Friday in Washington:
Both the House and Senate are in session today, but limited activity is expected. The House will be considering H.R. 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act. There will be debate on seven amendments approved by the rule governing debate. The Senate will continue its work on the Continuing Resolution/mini-bus with amendments expected to be offered. Senator Reid filed cloture on both the Mikulski substitute and the underlying bill, so final action could occur tomorrow, but will most likely bleed into next week. Some resolution to the funding of the government must be reached before March 27th. Both the House and the Senate expect to take up competing budget resolutions next week, with the vote-a-ramas planned for late next week on all the amendments to the budget.
The budget resolutions have no force of law and unless House and Senate reach accord, they don’t have any impact on the appropriations process. What is worth noting is that this may be the first time in over four years that the Senate will attempt to move a budget resolution and Budget Chairwoman Murray has flirted with the idea of including reconciliation instructions—a course of action that could fundamentally alter the entire debt, budget, and tax reform landscape. In conversations with Ways and Means Members and Senate Finance Member, the idea of using this mechanism has been discounted, but the reconciliation process is uniquely tailored to facilitate large spending and tax reform proposals, so its potential cannot be dismissed.
At an event at Argonne National Lab, the President is expected to push for the creation of a $2 billion clean-energy research fund funded by fees imposed on the oil and gas industry. It will be called the Energy Security Trust. The plan does not envision the opening of new offshore areas to drilling. Revenue for the trust would come from accelerating permit approvals for oil and gas producers, which would increase production and boost receipts from royalties, lease sales and bonus bids. Energy development and mineral mining on U.S. lands and offshore raised about $12 billion for state and federal governments in fiscal year 2012, about $1 billion more than the previous year. A copy of the President’s energy plans being announced today can be viewed here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qxo0ms32tvmq2m9/Obama%20Energy%20Plan.pdf.
Other Items of Interest:
House Freshmen Lawmakers Introduce Two Fracking Related Bills
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation today to close two of the loopholes that exempt the oil and gas industry from environmental laws. The BREATHE Act, introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) would close a Clean Air Act loophole and the FRESHER Act, introduced by Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-PA) would close a Clean Water Act loophole. Specifically, the BREATHE Act would repeal a Clean Air Act exemption that allows the oil and gas industry to emit more than its fair share of toxic air pollution. It would also require the industry to control its poisonous emissions of hydrogen sulfide.The FRESHER Act would eliminate a Clean Water Act exemption that allows oil and gas to sidestep the same stormwater runoff permitting requirements that other industries meet.
US-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership
U.S. DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman and Brunei Darussalam Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office Pehin Dato Mohammad Yasmin Umar met upon the occasion of the visit of His Majesty Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei. They agreed that the United States and Brunei will create, and jointly chair, a new workstream of activities on renewable energy power generation to promote and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies in the countries of the East Asia Summit (EAS). Additional information about the partnership and the projects agreed to be promoted can be viewed here: http://www.doe.gov/articles/us-asia-pacific-comprehensive-energy-partnership.
DOI Releases Assessment of Shell’s 2012 Arctic Drilling Activities
On Thursday, DOI announced the findings of a Departmental review of Shell’s 2012 Arctic operations, which will help guide the conduct and oversight of future Arctic exploration. In January, DOI directed the high-level review of Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas – including the company’s preparations for last year’s drilling season and its maritime and emergency response operations – to identify challenges and lessons learned. The review focused on Shell’s inability to obtain certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, on a timely basis; the deployment difficulty of the Arctic Challenger’s containment dome; and serious marine transport issues associated with both of Shell’s two drilling rigs, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk, including its grounding off Kodiak Island during a towing operation. Additional information about the report can be reviewed here: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/department-of-the-interior-releases-assessment-of-shells-2012-arctic-operations.cfm.
