OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry to face House as Keystone simmers

ON TAP WEDNESDAY: Secretary of State John Kerry will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, his first appearance before Congress since taking the job.

The topic of the hearing is State’s proposed fiscal 2014 Foreign Affairs budget. But E2-Wire will be watching closely for any questions on the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, which remains under State review.

An aide to Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee, signaled that Keystone and other energy topics will likely come up.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Chairman Salmon has made it clear that securing energy independence is top priority for him, and should be a top priority for Congress. He has already highlighted projects at his Subcommittee hearings that help achieve this, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, Transboundary Hydrocarbons agreement and LNG [liquefied natural gas] exports and intends to continue this focus at next week’s hearing,” the aide said recently.


OTHER KEY EVENTS WEDNESDAY:

Federal drilling policies in focus

The House Natural Resources Committee will compare state and federal approaches to oil-and-gas drilling during a Wednesday hearing.

The committee’s Republicans have been ardent critics of White House energy policies, alleging President Obama has kept too many federal lands and waters off-limits to drilling.

Witnesses include Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell (R) and Jerry Patterson, land commissioner with the Texas General Land Office.

For more on the 10 a.m. hearing, click here.

Steyer, Trumka headline labor-enviro conference

Tom Steyer, the deep-pocketed green-energy advocate who is increasingly throwing his weight around political races, will speak tomorrow at the ongoing “Good Jobs, Green Jobs” conference.

The conference brings together several labor unions and environmentalists. Other speakers Wednesday include Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D).

Click here for more.

Keystone bill moves along in House

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday will mark up — and likely pass — a bill expediting approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

The legislation, the Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3), would allow TransCanada Corp. to build Keystone’s northern leg without a cross-border permit from the State Department.

Republicans, centrist Democrats and business groups that support the Canada-to-Texas pipeline have accused President Obama of dallying on the White House permit decision.

The bill passed an Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Tuesday by a 17-9 vote. All of the subcommittee’s Republicans supported it, along with two Democrats.

For more on Wednesday’s 9 a.m. markup, which will be webcast, click here.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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

– House Energy Committee panel passes bill to expedite Keystone XL approval
– Sen. Boxer: Committee vote on EPA nominee as soon as next week
– Senate Foreign Relations chairman backpedals on Keystone XL hearing
–  Sen. Whitehouse: Obama could use Keystone approval to tackle climate change
– Liberal senator to activists: Make climate change like immigration, gay rights
– Former Wyden aide to lobby for ExxonMobil


NEWS BITES:

Wyden hopes full Senate approves Moniz next week . . .

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he hopes to get Energy Department secretary nominee Ernest Moniz confirmed by the Senate before Congress hits a weeklong break at the end of the month.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman told reporters Tuesday that he still has to talk to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) about securing time for a vote.

Wyden said he was “very encouraged” by his panel’s reception of Moniz, a physicist and former Energy official during the Clinton administration, who faced the committee last week.

The full committee will vote on Moniz’s nomination Thursday.

. . . and sees progress on nuclear waste storage bill

Wyden said a meeting last week between a bipartisan foursome of senators working on a nuclear waste storage bill and two leading experts left him optimistic.

The senators met with former National Security Adviser and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft and Richard Meserve, who is president of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

“They told us — and here are two people who are very well-regarded in the field — they said, ‘You folks are headed in the right direction.’ So we’ll have some more to say here before long, and I’m going to leave it at that,” Wyden told reporters in the Capitol.

Both Scowcroft and Meserve were members of an expert panel, convened by Obama, that was charged with exploring how to handle the nation’s nuclear waste.

The legislation Wyden is working on with Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is based on that panel’s findings.

Energy efficiency bill to get a look next week

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will review a much-anticipated energy efficiency bill during a hearing next week, a Senate aide told The Hill.

The committee is holding a legislative hearing April 23 on hydropower bills and yet-to-be-identified energy efficiency legislation.

That mystery bill is the one Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are expected to reintroduce Thursday.

The comprehensive bill, which passed the committee last session, calls for more stringent efficiency standards in new building codes, among other measures.

But it differs in some ways from last session’s version, according to those familiar with the bill.

A draft circulated recently did not include two elements from the previous iteration: a revolving state grant program, and an expansion of a federal loan guarantee program for energy efficiency projects.

Instead, the draft calls for a state-based private financing program to encourage industrial energy efficiency upgrades. 

Republicans press EPA nominee on transparency

Gina McCarthy, the White House nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, hasn’t satisfied GOP critics who say she must commit to making the agency’s decision-making far more transparent.

Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wrote to McCarthy with a series of requests, including an effort to obtain more of the data underlying EPA air quality rules.

Check out their latest letter here.

Shell exec sees window of opportunity on gas exports

The Houston Chronicle has an in-depth interview with Marvin Odum, the head of Shell's North American operations. He talks about use of liquefied natural gas for transportation and export opportunities.

Odum's interview comes as the Energy Department is reviewing a suite of industry applications that would greatly expand U.S. exports, and he says DOE can't wait forever. From the interview:

I think seeing some window of opportunity is a fair way to look at it. I think there’s a baseline of LNG projects from North America that will make sense almost under any scenario, but then you ask a fair question in terms of how many will continue to make sense. While there’s a baseline of a few projects, both from the Gulf Coast area and the west coast of Canada that will make sense in any global picture that I can see going forward, how many of those actually make sense will depend on how LNG is being developed in other parts of the world.

Check out the whole interview here.


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

Follow E2 on Twitter: @E2Wire, @Ben_Geman, @zcolman