E2 Morning Round-up: Spill panel chief talks drilling ban, BP and the Justice Department eye deal on spill fund, Markey aide heads for Hoyer’s office, UN chief seeks incremental climate steps, and more

Here’s Reilly on the controversial drilling freeze:

“I don't understand why it would take six months to vet 33 [deep-water] rigs [under the moratorium] for safety, environmental compliance, regulatory integrity. It's never been made clear to me, and the testimony we received in New Orleans was not convincing on that. The commission has sent a letter to the Bipartisan Policy Center requesting it to organize a group of experts ... to essentially frame the questions that should be asked relative to what is necessary to resume prudently drilling in deep water in the gulf, and we expect to have those questions in the next few weeks and refer them to the Interior Department and ask, ‘Which of these questions have you not yet answered and what are you doing to answer them?’”

White House officials last week said the freeze on current projects and new permits could be shortened — with the right safety assurances.

BP, Justice Dept. close to agreement on spill account funding

From the Wall Street Journal:

“The Obama administration and BP PLC are close to a deal to use future revenues from the oil giant's Gulf of Mexico operations to guarantee its $20 billion cleanup and compensation fund, a move that would give both sides an incentive to continue production in the Gulf, scene of the U.S.'s worst-ever offshore oil spill.”

“The Justice Department and BP said Monday they had completed talks to establish the fund, which is designed to cover damage claims from residents and businesses hurt by the spill and clean-up efforts by state and local governments. BP paid $3 billion into the fund ahead of schedule.”

Taking his talents to Hoyer’s office

Capitol Hill staffer Daniel Reilly is leaving Rep. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senate passes anti-robocall bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump MORE’s (D-Mass.) to become a spokesman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on energy and the environment, among other areas.

Reilly’s quite familiar with energy and climate policy – he was communications director for Markey, who heads the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Reilly is a former journalist who covered Congress for Politico and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Drilling rig workers face tough conditions, inadequate training

The Washington Post looks at life on the thousands of rigs and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon rig that blew up in April — killing 11 workers and touching off the massive oil spill — wasn’t the only dangerous workplace in the Gulf.

“On more than 4,000 platforms and exploration rigs in the gulf, workers are asked daily to do very arduous work under difficult conditions — often with little sleep and sometimes with limited instructions and inadequate training. According to scores of accident reports and panel investigations by the MMS in recent years, the stressful and sometimes confused working conditions played a significant role in the accidents and deaths that have occurred in the gulf. In the past two years, federal rig inspectors have warned their bosses of a looming safety crisis because of workers' minimal training. But little changed,” the Post reports.

“Factories out at sea where work commonly goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, drilling rigs and platforms are among the more dangerous places in the country to work. A 2008 Centers for Disease Control report said that the overall fatality rate for workers in the oil and gas extraction industry was ‘approximately seven times the rate for all workers’ between 2003 and 2006, with many deaths caused by accidents involving machinery and pipes and overexertion. Injury rates, which are more complex and controversial, were not included in the report,” the story adds.

More pessimism on global climate deal

From Reuters:

"Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged on Monday that a key U.N. conference on climate change in Mexico at the end of this year might not produce the definitive agreement the world body is seeking."

"The admission brings Ban, who ultimately is responsible for global climate change negotiations, in line with the view of many national negotiators and some of his own officials."

"Attention has focused on the Nov. 29-Dec. 10 meeting in Cancun, Mexico, since a U.N. summit in Copenhagen last December fell short of a legally binding deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012."

“’We need to be practical and realistic,’ Ban told a questioner at a monthly news conference at U.N. headquarters on Monday. ‘It may be the case that we may not be able to have that comprehensive binding agreement in Cancun.’”

But smaller steps are possible . . .

From the New York Times piece on the U.N. chief’s remarks:

“Mr. Ban, who was the head cheerleader for reaching a deal during the 2009 conference in Copenhagen, suggested a better approach might consist of small steps in separate fields that built toward wider consensus rather than aiming for one sweeping pact.”

“’Climate change, I think, has been making progress, even though we have not reached such a point where we will have a globally agreed, comprehensive deal,’ Mr. Ban said at a news conference.”

“Preliminary negotiations toward some manner of document, involving all 192 member states, ended last week stuck on familiar problems — the working document doubling in size to 34 pages amid protracted wrangling over issues like commitments to cut emissions. There is one more round of talks, in China in October, before the December conference in Cancún.”

“Mr. Ban said he thought there was progress on a limited number of issues, including deforestation, sharing of technology and financial payments to poorer nations from the developed world to help them overcome the effects of climate change.”

Inhofe battles corn ethanol

As senators left town last week, Sen. James Inofe (R-Okla.) renewed his war on corn ethanol, introducing legislation that would allow states to abandon federal mandates to blend increasing amounts of corn ethanol into gasoline.

From the Congressional Record:

   By Mr. INHOFE:
   S. 3736. A bill to amend the Clean Air Act to allow States to opt out of the corn ethanol portions of the renewable fuel standard; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Inhofe and environmentalists don’t agree on much – he a global warming denier – but neither side are fans of corn ethanol. Inhofe contends it’s a boondoggle that disrupts global food markets, harming developing nations and his home state’s livestock industry.

Inhofe previewed his efforts in June.

On tap Tuesday: The Greenland ice sheet and global warming

The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is holding a briefing on the big, 100-square mile ice sheet that broke off Greenland and its relationship to climate change.

“This dramatic sea ice event follows the warmest six months on record and is the largest piece of Arctic ice to break free since 1962,” states the announcement of the briefing from Committee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Markey has some ideas for what to do with the ice sheet – over the weekend the said it would provide “plenty of room for global warming deniers to start their own country.”

Here’s the lineup of experts at Tuesday’s briefing:

* Dr. Richard B. Alley, Professor of Geosciences, and Earth and Environmental Systems, The Pennsylvania State University

* Dr. Robert Bindschadler, Senior Research Scientist at University of Maryland Baltimore County, who has 30 years of service with NASA

* Dr. Andreas Muenchow, Professor of Physical Ocean Science and Engineering, University of Delaware

The briefing will be at 9:30 a.m. in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

On tap Tuesday II: Russia’s heat waves, drought and climate change

The Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown gives a telephone press briefing this morning where he’ll discuss “the heat and drought currently decimating Russia’s grain crops, what Russia’s ban on grain exports means for world food prices and how this calamity foreshadows future climate-related crises,” the group said.

“The global balance between grain supply and demand is fragile and depends largely on climate,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “With 80 million more mouths to feed each year and with increasing demand for grain-intensive livestock products, the rise in temperature only adds to the stress. If we continue with business as usual on the climate front, it is only a matter of time before what we are seeing in Russia becomes commonplace.”

In case you missed it

From our On The Money blog, Vicki Needham looks at BP’s first deposit into the $20 billion escrow fund for Gulf spill damages.

On E2, Darren Goode looks at new EPA rules to limit pollution from cement plants, the solar industry leaning on Congress to restore loan guarantee cuts, and the hot July.