Overnight Energy: Supreme Court backs electricity-saving rule

ENERGY RULE SURVIVES SUPREME COURT CHALLENGE: The Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration Monday on a contentious regulation meant to reduce electricity demand during peak periods.

The judges said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) complied with the law with its demand response rule, which requires utilities to pay some users for adjusting use during high demand.

FERC's authority extends only over wholesale electricity markets and cannot affect retail rates, and utilities argued that FERC overstepped on both counts.

ADVERTISEMENT
But in reversing a ruling from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the high court said the demand response rule violated neither of those provisions of law.

"The commission's rule addresses -- and addresses only -- transactions occurring on the wholesale market," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a 6-2 decision, from which Justice Samuel Alito recused himself due to an investment. "Wholesale market operators administer the entire program, receiving every demand response bid made."

Environmental groups had fought hard in the case, since demand response opens significant opportunities for clean energy sources.

Read more here.

ALSO IN COURTS: The Obama administration scored another win on an energy related regulation Monday when an appeals court upheld the Labor Department's latest coal dust exposure standards for miners.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said the Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration worked entirely within its authorities when it issued the 2014 rule, which has started to be implemented.

Read more here.

WHITEHOUSE BACKS RHODE ISLAND GAS PLANT: U.S. Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseWeek ahead: Reg advocates hitting back at GOP agenda The Hill's 12:30 Report Hacked computer network mysteriously back online MORE (R-R.I.) said this weekend he supports a gas-fired power plant in his state long opposed by environmental groups.

Whitehouse told WPRI that the plant would help parts of New England catch up on a natural gas supply shortage.

"I don't think it's valuable from Rhode Island's perspective to make Rhode Islanders pay high winter gas prices when it doesn't change the overall complexion of the gas market," he said.

"So I am not objecting to that particular plant, because it's a choke point issue."

Activists say the 900-megawatt power plant will increase the region's reliance on fossil fuels.

Whitehouse, who has a liberal streak on climate matters, told WPRI he understands those concerns, but that he is working to protect "Rhode Islanders from the weird local anomaly in which we pay dramatically higher gas prices than states that surround us."

JEWELL TALKS WILDLIFE IN GABON: Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellInterior chief reprimands employees on ethics, sexual harassment A way out of Alaska's fiscal hole Obama to take victory lap on conservation MORE completed the first leg of her African wildlife trip Monday with a visit to Gabon, on the west coast of Central Africa.

Interior said Jewell met with top government officials to discuss ways the United States and Gabon can cooperate on protecting wildlife.

"Reversing the scourge of wildlife trafficking requires bold action and commitment from the United States and international partners, and it was encouraging to see how our partnerships on the ground in Gabon are helping the country take swift, effective steps to shut down this trade that threatens to wipe out species around the globe," she said in a statement.

Check out photos from a visit Jewell took to a forest in Gabon, including some cute elephants, here.

ON TAP THIS WEEK: The Senate is scheduled to take up the chamber's energy reform package this week, with debate kicking off on Wednesday.  

The legislation, a bipartisan measure that cleared committee on an 18-4 vote in July, includes a handful of provisions pushed by both Republicans and Democrats. They include measures to expedite liquefied natural gas exports, reform federal energy programs and improve the reliability of the electric grid.

The legislation's lead sponsor, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiSenators seek state revenue sharing for offshore drilling Senate panel approves 0M for international climate fund GOP senator praises Supreme Court's abortion ruling MORE, said this weekend that she hopes the legislation will move forward in a bipartisan manner on the Senate floor, similar to other bills passed last year.

"Following the passage of a highway bill, education reform, and many others, the energy bill promises to be our next bipartisan accomplishment on behalf of the American people," she said in the GOP's weekly address on Saturday.

"It will also be the first major energy legislation considered on the Senate floor since 2007. It's been over eight years, folks."

The bill's progress to the floor is likely to kick off a race to amend it, a prospect that could hurt the bipartisan nature of the legislation. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellDems leery of Planned Parenthood cuts spark Senate scuffle Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Senate passes Puerto Rico debt relief bill MORE (R-Ky.) said he, too, hopes to see it eventually pass with a big vote.

"It'll be open for amendment, and since it came out of committee 18-4, I hope we'll be able to replicate what we did on frequent occasions last year with the rewrite of No Child Left Behind, the highway bill and other matters," he said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, this weekend's East Coast blizzard has led to the cancellation or postponement of many events on the congressional calendar. The House won't have votes this week, and committees in both chambers have postponed hearings, including a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on land cleanup programs.

AROUND THE WEB:

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told actor Leonardo DiCaprio to tone down his rhetoric against the oil and natural gas industry, the Ottawa Citizen reports.

Oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania have faced dozens of reports of racial discrimination in recent years, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Lawyers say a Canadian pipeline expansion project from TransCanada would hurt tribal fishing rights in the U.S., the Associated Press reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and this weekend ...

-Court upholds coal dust rule for miners
-Exxon predicts energy demand to grow 25 percent by 2040
-Lawmakers want extra education assistance for Flint
-O'Malley: Clinton's climate plan 'would literally burn up' the Earth
-Study: Odds 'overwhelming' that climate change causes record heat
-Supreme Court upholds electricity demand rule
-Climate change: Where the GOP field stands

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill