OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate delves into Sandy's climate link

Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) recently added language to the draft bill designed to boost infrastructure preparedness for extreme weather, E&ENews PM reported Wednesday. 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, says WRDA should be part of efforts to harden coastal infrastructure against destructive storms like Sandy.

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The bill covers water infrastructure, flood programs and dam and levee safety. Cardin said Sandy “underscores the urgency” to use that legislation and a number of others to tackle climate change.

“I think we can take a look at WRDA,” Cardin told The Hill. “There’s a lot of bills you can use. There’s a lot of bills moving around here that deal with the consequences of climate change that we can take a look at. ... We’ll use every opportunity we can.”

Democratic committee staff views WRDA as one of its top priorities for the lame-duck session.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who is also on the Senate committee, said Wednesday that Congress must do more to address the nexus of climate change and resiliency. 

He said WRDA offers an avenue for doing that, commenting that events like Sandy and the destruction it inflicted will be more common "if we do not recognize the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and the need to prepare our infrastructure."

Though scientists said they could not definitively link Sandy’s occurrence to climate change, they say it likely contributed to the storm’s intensity through rising sea levels and warmer water temperatures.

But any mention of climate change would likely draw the ire of the committee’s Republican climate skeptics, namely ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

Those two committee members engaged in a contentious debate with committee Democrats in a climate change hearing this past summer.


NEWS BITES:

Study: Attack on power grid would be more destructive than Sandy

A terrorist attack on the U.S. power grid could kill thousands, according to a National Academy of Sciences study released Wednesday.

The damage would easily trump that of Sandy with damage totaling hundreds of billions of dollars, the study said.

“It would not immediately kill many people or make for spectacular television footage of bloody destruction,” the study said of a terrorist attack on the grid. “But if it were carried out in a carefully planned way, by people who knew what they were doing, it could deny large region of the country access to bulk system power for weeks or even months.”

The study said the nation’s electric grid infrastructure is highly vulnerable to attack, with transmission lines spanning hundreds of miles and many vital facilities left unguarded.

Deregulation of utility markets and cost pressures on consumers and regulators also stunt investment in security, it said.

Greens to Obama: Match talk with new action

President Obama said he'll address climate change in his second term but offered no specifics at Wednesday’s press conference.

Environmentalists want to see more.

“President Obama rightly acknowledges that climate change is happening – now he should do something about it by finishing the job of cleaning up dirty power plants, building on energy efficiency innovations, saying no to dirty fuels like tar sands and scaling up clean energy,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a statement.

The group 350.org said Obama’s upcoming decision on whether the permit the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline will be pivotal.

“[T]he President can show us he's serious with a decision already on his desk: rejecting the Keystone XL  pipeline. The pipeline would unlock so much carbon that climate scientists say, if it were built, it would be ‘game over’ for the climate,” the group said.


THURSDAY’S AGENDA:

Wyden, Murkowski to lay out energy agenda

The Democratic heir apparent to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee gavel and the panel’s top Republican will look ahead to the next session of Congress Thursday.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who will inherit the chairmanship from retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), will speak at a CQ-hosted forum on “America’s Energy Future” Thursday morning.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the committee’s top Republican, and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who leads the House Energy and Power subcommittee, are also among the guests. Click here for more info.

Senators, advocates look ahead after election

Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and others will look at the post-election future of energy policy Thursday.

Politico is hosting an event to “break down the issues that have shaped the election and what they mean for the future of energy policy.”

Other speakers include Karen Harbert, who heads the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke. Click here for more info.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out these stories that ran on E2-Wire Wednesday (and Tuesday night) ...

 – Obama calls climate change a priority but stays vague on agenda
– Sen. Thune hopeful on Obama signing bill to thwart EU carbon rule
 – Interior chief 'regrets' threat to punch reporter
 – Greens pressure Obama to veto airline emissions bill
 – Sen. Alexander: Fiscal woes driving demands to cut tax credit for wind power
 – Rep. Upton: 'I'm not a carbon tax guy'
 – US Chamber wants energy legislation in fiscal cliff deal
– GOP governors pressure home-state delegations on wind credit


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