OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House brandishes budget ax for EPA, Interior battle

Click here for more on the 11 a.m. markup. 


OTHER WEDNESDAY AGENDA HIGHLIGHTS:

Moniz to testify on nuclear policy at House hearing

Lawmakers on a subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will press Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on nuclear waste storage issues during a Wednesday hearing.

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The hearing comes after Moniz testified on the same topic at a Tuesday Senate hearing.

House Republicans, though, will likely be at odds with Moniz’s recommendations for storing the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.

They say the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada is the sole repository for nuclear waste in the United States, as outlined in a 1982 federal law.

President Obama pulled the plug on a process to allow waste storage at Yucca in 2010. And Moniz served on an independent panel the president convened that promoted alternatives to Yucca.

Click here for more on the 2 p.m. hearing, which will be webcast.

House panel takes up ‘fracking’ bill ...

The House Natural Resources Committee will likely approve GOP legislation Wednesday that would thwart planned Interior Department regulation of oil-and-gas “fracking” on federal and Indian lands.

Click here and here for prior coverage of the legislation.

... and seeks to name ocean after Reagan


The Natural Resources Committee markup mentioned above will also include legislation that would name several million square nautical miles of ocean after the late President Reagan.

Interior to auction offshore wind leases

The Interior Department on Wednesday will hold its first competitive auction of offshore tracts for wind energy development.

The lease sale will offer nearly 165,000 acres off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts for wind energy development.

Click here for more information.

Senate panel talks energy tax policy

A subpanel of the Senate Finance Committee will discuss an array of ideas for overhauling the federal tax code as it pertains to energy issues.

One idea that will likely surface has attracted support from lawmakers and the White House. Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are listed as witnesses for the hearing. They’ve been promoting a bill that would extend a project financing mechanism to renewable energy projects.

Called a master limited partnership, the arrangement is taxed like a partnership, but traded like a stock. Its boosters say that allows investors to spread costs among themselves, limiting risk and encouraging more projects.

The method is currently only open to conventional energy projects. It’s commonly used to finance oil-and-gas pipelines.

Discussion of another financing mechanism called Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which operate in a similar manner, might also emerge at the hearing. REITs are used to finance various projects, and some lawmakers want to extend that to include electric grid infrastructure.

Other witnesses include Phyllis Cuttino, director of the clean energy program with Pew Charitable Trusts, and Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief Economist with the American Council for Capital Formation.

Click here for more on the 2:30 p.m. hearing.

Senior Obama officials headline biofuels conference

Wednesday opens a major two-day bioenergy conference in Washington, D.C., co-hosted by the Energy Department and the group Advanced Biofuels USA.

Speakers will include several senior Obama administration officials. Wednesday’s line-up features White House aide Dan Utech, the director for energy and climate change at the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Click here for the agenda.

Senate committee looks at toxics threats


The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a Wednesday hearing that explores competing proposals to toughen EPA regulation of chemicals.

Click here for the lengthy witness list.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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

— Issa tries again to name coastal waters after President Reagan

— Reid: Energy efficiency bill to surface on floor this week

— 'Putting all your eggs' in Keystone pipeline 'isn't a jobs plan,' Obama says

— McCarthy: EPA will be ‘honest commenter’ on Keystone XL pipeline review

— Coal ash bill likely dead on arrival in Senate

— Shaheen: No vote on energy efficiency bill before August recess

— New EPA chief to business: Embrace ‘opportunity’ of climate change

— JPMorgan settles federal electricity manipulation charges for $410M

— Feds to probe Gulf of Mexico natural gas leak, explosion

— Rep. Ryan: Keystone XL may surface in budget battles with Obama


NEWS BITES:

House GOP questions EPA ‘fracking’ research

Top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are probing the Environmental Protection Agency’s major ongoing study of how hydraulic fracturing affects drinking water resources.

The new GOP letter to the EPA questions how the agency’s retreat from several site-specific probes into drinking water contamination factors into its larger study.

GOP fracking advocates are on offense after the EPA recently abandoned a draft study that linked gas development to water contamination in a Wyoming regions, one of three cases in which the agency has backed off.

They say it has wrongly alleged links between fracking and water pollution, while fracking critics fear the EPA is pulling back for political reasons as the Obama administration endorses expanded gas production.

Groups press Kerry to dump Keystone contractor, try again

More than two dozen environmental and progressive groups are pressing the State Department to take another swing at its review of the proposed Keystone pipeline, a project activists contend will worsen climate change.

The groups — including Friends of the Earth, Environment America, the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation — allege huge flaws with State’s existing private-sector contractor on its environmental review.

“We are calling upon you to suspend the Keystone XL review process due to our serious concerns that Environmental Resource Management (ERM), which wrote the bulk of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), lied about its business relationship with [Keystone developer] TransCanada and other oil companies on its conflict of interest forms,” the groups state in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Click here for the whole letter.

Crews prepare to plug leaking offshore gas well

Federal regulators provided an update Tuesday on a leaking natural-gas well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said a relief well to plug the one owned by Walter Oil and Gas Corp. would be drilled beginning as early as Thursday.

“It is anticipated that it will take approximately 35 days to intercept the original well bore,” the BSEE said, explaining that the purpose is “to intercept the target well. Once intercepted, drilling mud followed by cement will be pumped into the well to secure it.”

The BSEE said “visual observation” led it to believe there was no longer a sheen near the well, which blew out last week and caused a fire on a drilling rig owned by Hercules Offshore.

It announced Monday that it had launched an investigation into what caused the incident, in which the drilling rig’s 44 works had to be evacuated.

Saudi prince warns of US shale threat to kingdom

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns stakes in Citigroup and Time Warner, told Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi that the U.S. shale boom could strain the House of Saud’s revenues.

From Bloomberg:

In an letter published in Arabic yesterday on Twitter, he said his country, the biggest crude producer, won’t be able to fulfill its plan to increase capacity to 15 million barrels a day, adding there’s a “clear and increasing decline” in demand for oil pumped by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. He also challenged Naimi over the impact of U.S. shale gas output.

...

“Saudi Arabia is almost entirely dependent on oil and this reality is becoming a source of concern for all,” Alwaleed wrote in the letter.

Click here for the full story.


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