By Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia - 01/11/11 12:00 AM EST
STATE OF PLAY: Political messaging duels greet spill report
Environmental and oil-industry trade groups are preparing to spin the findings of Tuesday’s long-awaited report from the presidential commission probing the BP oil spill.
Look for greens to cast the report — to be issued by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling — as proof that the oil industry remains unsafe.
That’s especially true after the commission released partial findings last week that cited “systemic” problems in the industry, and claimed another disaster could occur absent major reforms by government and oil companies.
“That conclusion reinforces for us the wisdom of the Obama administration’s decision to protect the coast from expanded drilling for the next several years,” said Mike Gravitz of Environment America. He’s referring to the White House decision to abandon plans to sell oil-and-gas leases off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Oil industry: We’re safer now
And the oil industry is preparing to argue that there is no reason to further delay offshore drilling because it is already instituting many of the report's recommendations.
“A lot of the recommendations that we’ve seen already are things that our safety commissions have already recommended,” says an industry source.
The report — and the efforts to spin it by both sides — come as industry groups and many Republicans are pressing for wider offshore access and, in the near term, for the Interior Department to begin issuing deepwater drilling permits again in the Gulf.
Commission sales pitch means a busy month
In addition to Tuesday morning’s public rollout, commission staff will hold a briefing for Capitol Hill staff Tuesday afternoon, a commission spokesman said. Also, the spill panel co-chairmen will hold a separate meeting Tuesday afternoon with stakeholders, including industry and environmental groups. The co-chairmen are former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and William Reilly, a Republican who led the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President George H.W. Bush.
The Bipartisan Policy Center — a think tank that has been working with the spill commission — will host the stakeholder briefing. From there, the commission goes on the road for a public forum in New Orleans Wednesday.
Longer term, Graham and Reilly will appear at Capitol Hill hearings on Jan. 26. They’ll swing by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the morning, and appear before the House Natural Resources Committee in the afternoon.
Interior cites beefed-up rules ahead of report
The Interior Department has already overhauled its offshore oversight in the spill’s wake and issued new rules governing offshore rigs. Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff previewed Interior’s reaction by highlighting the work thus far, while pledging openness to the panel’s ideas.
“As part of these reforms we have issued new rules and guidelines requiring companies to strengthen their safety practices, modernize their equipment, and develop the tools needed to prevent and respond to deepwater blowouts, and we will continue to work closely with industry to make sure they not only meet these new regulations but increase their own safety standards,” she said in a statement Monday.
“We have made significant progress over the last eight months, but these reforms must continue and we look forward to reviewing the Commission's recommendations as we continue this important work,” Barkoff added.
ON TAP TUESDAY I: Chamber’s Donohue to discuss priorities for 2011
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue will deliver his “State of American Business” address Tuesday at 9 a.m. The speech is expected to touch on a wide range of issues, including energy and the environment. Look for Donohue to take aim at the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda, specifically the EPA’s efforts to impose greenhouse gas standards on power plants and refineries.
ON TAP TUESDAY II: Pew to release report on cutting transportation emissions
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change will release a report Tuesday afternoon outlining a plan to reduce 65 percent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. The group plans to make the case that the country should move away from its dependence on oil, citing the Gulf oil spill.
ON TAP TUESDAY III: State Department official talks energy
David Goldwyn, the State Department’s special envoy for international energy affairs, will speak at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Goldwyn will “outline the underlying foundations and key goals of U.S. energy security and the policy challenges facing it,” an advisory states.
Energy Department gets an online makeover
The Energy Department has overhauled its website, claiming, “We’ve spruced up our design to better showcase the information and services the Energy Department (DoE) provides online.”
There are other changes afoot as well, DoE said, including a new live-chat series called Energy Matters. Secretary Steven Chu will host the first one later this month, DoE said.
Begich pledges Capitol Hill ‘fix’ to pipeline woes if needed
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) spoke over the weekend with Thomas Barrett, the president of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. The company operates the massive Trans Alaska Pipeline that was shut down Saturday after the discovery of an oil leak at a pumping station.
“We all hope the pipeline will be safely operating again soon. I am confident federal agencies with oversight, like PHMSA [the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration], will properly balance the need to restart the pipeline with a thorough review of the leak’s cause,” Begich said in a statement Monday.
“Moving forward, I’ll work with my colleagues on the Commerce Committee to assess any problems identified and work to fix them,” he added.
Gas pipeline group has new spokeswoman
Cathy Landry is the new communications director for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the trade group that represents gas pipeline companies.
She comes to INGAA after several years at the American Petroleum Institute’s press shop. Landry covered energy for Platts before joining API. “I am excited about joining INGAA and helping to educate the public, the media and lawmakers about the importance of a safe, reliable pipeline network to deliver clean-burning natural gas to consumers and businesses nationwide,” Landry said.
CASE YOU MISSED IT…
Happy Monday! E2 told you why Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is concerned about the shutdown of the Trans Alaska Pipeline; we reported that Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will release publicly all of the responses he receives from various groups, including a number of energy groups, regarding potentially onerous Obama administration regulations; and we noted a solar industry letter praising Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) as 'one of the strongest advocates for solar in Congress.'
Also, we reported on a couple of key staff changes: Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) top climate change staffer is going to the natural gas lobby and the Interior Department’s chief of staff is leaving his post.
Meanwhile, we told you about a new poll that says gays and lesbians are much more likely to vote in favor of environmental protections. Last but not least, we scored a wide-ranging interview with Karen Harbert, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
AROUND THE WEB
Pipeline restart timeline uncertain ...
“Alyeska Pipeline said on Monday there is no date set for restart of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System that was shut after a leak was discovered on Saturday,” Reuters reports.
... while lawmakers eye pipline safety legislation
“U.S. lawmakers are looking to renew a pipeline safety law that expired last year as Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. works to restore service to the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System following the discovery of a leak,” Dow Jones reports.
“Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) plan to introduce a bill ‘early’ in this congressional session to reauthorize the pipeline safety law, a Senate aide said,” their piece adds.
Manchin wouldn’t have aired rifle ad in wake of Gifford’s shooting
“Sen. Joe Manchin said that if his Senate campaign were going on today, he would not release the 'Dead Aim' television ad, where he shot a rifle and promised to take 'dead aim' at the cap and trade bill, because of Saturday’s tragedy in Arizona,” reports the Charleston Gazette about the West Virginia Democrat’s eye-catching campaign ad.