By Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia - 05/03/11 12:24 AM EDT
On the House side, the drilling bills will create opportunities to seek votes on amendments or, absent a chance, a “motion to recommit” that effectively would force members on record.
Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) – the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee – predicted efforts would focus on removing incentives for the major integrated oil companies, a select group that includes Exxon, Shell, BP and other giants.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said about the possibility of votes on tax breaks this week when Republicans bring up offshore drilling bills.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who is active on energy issues, similarly predicted such efforts.
“The goal is not just to jam folks with a motion to recommit or try to, it is to save taxpayer dollars and there are real questions – what sense does it make to give a trillion-dollar-profit industry more money out of the taxpayers’ pocket,” he said in the Capitol Monday.
Across the Capitol, top Democrats are crafting a tax subsidy repeal measure and plan to seek a vote in this work period. The measures face huge hurdles in both chambers – especially the GOP-led House.
But votes could nonetheless be a barometer for how big a political opening the combination of high gas prices and high industry profits will provide the White House and Democrats, who have failed in attempts in recent years to nix industry tax breaks.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) was one of seven Democrats to vote against Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) amendment in February that would have repealed several industry tax incentives to fund the cost of repealing the 1099 reporting provision from the healthcare law.
But Pryor said Monday that his vote on an upcoming effort would depend on the specifics. “It all depends on how it is structured and what we are doing. Put me down in the undecided category,” he said in the Capitol.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), however, isn’t budging from her opposition. Landrieu said Monday she would oppose an effort even if it was only targeted at the major producers, claiming it is wrong to single out one industry.
Gas price update: Gas prices neared $4 per gallon Monday. According
to AAA, the average price of gasoline in the United States is
$3.95 (and it's already well above $4 in some regions).
When/if — and it looks a like a "when" — average nationwide gas prices hit $4 a gallon, expect a fresh flurry of statements from Democrats and Republicans on the need to do something. The truth is though, there's very little U.S. policymakers can do to lower gas prices, according to energy analysts.
talked climate change in 2010
He was never sought after as a spokesman for the climate change movement. But now-deceased mass murderer Osama bin Laden waded into the issue last year with a message that attacked the U.S. and other big economies over their responsibility for global warming.
Interior official claims power over offshore contractors
A few weeks ago the Interior Department was unsure whether – absent congressional action – its oversight powers could be extended beyond oil-and-gas companies to various contractors working on offshore drilling projects.
Not anymore. Here’s Michael Bromwich, the agency’s top offshore regulator, at a conference in Houston on Monday:
“We have completed our review of the issue and have concluded that in fact we have broad legal authority over all activities relating to offshore leases, whether it engaged in by lessees, operators, or contractors. We can exercise such authority as we deem appropriate,” he said, according to prepared remarks.
But The Houston Chronicle reports that Bromwich suggested to reporters on the sidelines of the conference that the wider power would be used sparingly – he cast it as the ability to step in when conduct is “egregious.”
Interior reducing size of potential offshore wind leasing area off Massachusetts coast
The Interior Department is reducing the size of an area off the coast of Massachusetts available for offshore wind leasing after local fishermen and the governor’s office raised concerns about the impact of large wind farms in the region.
Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) said Monday it received 250 comments on a December 2010 request meant to gauge interest in expanding offshore wind development off the coast of Massachusetts.
“We have heard significant concerns from the people of Massachusetts and we have acted on those concerns,” Bromwich, BOEMRE director, said in a statement. “BOEMRE is committed to continuing the public engagement process as we look to identify the potential areas for offshore energy development in the federal waters south of Massachusetts.”
Despite the stakeholder comments, BOEMRE says 10 companies have
submitted 11 proposals to drill off the Massachusetts coast.
But the comments reflect the broader roadblocks – "Not in My Backyard" concerns, for example – facing offshore wind development, one of the Obama administration’s energy policy priorities.
These roadblocks led to years of delays for Massachusetts’s proposed Cape Wind project. Along the way, stakeholders raised concerns about the project’s impact on Native American rituals, fishing and tourism, among other things.
Cape Wind has recently secured its final approvals. If the project is completed on time, Cape Wind would be the country’s first offshore wind project.
ON TAP TUESDAY:
Senate panel ponders green bank
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear from the head of the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program and other experts about congressional proposals to create a “clean energy deployment administration” – an idea that also goes by the catchier name “green bank.”
It would be a federal corporation tasked with offering a suite of financing options for advanced energy projects that face hurdles attracting private capital.
Climate ‘wealth’ conference gets rolling
The Carbon War Room’s “Creating Climate Wealth” conference begins in Washington on Tuesday with a range of corporate speakers and other experts and an evening appearance by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...
Here's a quick roundup of E2's Monday stories:
-We gave you a preview of the week's energy agenda (hint: oil/gas prices and oil subsidies will dominate the debate)
-GOP governors called for more input from the states on offshore drilling
-The Interior Department is mulling a plan that would allow more remote monitoring of offshore oil-and-gas rigs
-Human rights and anti-poverty groups said European countries would mandate oil industry disclosure of payments to foreign governments
- Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said a repeal of oil industry tax breaks will depend on the White House
Note: This post was published at 8:24 p.m. on May 2, not 6:24 p.m.