OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior faces pressure despite drilling permit

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will appear Thursday before Hastings’ panel to discuss Interior’s budget plans, but drilling is certainly to be a major topic for lawmakers. Salazar will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday.

A major industry groups had strong words for the Interior Department after the decision. The American Petroleum Institute – the industry’s most powerful trade association – said the permit was “welcome news,” but then went back on the attack.

“This slow moving process continues to stifle domestic production and puts thousands of jobs at risk in the Gulf and around the country,” said API President Jack Gerard in a statement.

But Michael Bromwich, the Interior Department's top offshore drilling official, put some of the onus back on his critics. Speaking on a conference call with reporters, he noted that Interior will be able to act more quickly on permit processing if it gets the increase in funding the agency is seeking.

Interior is seeking $358 million for its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), a 50 percent increase above fiscal year 2010 levels.

Feinstein mulls prospect of cutting energy spending

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told reporters Monday that she’s having trouble figuring out what specific energy spending should be cut in the continuing resolution that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

“This is hard to do,” she said, adding later, “I think getting the time to do due diligence and work this thing out in a way that is fair to everybody – not just slash, but really use a scalpel.”

Senate Democrats are heading toward a clash with House Republicans over spending as they negotiate a spending bill that will fund the government through September. Republicans have proposed cutting spending $61 billion from current levels, while Democrats want a smaller number.

Asked specifically which programs she would cut, Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s energy and water subcommittee, said she preferred making cuts "across the board," rather than targeting a handful of specific programs.

“My own view happens to be that the fairest way to do it is across the board so that you take small cuts, but you do it so that everybody can handle it,” she said.

Ohio’s Sen. Brown seeks to thread the needle on climate

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is staking out his own turf in the battle over EPA’s climate rules. He wrote to President Obama Monday urging a reevaluation of greenhouse gas permitting rules, noting his concerns about losing jobs to overseas competition.

But in comments to reporters Monday in the Capitol, Brown – who is facing reelection next year in the battleground Midwest state – kept his distance from legislative proposals to postpone action on climate.

“I am not looking for a delay, I don’t want to push it back. I am looking for them to find a way that we can do this with some sort of border equalization or some other way that when products come into the United States from abroad that they do in fact reflect the cost of production with good climate rules,” he told reporters in the Capitol Monday.

“I am saying we have got to figure out a way to do this. I don’t want to be part of a delay, I don’t want to be part of slowing this down,” Brown later added, noting his support for cutting emissions.

Brown is not currently a sponsor of Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) bill to delay rules for power plants and factories by two years, and Monday declined to endorse – or flatly oppose – efforts to delay EPA rules through a spending bill.

He noted that it’s uncertain how a delay through the spending bill would affect what the White House is doing on climate change and his push to win trade-related protections. The House approved a fiscal year 2011 spending plan this month that would block funding for EPA’s implementation of emissions rules through September, the end of the fiscal year.

But Brown also gently knocked the Obama administration. “I want to limit carbon emissions. I don’t think it makes sense to do it by exporting jobs, partly because that would increase carbon emissions. I don’t think the administration has come to terms with that yet,” he said.

Graham: Libya could be catalyst for rethinking energy policy


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday that the unrest in Libya, which led to triple-digit oil prices, could be a catalyst for a broad rethinking of the country’s energy policy. “I think anything that shows an upheaval in oil prices being tied to our dependency on foreign oil gives us a chance to reconfigure our energy policy here,” he said.

Graham has proposed a “clean energy standard,” which would require that a certain percentage of the country’s energy come from low-carbon sources like natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar. And he’s also called for expanded oil and gas drilling.

ON TAP TUESDAY

Chu, Schwarzenegger to headline innovation summit

Tuesday will be a big day at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit.

The conference on the Energy Department program to back R&D into breakthrough energy technologies will include remarks by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Other speakers include Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans continue fight against EPA climate rules


A panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will gather for a hearing entitled “EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations and Their Effect on American Jobs.”  The Subcommittee on Energy and Power’s hearing will feature witnesses from groups including the Ohio Coal Association and the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, as well as Gina McCarthy, who is EPA’s top air regulator.

The committee’s GOP leadership is planning to move legislation that would strip EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants, refineries and other facilities.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

On this last day of February, E2 reported that environmentalists are targeting House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in a series of advertisements. We also told you that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is calling on the White House to rethink its climate regulations.

Then we told you about a report that said a regional cap-and-trade system improved state economies. We reported that top House Democrats are launching an investigation into "fracking" on public lands. And we told you that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) thinks that environmental policy is too "radical."

Later, we delivered a handful of items on the Interior Department’s decision to approve the first Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling permit since last year’s oil spill. First came our post on the announcement, then a follow up on a top Interior official denying the decision was influenced by politics and lastly an item on Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) saying one permit is not enough for him to lift his hold on a key Interior nominee.


Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Andrew Restuccia, arestuccia@thehill.com.

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