By Andrew Restuccia and Ben Geman - 02/27/12 10:54 PM EST
State of play: The Obama administration’s top energy and environmental officials will take to Capitol Hill Tuesday to defend the president’s budget.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson get things started with 10 a.m. testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively.
At 2 p.m., Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
While all of three of the hearings focus on President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request (read more about that here and here), expect lawmakers to delve into a slew of other issues.
Salazar will be asked about the Obama administration’s record on domestic oil-and-gas drilling as well as pending regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public lands.
Jackson will get questions — and criticisms — regarding EPA’s pending climate regulations.
Chu will face the latest round of criticism from Republicans over the Energy Department’s loan program.
Schumer strikes back at Saudi letter critics
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is knocking Republicans who are knocking his push for expanded Saudi Arabian oil production.
“This is inane,” spokesman Brian Fallon said of the GOP attacks Monday. “Nothing proposed by Senate Republicans would bring as much immediate relief at the pump as a commitment by the Saudis to step up exports.”
Schumer is pressing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to in turn press the Saudis to boost production amid high prices, noting the kingdom is producing well below its 12.5 million barrels-per-day peak capacity.
Senate Republicans went after Schumer and the Democrats as a whole Monday, calling the letter a sign that Democrats are weak on supporting North American energy development and jobs.
More here and here.
State Department has ‘hope’ for faster Keystone review
The big Keystone XL pipeline news Monday is that TransCanada Corp., with the White House’s blessing, plans to build the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the project.
Separately, the company is re-applying to the State Department for permission to construct the segments that would bring oil sands from Alberta, Canada, across the border into the United States, which the Obama administration rejected in January.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday the department hopes to be able to act quickly on the application, but made no promises.
“The hope is that it could be more expeditious, because we can make use of the work that we've already done, but we still have to do this right, and we still have to provide ... an opportunity for input from all of the folks who we are mandated to allow to have an opinion,” she said at the daily State Department press briefing, according to a transcript. “So we will await the application and see what we can do.”
TransCanada hopes for expedited approval, but Nuland noted that the department must launch a whole new review.
“We will make use of the work that we have already done to the degree that it is applicable to the new application, so that that work would not have to be done again, things that we did to evaluate the environmental impact of parts of the pipeline,” she said.
“But we're obviously going to have to evaluate a new application based on what's in it, and do the necessary work on pieces that are new, but also do a full consultation, as we've had to do with the states involved again, and with the eight agencies of the U.S. government that have to weigh in,” she said.
TransCanada first applied for the cross-border permit in 2008.
Labor-enviro groups seeks to salvage green-energy incentives
The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of unions and environmental groups, is calling on lawmakers to extend a suite of tax credits for green power projects, efficient cars and other incentives.
The group, in a letter Monday, urges lawmakers to “incorporate vital clean economy tax provisions into the tax extender package currently being discussed. “
The group wants extension of production tax credits for wind projects slated to lapse at year’s end; new funding for a tax credit program that supports manufacture of clean energy components; extension of expired credits for efficient new homes; extended credits for hybrid and electric trucks; and other incentives.
“The clean economy already employs over 2.5 million workers. It has the potential to employ many, many more with family sustaining careers, but only if we provide the necessary support to keep our domestic industries competitive,” states the letter from BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster, which backs nearly a dozen separate green energy and efficiency programs.
The group includes the Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Communications Workers of America, the National Wildlife Federal, the United Autoworkers and other green groups and unions.
Bingaman’s ‘clean energy standard’ ready for launch
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) plans to unveil his long-awaited “clean energy standard” (CES) toward the end of the week, a spokesman said.
A CES would require power companies to supply increasing amounts of the nation’s electricity from carbon-free (or at least lower-carbon) sources such as renewables, nuclear and natural gas over time.
President Obama has pitched the CES in his last two State of the Union speeches, calling for 80 percent of the nation’s power to come from clean sources by 2035. The measure faces massive hurdles on Capitol Hill, but could nonetheless provide Democrats a rallying point to counter GOP energy plans.
Mining, nuclear industries challenge Interior Grand Canyon mining ban
The National Mining Association filed a lawsuit Monday aimed at overturning an Interior Department ban on new uranium mining on 1 million acres of federal land near the Grand Canyon.
NMA said in documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona Monday that the 20-year ban is unconstitutional. The Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry’s trade group, joined NMA in the lawsuit.
Various conservation groups said they would intervene in support of the administration’s ban. They include the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and Sierra Club. The groups will be represented by Earthjustice and the Western Mining Action Project.
“Uranium mining threatens the air, life-giving water and wildlife of the Grand Canyon area,” said Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski in a statement. “We’ll be there in court to help defend the reasonable protections that limit that damage.”
Read more about Interior’s uranium mining ban here.
ON TAP TUESDAY:
Cabinet officials to face Congress
The heads of the Interior and Energy Departments and Environmental Protection Agency will fan out across Capitol Hill Tuesday to defend the White House budget plan.
Chu, Gates, to speak at ‘innovation’ summit
The Energy Department’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit will be in full swing Tuesday with speakers including Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Microsoft founder and green-energy advocate Bill Gates.
ARPA-E, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, is the Energy Department’s branch that backs so-called high-risk, high-reward research into breakthrough technologies.
Click here for more.
Climate rule showdown in court
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hold the first of two days of arguments Tuesday over various facets of EPA’s climate change regulations — including the “endangerment finding” that provides the legal underpinning for EPA’s regime.
The two-day showdown pits several industry groups, such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and some states, against the Obama administration and a number of states that back the rules.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT ...
Here's a quick roundup of E2's stories from Monday and the weekend:
— Santorum blames 2008 mortgage crisis on $4-per-gallon gas
— White House gives blessing to partial Keystone XL construction
— Senate GOP slams Schumer’s push for Saudis to ramp up oil production
— Rep. Hoyer skeptical on tapping petroleum reserve
— TransCanada Corp. to begin construction of Keystone pipeline
— EPA: Greenhouse gas permits won’t target smaller sources
— Buffett: Higher gas prices won’t derail economic recovery
— O’Malley uses 'moon colonies' to mock Gingrich gas plan
— Gov. Daniels: Obama administration 'wanted higher gas prices'
— Sen. Schumer tells Clinton to pressure Saudi Arabia to pump more oil
— Seven things to watch for in the political debate over rising gas prices