OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA remains sticking point in talks

State of Play: Capitol Hill talks to avoid a partial government shutdown after Friday are coming down to the wire, and environmental riders are among the sticking points.

On Thursday evening, the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats and Republicans had not reached a deal on a six-month spending package.

Republican proposals to block funding for EPA climate rules and other policies have been among the fault lines. Other contentious GOP policy riders include blocking funding for Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a top strategist for Senate Democrats, warned Thursday afternoon that reaching a deal to avert a government shutdown is near “impossible” unless Republicans drop policy riders from a funding bill.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the policy issues were standing in the way of an agreement. “We are very close on the cuts and how we make them. The only things — I repeat, the only things — holding up an agreement are women’s health and clean air,” Reid said.

But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) disagreed Thursday.

The Speaker rejected Reid’s claim that a dispute over abortion and environmental regulations — and not the level of spending cuts — was the only obstacle to an agreement.
 
“There’s far more than one provision that’s holding up any agreement, I can tell you that,” Boehner said as he defended the policy restrictions that House Republicans are demanding.

Reid and Boehner, at press time, were scheduled to head to the White House for talks with President Obama at 7 p.m. this evening. Stay tuned.

NEWS BITES

Breaking down the House EPA vote

The bill to block Environmental Protection Agency climate regulations, which passed the House Thursday, won the support of 19 Democrats.

Here’s a list: Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Mark Critz (Pa.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Terri Sewell (Ala.).

No Republicans voted against the bill. But four lawmakers didn’t vote at all. They were Reps. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.), Michael Burgess (Texas), Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.) and Don Young (Alaska).

Notably, Burgess is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is a strong opponent of EPA climate regulations.

DoE can avoid shutdown furloughs for 'a limited time'

Energy Secretary Steven Chu sent a memo to all Energy Department employees Wednesday warning of a possible shutdown.

But Chu had some good news. He said DoE has appropriations set aside that would allow the department to operate at full capacity for “a limited time.”

"[U]nlike most other federal agencies, the Department has no-year appropriations. This would allow us to continue operating for a limited time,” the memo, obtained by The Hill, says. “Therefore, if a new funding bill is not enacted Friday, all DOE Federal employees are still expected to report to work as usual on their next scheduled work day.”

But Chu warned that furlough could be in the cards for some DoE employees if a shutdown lasts beyond early next week.

“Should it become necessary to implement our contingency plans, you will receive formal notice from your manager regarding the designation of your position and furlough status,” the memo says. “Again, we want to emphasize that it will not be necessary to furlough any Department Federal employees early next week as a consequence of the expiration of the current continuing resolution at midnight April 8, 2011.”

Heads of other federal agencies have been sending similar memos. Read about the Interior Department’s memo here and here.

Interior issues ninth Gulf deepwater permit


Amid all of the hubbub over GOP legislation to block EPA climate rules, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued the ninth Gulf deepwater permit for the type of project that was halted in the aftermath of last year’s Gulf oil spill.

The permit went to Murphy Exploration & Production Company for a well in 3,325 feet of water about 170 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

The Interior Department issued beefed-up safety standards after last year’s massive oil spill. Companies have had to show that they can contain a runaway well, among other requirements.

“We will continue to review and approve permits that satisfy our more rigorous safety and environmental standards and that demonstrate the necessary containment capabilities,” BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich said in a statement.

But Republicans are still bashing the Interior Department for what they argue is a too-slow approach to new drilling.

Aftershock knocks Japanese nuke plants offline


A massive aftershock in Japan cut power to two nuclear plants in the country and to part of a third plant, according to The New York Times.

Here's the Times:

"Two other nuclear facilities — a fuel reprocessing plant at Rokkasho and a nuclear power plant at Higashidori, both in northern Aomori Prefecture — were running on emergency diesel generators after their external power supplies were knocked out by the aftershock.

"A third site, the Onagawa nuclear power station in Miyagi Prefecture, lost two of its three external power systems. All three facilities have been shut down since the March 11 quake, but power is needed to keep the nuclear fuel cool."

Meanwhile, workers had to evacuate the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant because of the aftershock.

Again, the Times:

"Workers at the Fukushima plant were told to take cover until the tsunami warning was lifted, but Japanese officials said at a news conference that water was being automatically pumped into three damaged reactors in the crucial effort to keep their nuclear fuel cool. The plant’s cooling systems were knocked out by last month’s quake and tsunami, and there was no immediate word of whether there was new damage to the plant, according to its operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company."

ON TAP FRIDAY

Here are some of the notable energy-related events around town ...

Vilsack to make ‘national renewable energy announcement’


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a conference call with reporters to make a “national renewable energy infrastructure announcement,” an advisory states.

“The Secretary will host the call from Gilbarco Veeder-Root, a flexible pump manufacturing plant in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he will be highlighting the administration’s commitment to building a cleaner, safer, and more secure energy economy,” an advisory states.

Interior official to talk climate change

Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes is a keynote speaker at the American Law Institute-American Bar Association conference on “Global Warming: Climate Change and the Law.”


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Here’s a quick roundup of E2’s Thursday stories.

— Coal-state lawmakers floated a bill to prevent rules governing waste disposal
— Republicans touted two key figures from Wednesday’s Senate votes on amendments to block or limit EPA climate rules
— A major aftershock hit Japan
— Health groups attacked Republicans over EPA riders to spending legislation
— Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) expressed hope for a deal on blocking EPA climate rules
— Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said lawmakers will be getting a lot of pressure from industry to support the GOP bill to block EPA climate regulations

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

Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post included an incorrect roll call of the Democrats who voted "yes" in the House EPA vote.