OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House mulls rules of engagement on climate battle

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the chairman of the energy panel’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, said Monday that he expects amendments “primarily from Democrats.”

“It’s not going to be a surprise,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told The Hill Monday. “It’s going to be the same thing that they ran in committee.”

The bill to block EPA climate rules cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month and is expected to easily pass the full House. But it faces huge Senate hurdles. Advocates of EPA emissions rules are scrambling to limit their losses when the House votes on the measure (more on that below).

NEWS BITES:

Senate climate votes: Deal or no deal?

While a House climate vote appears set, several senators noted Monday evening that it remains unclear whether the Senate will vote this week on the same measure to scuttle EPA’s greenhouse gas rules.

Senate GOP leaders want to attach the plan as an amendment to small-business legislation. But several planned votes on that greenhouse gas plan – and Democratic alternatives – have failed to materialize in recent weeks.

Sen. Mark Begich’s (D-Alaska) prediction? Sixty-forty in favor of votes happening. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who has sponsored an amendment to limit the scope of EPA’s rules without scuttling the agency’s power to regulate, offered a very cloudy outlook.

“Oh gosh. I do not know. I do not know. I do not know,” he told reporters in the Capitol about the prospect of a climate vote.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) reiterated that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised a vote on Rockefeller’s plan to delay EPA regulation of power plants and other facilities for two years. But he said the future of the entire small business bill is uncertain. “Will the small-business package remain? Will it be pulled? I don’t know at this point,” Rockefeller told reporters.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has been sparring procedurally with Reid as Coburn pushes for a vote on his proposal to strip ethanol industry tax breaks. Coburn said he believes he has an agreement with Reid that will allow votes to proceed. Reid’s office could not be reached for comment at press time.

Upton: EPA-blocking bill just "first legislative rung" of GOP energy agenda

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) released a first-quarter progress report Monday on the panel’s legislative efforts so far this Congress.

The report notes that efforts to block EPA climate regulations is just “the first legislative rung” of the committee’s agenda.

From the report: “Over the course of the 112th Congress, the committee will begin to reshape how America deals with energy issues. We are conducting a hearing series on the American Energy Initiative to identify barriers to American energy production and explore what steps can be taken to increase domestic energy production. Increased domestic energy sources will bring down prices, create good-paying American jobs, and make our nation more secure and energy independent. Transforming America’s energy future will require a thorough review of current policies and agencies to determine what works and what is holding us back.”

Salazar working toward U.S.-Mexico drilling safety agreement

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is working with Mexican officials to develop a single set of safety standards for offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Salazar was in Mexico City Monday meeting with officials on the issue. He said he hopes to develop “one gold standard” based on beefed-up safety standards put in place by the United States in the aftermath of last year’s Gulf oil spill.

The co-chairmen of the national oil spill commission have called for coordination among the countries that drill in the Gulf.

“There’s every reason now to have a common standard of safety and environmental protection,” spill commission co-chairman William Reilly told reporters Monday on a conference call.

“What happens in the national waters of one country will have an effect on another,” Bob Graham, the other spill commission co-chairman added.

The Interior Department announced Monday that it will hold a ministerial meeting in Washington on April 14 about offshore drilling safety.

“Ministers and senior officials from 13 countries and the European Union, along with representatives from industry, academia, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), have been invited to attend the Ministerial Forum,” the Interior Department said. 

Obama takes energy road show to Indiana

President Obama will travel to Indianapolis Friday as part of a White House push to sell Obama’s energy “blueprint,” which calls for sharply cutting oil imports through expanded use of advanced vehicles and fuels, greater efficiency and other steps.

Obama will tour the company Allison Transmission, where he’ll promote use of vehicles that require less fossil fuel.

“Allison Transmission is a leader in hybrid technology and the world’s largest manufacturer of fully automatic transmissions for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, tactical military vehicles and hybrid-propulsion systems. In June 2010, Allison announced the dedication of a new hybrid facility, which once fully operational, will have the capacity to produce 20,000 commercial-duty hybrid propulsion systems each year,” the White House said.

Vehicle efficiency and “clean” electricity are a major White House political focus of late.

