OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior lays groundwork to approve Shell’s Arctic drilling plan

The Obama administration, facing GOP attacks on its energy policies, is seeking to show it’s supportive of drilling on federal offshore leases.

But the president’s environmental base remains bitterly opposed to allowing drilling in the Arctic seas — a harsh, remote region that’s home to polar bears, bowhead and beluga whales and other fragile species.

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Shell, which is pledging robust safety measures, has received a series of federal sign-offs in recent months. But Shell has not yet received final drilling permits from Interior.

Watson, in a statement Wednesday, touted Interior's efforts to ensure Shell's equipment and procedures are up to snuff. “BSEE engineers and inspectors will conduct careful and thorough reviews to ensure our standards for safety and preparedness are met before any drilling is approved,” Watson said.

“If Shell meets the standards, BSEE professionals will ensure that any drilling activities comply with the most rigorous safety and oversight program ever deployed. Over the coming days and weeks, our team will be implementing and overseeing a rigorous schedule of tests, inspections, and exercises to ensure that safety is front and center every step of the way,” he said.



NEWS BITES:

Obama campaign touts support for Ohio project

President Obama’s Energy Department on Wednesday announced agreements to provide federal aid for an Ohio uranium enrichment plant that has faced financial headwinds.

The Associated Press has more here on the $350 million agreement — 80 percent of which is slated to come from DOE — to test and demonstrate the American Centrifuge Plant’s enrichment technology.

On the political side, Obama’s Chicago-based reelection campaign wasted no time touting the deal with USEC, Inc. that aids a project in Ohio, which happens to be a vital swing state.

The campaign circulated a slew of press clips along with this message: 

Today the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy and USEC Inc. signed a set of agreements that will spur research and development in Piketon, Ohio, helping support 1,000 jobs associated with the project, and another 4,000 jobs throughout the state. The deal will strengthen U.S. national security, ensure strong protections for taxpayers, and help pave the path to economic security for the local workforce.

Senate panel explores green-energy competition with China

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will gather Thursday for a hearing on “competitiveness and collaboration” between the United States and China on green energy.

The competition part has taken center stage of late amid an escalating trade battle between the nations over green-energy equipment.

Report: Shale gas drilling will boost jobs nationwide

The Houston Chronicle
looks at an industry-backed report that finds the U.S. natural-gas boom — which is enabled largely by the growth of hydraulic fracturing — can create jobs in dozens of states.

From their piece:

The shale gas boom will account for nearly 1.5 million new jobs by 2015, employing hundreds of thousands of workers across 48 states even as some companies are currently cutting back on production, according to a study released today by research and analysis firm IHS Global Insight.

Soaring investment in unconventional gas production accounted for 1 million jobs in 2010 and will continue to have an effect on the national economy, contributing $192 billion to U.S. gross domestic product by 2015, according to IHS Global Insight. That total will increase to $332 billion by 2035, according to the report.

Green groups to Senate: Don’t roll back water protections in farm bill

Eight environmental groups are circulating a letter to senators warning against mostly GOP amendments to the farm bill that the groups say would dangerously scale back water quality protections.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this week that Republicans hope to use the bill to undo what they consider burdensome federal regulations.

Green groups are worried about proposed amendments including Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) plan to limit the regulatory scope of the Clean Water Act.

“The provision is poorly drafted and confusing, except in its clear goal of excluding many streams, rivers, wetlands and other waters from pollution limits under the Clean Water Act,” states the letter from groups including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Environment America, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others.

They also don’t like amendments that would restrict the application of the Clean Water Act with respect to pesticide applications.

“These amendments remove all Clean Water Act protections for pesticides that are sprayed directly into streams, rivers, lakes, and other waters that are point source discharges,” the June 13 letter states, later adding, “These amendments only serve to protect big pesticide companies who want to sell more of their toxic products.”

The farm bill is currently on the Senate floor.



IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:


If you didn’t read E2-Wire today, we covered a Senate clash over nuclear power regulation, charges of McCarthyism at the same hearing on nuclear power, and upcoming House votes to exempt the Department of Homeland Security from environmental laws.


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

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