OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Chu comes back to the Hill

Republicans have pounced on Chu’s recent comments to allege that the administration wants higher gas prices, a claim both the Energy Department and the White House have strongly denied. (Read more about that debate here).


NEWS BITES:

Energy plans zoom into highway battle

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The Senate debate over transportation legislation could bring votes on several controversial energy measures.

Republicans and Democrats are negotiating an agreement on how to advance the stalled bill. The plan seems likely to include allowing a vote on a GOP leadership-backed amendment to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Aides say Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has prepared a separate amendment that would block exports of oil brought into the country through the proposed Alberta, Canada, to Texas pipeline.

The possibility of votes on the dueling Keystone amendments makes it likely that neither would get the 60 votes needed for passage.

Elsewhere, backers of a bill to provide billions of dollars in tax credits to promote use of natural-gas-powered heavy-duty trucks are seeking a vote on attaching it to the transportation bill, a Senate aide said.

Other plans swirling around include Sen. Susan Collins’s (R-Maine) proposal to delay and soften EPA rules for industrial boilers.

There was no agreement yet as E2 published this item, but keep watching this space for updates.

Former Shell scientist to head industry drilling-safety group

An industry-led group formed in the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill to promote offshore drilling safety named its new top executive Wednesday.

Charlie Williams, a former scientist at Shell, will become the executive director of the Center for Offshore Safety.

“We have assembled the best and the brightest minds to help ensure we develop America’s vast resources in the safest manner possible,” Williams said in a statement. “Our top priority is to develop practices and programs that will help operators perform at their very best in implementing safety and environmental management systems."

Here’s some background on Williams, via the center:

Williams joins the Center after 40 years with Shell, where he most recently held the title Chief Scientist Well Engineering and Production Technology since 2005. His work has included helping to develop high pressure, high temperature wells and specialized drilling and completion equipment for extreme environments such as deepwater. Williams currently chairs the Joint Industry Task Force on Subsea Containment, is on the Operating Committee of the Marine Well Containment Project, the Executive Board of the Marine Well Containment Company, and the Department of Interior’s Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee.

Greens lay out recommendations for Interior 'fracking' rules

A coalition of 60 environmental groups called on the Interior Department Wednesday to enure that upcoming regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” “properly manage the environmental and public health risks associated with oil and gas extraction.”

“The BLM has an opportunity to lead the country toward a future where the oil and gas production industry develops these resources more responsibly — in ways that reduce threats to public health and the environment and that respect the quality of life in local communities,” the groups wrote in a letter to Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey.

“Our organizations and our members eagerly await the formal proposal of the BLM’s new rules and hope they will reveal a new path toward safer and cleaner oil and gas operations.”

Interior is developing rules to regulate fracking on public lands. The policy is expected to require disclosure of chemical ingredients used in the fracking process, as well as provisions on wellbore integrity and management of wastewater.

The green groups — which include the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and Environment America, among others — made a series of recommendations for the rules.

You can read them here.

Salazar, Vilsack to unveil conservation plan

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will on Thursday “announce new funding and spotlight the working lands wildlife conservation efforts taking root across the country,” an advisory states.

“As part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative, the administration is partnering with federal, state and local wildlife experts to jointly identify at-risk species that would benefit from targeted investments of habitat restoration on private lands,” it states.

Offshore drilling regulators to face Congress


The heads of the Interior Department’s offshore energy agencies will appear before a House Natural Resources Committee panel to discuss their fiscal year 2013 budget plans.

Expect some confrontation — the committee is heavy on GOP members who accuse the regulators of acting too slowly on offshore drilling permits.

The heads of the agencies — the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement — testified Wednesday before a House Appropriations Committee panel.

Their statements can be found here.

It’s one of several energy-related hearings Thursday. Energy Secretary Steven Chu will be the star attraction (see “State of play” section above).

But other hearings include a House Small Business Committee session titled “Powering Down: Are Government Regulations Impeding Small Energy Producers and Harming Energy Security?”


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

— Director of Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ tapped for pro-Obama documentary
— Rep. Stearns office denies opponent's bribery accusations
— Deal ensures Energy Department will recover majority of Beacon loan
— House approves bill easing hydropower development rules
— Obama makes swing-state energy push amid GOP attacks over high gas prices
— Jaczko: NRC might not meet deadline to impose nuke safety reforms
— Obama to push green cars in NC
— White House policies 'actually designed' to raise gas prices, says McConnell
— Reid suggests he will allow further amendment votes on highway bill
— Romney: Obama can’t ‘precisely set the price at the pump’ for gas

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

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