OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Drilling safety showdown arrives

Thursday's Big Story: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will finally debate offshore drilling-safety legislation, and close votes are expected on a planned amendment to share offshore oil-and-gas drilling revenues with coastal states.


Down to the wire: Lawmakers and aides are expecting a nail-biter on Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) plan that provides coastal states a significant share of royalties and other money from energy development in federal waters.

Landrieu — whose amendment is backed by committee ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — has broadened her plan to provides states money from fledgling offshore renewable energy development, not just oil and gas.

It’s a bid for support from senators from coastal states where oil-and-gas drilling probably isn’t in the offing. But Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is a longstanding opponent of revenue-sharing.

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Click here, here, here and here for plenty of our earlier coverage of the revenue battle, including the case for and against Landrieu’s proposal.

Wyden in play: Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters Wednesday evening that he’s in negotiations about the proposal. “We are all going to be at this until very, very late tonight,” he said in the Capitol.

“I intend to work very closely with Sen. [Mary] Landrieu [D-La.] and Chairman [Jeff] Bingaman [D-N.M.]. My hope is we can find something that is good policy and can pick up bipartisan support,” Wyden said.

Landrieu hopes Obama administration will come around: Her amendment suffered a political setback Tuesday evening when a White House official came out against its addition to the offshore drilling-safety bill.

But Landrieu told reporters Wednesday that she’s hopeful the White House opposition isn’t unwavering. “We haven’t received anything in writing so I am going to reserve comment until I do,” Landrieu said in the Capitol.

“I had a conversation just a few minutes ago with [Interior Secretary] Ken Salazar and he indicated to me that he fully understands the situation with coastal states and wants to continue to keep an open dialogue,” she said. “I want to keep an open dialogue with this administration.”

Landrieu said talks with colleagues on the amendment are ongoing.

Barrasso to offer Section 526, Virginia drilling amendments: Look for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to try to attach language to the bill that would repeal a 2007 law that blocks the military from purchasing alternative fuels that have higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum fuels.

Bingaman and the military’s political leadership are working against efforts to scuttle Section 526 of the 2007 energy law, but Barrasso has Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in his corner. Look for another close vote, and see E2’s coverage here, here and here for more.

Barrasso also plans to offer an amendment on behalf of Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) that would require oil-and-gas leasing off Virginia’s coast, which both the state’s senators support.

Greens say amendments would politically cripple drilling-safety bill: A coalition of major environmental groups is urging senators not to adopt what they call “weakening” amendments to the bill on revenue-sharing, repealing Section 526, expanding Arctic drilling or other issues.

“These amendments are bad policy, would keep the U.S. dependent on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and blunt our nation’s transition to a clean energy future,” states the Wednesday letter from 13 groups including the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and others.

The letter notes that the underlying safety bill — S. 917 — is bipartisan, “common-sense” legislation and that the amendments would “cripple the bill politically.”

“It is highly unlikely that the Senate would schedule a floor vote on an amended and weakened version of the Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act,” states the letter obtained by E2.


NEWS BITES:

House Republicans criticize Interior nominee: About three-dozen House Republicans are raising concerns about a Fish and Wildlife Services nominee, arguing that her involvement with two major conservation groups presents a conflict of interest.

The lawmakers flagged their concerns in a letter Wednesday to the top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works and Senate Energy and Natural Resources committees.

Rebecca Wodder — who has been nominated to serve as assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior — might not be able to make impartial decisions because of her past history at the Wilderness Society and American Rivers, the lawmakers say.

“As you consider President Obama’s nomination of Ms. Rebecca Wodder as Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, we respectfully write to let you know of our serious concerns with her record as the head of American Rivers, a single-purpose interest group focused on litigating against the federal government and removing economically important infrastructure,” the letter says. “We seriously question whether she could adequately represent broader and more balanced interests at the federal level, especially at a fragile economic time with national unemployment exceeding nine percent.”

DOE: Chu has 'consistently' talked about climate change: The Energy Department maintained Wednesday that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has "consistently" talked about climate and energy issues and will continue to do so.

The comments are a response to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) urging Chu to conduct a national climate-change education campaign.

Here’s a statement from DOE spokesman Damien LaVera:

"Secretary Chu appreciates Congressman Waxman's letter and has spoken consistently about the risks posed by climate change as well as the importance of leading the way in the 21st century clean energy economy, and supporting the technologies and jobs that come with it. He agrees on the need to continue that discussion and looks forward to doing so."

EPA weighs in on boiler legislation: The Environmental Protection Agency responded Wednesday evening to bipartisan Senate legislation aimed at delaying and reworking the agency’s air pollution rules for industrial boilers.

Here’s a statement from EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan:

“The Agency agrees that new safeguards to reduce harmful air pollution must be feasible, flexible and cost effective. That's why EPA has taken a number of steps to give the public additional opportunity to comment to ensure that the final standard will be informed by input and feedback from key stakeholders, including the public, industry, and public health experts.  This input has already resulted in dramatic cuts in the cost of implementation, while maintaining public health benefits — including the prevention of 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, 4,100 heart attacks and 42,000 asthma attacks per year.  As we have made clear, EPA is considering additional modifications to the rule and plans to propose a formal reconsideration by the end of October 2011, and take final action on the rule by April 30, 2012.”

House panel approves critical mineral bill: The House Natural Resources Committee approved by voice vote Wednesday a bill requiring the Interior Department to conduct an inventory of the country’s critical minerals, which are essential components of renewable and defense technology, among other things.

“It is imperative that we identify the roadblocks to meeting our national minerals needs so that we can become less dependent on foreign supplies, increase our national security, and create more American jobs by securing our manufacturing industry and revitalizing our economy,” committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in a statement.

Former congressman joins EDF: The Environmental Defense Fund has hired former Rep. Andrew Maguire (D-N.J.) to focus on public health issues associated with chemicals.

Maguire, a three-term congressman who later became an official at the World Resources Institute and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, will be EDF’s vice president for health.

"Andy Maguire personifies EDF's mission to use the best science, smart economics and creative policy to solve our biggest environmental problems. He has spent his career finding the ways that work in the middle of the most pressing national and international health challenges," EDF President Fred Krupp said in a statement.


ON TAP THURSDAY:

Pipeline safety in focus: A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will hold a hearing on pipeline safety legislation.

Forum explores Japan’s post-quake energy policy:
The U.S.-Japan Research Institute will host an event with several experts titled “The Great East Japan Earthquake: Lessons for Japan’s Energy Policy, Infrastructure Development, and Media Coverage.”

Senate Ag committee vets CFTC nominee: The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Mark Wetjen to be a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Senate environment committee looks at transportation: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on matters related to the reauthorization of sweeping transportation policy legislation.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

— Barrasso revives battle against SEC climate risk disclosure
— Judge thwarts BP bid for White House emails
— Bipartisan Senate bill would delay, alter EPA boiler rule
— Senators float bill to prevent vacancies on nuke commission
— BP wants Carol Browner’s spill-response emails
— Pipeline safety chief defends agency amid spills
— Bill to block European Union from requiring US airlines to trade emissions filed
— Waxman calls for national climate-change-education push
— House looks to force administration's hand on Canadian oil-pipeline decision

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