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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Jason Plautz and Ben Geman
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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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