OVERNIGHT ENERGY: NRC chief faces Congress

Yucca is the long-planned -- and long-delayed -- nuclear waste repository in Nevada that the Obama administration decided not to pursue.

Though the report says Jaczko broke no laws, it alleges that he “strategically” misled his fellow commissioners about his intentions to close out work on the NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain license application and a multipart report on the repository.

It also says Jaczko was difficult to work with and made a habit of designating issues as administrative matters, which he has control over, rather than policy matters.

The hearing could provide for some awkward interactions between Jaczko and the commissioners. Many of the commissioners were critical of Jaczko’s decisions in the report.

Thursday’s hearing comes two days after House Republicans examined the inspector general report at a hearing of their own, bashing Jaczko and accusing him of “outright malfeasance.” One House Republican even called on Jaczko to resign.

But the hearing is ultimately aimed at nuclear safety. In the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear disaster, the Obama administration launched a two-part review of the country’s nuclear fleet.

Jaczko and President Obama have both stressed that U.S. reactors are safe and can adequately withstand major earthquakes and tsunamis. But Democrats including committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have raised concerns about nuclear safety. Expect Boxer to press Jaczko on the issue tomorrow.

The NRC is 60 days into its initial 90-day short-term review of the country’s reactors. After the initial review is finished, the agency will launch a longer-term review aimed at identifying necessary regulatory changes.

In a statement Wednesday, Jaczko said it is too early to discuss the NRC’s potential recommendations because the agency has not yet completed the review.


House energy panel to vote on coal ash bill

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will likely approve legislation Thursday that would prevent tough federal rules governing disposal of a waste product from coal-fired power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is mulling proposals for regulating the common byproduct — called coal combustion residuals, or coal ash — under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

But a number of coal-state lawmakers from both parties want to prevent EPA from regulating the materials under the hazardous waste title of the statute. Lawmakers including Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), a top Energy and Commerce Committee member, are pushing legislation to nullify that option.

We wrote more about the bill – and the case for and against it – here.

Sanders unveils bill to force CFTC chief to impose position limits

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation Wednesday to force the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to impose new limits on investors in oil markets aimed at curbing “excessive” speculation.

Reducing speculation is an important step toward getting high oil and gas prices under control, Sanders said.

“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to lower gas prices so that they reflect the fundamentals of supply and demand and bring needed relief to the American people,” Sanders said in a statement Wednesday.

The bill requires that the CFTC chairman to within two weeks impose position limits “in any registered entity on or through which crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, or heating oil futures or swaps are traded …”

Position limits are caps on the number of futures contracts that a market player may hold.

Senate Democrats have ramped up pressure on CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler in recent months to impose the position limits.

The CFTC proposed reworked limits in January based on provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that required the commission to implement aggregate position limits on energy commodities. But the CFTC has yet to finalize the rules even though the Wall Street reform law called for their completion within 180 days of enactment.

Sanders and other liberal Democrats met with Gensler in the Capitol last month to discuss the issue. The lawmakers blasted Gensler after the meeting, saying he did not show a sense of urgency about issuing the final position-limits rule.

Gensler has said the CFTC needs time to analyze more than 12,000 comments that have been filed on the rule before finalizing it.

Original co-sponsors of Sanders’s bill include Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) will introduce companion legislation in the House, Sanders’s office said.


House panel to vet bill boosting Alaskan drilling

A panel of the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on legislation to speed up oil drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The bill – sponsored by committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) – would require annual lease sales in the reserve, which Obama has also pledged.

But the plan goes further by setting deadlines for permitting pipeline and road construction, among other provisions.

Witnesses will include officials from the Interior Department and Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources.

Energy panel probes pipeline safety

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will hear from the federal government’s top pipeline safety official and others at a hearing on safety matters.

The hearing comes amid a push by TransCanada Corp. to win federal approval for a new line that would expand imports of crude from Canada’s oil sands projects.

But critics of the proposal are pointing to recent leaks at an existing TransCanada pipeline. The company is ramping up efforts to defend its record and the proposed Keystone XL line.

Bingaman to headline energy efficiency forum

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) will speak at an energy efficiency forum hosted by Johnson Controls and the U.S. Energy Association. The event will be webcast. More here.

White House energy official, lawmakers to talk renewables

A major renewable energy forum on Capitol Hill will include remarks by White House energy and climate adviser Heather Zichal and several lawmakers. More here.


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

- House panel moves to force White House oil pipeline decision
- Alexander: EPA boiler rule can’t be fixed without Congress
- EPA chief knocks utility giant’s ‘scare tactics’
- Appropriators approve 2012 energy bill
- Gore lauds Romney on climate position
- Democrats: 'Dam is officially broken' for GOP on taxes
- Amid criticism, TransCanada says proposed pipeline is safe

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

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