By Ben Geman and Zack Colman - 09/18/12 10:30 PM EDT
Fresh layoffs in the coal and wind industries are fueling congressional battles over energy policy ahead of the elections.
State of Play: Fresh layoffs in the coal and wind industries are fueling congressional battles over energy policy ahead of the elections.
Republicans are seizing on job losses at coal mining giant Alpha Natural Resources as they seek support for legislation to kill, soften or delay various federal rules that affect the coal industry.
The House Rules Committee is slated to meet Wednesday afternoon to vet amendments that could receive floor votes when the bill comes up. A final floor vote on the bill is expected Friday.
The Hill has more on the bill, the layoffs, and how they’re affecting the political debate here, here and here.
While Republicans are focusing on coal, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) says layoffs announced by wind energy equipment maker Siemens shows why lawmakers must extend tax credits for wind projects.
The production tax credit, which the industry calls vital to financing new wind farms, is slated to expire at the end of the year.
Siemens said Tuesday that it’s laying off 615 workers in Iowa, Kansas and Florida, and blaming the losses in part on the failure thus far to extend the credit, AP reported.
“We need to extend the PTC before more companies are forced to respond to the uncertainty over the expiring tax credit,” Udall said. President Obama has been pressing Congress to extend the incentive, while GOP White House nominee Mitt Romney opposes renewal.
Nuke agency allegations draw scrutiny
Staff for two lawmakers are looking into allegations that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) covered up important safety documents.
Aides to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) told The Hill on Tuesday that they are taking seriously allegations that the NRC withheld documents regarding potential flood vulnerabilities at nuclear reactors.
An NRC engineer made accusations last week that the agency misrepresented certain information to shield documents from the public eye. The engineer said revealing those documents, which were related to a report he co-authored, would shed light on the potential for flooding damage at nuclear reactors.
Kristine Svinicki, an NRC member, told The Hill on Tuesday that the NRC Office of the Inspector General is handling the issue.
“Allegations and concerns — we have very formal processes for addressing those,” she said at an event on nuclear power, which was hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and other groups.
The NRC Office of the Inspector General did not return requests for comment Tuesday.
Hoeven plan puts states in driver’s seat on drilling
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is floating a bill aimed at ensuring states have a major influence over regulation of oil-and-gas drilling within their borders — including federal lands.
The senator’s “Empower States Act” arrives as GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney is making state control a pillar of his energy platform.
Republicans say federal regulations — including upcoming Interior Department rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands — threaten drilling. Hoeven is introducing the bill with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
According to Hoeven’s office, the bill requires that federal agencies seeking to draft new regulations on oil and gas must hold a hearing and consult with the state, tribe and local agency that will be affected.
More on the bill from Hoeven’s office:
To prevent the loss of jobs or a harmful effect on consumers or the economy, the agency must also develop a Statement of Energy and Economic Impact that identifies any adverse effects on energy supply, reliability, price, and the potential for job and revenue losses to the individual states’ general and education funds. In addition, the agency must show a state or tribe does not have an existing alternative and that the new regulation is needed to prevent immediate harm to human health or the environment.
Sen. Carper seeks role in nuke waste bill
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) plans to be involved in nuclear waste management legislation discussions next session, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Tuesday.
Much of the dialogue might start in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but Carper said his committee should have a piece of the action.
“There’s a shared responsibility and I think a shared opportunity,” Carper said of the two committees. “This is a big issue, a big opportunity. I think there’s plenty for all of us to say grace over.”
Matt Dempsey, a Republican spokesman for the Environment and Public Works Committee, told The Hill on Tuesday that the committee definitely wants to be a player in nuclear waste management talks. “Clearly that kind of legislation belongs in the committee,” Dempsey said.
Carper — who chairs an EPW panel on nuclear safety — said he would talk with retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) about where everything stands on the issue.
Bingaman, who currently chairs Energy and Natural Resources, held a hearing last week on a nuclear waste management bill he introduced as a table-setter for negotiations next year.
House GOP presses Interior on uranium decision
The House Natural Resources Committee’s GOP leaders are calling on the Interior Department to release documents regarding a 20-year ban on uranium mining in Arizona.
Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) sent a letter to Interior on Monday. They want Interior to provide requested documents by Oct. 1.
Hastings and Bishop said Interior has not complied with a May request for information on the decision, which put 1 million acres of federal land off-limits for uranium development.
Republicans have criticized the policy and say Interior has been forthcoming with documents about it.
“Questions remain as to whether the Administration’s decision to withdraw one million acres of land from uranium development in Arizona was based on sound science or political agenda,” Hastings said in a statement.
An Interior spokesman said Tuesday that the department gave the committee more than 421 documents in response to the May request.
Blake Androff, an Interior spokesman, said Tuesday the decision is designed to protect the Grand Canyon and its watershed.
“The decision provides adequate time for monitoring to inform future land use decisions in this treasured area, while allowing currently approved mining operations to continue as well as new operations on valid existing mining claims,” Androff said Tuesday in a statement.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out these stories that ran Tuesday on E2-Wire . . .
— GOP says coal mine closures underscore Obama 'war on coal'
— Canadian ambassador will bet beer on Keystone pipeline approval
— Starbucks, Ben & Jerry's join lobby push for wind credit
— Shell has ‘every intention’ of pushing into Arctic waters despite setbacks
— Russell E. Train, former EPA head, dies at 92
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