OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate spotlight on natural gas ‘fracking’

GAS BATTLE FLARES: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will convene a meeting Thursday on “best practices and environmental concerns” regarding development of shale gas.

Shale gas is the stuff accessed with hydraulic fracturing, the development method enabling a U.S. production boom but bringing pollution fears alongside its expansion.

The committee will hear from an array of federal and industry officials and environmentalists.

Click here for the lineup.

House Keystone pipeline battle: The House passed a bill Wednesday that would approve the northern leg of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline by an act of law, and take the decision out of the president’s hands.

Members voted 241-175 in favor of H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act. Republican supporters were joined by 19 Democrats, much less than the level of Democratic support in the last Congress.

A big reason for the drop in Democratic support is the GOP’s new approach to the pipeline, which would move tar sands oil from Canada to the United States to be refined. Legislation in the last Congress set a deadline by which Obama had to decide on approving the project, and passed with 47 Democrats in 2011. 

Today’s bill would remove any need for presidential approval of TransCanada Corp’s proposed pipeline and deem it approved, which many Democrats saw as going too far. 

Get the whole scoop here.


MORE TO WATCH THURSDAY:

Nuke safety chief to face Senate panel


The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear from Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane on Thursday.

The committee is weighing her nomination for a full five-year term at the agency. Her current term expires at the end of June.


Macfarlane first won Senate confirmation last summer to replace former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and serve out the remainder of his term.

Interior chief hits the road

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will make her first trip to the West Coast as secretary on Thursday and Friday when she visits Portland, Oregon. From Interior’s advisory about tomorrow’s agenda:

On Thursday, May 23, in response to President Obama’s call to expand opportunities for youth employment, Jewell and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales will announce 22 conservation projects across the country that have been awarded funding through an innovative public-private partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) that will create youth employment opportunities. During the visit, Jewell and Hales will join members of the Northwest Youth Corps on a service project in an urban park in Portland.

On Friday she will join with Oregon’s governor and a top Washington State official to sign an agreement to “expedite the review and permitting of energy generation, power transmission and other vital infrastructure projects in the Pacific Northwest,” the advisory states.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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

— Biden: Global warming, oil transport will challenge Coast Guard
— CBO: Carbon tax an option to avoid 'catastrophic' outcomes
— Toxic chemical deal met with mixed reactions from greens
— Virginia’s Dem senators press for Atlantic offshore drilling
— House advances Keystone bill in bipartisan vote
— Report: Utilities slacking on cyber defenses


NEWS BITES:

Tesla pays off DOE loan

Electric car company Tesla Automotive repaid its $465 million federal loan on Wednesday, the Energy Department (DOE) announced.

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The Obama administration has taken shots from Republicans for various blunders borne of the DOE’s loan and loan guarantee programs. The White House says the efforts have produced far more hits than misses.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Tesla is one of those hits. He touted the firm, which employs more than 3,000 workers, as a success story for the federal initiative.

“When you’re talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed — but today’s repayment is the latest indication that the Energy Department’s portfolio of more than 30 loans is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated,” Moniz said in a statement.

UK, France join resource ‘transparency’ initiative

Reuters reports:

The UK and French governments will join a global initiative that will require oil and mining firms to comply with new disclosure measures aimed at tackling corruption, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has stakeholders in the public and private sectors and requires resource companies to disclose payments made to governments.

Click here for the whole story.

Brazil plans power lines for wind energy


Staying on the international front, Bloomberg reports on Brazil’s wind energy plans:

Brazil will auction by December contracts to build power lines connecting as much as 6,900 megawatts of planned wind farms in an effort to ensure the turbines will be able to send electricity to the grid once they’re installed.

Click here for the whole thing.


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


This post was updated to reflect breaking new from the House on the Keystone pipeline.