OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden, Dems push for repeal of oil tax breaks

Bingaman’s comments come a day after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama is keeping a potential release from the reserve on the table.

Bingaman, in a short interview with The Hill in the Capitol on Thursday, said OPEC’s decision Wednesday does not cause him to “second guess” his opposition to tapping the SPR. “The current high price of oil is not a result of a shortage of supply,” Bingaman said.

Report: Natural gas can play major role in addressing climate change

Natural gas can play a “very significant role” in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in the near term, a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology report says.

“Natural gas can make an important contribution to GHG reduction in coming decades, but investment in low-emission technologies, such as nuclear, CCS and renewables, should be actively pursued to ensure that a mitigation regime can be sustained in the longer term,” the report, from the MIT Energy Initiative, says.

The report recommends replacing coal-fired power plants with plants that run on natural gas, calling the move “the most practical near-term option for significantly reducing CO2 emissions from power generation.”

Gas creates fewer carbon emissions when burned for energy than coal or oil.

But the report calls for a full accounting of the emissions associated with natural gas. It follows an April paper by Cornell University professors that challenged the widely held view that gas is far more climate-friendly than coal, citing emissions of methane — a potent greenhouse gas 
from gas wells tapped through hydraulic fracturing.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department should "co-lead a new effort to review, and update as appropriate, the methane emission factors associated with natural gas production, transmission, storage and distribution," the MIT report states.

Salazar: Gas ‘fracking’ announcement coming soon

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will have something to say soon about whether he’ll seek new rules that would force energy companies to disclose the chemicals they’re using in the natural gas development method called hydraulic fracturing.

Salazar made waves late last year when he said Interior was mulling new requirements for companies drilling on public lands.

“We are working on our program on that and we will have an announcement on that some time in the near future,” Salazar told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

Salazar used the call to announce that Interior and EPA hope to allow thousands of new gas wells, accompanied by expanded air quality controls, in Utah's Uintah Basin.

Oil-and-gas group cheers plan to advance Utah gas drilling

Salazar and the oil-and-gas industry have exchanged tough words in recent years. For instance, early last year Salazar said the industry had been “kings of the world” in the Bush-era.

But the Independent Petroleum Association of America is cheering the Interior-EPA decision to allow Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to move ahead with a plan that could lead to 3,675 new gas wells in Utah’s Uintah Basin.

“This is a good example of how the federal agencies and independent oil and natural gas producers can collaborate to identify the proper solutions to address air quality control and other environmental concerns that arise with the production of natural resources on federal lands,” said IPAA CEO Barry Russell, who lauded the estimated thousands of jobs the project would create.

Obama’s energy tour rolls on to North Carolina

President Obama on Monday will tour the North Carolina manufacturing facilities of Cree, a company that specializes in energy-efficient lighting.

Obama has made a suite of appearances at companies specializing in green energy as he touts the sector – and federal plans to support it with expanded R&D funding and tax credits – as an engine of future growth.

“The president's going to North Carolina on Monday to visit a facility that creates energy-efficient LED lighting in the United States and that is one of those areas of the economy that we believe will help fuel economic growth in this country and create jobs,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.

Obama will also meet in Durham with his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Greens sue Interior over Shell’s Gulf drilling plan ...

A quartet of environmental groups is suing the Interior Department over its mid-May approval of a Royal Dutch Shell plan to drill exploratory wells in deep Gulf of Mexico waters.

The groups allege that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement’s approval of exploratory wells in over 7,000 feet of water violates laws including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed the suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The groups say the approval of Shell’s plan followed a “cursory” review that failed to fully consider the hazards laid bare by last year’s BP oil spill.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that is still impacting the Gulf and many lives along the coast cannot and should not be swept under the rug for oil company convenience and profit,” said Catherine Wannamaker, an attorney with SELC.

... and draw quick industry rebuke

The National Ocean Industries Association, an oil-and-gas trade group, bashed the lawsuit, noting it came a day after Exxon announced a major Gulf discovery.

“The last two days could hardly have provided a more stark contrast when it comes to America’s energy future. Yesterday, a major new discovery was announced in the Gulf of Mexico with the promise of new home grown oil and gas that would increase our energy security and provide jobs,” said NOIA President Randall Luthi.

“Today, we see a joint effort by several environmental groups to use the courts to prohibit oil and gas development in one of the only two offshore areas open in the United States for exploration and development,” he added.

Senate committee approves NRC nominee

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of William Ostendorff, a Republican, to remain a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ostendorff’s first NRC term began in April 2010 and is slated to expire June 30. Obama renominated him in April.

Nuclear industry forms panel to respond to Japan disaster

The nuclear industry said Thursday that it would form a committee to coordinate its response to Japan’s nuclear disaster.

The committee comes almost three months after an earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan leading to a partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade group, along with the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and the Electric Power Research Institute will form the Fukushima Response Steering Committee.

The committee will focus on a number of issues, including safety, “lessons learned” from the Fukushima disaster, coordinating with international organizations.

“The nuclear energy industry’s top priority is safety,” NEI Senior Vice President Tony Pietrangelo said in a statement. “We recognize that to maintain the highest standard of safety and security to ensure top performance at every U.S. nuclear energy facility, we must continually evolve and improve standards of practice, and adapt to events and new information that affect or have the potential to affect our industry.”

Here's more on the nuclear industry's plans to respond to the disaster.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth blasted the committee Thursday.

“This panel is like the tobacco industry convening a taskforce to create healthier cigarettes. It’s just laughable,” Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Project Director Damon Moglen said in a statement.


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

- McConnell says Obama's policies don't match job-creation rhetoric
- Gas additive could be politically thorny for Huntsman in NH
- Hastings floats bill aimed at expanding NPRA production
- Salazar says Interior, EPA coming together to speed gas projects
- AEP says it will close five coal plants to comply with EPA regs

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

Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia, @Ben_Geman