Up-To-The-Minute Energy

Real-time news updates from National Journal — Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TAFT, CA - JULY 21:  An oil rig south of town extracts crude on July 21, 2008 in Taft, California. Hemmed in by the richest oil fields in California, the oil town of 6,700 with a stagnated economy and little room to expand has hatched an ambitious plan to annex vast expanses of land reaching eastward to Interstate 5, 18 miles away, and take over various poor unincorporated communities to triple its population to around 20,000. With the price as light sweet crude at record high prices, Chevron and other companies are scrambling to drill new wells and reopen old wells once considered unprofitable. The renewed profits for oil men of Kern County, where more than 75 percent of all the oil produced in California flows, do not directly translate increased revenue for Taft. The Taft town council wants to cash in on the new oil boom with increased tax revenues from a NASCAR track and future developments near the freeway.  In an earlier oil boom era, Taft was the site of the 1910 Lakeside Gusher, the biggest oil gusher ever seen in the US, which destroyed the derrick and sent 100,000 barrels a day into a lake of crude.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Ben Geman and Jason Plautz
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Ben Geman Jason Plautz
July 16, 2014, 3:14 a.m.

6:40 p.m. - NEW SANC­TIONS TAR­GET RUS­SIA’S EN­ERGY SEC­TOR. State-owned oil gi­ant Ros­neft faces new lim­its on ac­cess to U.S. cap­it­al mar­kets. Click here to read our piece on the sanc­tions, which also tar­get Rus­si­an banks and arms com­pan­ies. — BG

3:00 p.m. - 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. — BG

1:10 p.m. - UP­DATE: 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. — JP

12:45 p.m. - 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. — JP

12:05 p.m. - 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. — BG

11:21 a.m. - 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. — BG

9:59 a.m. - OBAMA’S CLI­MATE PUSH GOES FAR BEY­OND EPA. We have a new story on the White House an­nounce­ment of new ex­ec­ut­ive steps to help boost state and loc­al re­si­li­ence to cli­mate change. — BG

7:10 a.m. - WITH LOC­AL FO­CUS, WHITE HOUSE UN­VEILS CLI­MATE INI­TI­AT­IVES. The White House will of­fer fund­ing for dis­aster pre­pared­ness, rur­al elec­tri­city, and drought re­cov­ery un­der a num­ber of new cli­mate-change ini­ti­at­ives to be re­leased today. The pro­grams are the res­ult of the 26-mem­ber State, Loc­al and Tri­bal Lead­ers Task Force on Cli­mate Pre­pared­ness, which will hold its fourth and fi­nal meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton today.

The ini­ti­at­ives also in­clude a pre­vi­ously an­nounced $1 bil­lion dis­aster re­si­li­ence com­pet­i­tion to be dis­trib­uted through the Hous­ing and Urb­an De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment, which will of­fer money for dis­aster pre­pared­ness and re­cov­ery. The Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment will also award a total of $236.3 mil­lion to states to sup­port rur­al elec­tri­city, as well as an un­dis­closed amount of money to help rur­al areas deal­ing with the on­go­ing drought. The Na­tion­al Ocean­ic and At­mo­spher­ic Ad­min­is­tra­tion will dis­trib­ute $1.5 mil­lion un­der the Coastal Zone Man­age­ment Act to ex­am­ine how cli­mate change may af­fect coastal areas.

The U.S. Geo­lo­gic­al Sur­vey and oth­er agen­cies will col­lab­or­ate on a $13.1 mil­lion 3-D El­ev­a­tion Pro­gram part­ner­ship to de­vel­op a three-di­men­sion­al map data meant to give loc­al areas more in­form­a­tion on the threats of cli­mate change. — JP

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