OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Exxon pipeline official faces Congress

Pruessing will tell members of the committee that Exxon Mobil takes "full responsibility" for the spill.

"We deeply regret that this incident occurred, and are steadfastly committed to not only complete the cleanup, but also to build the learnings from this incident into our future operations," Pruessing says in his prepared remarks, adding that the company has not yet determined the "precise cause" of the spill.

But Pruessing says Exxon Mobil "met all regulatory requirements" and notified officials in accordance with federal regulations.

In addition to Pruessing, lawmakers will hear from the country’s top pipeline regulator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. National Wildlife Federation Senior Scientist Douglas Inkley will also testify at the hearing.

Other committees are also looking into pipeline safety.

Pruessing and Quarterman will testify Friday in front of a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Energy and Power Subcommittee will hear testimony on draft pipeline safety legislation.

NEWS BITES:

Senate Energy panel gets back to business

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will mark up of a slew of energy bills Thursday morning.

The committee’s shortlist includes 30 bills, many of which are related to federal lands. But the shortlist also includes a bill to promote electric and alternative vehicles; a bill to encourage energy efficiency in commercials and residential buildings; and legislation requiring the Energy Department to demonstrate two small modular reactor designs, among other things.

Offshore drilling safety legislation that top lawmakers on the panel are working on did not make the list.

"Its turn on the mark-up dance floor will come later," committee spokesman Bill Wicker said.

House challenges mountaintop mining restrictions

House Republicans and some Democrats are moving on multiple fronts to thwart EPA environmental restrictions on controversial mountaintop removal mining projects in Appalachia.

A panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing Thursday titled “EPA's Appalachian Energy Permitorium: Job Killer Or Job Creator?”

The session will feature testimony from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), several mining industry officials, and EPA’s top water-quality official.

And the House passed legislation Wednesday, which is backed by the mining industry, that weakens federal Clean Water Act powers over states.

Chu applauds defeat of bulb bill

Energy Secretary Steven Chu applauded House lawmakers for rejecting legislation Tuesday night that would have repealed a series of light bulb efficiency standards.

Here’s what Chu said on his Facebook page Wednesday:

"Yesterday, the House defeated a measure to repeal commonsense energy saving standards for lighting -- standards President Bush enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support. The standards do not eliminate incandescent light bulbs -- but they will make them more efficient and save you money. I applaud the Democrats and Republicans who voted to protect $6 billion in electricity savings for America's families."

But the author of the bill repealing the light bulb standards vowed to bring up the legislation again.

“The issue is too important to let it go away,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said in a statement. “If we don’t repeal this de facto ban before January, the power will be cut to the traditional, affordable, reliable incandescent light bulb and Americans will have to fork over at minimum five times more to buy bulbs for their homes.”

The bill failed to get the two-thirds majority required. But the vote count – 233-193 – indicates that it could pass the chamber on a normal majority vote.

House panel approves renewable energy bills

The House Natural Resources Committee approved a quartet of bills Wednesday aimed at speeding up renewable energy projects on federal lands and offshore.

The measures aim to cut down and streamline what many Republicans call burdensome environmental review requirements and permitting timelines. For instance one of the bills would limit National Environmental Policy Act reviews to proposed project sites, not alternative locations.

“The current burdensome regulatory system discourages interest in renewable energy production on public lands and devalues the original multiuse purpose of these lands,” Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in a statement, adding the measures will foster “an atmosphere of increased renewable energy production on federal lands and waters by removing bureaucratic government obstacles and red-tape.”

The bills passed along party lines, with only one or two Democrats supporting them.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the panel’s top Democrat, bashed the bills. His office said they won’t increase development of wind, solar or geothermal projects, but instead “promote more litigation and fewer alternatives provided by the current review system, potentially leading to more rejections of renewable projects, not more application approvals.”

The panel also passed a bill aimed at speeding up oil-and-gas drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Union of Concernced Scientists unveils nuclear recommendations

On the same day that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission task force called for sweeping new rules at the country’s nuclear power plants, the Union of Concerned Scientists made some recommendations of its own.

The nuclear watchdog group raised concerns about U.S. nuclear reactor safety, pointing to lessons learned from the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

“Fukushima should shake the Nuclear Regulatory Commission out of its complacency,” David Lochbaum, director of UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project, said in a statement. “There are a number of actions the agency can and should take to make U.S. nuclear plants safer. They can start with our recommendations, many of which we’ve been making for years.”

UCS called for new rules to ensure that nuclear power plants can deal with severe or extreme weather of natural disasters, as well as extending emergency planning zones around existing reactors and imposing stricter standards for spent-fuel storage.

Waxman knocks GOP plan for energy loan subpoena

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is attacking GOP plans to subpoena the White House for documents related to its oversight of an Energy Department loan guarantee for a California solar power company.

An Energy and Commerce Committee panel will vote Thursday on authorizing the subpoena of the Office of Management and Budget. Waxman, the top Democrat on the committee, said the committee’s GOP leadership is “acting rashly.”

“OMB has been working in good faith to meet the legitimate oversight needs of the Committee.  It is an abuse to use subpoena authority for a fishing expedition,” he said.

Click here for more coverage of the planned subpoena.

ON TAP THURSDAY:

In addition to the action noted above, watch for these events Thursday ...

Senate panel to review small reactors

A Senate Appropriations Committee panel will host a senior Energy Department official and a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review the “Safety and Economics of Light Water Small Modular Reactors.”

Event to explore peak oil, enrgy security concerns

The Congressional Peak Oil Caucus will host a Capitol Hill briefing on America’s oil dependence. More info here.

EPA, Energy Department to tout Energy Star initiative


Officials from both agencies will make an announcement about the Energy Star efficiency labeling program they jointly administrator.

Energy spending debate rolls on

The House is slated to continue debating GOP-crafted spending legislation that would slash funding for Energy Department green energy programs, among other cuts.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

- House votes to limit EPA's say over state water standards

- House accepts GOP amendment to water bill, rejects most from Dems

- Some Dems supporting GOP's clean water bill

- House Democrats renew battle against foam in cafeteria 

- Nuclear industry calls for stakeholder review of task force's report

- Interior drilling chief weighs broad new rules, mum on post-October future

- House approves rule for bill limiting EPA's authority over states

- Energy Department offers $730 million loan to Michigan auto company

- House Republicans plan White House subpoena over solar loan guarantee


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