OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate panel queries EPA on gas 'fracking'

EPA is currently conducting a major study of the effects of fracking, which industry groups contend is safe and isn't leading to water pollution. Witnesses at the hearing include Cynthia Dougherty, who directs EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. More on the hearing can be found here.


NEWS BITES

The mystery backers of SolarWorld's trade petition: SolarWorld Industries America, a solar panel manufacturer, claimed Wednesday that other companies support its petition to the Obama administration to investigate whether China is illegally subsidizing its solar industry.

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But you’ll have to take the company’s word for it.

Timothy Brightbill, the SolarWorld’s counsel, refused to name the companies Wednesday. The companies that supported the petition are members of the newly formed Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing.

Here’s his confusing exchange with reporters:

Reporter: So you’re saying that companies in the coalition are somehow involved in the petition, but you won’t say which ones?

Brightbill: That’s right.

Reporter: And why is that?

Brightbill: Well, there are a variety of reasons. I think it’s fair to say that some may have concerns about retaliation from opponents in the industry.

Reporter: But it’s going to become public at some point, right?

Brightbill: Some of them will in the days and weeks ahead will become public. We’ve had letters of support. Some will be public and some will be confidential.

Reporter: So we may never know who the members of this coalition are.

Brightbill: No, I don’t think that’s correct.

Reporter 2: You’re totally confusing. Does the petition identify who is in support of it?

Brightbill: Yes, it does.

Reporter 3: But some of those names won’t become public?

Brightbill: That’s correct.

You can read more about the petition and the rift that it has caused in the solar industry here.

Republicans blast Obama on science: Republicans criticized the Obama administration’s record on science Wednesday, pointing to an “apparent collapse in the quality of scientific work being conducted at our federal agencies.”

In a letter to White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, the Republican lawmakers say they are worried about “data quality, integrity of methodologies and collection of information, agencies misrepresenting publicly the weight of scientific ‘facts,’ indefensible representations of scientific conclusions before our federal court system, and our fundamental notions of ‘sound’ science.”

“Public trust in federal scientific work is waning and the academic community has gone so far as to call the situation a ‘crisis,’ ” the letter says. “Accordingly, we request that you provide us with an accounting of your activities in response to serious questions raised about the quality of science utilized by this Administration.”

The letter was sent by Sens. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterLobbying World Senate confirms Trump judge who faced scrutiny over abortion views Collins votes against Trump judicial pick MORE (R-La.) and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase MORE (R-Okla.), as well as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

Sanders presses State Department official on Keystone study ... : Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (I-Vt.) pressed a senior State Department official Wednesday about his concerns that State’s environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline was badly flawed.

Sanders, a vocal critic of the pipeline, met with Kerri-Ann Jones, the assistant secretary of State for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs. He pressed for a new federal environmental impact statement, an aide familiar with the meeting said.

“He is very much interested in having a new and independent review of the environmental implications and the safety implications of the project,” the aide said.

The meeting follows a letter from Sanders and two Senate colleagues last week questioning the use of the firm Cardno Entrix to perform the environmental impact study of the proposed pipeline despite its financial ties to pipeline developer TransCanada Corp.

The study, released in August, found that the proposed $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline poses little environmental risk if managed properly.

“We find it inappropriate that a contractor with financial ties to TransCanada, which publicly promotes itself by identifying TransCanada as a ‘major client,’ was selected to conduct what is intended to be an objective government review,” states the Oct. 14 letter to Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton5 things to know about Boris Johnson Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE from Sanders and Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBarr warns encryption allows 'criminals to operate with impunity' Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices Tech critics on both sides have it wrong: Section 230 is not a special privilege MORE (D-Ore.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Bipartisan senators fight 'political considerations' in EPA's new FOIA rule Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning MORE (D-Vt.).

The State Department has defended the objectivity of its review of the pipeline, which would transport crude from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. The agency hopes to make a final decision by the end of the year.

The Sanders aide said the senator feels that the existing study had flaws, including downplaying the risks of spills and greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands projects.

... but some House Dems press for Keystone approval: Twenty-two House Democrats led by Rep. Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenTexas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 MORE (Texas) wrote to President Obama Wednesday supporting the Keystone XL proposal, claiming it will create 20,000 direct jobs and many more “spin-off” jobs.

“Simply stated Mr. President, America needs the Keystone XL Pipeline. It is in our national interest to have a Presidential Permit issued for Keystone XL as soon as possible. America truly cannot afford to say ‘no’ to this privately funded, $20 billion, jobs-creating infrastructure project, which would bolster our economic, energy and national security,” the letter states.

Lawmakers that signed the letter include Jason Altmire (Pa.), Joe Baca (Calif.), John BarrowJohn Jenkins BarrowRepublican wins Georgia secretary of state runoff to replace Kemp The most important runoff election is one you probably never heard of Our democracy can’t afford to cut legal aid services from the budget MORE (Ga.) and Dan Boren (Okla.), as well as a number of Texas Democrats and others.

The administration is also facing pressure from liberal Democrats to reject the pipeline.

The Keystone project is the subject of a fierce lobbying battle pitting business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, against a number of environmental organizations.

Upton doesn't say if new Solyndra subpoena in the offing: House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans are in an escalating battle with the White House over access to internal White House communications — including President Obama’s emails — about the ill-fated Solyndra loan guarantee.

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Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and a top lieutenant sent White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler another request Oct. 18, which followed an earlier rejection.

But Upton told The Hill Wednesday that it’s too early to say whether the Republicans would seek to subpoena the documents.

“We haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” he said in the Capitol. “We will wait and see what happens.”

Republicans are probing the Energy Department's $535 million loan guarantee to the solar panel company that went bankrupt in September.

Oil industry: Number of oil wells drilled up 16 percent: The number of oil wells drilled in the United States increased by 16 percent in the third quarter, the oil industry said Wednesday.

According to a report released Wednesday by the American Petroleum Institute, 6,379 oil wells were finished in the third quarter.

“The trend we’ve seen for increased domestic drilling this year continued into the third quarter,” Hazem Arafa, director of API’s statistics department, said in a statement. “The report helps explain why the oil and natural gas industry is adding to its workforce even while job creation has stalled elsewhere in the economy.”

The report comes as the oil industry has accused President Obama of restricting domestic oil drilling.


ON TAP THURSDAY

Federal nuke waste advisers gather: The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which is advising the Energy Department on nuclear waste policy, will meet again. More info here.

State energy efficiency in focus:
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy will hold a National Press Club event to unveil its annual state energy efficiency scorecard.

Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage Overnight Energy: Trump order to trim science panels sparks outrage | Greens ask watchdog to investigate Interior's records policies | EPA to allow use of pesticide harmful to bees MORE, EPA’s top air quality official, will be among the guests.

Coal’s future in focus:
The American Coal Council and McGuireWoods will hold a day-long event on major issues facing the coal sector.

The event includes a top Energy Department official and several Capitol Hill aides. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-W.Va.) will be the lunchtime keynote speaker. More info here.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Here's a quick roundup of Wednesday's E2 stories:

- Solar manufacturer presses Obama administration to investigate China
- Sen. Inhofe hopes to sway Perry camp on Yucca nuke site
- House GOP demands White House release Obama’s emails on Solyndra
- Reid seeking vote on Commerce nominee
- Murkowski: Don't ‘pull the plug’ on energy loans after Solyndra
- Romney: Nevada ‘ought to have the final say’ on Yucca nuclear waste dump

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Andrew Restuccia, arestuccia@thehill.com.


Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia, @Ben_Geman