ETHANOL GROUPS PREPARE FOR LOBBYING FIGHT: Two major players in the ethanol industry have tapped a new lobbying firm amid a growing fight over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Growth Energy, an industry group, and Poet, a leading American ethanol producer, filed lobbying paperwork this week detailing contracts with Heather Podesta + Partners.
Spokespeople for the ethanol groups said the firm will focus on tax reform, but also the RFS, which sets ethanol blending requirements for gasoline supplies.
The contracts come as the Trump administration ponders a plan to shift the task of complying with the mandate from refiners to fuel wholesalers.
Ethanol interests strongly object to the plan, which has the support of billionaire investor and Trump adviser Carl Icahn.
But a separate biofuels group, the Renewable Fuels Association, offered its support for the proposal in exchange for another policy trade-off.
The Trump administration has not yet unveiled an RFS overhaul. But the point of obligation debate is a major source of uncertainty for the ethanol industry, which is still trying to determine how Trump and a GOP Congress will address the fuels mandate, and it's attracted the attention of Midwestern lawmakers who support the ethanol sector.
Icahn's role has also piqued ethanol groups and Democrats, who note he stands to gain from RFS reform.
He defended his advising work earlier this month, telling Bloomberg, "I own a refinery. Who knows it better than me? Why shouldn't I advocate?"
Read more here.
ARCTIC ICE CONTINUES SHRINKING: The Arctic Ocean experienced its lowest maximum level of sea ice on record this year.
Arctic sea ice reached an extent of 5.57 million square miles on March 7, researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said, marking its largest area of coverage for the winter season.
That was 37,000 square miles smaller than the previous low, observed in February 2015, making it the smallest maximum ice cover observed in the 38-year history of satellite record keeping.
The record means 2017 is the third straight year in which the Arctic observed record low maximum ice coverage. The 14 lowest Arctic ice maximums have happened in the last 14 years.
Researchers blamed the low ice extent on a "very warm autumn and winter" in the Arctic region.
Read more here.
SENATE PASSES NUCLEAR ENERGY BILL: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed legislation Wednesday to make federal government reforms aimed at helping the nuclear power sector get new advanced reactor technology into the market.
The legislation passed 18-3, with strong bipartisan support. It would change fee structures at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), mandate a new licensing process at NRC for advanced reactors and have the Department of Energy develop a way to share costs with industry for advanced reactor design reviews.
"Our bipartisan legislation will enable the development of innovative reactors with bold, new technologies," Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate appears poised to advance first Native American to lead National Park Service Sunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Wyo.) said at the markup.
"We need to create an environment where entrepreneurs can flourish and create jobs here at home that will revitalize our nuclear energy sector."
"If we are smart, we will replace our aging nuclear reactors with new technology developed in this country that is safer, produces less spent fuel and is cheaper to build and operate," said Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? Congress sends 30-day highway funding patch to Biden after infrastructure stalls MORE (Del.), the panel's top Democrat.
FEDS EARN $275M FROM OFFSHORE LEASE SALE: The Interior Department has sold $275 million in new oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the agency reported on Wednesday.
The sale created new drilling leases covering more than 913,000 acres off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It was the final Gulf of Mexico lease sale to be held under the current federal drilling master plan, which expires this year.
"Today's strong sale reflects continued industry optimism and interest in the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf, a keystone of the Nation's offshore oil and gas resources and a vital part of President Trump's plan to make the United States energy independent," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the lease sale could result in at least 460 million barrels of oil and 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and potentially much more.
ON TAP THURSDAY I: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) will speak at the Heartland Institute's annual climate conference in Washington.
ON TAP THURSDAY II: Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson will speak at an Economic Club of Washington event.
AROUND THE WEB:
A Maine lawmaker wants to add an individual's belief in climate change to a list of factors protected by a state anti-discrimination law, the Associated Press reports.
Some local elected officials in Colorado took out full-page advertisements in Aspen newspapers about climate change, hoping to catch the attention of Trump's family while they vacation there, the Aspen Daily News reports.
Exxon Mobil Corp. said it lost a year's worth of emails from former CEO and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's "Wayne Tracker" alias account, the New York Daily News reports.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Wednesday's stories ...
-Arctic sea ice levels hit another record low
-House panel to challenge climate science
-Ethanol groups add lobbying firepower for mandate fight
-Dem unveils bill to raise gas tax by a penny
-White House: Trump isn't considering a carbon tax