OVERNIGHT ENERGY: GOP gas price claims under fire ahead of climate vote

Senior House Republicans have tailored their political messaging on the bill to focus more heavily on gasoline prices.

But their claims about the degree to which prices will rise are rooted in an industry-commissioned study of cap-and-trade legislation that died in the last Congress — not an analysis of rules that EPA is moving ahead with under its existing powers.

The claims are not sitting well with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the energy panel who co-authored the sweeping climate bill that passed the House in 2009 but stalled in the Senate.

He said it’s wrong to compare that 2009 bill to EPA’s greenhouse-gas rules that began phasing in earlier this year.

“It is laughable to claim that EPA’s modest energy-efficiency requirements for a small number of new power plants and other large facilities are identical to H.R. 2454, the comprehensive energy bill passed by the House in the last Congress,” Waxman said in a statement Wednesday.

That bill mandated steep emissions cuts, while EPA regulations lack binding reduction targets.

Republicans — including the office of House Speaker Boehner — are circulating press releases touting Upton's block-EPA bill that note, “Previous congressional efforts to regulate and put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions were estimated to increase the price of a gallon of gasoline by 19 cents in 2015 and 95 cents in 2050.”

They add that while estimates are not available “for the full cost of the litany of regulations being proposed and contemplated by the EPA,” greenhouse-gas rules are expected to impose greater costs.

According to a GOP Energy and Commerce Committee aide, the estimates of cap-and-trade’s effects are based on a study by the consulting firm CRA International, which was conducted for the National Black Chamber of Commerce. CRA has also done work for trade groups including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association.

House Energy and Commerce Committee GOP aides say it’s appropriate to extrapolate the effects of plant-specific regulation based on the study of the cap-and-trade bill, which would have instead created a market-based system of tradeable pollution permits.

“One of the larger concerns you have heard throughout this debate is that EPA actually did not do the economic analysis, so I think there is some missing information, but I think it is very clear that these regulations are designed to achieve the same ends as cap-and-trade,” a GOP committee aide said Tuesday.

Waxman, however, notes the comparisons are far from apples-to-apples.

“H.R. 2454 required an economy-wide 80 percent reduction in emissions, and oil companies were required to hold emission allowances for the gasoline they sold. Still, gasoline prices were only expected to increase less than 2 cents per year. EPA’s modest energy-efficiency requirements simply don’t apply to existing refineries that aren’t making major capital investments and increasing their pollution, and for the few facilities they cover, they may well produce cost savings," he said.

But the GOP aide said it’s “very fair” to assume the effects of regulation will be “the same if not worse,” while another GOP aide notes the cap-and-trade legislation contained provisions to hold down costs that are not available under EPA rules.

In addition to the greenhouse-gas permitting rules that EPA is beginning to phase in, the agency is planning to craft and implement other climate rules in future years, including emissions standards for power plants and refineries.

GOP aides are pointing to a 2009 comment by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson — back when cap-and-trade legislation was still alive — who was quoted by Hearst Newspapers stating that legislation would provide the “least costly” way to deal with carbon pollution.

But the claims about blocking EPA climate rules to prevent gasoline price hikes isn’t sitting well with EPA.

“Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is developing a standard for currently unchecked carbon pollution from the largest polluting smokestacks. This standard does not impact vehicles, and would have no impact on gasoline prices. EPA is working closely with stakeholders, including industry, to develop this standard, with nothing scheduled to be in place until 2012,” an EPA aide said.

Inslee, a member of the Energy and Power subcommittee that is voting on Upton’s bill Thursday, is honing his lines of attack.

“The number one economic development tool we have today to drive new technologies is the enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” Inslee said. “We have always had success with the Clean Air Act because our innovators have created new technologies. We should not give up that American tradition.”

NEWS BITES:

Hutchison, Landrieu introduce bill to extend oil leases

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced legislation Wednesday that would extend Gulf of Mexico exploratory leases by one year.

The lawmakers said the extension was necessary to make up for exploration time lost as a result of a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf and a slow-down in issuing shallow and deepwater permits.

“Though the moratoria have been lifted, there have been few permits issued,” Hutchison said in a statement. “We are trying to restore the time that energy producers lost during the moratoria, at no fault of their own.”

The moratorium, which was imposed last May shortly after the Gulf oil spill, was lifted in October. But Republicans have criticized the Interior Department for the slowdown in permits.

The Interior Department says it is working diligently to issue permits, but companies must prove they can contain well blowouts.

House Democrats to call for release of strategic oil reserves

House Democrats, citing rising oil and gasoline prices, will lay out a plan Thursday to tap into the country’s oil reserves.

The lawmakers will outline “a new strategy to deploy and enhance the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to provide short-term relief from high prices, and long-term security for the nation’s oil reserve,” according to an advisory.

Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) authored the plan.

It’s the latest effort by Democrats to call for tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a 727-million barrel emergency supply of oil. Obama administration officials have been cool to the proposal, and experts have said it is unnecessary and unwise to tap the reserve.

Boxer, public health officials to slam Republican spending bill

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and a slew of other Democrats will decry the potential adverse public health effects of a Republican spending bill that would slash the EPA's budget and prohibit funding for a series of energy and environmental regulations.

The lawmakers will be joined by officials from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association.

ON TAP THURSDAY:

Boehner, Upton, Hastings to talk gas prices
 
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is slated to hold a press conference Thursday on rising gas prices. He’ll be joined by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). The press conference comes as Republicans are using rising energy prices to intensify attacks on administration offshore drilling restrictions and other energy policies.

Jackson to testify on effect of EPA rules on farmers

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will testify Thursday before the House Agriculture Committee on the effect of the agency's regulations on agriculture. Republicans have raised concerns that the agency's pending regulations will pose a huge economic burden on farmers, but Jackson has said the effects will be minimal.

Senate Energy panel to consider lightbulb bill

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would roll back lightbulb-efficiency standards. For more, see Stephen Colbert's report on the issue.

Chamber to release energy report

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will release a report Thursday "that identifies the economic impact and jobs that could be created in 49 states if the regulatory red tape and permitting delays were removed from stalled energy projects."

AROUND THE WEB:

The Gulf oil spill: The Movie

The Guardian reports: "Hollywood has picked up the rights to a New York Times article published in December, Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours, which evoked the 'raw emotion' experienced by those on board prior to the explosion which caused the spill."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Here’s a quick roundup of Wednesday’s E2 stories:

- New Republicans signed on to a bill to block EPA climate regulations
- Lawmakers introduced a bill to end ethanol tax credits
- The White House and House Republicans butted heads over a federal report on U.S. oil production
- Democrats may not offer any amendments Thursday to the GOP bill to eliminate EPA’s climate authority
- A House Democrat is crafting a compromise bill to delay EPA climate rules
- And Sen. James Inhofe is ‘almost certain’ Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) will support his bill to block EPA climate rules

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

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