The Winds of Change Are Headed for the Senate
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that the Shaheen-Portman energy-efficiency bill could offer the Senate a "fresh start," even as it became clear the bill was unlikely to make it through the night.
Reid accused Republicans of holding the bill "hostage" until they could get votes on their five desired energy amendments, echoing last week's dispute over whether the Right was "moving the goalposts" on how to move the bill. In his opening speech Monday, Reid reiterated that the path was there for a clean vote on the energy bill with a separate stand-alone vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, but soon admitted that he had been told that two sponsors on the bill wouldn't be voting to advance it tonight without any amendments.
That likely throws cold water on any hopes for a last-minute deal to salvage the energy bill, a modest bipartisan measure that would have targeted the energy efficiency of buildings. Reid, however, said the implications went beyond just energy. "It goes to the integrity of this Senate that we care about so much," he said.
Once the dust has settled on energy efficiency, the Senate is expected to pivot to tax extenders. Senators are expected to take up an extenders package that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee last month as soon as Tuesday.
The bill contains a two-year extension of the renewable-energy production tax credit, which has given a major boost to the wind industry. But despite the fact that senators including Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Joe Manchin have said the tax credit should be left to die, energy industry observers and Senate aides say it's unlikely that the legislation will become embroiled in a debate over energy.
That's because the package includes a wide array of tax provisions, many of which are unrelated to energy and seen by a number of senators as must-pass. Shaheen-Portman may be uncontroversial, but the extenders package is likely to hit more political pressure points—and more likely to pass as a result.
Of course, nothing is certain. If Republicans ask for controversial amendments, Reid could decide to pull the bill. And even if it the extenders bill makes it out of the Senate, that doesn't mean the wind production tax credit is safe. Conservative opposition to the credit is alive and well. Senate Republicans who haven't taken a shining to the credit feel confident that the measure will face intense scrutiny in the House, according to a Senate Republican aide. And that leaves them leeway to make less of a fuss over the measure in the upper chamber.
TOP ENERGY NEWS
TOM STEYER IS MAKING DEMOCRATS NERVOUS. The hedge-fund-manager-turned-green-evangelist says he plans to raise up to $100 million during the midterm elections for candidates who stand strong on climate change. But as he doles out big checks to Democrats, Steyer has also stepped into the spotlight—and that is making some in the party nervous. Steyer's persona, the skeptics feel, opens Democrats up to charges of hypocrisy, and leaves too much of the party's profile in the hands of a man who has been popularly elected to exactly nothing. Others fear that Steyer, a wealthy environmentalist living in Northern California, plays into a decades-long GOP effort to paint Democrats as out of touch with working-class America, and conservatives are working hard to make these fears a reality. (Clare Foran, National Journal)
SCIENCE ADVISERS PUSH TOUGHER OZONE RULE. Although the panel stops short of issuing a specific recommendation, EPA's science advisory committee recommends in a letter that the agency lower its air-pollution standard for ozone, or ground-level smog. Study found that "current evidence and exposure/risk information call into question the adequacy of the current standard" of 75 parts per million, according to the letter, and there is "scientific support" to lower the standard. The board will hold a teleconference later this month to debate its final recommendation.
POLL SHOWS UDALL UP IN COLO. SENATE RACE. Democratic incumbent Mark Udall holds a 4-point lead over challenger Rep. Cory Gardner in the race for Colorado's Senate seat, getting 47 percent support in a head-to-head race in a poll released today by the League of Conservation Voters. The survey, conducted last week by Public Policy Polling, also found that 56 percent of voters were more likely to see Gardner as doing the work of oil companies, compared with just 19 percent for Udall, while 46 percent said Udall was more likely to protect the environment compared with 38 percent for Gardner.
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GREEN GROUP TAKES AIM AT DEMOCRAT. The League of Conservation Voters is putting Democratic congressional candidate Troy Jackson of Maine in its crosshairs. LCV is set to pony up $150,000 in a mailing campaign that will slam Jackson's environmental record in the Maine state Legislature. The attack ads are set to coincide with Jackson's primary contest where he'll square off against Democrat Emily Cain, who has received LCV's nod of approval.
SEA LEVEL RISE SPEEDS UP. Massive sheets of ice in West Antarctica have started to break apart and melt, a development that's expected to rapidly accelerate sea-level rise. Scientists now say they expect an increase of at least 10 feet in worldwide water levels. "This is really happening," Thomas Wagner of NASA said. "There's nothing to stop it now." (Justin Gillis and Kenneth Chang, New York Times)
REGULATORS EYE CRUDE-BY-RAIL SAFETY. Regulators and lawmakers are weighing whether or not to require volatile chemical compounds to be stripped out of crude oil set to be hauled by rail. Supporters of the idea say it could head off fiery explosions in the event of a train crash, but it could also dramatically increase industry costs. (Kristen Hays, Reuters)
CLIMATE COULD BECOME CENTRAL IN SENATE RACE. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is pressing his Republican Senate rival Terri Lynn Land on global warming. Peters is trotting out climate change as a central talking point in the campaign and asking Land to clarify her position on whether or not warming is man-made. Lynn has so far attempted to sidestep the issue. (Greg Sargent, Washington Post)
GRAHAM TOUTS KEYSTONE SUPPORT. In a new series of television and radio ads in his home state, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is flaunting his support of the Keystone XL pipeline. (Lauren Barron-Lopez, The Hill)
WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING
CAN CONGRESS EVER HAVE A REASONABLE ENERGY DEBATE? What will it take for lawmakers to pass an energy bill or carry out meaningful debate on energy policy? How might the political calculus on energy change after the midterm elections? And what gets lost when bipartisan bills can't get to a vote?
"Partisan politics is alive and well in D.C. but there should be one issue that unites all fronts—reducing our energy demand so we can be less dependent on costly and dirty sources of electricity. This benefits business's bottom line, saves rate payers on their utility bills, limits conflict surrounding development of new electricity sources, lessens pollutants that could impact our health, and aids our country in the path to become energy independent from foreign sources of fuel. A win for all parties involved." —Chase Huntley, director of renewable energy policy, The Wilderness Society
ENERGY COMMITTEE CONSIDERS NOMINEES. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on several nominations, including Suzette Kimball to be director of the U.S. Geological Survey.
LNG EXPORTS DISCUSSION. The United States Energy Association holds a discussion titled "North American LNG Exports: Impact on the World Gas Market."
STORMWATER RUNOFF HEARING. The Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife holds a hearing on polluted stormwater runoff from transportation infrastructure.
UTILITIES FORUM. Resources for the Future hosts a leadership forum titled "Energy Revolution: Utilities Confront the Shifting Energy Landscape."
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