Obama is touring a wind energy facility on Wednesday in addition to Friday’s trip – both appearances that follow last week’s major speech and visit to a UPS plant to tout a national “clean fleets” partnership.

Democrats call on Boehner to reject Upton EPA-blocking bill


More than 150 House Democrats called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to reject legislation expected to come up for a floor vote this week that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

“We write to urge you to support the Clean Air Act, which is one of America’s great bipartisan pieces of legislation,” the letter says. “The law has led to unprecedented environmental and public health strides, while at the same time our economy has more than tripled.”

The legislation, authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), would eliminate EPA’s climate authority.

The bill is expected to come up for a floor vote this week in the House, where it is expected to pass easily.

But opponents of the bill note that the amount of signatories on the letter shows that House Republicans do not have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto of the legislation.

And efforts to hold down the vote total are coming from off Capitol Hill, too. The BlueGreen Alliance — a coalition of unions and environmental groups — circulated a letter to House members Monday urging them to oppose the bill, alleging it will undercut vehicle efficiency and emissions standards (Upton disputes the notion that the measure could hinder existing standards which apply to model years 2012 to 2016).

"The effect of Upton’s bill will be to block EPA’s clean car standards and raise Americans’ gasoline bills," states the letter from the BlueGreen Alliance, which includes the Sierra Club, the United Steelworkers, the United Autoworkers and other groups.

Companion legislation in the Senate authored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has been attached as an amendment to a small-business bill. The amendment as well as several alternatives offered by Democrats that would limit rather than eliminate EPA’s authority were supposed to get floor votes last week. But the votes were delayed.

The amendment, offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could come up for a vote this week, but the timing is very much in flux.

Senate Dems call for tough vehicle fuel rules, worry that truck standards will fall short

A largely Democratic coalition of 18 senators are urging EPA and the Transportation Department to think big when they set the next round of joint vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas rules.

The agencies are working on car and light trick standards for model years 2017-2025, and are also crafting first-time standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

“As your agencies establish two more sets of harmonized standards – one regulating the fuel efficiency and pollution of cars, pick-up trucks, and SUVs from 2017 to 2025 and the other establishing the first-ever standards for medium and heavy duty trucks – we write to encourage you to set standards that increase consumer information, reduce pollution, and save money for American families,” states the letter to the agencies from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and others.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) is the lone Republican on the letter.

The lawmakers express concern in the detailed letter that the truck rules under development will not be aggressive enough.

ON TAP TUESDAY:

Here are a few highlights from the energy-related events around town . . .

House energy battles: This time, it’s onshore

There is criticism aplenty from Republicans over White House offshore drilling policies, but a House Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday will get into GOP claims that the Obama administration is thwarting onshore energy development.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will examine the White House’s fiscal 2012 budget plans and proposals for the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, specifically how they would affect “Private Sector Job Creation, Domestic Energy and Minerals Production and Deficit Reduction.”

EPA forum on plan to delay climate rules for bio-energy


EPA will hold a public hearing on plans announced in January to delay application of greenhouse-gas permitting rules to power plants and other facilities that use biomass for energy.

 The decision to delay permitting for three years comes amid pressure from the forest industry and some Capitol Hill lawmakers who are fearful that applying emissions rules to biomass would stymie the market for the energy source.

EPA said it will use the time to gather more scientific analysis about how to account for biomass emissions and then craft a rule about how the emissions should be addressed when determining whether facilities need permits.

Murkowski to talk renewables

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a featured speaker at the National Hydropower Association’s annual conference in D.C.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

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

-The majority of the public thinks U.S. nuclear reactors are safe

-The Interior Department stressed that there is no deal with BP on resuming Gulf drilling

-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar blasted Transocean for doling out bonuses based in part on the company’s safety record

-Senior Democrats raised questions about whether Transocean employees’ work schedules contributed to last year’s oil spill

-Senate Republicans raised the specter of a gas tax

-The United Auto Workers said a bill to block EPA climate rules could hobble the administration’s fuel-economy standards

-An administration source said BP has submitted one permit application to resume drilling in the Gulf

-The Transportation Department unveiled a pipeline safety plan

-And Transocean said its comments about its safety record were “insensitive”


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