OVERNIGHT ENERGY: GOP scuttles Solyndra subpoena vote

NEWS BITES:

Anti-nuke groups file court challenge to planned Georgia reactors

A suite of groups that oppose nuclear power are asking a federal court to overturn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to approve utility giant Southern Co.’s plan to build two new reactors at a nuclear plant in Georgia.

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The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other groups say the NRC’s license for the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws.

Activists, in the challenges filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, are also asking the court to review the NRC’s approval of the design for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor that will be used in the project.

Opponents of the project say the NRC issued a license to build and operate the new reactors — the first time the NRC has approved construction of a new reactor since 1978 — without considering lessons learned from the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

“This is the exact approach the National Environmental Policy Act was designed to prevent,” said Mindy Goldstein, acting director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School, in a statement.

“Allowing construction of the new units to continue, without first assessing the implications of the Fukushima accident, could have significant and irreparable environmental and economic consequences,” she said.

But Southern Co. spokesman Steve Higginbottom told Reuters, “We are confident that the (NRC) fully complied with federal regulatory requirements in approving and issuing the license and see no cause to delay construction.”

Industry groups, Salazar spar over ‘fracking’

Five oil-and-gas industry trade groups are knocking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s suggestion that companies like the idea of national rules to govern the drilling method called hydraulic fracturing.

Interior is preparing to float rules imposing new requirements for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public lands.

“We, the undersigned organizations, want to explicitly state that our member companies support the current state processes for regulation of hydraulic fracturing,” said five trade groups, including the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance, in a letter to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.).

The letter comes after Salazar, at a committee hearing, touted plans for federal rules on chemical disclosure, wellbore integrity and wastewater management. 

He said that he has a responsibility to protect federal lands. But Salazar also noted that he has spoken to “many” people in the industry who say they would “rather have a standard that they can follow from state to state,” rather than having to deal with separate rules in different states.

“What I always hear from industry is that they don't like to deal with the patchwork of regulation,” Salazar said.

He defended the comments at a separate hearing Thursday before a House Appropriations Committee panel. 

Salazar said officials with many companies have communicated to him in meetings that they support efforts to have federal standards.

But the trade groups, in the letter, say they want to “dispel any suggestions that there is a need for a new federal framework to address the fracturing chemical disclosure issue or to develop a national well construction model.” They say state governments are better able to “tailor regulation to local demands.”

Dems praise Obama's new climate initiative

Democrats applauded a new Obama administration initiative to partner with other countries to reduce harmful “short-lived climate pollutants.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who came up short in his effort to pass sweeping climate legislation in 2010, said the move is a step toward tackling global warming even though Congress cannot make progress on the issue.

“It’s no secret that since ideologues took over the House, even the most serious and bipartisan Senate efforts to deal with climate change have been slowed,” Kerry said in a statement. “That’s why continued leadership from the Administration is so vital to make clear America is still in the game.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the new initiative shows the administration’s commitment to tackling climate change. 

“The leadership of the Obama Administration on behalf of our environment is good for our economy, good for our citizens, and good for the planet,” Pelosi said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Administration to continue to take strong action on behalf of our clean energy future.”

Read more about the initiative, which was announced Thursday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, here.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

— House passes GOP energy bill
— House votes to direct 80 percent of Deepwater Horizon fines to Gulf states
— House GOP cancels plans to subpoena WH officials over Solyndra
— Business groups launch legal, Capitol Hill attacks on EPA mercury rule
— Energy chief would be ‘very surprised’ if loan program lost $3 billion
— Inhofe to force vote on killing EPA's power plant mercury rule
— Head of GOP Solyndra probe rebuffs push for nuke loan inquiry
— White House begins gas ‘fracking’ rule review
— Payroll deal spares EPA boiler rules

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