OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry approaching Keystone with blank slate

KEYSTONE XL: While Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime environmental advocate, made clear during a Senate hearing that he is approaching the coming decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline "tabula rasa," congressional lawmakers took a different route on Thursday.

During a separate hearing senators on both sides of the aisle cornered witnesses into taking a side on the science behind climate change, which President Obama has said would factor into the final decision on the oil-sands pipeline.
 

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Still, after hearing testimony, senators left with their preconceived beliefs on whether climate change is a fact intact.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said while the hearing "may not result in an agreement" on the national interest of Keystone XL, he hoped it would help establish "more agreed upon facts."

But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) took former NASA scientist James Hansen to task on whether the globe is warming, only to end the yelling match by stating he still believed the science was not concrete on climate change.

Menendez as well pressed U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Karen Harbert four times to answer if she believed climate change was real and if it was caused by humans, to which she said it was an ongoing debate.

E2-Wire has other news from the hearing here.

BP GETS ITS GROVE BACK: The Environmental Protection Agency is back in business with the oil giant after ending the company's 16-month suspension from receiving federal contracts.

The suspension, imposed in 2012 after BP pleaded guilty to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, came to an end with a five year agreement between the company and EPA.

E2-Wire has more details here.

ON TAP FRIDAY: Illinois Democrats Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley, joined by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J), will hold a press conference on Friday to again voice their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

The lawmakers will send a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry detailing why the pipeline is not in the nation's interest to construct, mainly due to environmental impacts, an advisory states.

NEWS BITES:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) bashed some of his Republican colleagues for trying to tie natural gas exports to the Ukraine aid bill before the Senate.

On the Senate floor Thursday evening, McCain said he is in favor of getting liquified natural gas to Ukraine and the surrounding region but that it isn't realistic and won't "happen for months or years."

Speaking of Ukraine... Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is traveling to the country and will make energy a key part of his visit.

“Building a strong energy relationship with Ukraine and the European Union costs us nothing and benefits everyone,” Hoeven said. “It opens new markets for the U.S., creates jobs, grows our economy and strengthens Europe. Similarly, a strong trade relationship with Ukraine can help to stabilize their country and strengthen Europe by orienting Ukraine toward the West, rather than continue its dependency on Russia.”


AROUND THE WEB:

The New York Times reports utilities are falling short when it comes to preparedness of the power grid for online and physical attacks.

Shell is planning to cut its spending and staff for oil and gas field operations in the U.S., the Houston Chronicle reports, mainly due to disappointing shale gas developments.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out the stories that ran on E2-Wire on Thursday...

- Obama asks lawmakers to 'do even more' on conservation
- Private water rights bill clears House
- BP back in business with feds
- Markey wants Keystone oil to stay in US
- Kerry says he hasn't prejudged Keystone
- House GOP launches probe into EPA rule

Please send tips and comments to Laura Barron-Lopez, laurab@thehill.com.