OVERNIGHT ENERGY: The next battle over climate rules, highway bill talks at fever pitch, and more

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Rockefeller said that even if there’s a deal, lawmakers could need to vote through a short extension of the current authorization beyond June 30, given the time needed to dot the i’s.

“We may have to get an extension of a week or so because you have to write everything up,” said Rockefeller, who also said lawmakers are seeking to come to an agreement as soon as late Monday night.

Of particular interest to E2 readers is the fate of House provisions, which Senate Republicans want too, that would provide a federal cross-border permit for the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. Rockefeller said Keystone is “probably not in it.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who is also on the House-Senate conference committee, said the prospects for reaching a deal appear fluid. “I have heard 'good' and I have heard 'slow down,' ” she told reporters in the Capitol Monday.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, appeared confident about the talks — and kept details close to the vest.

“I feel very optimistic that we are going to be able to perform a miracle here,” he said Monday.

“Staff has done a great job in getting everyone together and ironing out some of the difficult points, and I think we can see the light at the end of this tunnel,” he said.

The next climate fight: Midnight will bring the deadline for public comments on EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants, and the agency is getting an earful.

Something to watch will be environmentalists pressing the agency to take up the next fight over greenhouse gases even as they cheer the current proposal. The EPA comment docket shows green groups pressing the agency to begin crafting rules to address greenhouse gases from the existing fleet of power plants, notably scores of coal-fired plants.

“NWF applauds EPA for taking this much needed step to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants, and urges the Agency to take the next step of limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants as soon as possible,” states the National Wildlife Federation in comments filed with EPA.

Environmentalists delivered what they claim are more than 2 million comments they gathered from supporters of carbon rules for new plants. In a joint statement lauding that support, groups also called for standards for current plants.

“[O]ur expectations have been exceeded by the unprecedented support demonstrated by the more than 2 million comments from Americans who support EPA’s historic standard to curb dangerous industrial carbon pollution from new power plants while urging EPA to move forward with a strong standard for existing power plants,” states the joint statement from roughly three dozen groups, including Environment America, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, the Environmental Defense Fund and others.

EPA’s proposal to set carbon standards for new plants — which essentially rule out new coal plants unless the emissions are captured — notes that rules for current power plants are envisioned at some point.

But the agency, already facing election-year attacks, has avoided weighing in on when that might happen, with top officials emphasizing — carefully — that they have no plans currently in the works.

“We have no plans to address existing plants and in the future, if we were to propose a standard, it would be informed by an extensive public process with all the stakeholders involved,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in late March.

E2 will be watching appearances later this week on Capitol Hill by Jackson and her top air regulator to see if any more clarity emerges. 


Coming Tuesday: A blast of Arctic air

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will brief reporters from Norway Tuesday on “next steps in planning for potential energy exploration in the U.S. Arctic,” an advisory states.

Salazar’s remarks will address Interior’s proposed 2012-2017 offshore leasing plan, which will be finalized in several days and is slated to include lease sales off Alaska’s coast in several years, as well as an array of new Gulf of Mexico sales.

But more immediately, Interior is on the cusp of granting Royal Dutch Shell drilling permits for a closely watched — and controversial — plan to begin exploratory Arctic drilling this summer in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska.

Salazar and some of his top lieutenants are in Norway this week meeting with their counterparts and industry officials at a summit on drilling safety.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out these E2 items that ran over the weekend and earlier Monday ...

- White House aide: Rules for gas 'fracking' still on track for completion this year

- Interior official: BP 'sincere' about safe offshore drilling

- T. Boone Pickens suggests he's backing Romney

- Dems boost pressure on SEC over oil payments disclosure rule


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

Follow E2 on Twitter: @E2Wire, @Ben_Geman

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