OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior pick survives hearing, but questions remain

“It is unsettling to many that you have a fundamental conflict of interest when it comes to leading the Department of the Interior,” Barrasso said.

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Jewell, who is listed as vice chairwoman of the NPCA’s board, declined to commit to any recusals, noting instead that she would approach Interior ethics officials when questions arise.

She also noted that her work with the NPCA doesn’t overlap with their litigation. “I have nothing to do with their litigation strategy. I play no role in anything that they may do around litigation,” Jewell said.

According to Environment and Energy Publishing, Jewell said last month that she would resign from NPCA and would not participate “personally and substantially” in matters involving them for at least a year.

While Jewell faced some tough questions, the hearing was largely cordial. A number of other inquiries from GOP lawmakers were phrased along the lines of “will you work with us” on various topic — a softball format.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JEWELL: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the committee chairman, told reporters that he’s not yet sure when the committee will vote on the Jewell nomination.

He noted that senators on both sides of the aisle will have additional questions for the nominee. “Let me have a chance to talk to all my colleagues,” Wyden said when asked about the timing of a vote.

Still, Wyden said that he’d like to have the vote “as soon as possible.”

But even once she clears the panel, Jewell could face roadblocks. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Energy panel’s top Republican, has threatened to place a procedural “hold” on Jewell.

She’s upset over a preliminary Interior decision not to allow a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska that Murkowski and other state officials say is needed to provide emergency medical access to a small Aleutian village.

Barrasso has also not ruled out trying to hold up the nomination.

“I have made no decisions on any of that,” he told reporters Thursday when asked about procedural barriers. “We are submitting written questions, and there are a number of things that [Jewell] just was not knowledgeable about. She will have time to answer those questions.”

IN HER OWN WORDS: Jewell, for her part, pledged to take a “balanced” approach to conservation and energy development on the massive swaths of federal lands that Interior oversees.


She praised what she called the wisdom of multiple congresses and presidents in protecting "crown jewels" in the nation’s forests, seashores, parks, rivers and other areas.

But Jewell also said she backs the president’s often repeated vow of an “all of the above” energy strategy that develops both fossil fuels and renewable energy.

“Public lands are also huge economic engines. Through energy development, through grazing, logging, tourism and outdoor recreation, our lands and waters power our economy and create jobs. Balance is absolutely critical,” Jewell said.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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

— Senate Foreign Relations chief Menendez plans Keystone pipeline hearing

— Hoeven presses Obama for ‘definitive timeline’ on Keystone decision

— Canadian official to talk Keystone with State Department, Sen. Wyden

— Sen. Murkowski fires shot across Interior pick’s bow


NEWS BITES:

Senior lawmakers float bill to approve Keystone pipeline

Senior members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee floated draft legislation Thursday that would remove President Obama's ability to decide the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline's fate.

The White House is currently deciding whether to provide a cross-border permit for the proposed pipeline that would bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

The bill floated Thursday, however, would ensure that no "presidential permit" is required, and that no further environmental analysis of the long-studied proposal is needed.

The project is subject to intense lobbying, with green groups opposed to it and business groups, Canadian officials and some unions pushing for approval.

But the draft legislation is largely symbolic. Even if it got to Obama, which it probably won't, he would likely veto the bill.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Energy and Power subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and John Barrow (D-Ga.) co-authored the draft.

BP Gulf settlement costlier than expected

The cost of a settlement between BP and private businesses and individuals for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill will likely exceed its initial $7.8 billion estimate.

BP struck the deal with plaintiffs one year ago. It is separate from the oil giant’s $4.5 billion federal criminal settlement and the ongoing federal civil trial for its role in the disaster.

From the Financial Times:

When it reported full-year results in February, the company said the estimated cost had been revised up to $8.5bn, as both administrative expenses and claims payments were running at a higher rate than expected.

A month later, it has revised its view again, saying it is no longer possible to give an estimate of the final cost.

Ethanol makers look away from corn

Reuters reports on a shift in the ethanol industry. From their story:

Short supplies of U.S. corn are causing ethanol makers to look at alternatives to the high-priced feedstock, with everything from wheat to sugar under consideration as a possible substitute.    

“You'd be crazy not to,” said Bob Dinneen, president and chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “Everybody is always looking for other things that might make them a little more competitive. They'll be looking at a variety of things as we get into the spring and summer until we get a new robust corn crop.”

Click here for the whole thing.

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