The Calm Before the Storm on EPA Climate Rule
Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy on Monday offered a sunny view of the agency's upcoming carbon-emissions regulations for power plants, but the atmosphere won't be as optimistic when her lieutenant faces a Senate panel tomorrow.
McCarthy promised that when EPA proposes its rules for existing power plants in June, states and utilities will see the flexibility they were promised to allow different areas to develop different plans. The rule, she said in a Washington speech, would have to be "incredibly smartly crafted," but with enough input from states, industry groups, and even different government agencies to make the rules as workable as possible.
"I feel like we're presenting a little bit of a rosy picture, and I think everyone knows I'm a stark realist. I know the challenge that we're having," McCarthy told a forum hosted by the Speaking at a forum sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. "But we couldn't be better positioned at this point to put out something that keeps the conversation going. One of the reasons why we're doing so much outreach is a recognition that this is a difficult issue."
Janet McCabe, EPA's top air-pollution official, will face a tougher audience Tuesday. She'll appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is chock-full of Republicans who won't hesitate to bash EPA's climate agenda. McCabe is before the panel because she's the White House's nominee to become EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation. She's been doing that job since the summer, but on an "acting" basis.
According to McCabe's schedule, in recent days she's been making the rounds for closed-door meetings with Senate lawmakers. But she should expect plenty of tough questions once the discussions are out in the open.
TOP ENERGY NEWS
RIO TINTO DIVESTS FROM PEBBLE MINE. Mining company Rio Tinto is giving away its stake in the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. The company says that the project "doesn't fit with its strategy," and it is handing over its stake to charity organizations, at least one of which opposes the project. (Associated Press)
UKRAINE READY TO DO BATTLE AGAINST GAS PRICES. Ukraine says it will challenge Russian gas giant Gazprom's decision to drastically raise natural-gas prices for the country. (Alexander Kolyandr, Wall Street Journal)
SCIENCE AND SPIN ON MAJOR NETWORKS. The Union of Concerned Scientists is out with a new report that measures the accuracy of the claims on climate change made by major cable networks. The report finds that Fox News was the least accurate of the major networks studied while MSNBC rated highest for accuracy. (Union of Concerned Scientists)
ENERGY ANXIETIES INCREASE IN EUROPE. The European Union's energy commissioner has organized meetings to discuss energy security and possible disruptions in gas supplies if Russia decides to pull the plug. (Vanessa Mock, Wall Street Journal)
CLIMATE CHIEF ASKS FOR ENLIGHTENMENT. At a meeting in Berlin to discuss a way forward to curb emissions, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairman Rajendra Pachauri asked delegates "to exercise a high level of enlightenment" to craft meaningful policy. (Frank Jordans, Associated Press)
EASY ON THE HAIR. Count Slate editor David Plotz among the people impressed with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz's famous (well, Beltway famous) hairstyle. He even told Moniz directly, if accidentally.
Here's what happened: On the latest Slate Political Gabfest podcast released Friday, Slate's Emily Bazelon was making the case that Supreme Court arguments should be televised. She suspects one reason justices oppose it is because they don't want to be recognized when they go to the grocery store.
Then Plotz mentioned that he spotted Moniz at the market the other day--that "amazing haircut" was a dead giveaway.
"I was like, 'Oh, my god, that's the Energy secretary,' " Plotz said. "So I was telling my kids, not quietly enough, you guys have to see the Energy secretary's amazing haircut, and I turn around and he's right there."
"I was like, 'Hey, Mr. Secretary,' " Plotz added.
UTILITY GIANT CEO BACKS GAS EXPORTS. Southern Company, one of the country's largest utilities, buys lots of natural gas and now produces nearly half its electricity from the fuel. But CEO Tom Fanning tells The CEO Forum that he's nonetheless a strong supporter of exporting natural gas too.
"In my opinion – and I know this sounds crazy to some people as a consumer, because Southern Company is the second or third largest consumer of natural gas in America today – but, in my opinion, we should export every bit of natural gas that we can where we find a good market for it," he said
RFS GOES TO COURT. Judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals pressed EPA on why its annual renewable-fuel targets are consistently late as part of arguments this morning over the renewable-fuel standard. The oil industry urged the panel to vacate the standard, which would require refiners to blend ethanol and equivalent biofuels into gasoline and diesel. (Amanda Peterka, Greenwire)
#TRANSPARENCY. EPA chief Gina McCarthy's Monday speech on upcoming climate regulations did not include an audience Q&A, and she did not take questions from reporters at the event.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I think many times we get criticized because there's so much changed between proposal and [a final rule]. That's when I dance in the streets, because I think that's exactly what it's supposed to be. You put concrete ideas on instead of lofty discussions." -- EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, speaking about the agency's rule-making process.
WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING
SHOULD THE PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT FOR RENEWABLE-ENERGY PROJECTS BE REVIVED? Is the legislative outlook for an extension clear as day or cloudy with a chance of showers? What challenges await if the credit does move, and what's the most likely scenario under which it could be passed?
"Wind and solar have benefited from about $150 billion in direct taxpayer subsidies over the past decade. Yet today, they account for only 5 percent of our installed electric power generation capacity. What's more, until battery storage technology is sufficiently advanced, we must continue to build gas-fired power plants that can be counted as "base-load." -- Bernard Weinstein, associate director, Maguire Energy Institute
ENERGY IN THE SPOTLIGHT. The House Appropriations Committee Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee holds a hearing on the fiscal 2015 budget for the Energy Department.
BIOFUELS HEARING. The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee holds a hearing on "Advanced Biofuels: Creating Jobs and Lower Prices at the Pump."
McCABE GETS HER DAY IN THE SUN. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Janet McCabe and Ann Dunkin to be assistant administrators at the Environmental Protection Agency and Manuel Ehrlich Jr. to be a member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.
COASTAL BOUNDARIES. The House Natural Resources Committee's Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs Subcommittee holds a hearing on a slate of bills that would revise the boundaries of the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System.