By Timothy Cama and Devin Henry - 01/06/16 05:54 PM EST
KEYSTONE IS BACK: The company trying to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline is filing two challenges to the Obama administration's rejection of the controversial project.
TransCanada Corp. Wednesday said it filed a lawsuit in federal court and a separate challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The moves bring back the long-term lightning rod for environmentalists and the oil industry, two months after President Obama blocked it, arguing that it would threaten the United States' international climate stance.
"In its decision, the U.S. State Department acknowledged the denial was not based on the merits of the project," it continued. "Rather, it was a symbolic gesture based on speculation about the perceptions of the international community regarding the administration's leadership on climate change and the president's assertion of unprecedented, independent powers."
The lawsuit seeks to force approval of Keystone, while the NAFTA action seeks to recover $15 billion in investment and damages TransCanada said it incurred.
350.org said the moves show the lengths to which the oil industry will go to pollute.
"The idea that some trade agreement should force us to overheat the planet's atmosphere is, quite simply, insane," said Bill McKibben, the group's co-founder. "But the oil industry is so used to always winning that I fear this kind of tantrum is predictable. Corporate power is truly out of control."
Read more here.
CRUZ OKAY WITH ETHANOL MANDATE -- FOR A WHILE: GOP presidential candidate Ted CruzTed CruzThis week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress Five things to watch for at Trump-Clinton debate Week ahead: Funding fight dominates Congress MORE doubled down Wednesday on his plans to eventually phase out the federal ethanol mandate for gasoline.
"My view on energy is simple: We should pursue an 'all of the above' policy," Cruz wrote in a Des Moines Register op-ed on Wednesday. "We should embrace all of the energy resources with which God has blessed America: oil and gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, and biofuels and ethanol. But Washington shouldn't be picking winners and losers."
Cruz, a Texas senator, has previously supported immediately ending the Renewable Fuel Standard, though he has also sponsored bills to phase the mandate out. He said this week that the best way to support ethanol producers -- of which there are many in Iowa -- is to extend the mandate while eventually winding it down.
"I do believe there should be a gradual phase-out because there has been investment-based expectations," Cruz told an audience in Cherokee, Iowa, on Tuesday night.
Ethanol groups have looked to pressure Cruz, who is leading polls in Iowa ahead of next month's caucuses. They welcomed his comments Wednesday.
"Farmers and rural communities across Iowa are going to be encouraged by Sen. Cruz's remarks," America's Renewable Future state director Eric Branstad said in a statement.
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COAL BILL DUE TO HIT HOUSE FLOOR: The House is set to consider a bill blocking an Obama administration coal bill.
Rep. Alex Mooney's (R-W.Va.) "STREAM" Act would prevent the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) from finalizing the mining rule until it goes through an extra scientific review and the administration releases more information about its formation.
The rule, six years in the making, looks to update standards for buffer zones around streams where mining activities and waste are prohibited. Republicans have warned that the bill will hurt coal jobs by adding new regulations on the mining industry.
"In my state ... the thought of losing thousands more jobs [is] unconscionable," Mooney said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in September.
"This newly proposed rule will not only impact coal fields in West Virginia and Appalachia, but also have widespread implications across the country."
The Rules Committee will consider the bill next week, the traditional last step before legislation heads to the full House for a vote.
Read more here.
CALIF. CALLS STATE OF EMERGENCY OVER METHANE LEAK: California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has declared a state of emergency over a persistent methane leak outside of Los Angeles.
Thousands of residents have been evacuated due to the leak, which is coming from an underground natural gas storage well in Porter Ranch, Calif.
The order says "all state agencies will utilize state personnel, equipment and facilities to ensure a continuous and thorough state response to this incident," he announced Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times, which has details on the order.
The leak at a Southern California Gas Co. storage facility is sending gas into the atmosphere at a rate of about 110,000 pounds per hour. Officials say it could take months to plug the leak.
ON TAP THURSDAY I: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyEPA blasted over lack of protection of minorities U.S. and Puerto Rico must cooperate on Zika Political foot-dragging at EPA over controversial weed killer MORE will discuss the Paris climate agreement at a Council on Foreign Relations event. McCarthy traveled to Paris during the United Nations conference last month to help make the American case for a climate change deal targeting carbon emissions around the world.
ON TAP THURSDAY II: The climate deal will also be the topic of a Center for Strategic and International Studies event featuring Paul Bodnar, the senior director for energy and climate change at the White House's National Security Council.
AROUND THE WEB:
A Minnesota pollution control official's emails seem to indicate he may have been working against a pipeline project supported by state leadership, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
El Nino is beginning its assault on the United States, but officials around the world are already beginning to prepare for the La Nina weather pattern set to emerge later this year, Bloomberg Business reports.
The global price of oil fell Wednesday to levels not seen since 2005, with analysts blaming high supplies in the U.S., weakening demand in China and escalating tensions between oil producers Iran and Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Wednesday's stories...
-Dem offers bill to prevent toxic mine spills
-Keystone pipeline developer sues Obama
-Cruz doubles down on phasing out ethanol mandate
-GOP lawmaker: Oregon armed protests are 'civil disobedience'
-Volkswagen eyes agreement soon with feds on emissions
-Dem gov backs gas tax increase
-GOP bill blocking Obama coal rule set to hit House floor
-EPA: Common pesticide harming bees