TOP ENERGY NEWS
UDALL COMES OUT AGAINST BALLOT MEASURES THAT RESTRICT FRACKING. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who is facing a tough reelection battle, on Wednesday came out against ballot measures in his state that would give local governments new powers to restrict hydraulic fracturing. Udall announced his position after Gov. John Hickenlooper abandoned plans for a special legislative session aimed at creating a compromise on the topic that would keep the measures off the statewide ballot.
Udall said he opposes "one-size-fits-all" restrictions and that the proposed ballot measures don't strike the right balance between environmental protection and developing abundant energy resources. The Associated Press, reporting from Denver, has much more here, while Colorado Public Radio breaks it down here.
EPA'S INTERNAL WATCHDOG FINDS NO SIGN OF BIAS IN FOIA FEE DECISIONS. EPA's inspector general said in a new report that there are "no indications of bias" in EPA decisions about whether to waive fees for parties seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The finding rebuts conservative activists' claims that EPA has a double standard of refusing to waive fees for their requests while routinely granting fee waivers to green groups. However, the IG report finds some problems with EPA's FOIA processes. The report says EPA should clarify what information that parties should provide to justify their waiver requests.
EPA PUMPS THE BRAKES ON CONTROVERSIAL WAGE GARNISHMENT RULE. Due to what the agency called "the receipt of adverse comments," EPA will not move directly to finalizing a controversial proposal that would have allowed it to garnish the wages of people who owed the agency money without a court order. The agency said the proposal was in line with the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 and would have been used as a last resort to collect debts, such as fines for violating regulations. But in a Federal Register notice today, EPA stated its intention to withdraw the direct-to-final rule, which would have taken effect in September. Instead, the agency will accept comments on the rule until Sept. 2, said agency spokeswoman Alisha Johnson.
The rule, predictably, attracted the ire of the right wing. Three Republican senators wrote a letter last week saying the rule gave an agency "prone to regulatory abuses with even more power over Americans." And the House Appropriations Committee included language in its Interior and environment spending bill to block the rule.
OBAMA'S SIDEWAYS CLIMATE PLAN. President Obama's big second-term push on climate change is drawing in federal agencies that historically haven't been front-and-center on global-warming policy. That was clearer than ever Wednesday when the White House rolled out executive actions to help states and communities build their resilience to more intense storms, high heat, sea-level rise, and other effects of climate change.
Agencies involved include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Housing and Urban Development Department, and the Agriculture Department. (Ben Geman, National Journal)
GOOGLE'S ON THE HUNT FOR LEAKING GREENHOUSE GAS. The Houston Chronicle reports that tech giant Google has partnered with environmentalists to spotlight natural gas leaking from pipes under the streets of Boston, Indianapolis, and Staten Island. "The result of the venture is a new website and interactive maps that allow people to pinpoint the natural gas leaks, which generally pose no immediate safety threat but send more of the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere," the paper reports. (Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Houston Chronicle)
KERRY TAPS EX-COAST GUARD CHIEF AS ARCTIC ENVOY. Secretary of State John Kerry has named retired Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. as his "special representative" for the Arctic. The naming of Papp comes at a time when diminishing ice is expanding access to the region for shipping and bringing both new competition for energy resources and environmental risks.
"The Arctic region is the last global frontier and a region with enormous and growing geostrategic, economic, climate, environment, and national security implications for the United States and the world," Kerry said in a statement. The appointment arrives as the U.S. prepares for its stint at chair of the multinational Arctic Council next year. Papp, who served as commandant of the Coast Guard, retired in May.
Kerry also said that Fran Ulmer, the chairwoman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, will serve as his special adviser on Arctic science and policy. She's the former lieutenant governor of Alaska.
VITTER WANTS INDEPENDENT SCIENCE BOARD ON OZONE RULE. Citing the potential economic cost of an EPA rule on ground-level smog, or ozone, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana is asking for the agency's science advisers to convene a separate, independent panel to examine "adverse public health, welfare, social, economic, and energy effects" of the rule. EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee already considered the science and health impacts of the rule, but the cost is not typically part of the board's jurisdiction.
SENATE JOINS 'SECRET SCIENCE' PUSH. Eight Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would require EPA to publicly disclose the data and studies used as the scientific basis for its regulations. The bill is a companion to one that passed the House Science Committee last month.
SCIENTISTS TO FLORIDA GOV: LET'S TALK CLIMATE CHANGE. Ten scientists from Florida universities are publicly urging GOP Gov. Rick Scott to hold a meeting to discuss the effects of global warming on the state. And they riff on Scott's "I'm not a scientist" line that he used to rebuff a question about his views on human-induced climate change. "We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state," they write in a letter to Scott. (Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald)
INVESTIGATORS: HOLES IN TANKS CONTRIBUTED TO W.VA. SPILL. Investigators said that holes in the bottom of tanks containing the coal-scrubbing chemical MCHM contributed to the January spill that left 300,000 West Virginia residents without water. In an update on its investigation into the spill, the Chemical Safety Board also said that a second tank was found with corrosion, likely the result of water pooling inside. (Jonathan Matisse, Associated Press)
At the meeting, the board released a report on a 2010 explosion at an AL Solutions metal-recycling plant in West Virginia that killed three workers; the report included a renewed call for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to craft a standard on combustible dust.
LCV ENDORSES ANN CALLIS IN ILLINOIS HOUSE RACE. The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund officially endorsed Democrat Ann Callis, who is running to unseat Illinois Republican Rodney Davis. In a statement, league President Gene Karpinski said Callis "has a strong reputation as a reformer" and noted her support for investing in clean-energy technology and for fighting the dumping of toxic chemicals in her district.
Davis is a target of environmental groups for his skepticism of climate science and is seen as a potential Democratic pickup in the swing district.
For the latest energy news throughout the day, check out National Journal's Up-To-The-Minute Energy.
WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING
WHAT'S AT STAKE WITH THE EX-IM BANK? Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia is pushing legislation that would reauthorize the expiring charter for the Export-Import Bank, but with a provision weakening a White House effort to limit the bank from lending money to foreign countries to build coal plants. Should the legislation succeed, what would be the economic and environmental consequences?
"If the fossil fuel industry were being honest in their antipathy toward energy subsidies, they would tell Senator Manchin to support that self-stated commitment for the free market by letting the industry stand up for itself." -- Scott Peterson, executive director, Checks and Balances.
McCABE TALKS CLIMATE RULE. Acting air Administrator Janet McCabe speaks at an ICF International event on the EPA rules for existing power plants.
EFFICIENCY SCORECARD. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy holds a briefing to release its "International Energy Efficiency Scorecard," which measures the efficiency of world economies.
CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE MIDWEST. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute holds a briefing on the impact of climate change in the Midwest.