By Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia - 12/15/10 12:13 AM EST
The Securities and Exchange Commission will decide whether it’s ready to float draft rules that require oil and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments related to projects in their countries.
Oil companies fear the rules — which are mandated by the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law — will hurt their ability to compete for projects in several countries, and are pushing the SEC to carve out several exemptions.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who co-authored the provision in the Wall Street law, is pushing back. “The intent of Congress is pretty clear that we want transparency per transaction, and that we want to make sure that that transparency is provided to the SEC in its filings,” he told reporters Monday. “We expect the SEC to follow congressional intent. The exemptions that the industries are asking for, to me, are just not warranted,” he added.
On Tap Wednesday II: EPA, Interior and Energy chiefs headline environmental justice event
The Obama administration is assembling a suite of top officials for what they’re billing as the first-ever White House Forum on Environmental Justice. The daylong event will include Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, among others.
“This forum will focus on the Obama administration’s commitment to ensuring that overburdened and low-income communities have the opportunity to enjoy the health and economic benefits of a clean environment. The event will bring together environmental justice and community leaders, cabinet members, and senior officials from federal, state, local and tribal governments for a discussion on creating a healthy and sustainable environment for all Americans,” a White House advisory states.
On Tap Wednesday III: Senior DOE officials talk innovation
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s "Energy Innovation 2010" conference at the National Press Club will include remarks from senior Energy Department officials, among others.
The lineup includes Acting Energy Under Secretary and Assistant Energy Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi and Arun Majumdar, director of the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy.
Graham gets more specific on his energy plans for next year
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday expanded on his plans to get more involved in Senate energy talks next year. Rather than pushing a massive energy bill, Graham said he hopes to move the country’s energy policy forward “by hitting a series of singles.”
Graham, who washed his hands of negotiations on a climate bill earlier this year, expressed interest last week in getting involved in future energy talks.
Asked for more detail on those “singles,” Graham reiterated he would push for a clean energy standard, which would require that a certain percentage of the country’s electricity come from nuclear, low-emissions coal and renewables.
He continued: “Then we do something on the transportation side that would help us become energy independent. And make sure that we get oil sands oil from Canada until we can find more domestic resources and that we move to a low-carbon economy, which makes us energy independent. Then there’s the highway trust fund and how we can increase it in the future.”
Graham said he has been talking to other lawmakers about his plans, but he would not say which ones. “People seem to be interested, which is good,” he told reporters in the Capitol. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) has reached out to Graham in recent days.
Landrieu: Any oil-spill response bill must direct penalty money to Gulf
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Tuesday that no oil-spill-related bill will pass the Senate without the inclusion of a provision to direct 80 percent of the money from penalties levied on the companies responsible for the spill to Gulf Coast states.
“That’s a must-have,” Landrieu told The Hill Tuesday.
“I don’t believe that there will be any piece of legislation that passes relative to the Gulf Coast without directing the penalty money to the Gulf coast,” she said, adding that she’d make an exception for a bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to aid the families of those killed in the April Deepwater Horizon explosion.
It’s unclear when or whether an oil-spill response bill will come up for a vote in the Senate. Landrieu said there are no plans to address the issue in the lame-duck session, leaving lawmakers with the option of bringing up a stand-alone bill next year or combining it with a broad energy bill. The House has already passed an oil-spill response bill.
Oil trade group endorses voluntary ‘fracking’ disclosure as feds loom
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is giving its blessing to a voluntary program for disclosing chemicals used in the controversial drilling method called hydraulic fracturing.
The trade group said it backs an initiative that the Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) are developing. “The states are the proper authority for determining requirements for chemical disclosure; so a program developed by the GWPC, and endorsed by the IOGCC is a step toward a solution on disclosure,” said Jack Gerard, API’s chief executive officer, in a statement Tuesday.
“But it is critical that we ensure confidential business information is protected and we will work with the GWPC to improve the reporting elements — which ultimately should enable maximum participation and enhance the program’s overall effectiveness,” he added.
The move comes as environmentalists and some Democrats are calling for mandatory federal disclosure rules and new EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which the industry says would add burdens that could slow development. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has also said he may seek to require disclosure from drillers operating on public lands that his agency oversees.
AROUND THE WEB:
China’s thirst for coal could overtake supplies
“China’s ravenous appetite for energy puts the country at risk of reaching a point of 'peak coal,' when demand for coal will outstrip domestic production capacity, a growing number of experts believe,” The New York Times reports.
“China now consumes approximately 47 percent of coal produced globally but by most estimates has just 14 percent of global coal reserves. Meanwhile, demand has risen by about 10 percent per year for the last decade, putting the country on an “unsustainable” path, according to a recent report by C.L.S.A. Asia-Pacific Markets, a Hong Kong-based brokerage firm,” the piece adds.
Alaska judge tosses state of Alaska’s claim against BP
“An Alaska judge has dismissed the state's claim that BP owes several hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues the state claims it lost when the Prudhoe Bay oil field was partially shut down in 2006 because of a BP oil spill,” Reuters reports.
Greens sue Exxon over Texas refinery emissions
“Two environmental advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit in Texas against Exxon Mobil Corp. on Tuesday, alleging the energy company's Baytown refinery complex has emitted millions of pounds of pollutants more than allowed under state and federal law,” The Wall Street Journal reports.