OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy efficiency bill doomed?

DÉJÀ VU: The past certainly feels like prologue for the Senate when it comes to passing a bipartisan energy efficiency bill.

The bill, led by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), is on the verge of collapse as Democrats and Republicans are stuck in a vicious cycle.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “filled the tree” on Wednesday, making it so Republicans couldn’t get the four energy-related amendments they want. 

Lawmakers on both sides expressed frustration with the predicament after Reid said no to additional amendments and Republicans said no to a deal on a stand-alone bill.

"I’m trying to figure out how we advance the policies that are within this energy efficiency bill while still allowing for a respectable amendment process in the Senate,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters on Wednesday shortly after Senate Democrats blocked Republicans’ attempt to amend the energy efficiency bill.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a staunch Keystone advocate, saw things differently Wednesday evening.

Landrieu assailed Republicans for acting as though they have more power than the president.

While Landrieu said the “time for studying is over, the time for building is now,” she also said that if Republicans really wanted to build the pipeline they would agree to an up or down vote on it in conjunction with the energy efficiency bill.

"They just want an issue to talk about," Landrieu said. 

At this point, it’s likely the energy efficiency bill will fall to the debate over Keystone XL like it did last year.

A vote is scheduled for Monday, but one of its co-authors, Sen. Portman, remained optimistic on Wednesday. 

"I am all for getting some votes on amendments and its not too late," he said. “It’s not too late to work out an agreement."

 

EPA BLOCKS INVESTIGATORS, ISSA SAYS: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and his fellow Republicans on the House Oversight panel blasted the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) dealings with its watchdog Wednesday, accusing agency officials of interfering with investigations.

“EPA leadership has engaged in an effort to keep the [inspector general] from doing its job,” Issa said at the hearing. 

The dispute centers around a small homeland security office within EPA. That office is supposed to help with investigations related to homeland security. But EPA Office of Inspector General officials said the office routinely prevents it from investigating personnel issues. 

“I am very concerned that vital information regarding suspected employee misconduct is being withheld from the OIG,” John Sullivan, head of OIG’s investigations, said at the hearing.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) saw the spat as more of a jurisdictional dispute, and said his office is helping to sort it out.

Of course, GOP members couldn’t help but work in some EPA jabs at the hearing.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said EPA’s personnel problems are “completely out of control.”

 

ON TAP THURSDAY: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will vote Thursday on the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, which would reform the process for permitting energy infrastructure — including power lines and gas and oil pipelines — that crosses into Canada or Mexico. 

Members gave their opening statements about the bill Wednesday, and its supporters — all Republicans, save for Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) — made it clear that the legislation is precipitated by the years-long delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

While it wouldn’t directly affect KXL, it would remove the president and State Department from future decisions, set a timeline for the permits and remove an environmental review step from the process.

 

Rest of Thursday’s agenda:

The Center for Strategic and International Studies is hosting a discussion on the electric grid and the transition of energy sources. Melanie Kenderdine, energy policy and systems analysis director for the Energy Department will participate.

 

NEWS BITES: 

Pipeline politics. The Republican National Committee is blasting Sen. Reid for blocking amendments to the energy efficiency bill, one of which would approve Keystone XL. Reid offered a stand-alone vote on the pipeline, but that’s not good enough, the GOP says.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to block a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline is a blow to every Democrat Senator – especially Energy Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu – who claims they can deliver for their constituents,” said RNC spokesman Jahan Wilcox. “With President Obama, Harry Reid and the entire Democrat Party beholden to anti-Keystone billionaire Tom Steyer, the only way we can get this pro-jobs, pro-energy pipeline moving is by electing a Republican Senate in November.”  

Got porn? House Oversight took some time Wednesday to discuss the case of an unnamed EPA employee who is accused of viewing, on average, 2-6 hours of pornography at work each day.

“When an OIG special agent arrived at this employee’s work space to conduct an interview, the special agent witnessed the employee actively viewing pornography on his government-issued computer,” said Allan Williams, OIG’s deputy assistant inspector general for investigations.

“How much pornography would it take for an EPA employee to lose their job,” Issa asked EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

The employee is still working at EPA, though OIG has referred his case to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) chided Perciasepe for not taking action against the employee, who he said has been viewing pornography at work since 2010.

“Fire him! What’s the question?” Chaffetz said 

Perciasepe said he preferred to allow the disciplinary process to take its course, adding that EPA’s computers have programs to block pornography.

“It’s not working so well, is it,” Issa shot back.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Beverly Hills, Calif., has banned hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the city, becoming the first California community to do so, Reuters reports.

Prairie Cos. announced Wednesday that it will build a liquefied natural gas processing plant in North Dakota, which Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) called “a first of its kind” for the state, the Bismarck Tribune reports

Natural gas will eclipse coal as the top power generation fuel in the next two decades, SNL Financial reports, citing the Energy Information Administration. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday’s energy and environment stories.

- DOT orders older rail cars not be used for Bakken oil

- Senate Dems block GOP attempt to amend energy bill

- McConnell: Dems waging ‘elitist war on coal’ 

- DOE gives offshore wind projects up to $141 million

- Reid blocks GOP amendments to energy efficiency measure

- GOP: EPA obstructed investigations

- Poll: More Keystone delays may hurt Senate Dems

- McCain, Flake press EPA to withdraw water rule

- Issa: EPA ‘truly a broke agency’

- McConnell demands votes on energy amendments

- Huntsman: GOP ‘obtuse’ about climate change

- Reid on climate change: ‘People’s lives are at risk’

- Pipeline deal on verge of collapsing

- White House picks 2014 fight on climate

Please send tips and comments to Laura Barron-Lopez, laurab@thehill.com and Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com.