OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House lawmakers to unveil bill delaying EPA boiler rule

The agency issued updated final regulations for boilers and solid waste incinerators in February under a court-ordered deadline. The final rules are more lenient than draft standards issued by the agency last year. Industry groups had blasted the draft regulations.

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Because the final regulations differed so much from the draft rules, EPA opened up a reconsideration process in which stakeholders can offer more comments on the standards. The agency will accept comments until mid-July.

But while EPA is mulling changes to the rule, critics of the boiler proposal say Congress should step in to ensure the regulation is addressed properly.

“I don’t believe it can be fixed by the Environmental Protection Agency without some congressional action,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said last week at a hearing on the Clean Air Act.

He questioned whether EPA has the legal authority to make needed changes to a key portion of the rule and whether the agency has the time to fix the rule, which was long delayed and promulgated under a court order.

NEWS BITES:

House to debate offshore drilling bill

The House will take up legislation Wednesday to speed up oil drilling off Alaska’s coast, the latest in a number of drilling bills that Republicans are shepherding through the chamber.

The GOP-led bill, which won five Democratic votes in the Energy and Commerce Committee, would set new deadlines for EPA action on offshore air permit applications, limit challenges and ease air pollution standards for offshore projects. (We’ve got more on the legislation here.)

The White House bashed the legislation Tuesday evening, alleging it would curtail federal power to ensure oil production proceeds safely.

Alaska’s bipartisan Senate delegation, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and roughly a dozen Republicans introduced a Senate companion measure several days ago.

The House has approved several bills in recent weeks aimed at speeding up offshore permitting and greatly expanding the areas where drilling is allowed, but they face long odds in the Senate.

New Jersey Senate Dems call for investigation of NRC

New Jersey Sens. Robert Menendez (D) and Frank Lautenberg (D) called Tuesday for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s role in overseeing the U.S. nuclear reactors.

The lawmakers called for the investigation after an Associated Press story found that the NRC has “repeatedly” weakened safety standards.

Here’s an excerpt from their letter to GAO:

"As you know, once the capital costs of constructing a nuclear power plant have been paid for, it is quite inexpensive to operate a nuclear power plant.  This means there is significant incentive within the industry to operate these plants as long as possible and therefore secure extensions to operating licenses.  It would be of grave concern to us if, in fact, aging power stations have achieved compliance with operating rules because of weakened NRC rules, rather than demonstrated compliance with existing standards."

House energy panel to move oil sands, coal ash bills

The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to mark up legislation Thursday aimed at accelerating a federal decision on a major pipeline to expand imports of crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) plans to bring the bill up for a House vote this summer.

Republicans call the proposed Keystone XL pipeline vital to expanding supplies from a friendly neighbor and creating jobs.

Democrats led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce panel, say it carries major environmental risks and could be a sop to companies including Koch Industries, which is helmed by billionaire brothers active in conservative politics.

The committee will also mark up a bill Thursday that would block EPA from regulating a byproduct of coal-burning power plants as a hazardous waste under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act.

Landrieu claims ‘potentially’ more than 60 votes for offshore revenue sharing

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Tuesday that she sees substantial political backing for providing coastal states a big chunk of leasing and royalty revenues that stem from oil-and-gas development in federal waters off their shores.

“I think there are a majority of members of the Senate, even potentially more than 60 ... that believe it is only fair for coastal states to have the same sort of partnership arrangement that interior states have, or at least something similar,” Landrieu told reporters in the Capitol. Sixty votes are needed to beat back Senate filibusters.

Landrieu said she will push to include revenue-sharing in any drilling safety or production legislation that moves through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) hopes to move a pair of oil-related bills through the panel. He opposes revenue-sharing (check out this story to learn why), while Landrieu calls it needed to help coastal states address the impact of energy development.

Louisiana and other Gulf of Mexico states, under a 2006 law, receive 37.5 percent of federal revenues from Gulf development. But most of it doesn’t kick-in until 2017, and Landrieu has pushed to speed it up while also promoting the idea for other states.

“I think we have a majority on the committee,” Landrieu said.

BlueGreen Alliance outlines 2012 budget priorities

The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, sent a letter Tuesday to House and Senate lawmakers outlining a slew of appropriations and budget priorities for fiscal 2012.

“Do we prioritize shared sacrifice and forward thinking measures for sustainable, economic growth, or blind trust in the free market to protect our environment and pull our nation out of the greatest recession since the Great Depression?” the group’s executive director, David Foster, said in the letter. “We strongly advocate for the former, and call for strategic investments in our clean energy economy, infrastructure and education.”

The group’s recommendations include slashing oil industry tax breaks, among other things. 

Read the letter here.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY:

  • House Natural Resources Committee’s National Parks Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Opportunities for Outdoor Recreation on Public Lands."
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco will testify before The House Science Committee on the agency’s climate service proposal.
  • Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and former national security adviser James Jones will speak on “diversifying America’s energy future” at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
  • Deputy Assistant Energy Secretary John Kelly will give the keynote address at the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council nuclear energy summit.
  • Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Bill Flores (R-Texas) will hold a briefing “to discuss current issues facing the American independent oil industry.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

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

- Gore says extreme weather shows need to take action on climate change
- Browner bemoans ‘writ large’ hostility toward EPA
- EPA extends comment period for proposed mercury rule
- CREW files ethics complaint against Vitter for 'bribery' of interior secretary
- Next-wave ethanol falls short in EPA's new 2012 fuel standards
- Commerce nominee defends energy, enviro record amid GOP criticism
- White House slams House drilling bill, but again no veto threat 

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

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