OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House votes to fast track natural gas exports

NATURAL GAS EXPORTS: The House in a 266-150 vote passed legislation to speed up liquefied natural gas exports.

Following Russia's annexation of Crimea, calls for allowing natural gas exports to non-Free Trade Agreement countries have grown in Congress.

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Rep. Cory Gardner's (R-Colo.) bill would expedite the process of gas exports by putting the Department of Energy (DOE) on the clock. The department would have to decide on applications within 30 days after the final environmental review of a gas export facility is finished.

Passage of the bill could help Gardner in challenging Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) for his Senate seat this year. Udall introduced similar legislation in the Senate earlier this year. His bill requires DOE to approve an application in 45 days.

After the House passed the gas export legislation, Gardner called on the Senate to do the same.

"By passing this legislation, we are sending a clear signal to the world that the United States is serious about becoming a key player in the global energy market," Gardner said Wednesday. "I now urge the Senate to act quickly on this important legislation that can be both a foreign policy and economic policy success story for a nation that could use a lot more of both."

 

EPA CONTEMPT AND EMAILS: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been sounding a bit like the IRS recently.

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) threatened Wednesday to hold the agency in contempt for withholding subpoenaed materials and EPA Chief Gina McCarthy said her staff can’t recover emails for a separate investigation because someone’s hard drive crashed.

Issa didn’t specify which person or people he would pursue for contempt of Congress, but said a committee vote on contempt is imminent if McCarthy doesn't hand over the EPA’s communications with the White House regarding congressional requests, or claim executive privilege over the records.

Later in the hearing, McCarthy said some of the emails requested in a separate probe relating to Pebble Mine in Alaska could not be recovered because an employee’s hard drive crashed in 2010.

The similarities with the IRS was not lost on lawmakers. Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) both pointed out that this was the second time this month that officials at an agency have blamed hard drive crashes for missing emails.


GOT CRUDE OIL? Well, depending on what type, the U.S. may be open to letting more companies export it.

The Commerce Department gave the thumbs up to shipments of crude oil from two Texas companies Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. It allows the companies to export very light oil, which is called condensate.

Current U.S. policy allows the exportation of petroleum products made from crude oil, but unrefined crude oil is another matter as exportation of it was banned in the 1970s amid the Arab oil embargoes.

Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska) a big proponent of crude oil exports, couldn't help but smile when asked about the Commerce Department ruling.

"It was a first step. And I think it should be recognized that it's a first step because we've got to start taking some steps," Murkowski said.

When asked if the trading markets overreacted to the ruling, Murkowski said she still felt it was critical step.

"Maybe I need to couch my enthusiasm a little bit. But again, I do feel that it is important that Commerce recognized that they could do this and they acted on it. It's an important step," she said.

She added: "When you look at other nations around the world, we're the only ones out there holding ourselves back when it comes to exports. And I've said that I think that should change, and hopefully we will see that."

 

ON TAP THURSDAY I: The House will vote on legislation sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) which seeks to expand oil and gas production offshore and on federal lands.

Hastings boasts that the bill would open up energy resources that are otherwise under "tight lock and key" by the Obama administration, such as the Arctic, Atlantic and Southern Pacific.

The Interior Department is weighing opening up the Atlantic to oil and gas production, but is still in the preliminary stages.

One provision of the bill would set 60-day deadlines to approve drilling permits on federal lands, another would charge environmentalists $5,000 to protest permits and leasing decisions for oil and gas exploration.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY II: A House Small Business subpanel will hold a hearing Thursday on “the downstream challenges for small energy businesses” resulting from the mismatch between oil supplies produced and the capacity of refineries.

The panel will hear from three businesses in the oil sector and a representative of the Center for America Progress. Expect crude oil exports to be a main topic of the discussion.


Rest of Thursday's agenda ... 

The American Enterprise Institute and the Peterson Institute for International Economics will team up Thursday for an event to discuss European energy security and Russian natural gas in terms of U.S. foreign policy. The event by the free-market think tanks will come the day after the House passed a bill to speed up applications to export liquefied natural gas.

The Heritage Foundation is hosting a discussion on EPA's proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, which Republicans are labeling a "power grab." The rule seeks to clarify the agency's jurisdiction over bodies of water across the U.S.

 

NEWS BITES:

Is there middle ground on climate policy? ... If there is then Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Joe Manchin want to find it. The two engaged in a discussion on U.S. climate change and coal policy on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Whitehouse committed to visit coal plants in Manchin's home state of West Virginia, and Manchin said he would travel to Rhode Island to see the effects of climate change on the coastal state.

According to a spokesman for Sen. Whitehouse, the two senators are working to accelerate the deployment of billions in loan guarantees for technology that will help make fossil fuel projects cleaner and less carbon-intensive.

Crude exports ... White House press secretary Josh Earnest tried to explain Wednesday that the Obama administration is not really rolling back the ban on exporting unprocessed crude oil.

“The fact is there has been no change to our policy on crude oil exports,” Earnest said at the daily press briefing. He was responding to a late Tuesday report that Commerce is allowing two companies to export condensate oil, a slightly processed form of crude.

Nonetheless, the White House is studying “policy options” regarding increased domestic oil production.

Publicizing the finances of climate change ... On Wednesday, members of the Risky Business climate group co-chaired by billionaire Tom Steyer briefed the White House on their latest report, which details the economic risks of climate change.

According to a White House summary of the meeting, which Steyer, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson attended, the business leaders and administration officials agreed the financial side of global warming needed to be publicized more.

"There was agreement that the government and industry alike must take additional steps to quantify and publicize the economic risks associated with a changing climate, including continued commitment to making the best scientific data available to help government officials, communities, and business leaders assess and plan for those risks," the summary states.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

An Environmental Protection Agency official in its Denver office had to send out a memo warning employees not to poop in the office’s hallways, Government Executive reports.

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have advanced bills that would exempt conventional oil and gas drilling from many of the regulations intended for unconventional practices, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Railroad delays have made it difficult to get coal to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bull Run power plant in eastern Tennessee, so the agency is idling the plant, SNL Financial reports.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories...

- House votes to speed up exports of natural gas
- Landrieu to talk Keystone in White House meeting
- Another agency tells Congress: File not found
- Rep. Issa threatens contempt for EPA
- White House boasts progress on climate agenda
- Reid, McConnell spar over Keystone
- DOE unveils efficiency standards for furnace fans
- McConnell pins blame on moderate Dems for no Keystone vote
- Obama to target Russia's energy industry with sanctions
- US approves two permits for crude exports

 

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