OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate Republicans' opening moves

Spokesman Robert Dillon said Murkowski will work with Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) to see what pieces of the wide-ranging energy bill the committee approved with several GOP votes in 2009 should be revived.

Also on Murkowski’s agenda: renewed efforts to block EPA greenhouse gas rules. The Senate turned back her effort last June.

Dillon said Murkowski has reservations about the idea of a “clean energy standard,” under which utilities would need to supply escalating amounts of low-carbon power from sources including renewables, nuclear energy, natural gas, and coal plants that trap emissions.

Dillon said his boss -- a strong advocate of offshore oil-and-gas development -- supports developing clean energy, but has questions about the costs of a standard and how it would be implemented.

He also noted that the nation’s nuclear waste policy remains unresolved and that nuclear power plant construction has a long time horizon, while carbon capture from fossil fuel plants has not been commercialized. All that means a broad “clean” standard could really just be a renewable power standard “under a different name,” he said.

“The devil is in the details,” Dillon said. “She supports the of broadening our energy mix, but there are questions about whether a mandate is the right way to go.”

Advice from George Shultz

Speaking of Republicans and energy, E2 has learned that several GOP senators plan to discuss the issue Friday at a meeting with Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz, who is now a distinguished fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University (where he focuses on energy, among other matters).

Senators scheduled to attend include Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Murkowski, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is chairman of the Senate Republican conference, and freshman Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Lugar on Monday sketched out his plans for broad energy legislation.


NEWS BITES:

Where the new members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee stand

Here’s a preview of what to expect from the new members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

Republicans

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): In a statement Thursday, Portman said: “Not only can Ohio’s numerous energy resources, including coal, natural gas and biofuels, help alleviate our national dependence on foreign oil, but our manufacturing base can play a large role in creating products necessary for natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale region, for increased nuclear energy production, and for wind and solar energy production.  All of this can mean new jobs for Ohio.”

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.): Hoeven, as North Dakota governor, helped develop the state’s energy plan, “EmPower North Dakota.” The plan calls for, among other things, calls for dramatically increasing the state’s reliance on renewable energy, biofuels and natural gas.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.): Coats’ office did not respond to a request for comment on his energy plans. But Coats outlined an energy plan during his campaign for Senate that is heavy on ethanol, but also calls for doubling the number of nuclear reactors by 2030 and policies the encourage the development of various energy technologies, including “clean coal,” renewables and natural gas.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): Paul’s office also did not respond to a request for comment. But in a recently released plan to cut half a billion dollars in government spending, the senator made it clear that he wants to combine the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. A strong proponent of coal, Paul has also been critical of the Obama Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental rules.

Democrats:

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.): In a statement Thursday, Franken signaled his support for wind energy and biofuels. “Minnesota is poised to be a global leader in clean energy, and I’m going to use this new position to do all that I can to promote Minnesota's wind and biofuels industries and bring clean-energy research and manufacturing jobs to the state.  Since the cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use, I’ll also be working to improve our nation’s energy efficiency in industry, buildings, and our transportation sector,” he said in the statement.

Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.)
: Asked about the senator’s energy priorities, an aide in Manchin’s office pointed to public remarks in which the lawmaker slammed the Environmental Protection Agency for vetoing a permit on a major West Virginia mountaintop removal mine. Manchin is expected to introduce legislation that would block the EPA from vetoing such permits.

Sen. Chris Coons (Del.): An aide in Coons’ office tell The Hill that the senator is an opponent of oil-and-gas drilling off the coast of Delaware, but he is a strong proponent of offshore wind. “He also wants to promote research and development into clean energy technology,” the aide said. “He has a chemistry degree, which I think leads to a natural bent toward scientific exploration.”

Burr won’t challenge Murkowski for top committee slot

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Thursday put an end to speculation that he would launch an effort to topple Murkowski as ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He won’t. Burr told reporters that he’ll remain the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs committee.

Begich calls on EPA to 'fix' Shell’s air permit delays

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) called on EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to resolve a remand of air quality permits for exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off of Alaska’s coast. The remand has affects Shell’s plans for exploration in the region.

"It is frustrating that this delay revolves around a type of permit routinely issued by the former Minerals Management Service in the Gulf of Mexico," Begich said in a letter to Jackson. "It is further frustrating that the affected company, the State of Alaska, my Alaska Delegation colleagues and I all sought to help provide additional resources for the creation of a robust permit process and those efforts met with little interest."

Upton calls for greater certainty at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to correct the “uncertainty and lack of transparency in the process” in the nuclear licensing process. Upton’s comments come five years after three major nuclear power plants submitted applications for license renewals. The NRC has not yet made a decision on the renewals.

"With a dozen outstanding renewal applications, the alarming rate of delay has put thousands of good paying jobs in jeopardy and has threatened to disrupt a reliable source of clean, affordable energy for surrounding communities and businesses,” Upton said in a statement.

Chamber slams Obama proposal to slash oil industry tax breaks

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce slammed the Obama administration’s energy policies Thursday, zeroing in on President Obama’s call to eliminate oil industry tax breaks.

“The fundamental problem with the administration’s approach on energy is that it picks winners and losers,” Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said in a statement. “Raising taxes on the industry that fuels our lives shows a profound detachment from our energy and economic reality.”

Harbert will outline release the Chamber’s energy plan Feb. 1.

Environment and Public Works Committee names members

The roster was released Thursday. Here are the Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

Chairman Barbara Boxer (Calif.)
Max Baucus (Mont.)
Thomas Carper (Del.)
Frank Lautenberg (N.J.)
Benjamin Cardin (Md.)
Bernard Sanders (Vt.)
Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
Tom Udall (N.M.)
Jeff Merkley (Ore.)
Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)

And the Republicans:

Ranking Member James Inhofe (Okla.)
David Vitter (La.)
John Barrasso (Wyo.)
Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)
Mike Johanns (Neb.)
John Boozman (Ark.)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

On this snowy Thursday, E2 told you about House legislation to prevent EPA from vetoing Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop removal mining project; we reported on oil industry efforts to promote Canadian oil sands; and we pulled out the relevant energy portions of Sarah Palin’s response to Obama’s State of the Union address.

Then we told you about new research the suggest Genghis Kahn might have done wonders for the climate; we picked through a recent interview with William Reilly, the co-chairman of the national oil spill commission; and we reported that the administrator of BP’s $20 billion oil spill compensation fund will unveil his methodology for distributing the payments to spill victims.