OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Battle over coffee cups, light bulbs to hit House floor

Republicans have blasted a 2007 energy law requiring that traditional incandescent light bulbs become more energy efficient beginning in 2012. They say the law is an example of federal overreach, arguing that it disadvantages traditional light bulbs in favor of more efficient, but more expensive, CFLs.

Environmental and consumer advocacy groups note, however, that the light bulb efficiency standards do not ban traditional bulbs. They also point out that more efficient light bulbs save consumers money in the long run even if they are more expensive at the point of sale.

While a Republican-backed bill to repeal the law failed to garner enough votes for passage in the House earlier this month, lawmakers approved an amendment to Energy and Water spending legislation blocking funds for the light bulb efficiency standards in fiscal year 2012.

Thompson’s amendment rides the wave of conservative anger over the light bulb law.

He circulated a letter among House lawmakers Thursday in an effort to gain support for his amendment, arguing CFLs are dangerous because they contain small amounts of mercury.

“There are viable, cost-effective, American-made alternatives to the dangerous mercury filled CFL bulbs that are now prevalent in the Capitol complex,” the letter says.

Experts say that the mercury in CFL bulbs poses little health risk in the event that a bulb breaks. CFLs contain 1/100 of the mercury in a traditional thermometer. Here’s more on the issue from EPA.

While debate on the amendments could occur Thursday night, final votes are slated for Friday.


NEWS BITES:

Senate energy committee approves oil-and-gas bill: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ground to a halt Thursday during debate over offshore drilling-safety legislation.

But the panel did approve a separate bill that contains several measures related to oil development.

The bill, (S. 916) approved by voice vote, is a collection of several provisions from a massive, multi-issue energy bill the committee approved with a few GOP votes in 2009.

The measure requires an updated survey of oil and natural-gas resources beneath federal waters. It would also establish a new lease and permit processing office for offshore regions in Alaska, where lawmakers have complained about bureaucratic hurdles to development.



Elsewhere, the bill would nix an expansion of royalty waivers — called royalty relief — for offshore oil-and-gas production that was included in a sweeping 2005 energy law.

Another provision would boost to $30 billion the level of federal loan guarantees available for the long-planned — and long-delayed — pipeline to carry Alaskan natural gas to markets in the lower 48 states.

It's unclear, however, if the bill will surface on the Senate floor.

NRC task force to hold first public meeting: A federal task force that recommended sweeping changes to the country’s nuclear safety regulations will hold a meeting with stakeholders July 28 at Nuclear Regulatory Commission headquarters in Rockville, Md.

It’s the first of a slew of public meetings meant to gather input on the task force’s report.

The task force has been charged with reevaluating the country’s nuclear regulations in light of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has called on his fellow commissioners to review and make decisions on the task force’s recommendations within 90 days. But some of his fellow commissioners have objected to that schedule.

Study backs faster Gulf offshore drilling: A new study finds that speeding up federal approvals of offshore oil-and-gas drilling projects would provide an economic boost, results that will hand political ammunition to Republicans and some Democrats pressing for speedier Interior Department action on industry drilling proposals.

“Swift action to reduce the growing backlog of plans and increase the pace of plan and permit approvals to explore for oil and natural gas resources in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico would increase employment opportunities in almost every state, boost tax and royalty revenues for governments, and help stabilize U.S. energy security. And these benefits could materialize rapidly,” states the study by industry consulting firm IHS CERA.

The study looks at the effects of closing the “gap” between the oil industry’s investment capacity and the federal regulatory capacity that the authors say is lagging behind the industry's readiness to drill.

It notes that “alignment between the capacity to properly regulate oil and natural gas activities and the pace and scale of investment opportunities” would lead to an additional 230,000 jobs next year, a third of which would be outside the Gulf region.

Closing the “gap” would also add $44 billion to GDP and 400,000 barrels per day of U.S. oil production next year, according to the study. The Gulf Economic Survival Team, a group that’s pushing for faster permitting of offshore drilling projects, commissioned the study.

It charts the slowdown in exploration plan and drilling permit approvals in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  Since the formal deepwater moratorium ended in October, regulators are taking far longer to act on exploration and development plans, and drilling permit requests, compared to historical trends, the study says.

For instance, the study claims that the median amount of time exploration and development plans are pending before approval is 131 days, compared to the historical norm of 36 days.

The Interior Department has bolstered drilling-safety standards in the wake of the spill and is requiring oil companies to provide more information about their capacity to prevent and respond to spills.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

— Enviros: Don't block EU emissions trading for airlines
— White House threatens to veto Interior-EPA spending bill
— Landrieu weighs options after drilling-revenue push stalls
— Senators unveil bill to funnel oil-spill penalty money to Gulf
— Drill-safety bill stalls in revenue-sharing fight
— EPA issues final mountaintop mining guidance
— Coastal governors push revenue sharing ahead of markup
— Bloomberg gives $50M to anti-coal effort

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