Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Feds blame Oregon occupiers for deadly shootout

“IT DIDN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN”: Federal and local law enforcement officials are putting the blame squarely on the armed gunmen occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge for Tuesday night’s deadly shootout.

The traffic stop that ended with Robert “LaVoy” Finicum dead was planned as a peaceful arrest, but it got out of hand, said Dave Ward, the local sheriff.

“It didn’t have to happen,” Ward told reporters Wednesday. “We all make choices in life. Sometimes our choices go bad.”

{mosads}”Let me be clear: It is the actions and choices of the armed occupiers of the refuge that has led us to where we are today,” said FBI special agent Greg Bretzing. “As the FBI and our partners have clearly demonstrated, actions are not without consequences.”

Six other leaders in the occupation were arrested in the traffic stop 50 miles from the refuge, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and two others were arrested elsewhere.

But it didn’t end the occupation that started Jan. 2, because an undetermined number of people are still there.

The FBI has ordered the remaining occupiers to leave immediately, and it blocked roads around the refuge.

Read more about the shootout here, the arrests here and the FBI’s message to the occupiers here.

ENERGY BILL DEBATE KICKS OFF: The Senate began consideration Wednesday of its first major energy overhaul bill in seven years.

Leaders from both parties say they want to see the Senate approve the legislation, a measure made up of around 50 energy policy proposals from across the partisan spectrum.

“This is a good bill, it is a timely bill and it is a bipartisan bill and it deserves overwhelming support from this chamber,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday.

The bill changes a slate of federal energy policies, including provisions to speed up the export of liquefied natural gas, indefinitely expand a conservation fund, update the electricity grid and reform and update other energy policies.

While it found broad bipartisan support in committee, where it passed 18-4, lawmakers warned their colleagues Wednesday to offer thoughtful amendments to the bill in order to preserve its bipartisan appeal.

The White House, meanwhile, said it has “concerns” about the legislation, but stopped short of threatening to veto it.

The Office of Management and Budget warned about provisions in the bill it said could hamper efficiency programs, national laboratories and cybersecurity, among other things.

But, the statement said, the administration “looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other concerns as the bill moves through the legislative process.”  

Read more about the debate here, and the White House’s position on the bill here.

CONGRESS TAKES UP FLINT: The water crisis in Flint, Mich. made its way to the Capitol on Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that Democrats would offer a Flint-related amendment to the energy overhaul bill, but he didn’t say Wednesday what that might entail.

“The issue is what do we do about Flint?” he told reporters. “We want something to be done, because this is an issue that’s going to come back.”

Democrats will release their proposal on Thursday, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said it will focus on trying to “protect children from water that is deadly.”

Meanwhile, a trio of Michigan Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to notify the public and local health departments if the amount of lead found in public water systems warrants action.

The EPA knew about the threat posed by the drinking water in Flint, but only alerted state health officials, who, in turn, never released that information publicly. The bill — from Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Rep. Dan Kildee — would require the EPA to inform the public if drinking water threatens public health.

“This bill will give the EPA clear legal authority to provide notice to the public when a state is not taking action on a public health safety crisis,” Stabenow said Wednesday.

Read more about the Democrats’ amendment here, and the Michiganders’ bill here.

MORE SCOTUS APPEALS FOR CLIMATE RULE: Three business coalitions are asking the Supreme Court to block the EPA’s climate rule for power plants.

The coalitions filed their appeals Wednesday, a day after 26 states told the Supreme Court that a lower court’s denial of a judicial stay of the regulation is improper.

Major business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers filed one of the appeals, and dozens of utilities and their allies filed another. Murray Energy Corp., Peabody Energy Corp. and two coal associations filed their own appeal.

“The impact of this rule on the economy cannot be overstated,” Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said in a statement. “The rule causes many businesses in the electricity sector and beyond to radically restructure or even close their doors, setting off a domino effect in local communities across the country.”

The requests are unusual, since appeals to the Supreme Court usually cannot happen until a lower court rules on a case’s merit, which would be later this year.

But if successful, the strategy could put the regulation before the Supreme Court much faster than that.

EUROPE PLANS NEW CAR EMISSIONS RULES: The European Commission is responding to the ongoing Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal by trying to assert more power over vehicle emissions testing.

Under a proposal, European Union officials would require that emissions tests be completed by independent bodies and not paid by the manufacturers, according to BBC News.

The commission would also be able to recall vehicles across the continent.

The plan represents a stark change from the current regime, in which individual countries are responsible for setting their own rules, and vehicles that pass are valid across Europe.

“To regain customers’ trust in this important industry, we need to tighten the rules but also ensure they are effectively observed,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission’s vice president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness.

ON TAP THURSDAY: The Senate continues debating its energy overhaul bill. Murkowski said Wednesday that senators could begin amendment votes as early as Thursday afternoon.  


The commissioners of Broward County, Fla., voted Tuesday to outlaw hydraulic fracturing, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, wants West Virginia lawmakers to cut state taxes on the mining industry to help coal producers, the Associated Press reports.

An electric company in Japan has begun construction on what it says will be the world’s largest floating solar farm, The Guardian reports.


Check out Wednesday’s stories…

Michigan Dems offer bill to expand EPA lead warnings in response to Flint
-Senate Dems link Flint crisis to energy bill
-White House cites ‘concerns’ with Senate energy bill
-Feds blame Oregon occupiers after one killed in shootout
-GOP measure would halt Obama ban on federal coal mining
-Senate begins work on energy overhaul
-Groups sue city, state over Flint water crisis
-FBI tells Bundy group to leave after fatal shooting

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

Tags Debbie Stabenow Dick Durbin Harry Reid Lisa Murkowski
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