Overnight Energy: Senate committee advances Arctic refuge drilling bill

Overnight Energy: Senate committee advances Arctic refuge drilling bill
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ANWR DRILLING BILL HEADS TO SENATE FLOOR: A Senate committee approved legislation Wednesday allowing for oil and gas drilling a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The legislation is highly controversial, with Democrats and environmentalists slamming Senate Republicans for mandating new revenue from Arctic drilling as part of their tax reform overhaul push.

But Republican supporters of the legislation said on Wednesday that the drilling proposal is good for both Alaska, an energy-heavy state, and the federal government. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiEnergy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress Durbin: Democrats can 'slow' Supreme Court confirmation 'perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at most' Senate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election MORE (R-Alaska), who has long made ANWR drilling one of her top legislative priorities, said the push won't impact the refuge as much as opponents of the plan warn it will.

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"If we move forward with development, we will do it right. We will take care of our wildlife, or lands and our people," she said during a hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, which she chairs.

"Alaskans will do this the right way. We will protect our environment while providing substantial economic benefits all across America."

Murkowski's bill directs the Interior Department to hold lease sales for up to 800,000 acres of land in ANWR within the next decade, with the federal government and Alaska sharing any potential royalties from production there. It would raise $1.092 billion for the federal government over ten years.

Any drilling in ANWR will take place in a 1.5 million acre section of the refuge on Alaska's North Slope. ANWR itself is a 19.3 million acre expanse in northeastern Alaska.

Under a budget resolution adopted earlier this year, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee was instructed to find $1 billion in revenue to help pay for the tax reform push. The result is the ANWR bill. That means the fate of both Murkowski's bill bill and the GOP's tax overhaul are tied together.

 

Dems slam drilling bill: Democrats, led by the ranking member of the committee, Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes MORE (D-Wash.), lambasted the bill on environmental and economic grounds.

They warned that drilling in any section of ANWR will risk the habitat of caribou and other animals and undermine the idea of setting aside the region as a wilderness area.

"It turns this coastal plane and wildlife refuge into an oil field," Cantwell said.

Democrats offered a dozen amendments to the bill, looking to water it down and extend protections to ANWR. Amendments included those allowing drilling only if its compatible with wildlife protection measures, certifying that leases held by oil companies elsewhere in Alaska are tapped out before opening ANWR, and blocking companies with environmental violations from developing there.

The committee approved none of the Democratic amendments, and the bill passed on a 13-10 vote, with Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Energy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Trump's tax return bombshell MORE (D-W.Va.) supporting it.

Read more here.

 

SENATE APPROVES MINING SAFETY CHIEF: The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm David Zatezalo, a former coal mining executive who faced harsh criticism over his company's safety record, to lead the federal government's mine safety agency.

The vote was 52 to 46, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed to Zatezalo's nomination to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Zatezalo, a West Virginia native, retired in 2014 as head of Rhino Resources, a coal mining company. Rhino had numerous run-ins with MSHA enforces under his leadership, including two "pattern of violations" letters, a rare warning from regulators.

"It is disappointing to me that President Trump nominated one of the industry's worst health and safety offenders to lead this critical agency," Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPoll finds support for independent arbiters resolving 'surprise' medical bills Senate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Trump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response MORE (Wash.), top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said on the Senate floor before the Zatezalo vote.

Republicans were happy with Zatezalo, and welcomed him as someone with the experience and knowledge needed to enforce safety laws without being too heavy-handed.

"He knows about various levels of the business, which will be an important asset as he works with operators, miners and inspectors to ensure that mining operations are safe for our nation's mineworkers," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellIn rare move, Schumer forces vote to consider health care bill amid Supreme Court tensions COVID-19 talks hit crucial stretch Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting MORE (R-Ky.) said.

Read more here.

 

MACRON OFFERS TO FILL TRUMP'S GLOBAL CLIMATE FUNDING: French President Emmanuel Macron offered Wednesday to fill in the gap created by Trump pulling funding from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"They will not miss a single euro," he said at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bonn, Germany.

"I can guarantee that at the start of 2018, IPCC will have all the funding that it needs, and will continue to support our decisionmaking."

IPCC is responsible for regularly publishing comprehensive reports on climate change science, and is considered a worldwide authority on the matter.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY: Judith Garber, the head of the United States' delegation to the Bonn climate change talks, is due to speak from the meeting Thursday.

Garber, the acting assistant secretary of State for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, is filling in as the delegation leader because Tom Shannon, under secretary for political affairs, could not make it.

Garber's speech will be, along with an event with White House adviser George David Banks earlier in the week, the only event in which the official Trump administration delegation is speaking.

 

TOMORROW IN THE HILL: COP23 attendees have heard from two competing American delegations: The Trump administration pushing back against the Paris climate deal, and Democrats insisting the U.S. can still meet the goals of the agreement.

Tomorrow in The Hill, what that arrangement reveals about the climate debate in the United States, and how it's been received in Bonn.   

 

AROUND THE WEB:

It's unclear what OPEC will do about oil production limits when it meets later this month, Bloomberg reports.

Ryan Bundy's federal trial started Wednesday with opening arguments from both sides, the Washington Post reports.

Workers began construction this week on a Nebraska wind farm set to power a Facebook data center near Omaha, the World-Herald reports.  

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGE:

Georgetown Professor David A. Super asks whether Congress has "forgotten" past oil disasters as it pushes for more production.  

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Macron: France will cover US share of funding for UN climate panel

-Senate confirms Trump's mine safety pick

-Senate committee approves drilling in Alaskan wildlife refuge

-Trump to shrink Utah monument by half, GOP staffer says

 

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