OVERNIGHT ENERGY: GOP smells blood in the water over EPA official's comments

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NEWS BITES:

EPA chief to meet with university students

Speaking of the EPA, Administrator Lisa Jackson is meeting with American University students and faculty on Friday morning.

They will “discuss EPA’s work to protect the health of the American people and strengthen our economy by keeping our environment clean,” an advisory states.

Senate panel clears energy nominees

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday approved four of President Obama’s nominees to fill key energy-related positions in the administration — but not without some opposition from Republicans, who took aim at Marcilynn Burke, Obama's nominee to be the Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for lands and minerals.

Every Republican on the panel voted against Burke, who is currently serving in the position on an acting basis.

“I have concerns about Ms. Burke’s nomination from a number of standpoints, including her role in the proposed OSM-BLM consolidation and her involvement in litigation interfering in the wildlife management decisions of Alaska,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said, referring to proposals to alter some Office of Surface Mining functions.

“These concerns, and others, have caused me to oppose her nomination.”

Robert Dillon, Murkowski’s spokesman, said the lawmaker was “undecided” on whether she will put on a hold on the nomination. Dillon said other lawmakers are also considering a hold.

The panel unanimously approved Anthony Clark’s nomination to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Commissioner John Norris’s re-nomination to the agency also passed, but with some opposition from Republicans.

The committee approved by voice vote the nomination of Deutsche Bank economist Adam Sieminski to head the Energy Information Administration, the federal agency that analyzes oil-and-gas production, among other things.

Report: SEC probing Chesapeake Energy CEO’s financial perk

Reuters has the latest on the financial dealing of Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of natural-gas giant Chesapeake Energy. From their piece:

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an informal inquiry into Chesapeake Energy Corp's controversial program that granted Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon a share in each of the natural gas producer's wells, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

That inquiry, being led by the SEC's office in Fort Worth, Texas, comes after Reuters reported about loans McClendon had obtained on those wells that raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest by the company's CEO.

Green groups ramp up campaign against palm oil

As E2 reported recently, the palm oil industry is battling EPA’s finding that palm-based biofuels don’t provide big enough climate benefits to qualify under the national Renewable Fuels Standard.

On Thursday environmental organizations put pressure on EPA from the other direction, arguing that biofuels made with palm oil are actually much worse than traditional fossil fuels from a climate standpoint.

Several groups, in statements Thursday, said the “lifecycle” greenhouse gas emissions from palm-oil-based biodiesel are far greater than emissions from conventional diesel fuel.

EPA, in a January analysis, estimated that two types of palm-oil-based diesel fuels had greenhouse gas emissions that were 11 percent and 17 percent lower than traditional diesel – not enough to meet the 20-percent-lower standard for the fuels mandate.

Even that’s far too optimistic, environmentalists say. In joint comments being submitted to EPA, they say the agency is low-balling the emissions for several reasons, such as underestimating the extent to which palm oil plantation expansions are occurring on peat lands in Indonesia and Malaysia.

“We expect that a more accurate analysis will demonstrate that emissions from palm oil based diesel biofuels as produced today and in the foreseeable future are higher than fossil fuels,” state the comments from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the World Wildlife Fund, the Clean Air Task Force, the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Sierra Club battles natural-gas export plan

The Associated Press reports on the tussle over plans to export natural gas from a Maryland facility. From their piece:

The Sierra Club said Thursday it will try to block an energy company's plan to export liquefied natural gas to find new markets for the drilling boom that has flooded the Mid-Atlantic with natural gas.

Virginia-based Dominion Resources Inc. is seeking to export 1 billion cubic feet per day through a terminal it owns in Maryland. A previous legal settlement dating to the 1970s gives the Sierra Club the ability to reject any significant changes to the purpose or footprint of the existing natural gas terminal in Cove Point, Md., 60 miles southeast of Washington.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

- GOP pounces on EPA official's remarks
- Koch-backed group takes aim at Obama green-energy policies with $6.1M ad buy
- Utility president warns of natural-gas price volatility
- GOP lawmaker says EPA comments 'enviro-fascism at its worst'
- GOP boosts pipeline pressure on Senate
- EPA official apologizes after comparing his work to crucifixion
- Group plans lawsuit to force SEC oil disclosure rules
- EU climate chief ‘curious’ to see Obama’s plan

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

Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia, @Ben_Geman

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