OVERNIGHT ENERGY: One year after Japan disaster, nuke chief heads to the Hill

Peter Lyons, the head of the Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy, will also testify at Wednesday’s hearing. His testimony will focus on the Energy Department’s budget for nuclear power.


NEWS BITES:

SEC closing in oil transparency rule

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Schapiro said her agency hopes to soon finalize long-delayed rules that will force oil and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

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She told a House Appropriations Committee panel Tuesday that the regulation should be completed “shortly,” and later clarified that it should be done by the middle of the year.

The regulation has prompted a battle between human-rights groups calling for tough rules and oil companies, who say the regulation required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law could create competitive harm.

The battle has also drawn in several prominent Capitol Hill lawmakers, Bill Gates and George Soros. More on that here, here and here.

GM doesn’t support Heartland Institute on climate change

General Motors is distancing itself from the climate change views of the Heartland Institute, a free-market group that rejects the mainstream scientific view that human activities are driving global warming.

Internal documents recently hacked from Heartland, a group that works on an array of issues, showed GM among its donors, although GM notes that the money from its foundation wasn’t for Heartland’s climate work. 

Michael J. Robinson, GM's vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, said in a statement to E2 that “We do not support the Heartland Institute’s position on climate change.”

Forecast the Facts, a group that aims to ensure TV weather reporting addresses climate change, has launched a petition drive calling on GM to pull funding from Heartland entirely.

“Supporting the Heartland Institute stands in direct contradiction to GM’s public stance on climate change and its effort to reinvent itself around cars like the ChevyVolt,” said Daniel Souweine, Forecast the Facts campaign director, in a statement this week. “When taxpayers bailed out GM, this is not where they were expecting their money to go.”

Here's GM's Robinson: “The donation through GM Foundation was designated to general funds not specifically toward climate related matters.” The Heartland documents showed a $15,000 GM Foundation donation in 2011.

Robinson touted GM’s work to lower its carbon footprint. “GM is leading the auto industry's transformation in the showroom with the Chevrolet Volt and at our factories, many of which are landfill-free and powered by alternative energy,” he said.

Robinson added that the GM Foundation works with and funds groups that “strongly support the science behind climate change,” such as Ceres, the World Environment Center and Global Green.

As for future financial support for Heartland or other groups, he noted that past support does not guarantee future donations and that “we carefully review each request annually.”

Enviros launch million-dollar, swing-state ad buy to back EPA rules

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council are launching a seven-figure TV ad buy Wednesday that aims to boost support for upcoming Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas standards for power plants.

The ads seek to counter congressional efforts to block the regulations, which are under attack from Republicans and some conservative Democrats. EPA plans to propose the rules in draft form soon.

They can be seen here and here.

The 30-second ads, which link pollution controls to children’s health, will appear in 12 major markets in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, the groups said.

“Updating air quality protections will allow the EPA to focus on the industries that create the lion’s share of the nation’s carbon pollution and will also help reduce life-threatening air pollutants like dirty soot, toxic mercury and the smog that triggers asthma attacks,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, in a statement about the ads.

Gas prices drop slightly

The Associated Press reports that gas prices dropped Tuesday after 28 days of increasing.

More from AP:

"The nationwide average for regular unleaded slipped less than a penny to $3.764 per gallon. That ended a streak of price hikes that began on Feb. 8. Pump prices rose by more than 28 cents per gallon in that period, making gasoline the most expensive ever for this time of year."

TransCanada details Keystone timeline

AP also reports that Keystone XL developer TransCanada Corp. hopes to begin building the southern portion of the pipeline by mid-summer.

Here’s AP:

"A Canadian company that wants to build a 1,700-mile oil pipeline through the U.S. heartland to the Texas Gulf Coast will be ready within weeks to submit plans for a new route that avoids the environmentally sensitive Nebraska Sandhills region, a TransCanada executive said Tuesday.

"TransCanada also plans to begin construction on the pipeline’s southern tier from Cushing, Okla., to Texas by late spring or early summer, said Alex Pourbaix, president of TransCanada’s energy and oil pipelines division."

TransCanada announced plans last month to move forward with the Cushing, Okla., to Texas potion of the pipeline, and the White House endorsed the plan.

President Obama had rejected a key permit that would have allowed the pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border earlier this year. He said the decision was not based on the merits of the project, but instead on an “arbitrary,” GOP-backed deadline included in a two-month payroll tax cut extension deal.

Chu traveling to Texas

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will travel to Austin, Texas, Wednesday to encourage industry groups to use the Energy Department’s supercomputers to design new products.

Some background from the Energy Department:

“Through the National Laboratories, the Department of Energy operates several of the fastest, most powerful supercomputers in the world and allows industry to utilize its facilities and expertise to design everything from advanced nuclear reactors to more efficient automobile engines.”

Administration officials to defend enviro, energy agency budget plans

Wednesday will bring several more hearings that feature high-level Obama administration officials defending the White House budget plan.

See "State of play" above for a look at what’s at stake when Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko appears before lawmakers.

Beyond that hearing, the Interior Department’s offshore energy regulators will appear before a House Appropriations Committee panel to discuss fiscal 2013 budget plans that would boost funding for drilling oversight.

Elsewhere, the House Natural Resources Committee will convene a hearing on the budget plan for the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Senate Commerce Committee will review the budget proposal for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

— Report faults federal agency in deadly W.Va. mine accident
— Reid says he’d allow Keystone pipeline vote
— Obama dismisses GOP claims that he wants higher gas prices
— McConnell pushes for votes on Keystone pipeline, EPA rule
— Watchdog group: Feds aren't doing enough to protect US nuclear plants
— Boehner says House could take up the Senate’s highway bill
— Senior Republican predicts voters won’t buy Gingrich’s $2.50 gas pledge

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Andrew Restuccia, arestuccia@thehill.com.

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