OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Feinberg to raise bar for oil-spill compensation payments

Welcome back to OVERNIGHT ENERGY, E2’s daily roundup of the energy news you need to know. Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and Andrew Restuccia, arestuccia@thehill.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to vie. You can follow us on Twitter: @E2wire, @AndrewRestuccia.

State of play: Feinberg to raise bar for final oil-spill compensation payments

In an interview Thursday with The Hill, Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of BP’s $20 billion oil-spill compensation fund, said spill victims will have to clear a higher bar to qualify for final compensation payments.

Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility stopped doling out emergency interim payments at the end of November and is now preparing to provide final payments to spill victims. Now that the well has been capped and many fishermen in the Gulf have gone back to work, Feinberg said he plans to look more closely at documentation before approving final claims.

Look for more from The Hill’s interview with Feinberg Friday on E2 Wire.


Shimkus, Whitfield preview priorities for next year

As we all know by now, incoming House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) officially split the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in two Thursday. And he announced that Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science MORE (R-Ky.) will head the House Energy and Power Subcommittee and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) will head the Environment and Economy Subcommittee.

Whitfield on Thursday laid out his priorities for next year. His first orders of business? Delaying implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to reduce interstate power plant air emissions and blocking the agency’s attempts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

Whitfield’s other areas of interest include coal, nuclear power and natural gas. Kentucky is a coal state and, Whitfield notes in a statement, "It hosts the nation’s only enrichment facility producing uranium for nuclear power plants, located in Paducah.”

A Shimkus spokesman said the congressman would not get specific about his plans for next year until “the jurisdictional issues are ironed out” between the newly formed subcommittees. But a statement from Shimkus’s office Thursday gives us a clue.

“I look forward to tackling the challenging issues before us, such as safe water and nuclear waste, which have been priorities of mine for years,” Shimkus said.

Interior, Energy Dept. plan lights the way for solar projects

The Obama administration unveiled a plan Thursday to spur development of large-scale solar projects on federal lands in Western states. The draft plan — rolled out by the Interior and Energy departments — is aimed at standardizing and speeding up permitting for projects in Colorado, Nevada, California and other states.

Under the initiative, Interior would create “solar energy zones” deemed ripe for development due to their high energy potential and lower amounts of “environmental and resource conflicts,” the agencies said. The zones would cover about 677,000 acres, but the agencies say “reasonably foreseeable” development would cover less than a third of that acreage.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters that it’s an “important next step in our nation’s march towards an renewable energy future.” There’s plenty more info here.

Industry group urges approval of bill to delay EPA climate rules ...

A manufacturing industry group is urging the Senate to approve Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) longshot bill to block EPA greenhouse gas rules. The Industrial Energy Consumers of America, in a letter to Senate leaders Thursday, says the measure should be tacked onto an omnibus spending bill or continuing resolution this year.

“Your leadership is needed. Unless the Senate acts, the EPA GHG regulations will start in January of 2011. The economic and regulatory uncertainties imposed by these regulations is a disincentive for manufacturing companies to invest in existing and new facilities and encourages companies to invest abroad rather than in the U.S.,” the group writes.

... while environmentalists push back

The Natural Resources Defense Council circulated an e-mail to Senate offices Thursday that attacks Rockefeller’s measure. “Laws like the Clean Air Act are designed to ensure that public health, not corporate interests, determine how clean our air is,” the group states. “We urge you to help move the country forward by supporting and promoting the important work of the EPA, not undermining it.”

Disclosure advocates to SEC: Don’t backtrack on oil payments rule

Activists seeking greater transparency in oil and mining company payments to foreign governments see a glass half-full in draft Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure rules.

The rules floated Wednesday, which require companies to detail their payments in SEC filings, are mandated under the landmark Wall Street reform law. Ian Gary of Oxfam America — part of the broader Publish What You Pay coalition — is glad the rule “hews closely” to the Wall Street law by applying the requirements to all oil, gas and mining companies that file reports with the commission.

But he’s also concerned the SEC will back off. “The proposed rule maintains this requirement, but, on the other hand, then goes on to request specific comment on whether they should allow for exemptions of certain categories of companies or exceptions to payment disclosure requirement under certain circumstances,” he said in an e-mail to The Hill.

Gary fears that the SEC is “opening the door to arguments that could have the effect of undermining the statutory provision.” We have more on the disclosure mandate here and here.

In case you missed it ...

On Thursday, E2 reported on new findings by the presidential oil-spill commission, which took aim at controversial sand berms that were designed to keep oil off Louisiana’s shores. The project was costly and ineffective, the commission staff found.

We also:

• Looked at the new leadership of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee
• Checked in on Rockefeller’s bid to block EPA climate rules

• Unwrapped new Energy Department data on coal plants and greenhouse gas emissions

• Noted the looming partisan battles on the House Natural Resources Committee

• Explained why researchers recommend Nintendo for energy-conscious video-game shoppers


Site of Chernobyl nuclear disaster to admit tourists

"The site of the worst nuclear accident in history will be a new tourist attraction, the Ukrainian government announced Monday, Dec. 13. The area around Chernobyl is scheduled to open to visitors next year," Fox News reports.

"Where tourists are allowed to go, how long they may stay, and what they eat will be carefully controlled, government officials say, so the radiation risks are 'negligible.' "

Wind, solar groups increase campaign contributions

"Renewable power businesses that stand to benefit from energy provisions in the tax package scheduled for a House vote today boosted campaign contributions this election cycle, part of their widening political presence," Greenwire reported Thursday.