OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate goes nuclear this week and next

State of play: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will spend a few hours Thursday tackling nuclear waste — a problem that has vexed policymakers for much longer. Decades longer.

The committee will delve into the report issued by a White House-created panel tasked with breaking the longstanding impasse over how to handle waste that’s piling up at the nation’s nuclear plants.

The January report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future calls for development of consolidated interim storage sites to handle waste that’s piling up at the nation’s power reactors; revived efforts to develop one or more permanent geologic disposal sites; and a new federally chartered body to take control of the issue away from the Energy Department.

The subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hear from witnesses including Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser who co-chaired the Blue Ribbon Commission.

The hearing arrives amid the ongoing stalemate over the long-planned, long-delayed project to permanently store high-level waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

The Obama administration is seeking to abandon the Yucca plan, but many Republicans want to revive the project and force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to continue its review.

And next week ...

The Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a June 13 hearing on two White House nominees to the Nuclear Regularatoy Commission: Allison Macfarlane, whom President Obama has tapped to replace Greg Jaczko, the NRC’s outgoing Democratic chairman, and Kristine Svinicki, a Republican who has been nominated for a second term on the NRC.


Keystone pipeline: Down to the wire?

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) expects that a decision about whether to include approval of the Keystone oil pipeline in a final House-Senate transportation bill will come very late in the game.

“A couple of those things lurking out there, that might not be agreed to until 30 minutes before the agreement is done,” Boozman told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday. “That is the tendency of those kinds of things.”

Boozman sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Both panels oversee pieces of the surface transportation funding bill.

The House-approved version of the bill would authorize the proposed Alberta-to-Texas pipeline, while the Senate version omits it. Republicans have been pushing hard for the provision and a plan to prevent tough federal regulation of coal ash, a waste product from power plants.

But Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a member of the House-Senate team trying to hammer out a bill, suggested the push for the measures could be easing a bit. “I think those have receded a little bit. I can’t prove that, I sense it,” he tells E2. “They don’t seem to have quite the firepower that they used to.”

House energy panel to move bills

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will mark up a pair of bills Thursday, including a measure that shields power companies from liability under certain conditions.

Under the bill, when a power is plant is operating during an Energy Department-declared emergency directive to provide power, “it will not be considered in violation of environmental laws or regulations, or subject to civil or criminal liability or citizen suits, as a result of its actions to comply with the Federal emergency order,” according to a summary of the bill.

The plan is aimed at resolving what critics of EPA rules say could be a collision between power reliability and adherence with air pollution regulations.

Republicans press EPA on Armendariz no-show

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans are wondering whether EPA had anything to do with the 11th-hour decision by Al Armendariz, the former EPA regional official know famous for his "crucify" remarks, to bail out of testifying before a committee panel on Wednesday.

Armendariz, who resigned in late April, is in the GOP’s cross-hairs for his 2010 remarks comparing environmental law enforcement to crucifixion.

“It is kind of like how the Romans used to conquer the villages in the Mediterranean — they’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. Then that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.” Read more about that here.

An EPA spokeswoman said earlier Wednesday that EPA “did not advise him on whether or not to testify.”

But Republicans, in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday, ask whether she or anyone else at EPA had “any communications” with Armendariz about the GOP invitation to appear before the panel.

The letter also seeks other documents that might exist about communication between EPA and the White House about his (now-aborted) appearance before the committee, and any communications between EPA and outside parties.

They also wrote to Armendariz asking why he bailed and whether he had any communications with EPA or the White House about the appearance. Check out the letters here.


Check out these stories that ran on E2-Wire Wednesday ...

— House approves $32 billion Energy and Water spending bill
— House Republicans tie jobs push to new energy plan
— Republican: GOP unlikely to force appearance from official of 'crucify' fame
— LaHood, Senate committee hammer 'lousy' EU airline emission trading rules
— House gives another $10M to NRC to keep Yucca Mountain review open

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

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