. (Ernest Scheyder, Reuters)
NUCLEAR CONTAINMENT PLAN FACES HURDLES. The Japanese government's proposal to contain contaminated water at the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant may have unintended environmental impacts, according to one of the plant's operator. (Jacob Adelman, Bloomberg)
CHEMICAL REFORM FACING UPHILL BATTLE. Everybody wants to reform the way EPA tests and regulates chemicals, but a broken original bill and typical partisan bickering have made it a tough slog to find agreement. (Jason Plautz, National Journal)
EXECUTIVES BEHIND W.VA. SPILL RESURFACE. Freedom Industries, the company behind the January chemical spill in West Virginia that left hundreds of thousands without water, declared bankruptcy amid the cleanup. But Freedom executives are linked to Lexycon, a chemical company that registered with the West Virginia secretary of state last month. (David Gutman, Charleston Gazette)
EPA CAN'T KEEP TRACK OF PASSPORTS. EPA's international affairs office can't locate nearly 200 of the 417 employee passports that it is supposed to hold onto, according to an audit from the agency's inspector general. (Robin Bravender, Greenwire)
INTERIOR NOMINEE SAILS THROUGH SENATE. The Senate confirmed Janice Schneider as assistant Interior Department secretary for land and minerals management by a voice vote of 64 to 32.
SCALIA SLIPS UP. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made a mistake in his dissent against this week's ruling upholding EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. In his dissent, Scalia said that the agency had previously requested the power to apply a cost-benefit analysis to emissions-reductions mandates and cited a previous legal case as proof. The problem was that Scalia turned out not to be correct. Likely hoping that the error would escape notice, the Court published a corrected version of the dissent to its website this week without any accompanying fanfare. (Mark Sherman, Associated Press)
IT'S NOT JUST WIND TURBINES AND OIL SPILLS—SOLAR POWER KILLS BIRDS TOO. In California's Mojave Desert, a solar-energy plant is causing birds to burst into flames and fall out of the sky, like tiny fighter jets. A report from the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System found that the facility's solar-panel array has a deadly side effect for local wildlife. (Emma Roller, National Journal)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Right now everything is in flux. Energy production has changed dramatically and infrastructure has not caught up with it." —Melanie Kenderdine, director of energy policy and systems analysis and energy counselor to the secretary, Department of Energy
WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING
WILL THE PRESIDENT PUNT ON KEYSTONE? What does Obama have to lose by delaying a final determination, and what does he stand to gain?
"President Obama has punted on Keystone XL for almost six years, sidestepping the decision at all costs. But given how the decision-making process has become consumed by politics—and devoid of facts—the latest setback is not at all surprising." —Brigham McCown, CEO, Nouveau.
EPA, INTERIOR CHIEFS HEADLINE GREEN-GROUP EVENT. The National Wildlife Federation holds its annual meeting in Baltimore, including appearances from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
WATER CONNECTIVITY REPORT. EPA holds a teleconference of the Science Advisory Board for its review of EPA's Water Body Connectivity Report.