Offshore Wind Research in VA Clears Milestone
BOEM announced that it has taken an important step toward issuing a wind energy research lease to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME), after finding that there is no competitive interest in the area where the state agency proposes to conduct activities. Additional information on the proposed research activities can be viewed here: http://www.boem.gov/BOEM-Newsroom/Press-Releases/2013/press03142013.aspx.
Western Gulf of Mexico Sale 229 Nets $133 Million in High Bids
BOEM completed its required evaluation to ensure that the public receives fair market value for tracts leased as part of Western Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Lease Sale 229. BOEM awarded leases on all 116 tracts that received bids to the successful high bidders. Sale 229 offered 3,873 unleased blocks covering more than 20 million acres offshore Texas. During the sale, 13 companies submitted 131 bids totaling $157,683,267 on 116 tracts, covering 652,522 acres. The highest bid on a single tract was $17,221,317, submitted by Chevron U.S.A., Inc. for East Breaks Block 546. Chevron U.S.A., Inc. also submitted the highest total amount in bonus bids, totaling $56,031,991 on 28 tracts. Additional information can be viewed here: http://www.boem.gov/BOEM-Newsroom/Press-Releases/2013/press03142013(1).aspx.
EPA Orders Enbridge to Perform Additional Dredging to Remove Oil from Kalamazoo River
The EPA issued an administrative order that requires Enbridge to do additional dredging in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River to clean up oil from the company’s July 2010 pipeline spill. EPA’s order requires dredging in sections of the river above Ceresco Dam, upstream of Battle Creek, and in the Morrow Lake Delta. EPA has repeatedly documented the presence of recoverable submerged oil in the sections of the river identified in the order and has determined that submerged oil in these areas can be recovered by dredging. The dredging activity required by EPA’s order will prevent submerged oil from migrating to downstream areas where it will be more difficult or impossible to recover. Enbridge has five days to respond to the order and 15 days to provide EPA with a work plan. Additional information can be reviewed here: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/19cdd21822f762cd85257b2e006ecbb9!OpenDocument.
Bipartisan/Bicameral Group of Lawmakers Hold Press Conference to Support Keystone XL
A group of bipartisan, bicameral congressional leaders will hold a press conference at 10 AM today to discuss House and Senate bills that would advance construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Today will mark 1,638 days since the Keystone XL application was first filed with the State Department. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) will formally introduce his bipartisan legislation in the House to remove the project’s fate from the president’s hands and clear away the roadblocks preventing construction of the pipeline. Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Max Baucus (D-MT) already introduced legislation in the Senate to approve the pipeline using Congressional authority. Additional information can be viewed here: http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/bipartisan-house-and-senate-leaders-host-press-conference-keystone-legislation.
14 US Congressmen Request Additional Information From EPA Regarding Climate Change Activities
14 Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are requesting that EPA provide further information regarding the President’s climate change agenda for his second term. Members wrote to EPA Acting Administrator Robert Perciasepe expressing concern over the impacts of EPA’s recently issued greenhouse gas regulations and the agency’s plans for additional rules that will raise energy prices and impede job creation and economic growth. Additional information and a copy of the letter can be viewed here: http://energycommerce.house.gov/letter/letter-epa-regarding-change-agenda-president-obamas-second-term.
House Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Reviews Regional Energy Policy Issues
Yesterday, the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled “U.S. Energy Security: Enhancing Partnerships with Mexico and Canada.”
Additional information about the hearing the webcast can be viewed here: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-us-energy-security-enhancing-partnerships-mexico-and-canada.
New Member of the Day: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)—Repeat Because of Recent Activity
Committee Assignments: Natural Resources and House Oversight and Government Reform
Chief of Staff: R. Hunter Ridgeway
Deputy COS: Shane Seaver
Legislative Director: Jeremy Marcus
Rep. Cartwright has served as an attorney for the last 24 years representing clients on consumer protection and business-related issues such as contracts, predatory lending practices and auditing malpractice. He is an outspoken opponent of the Tea Party and claimed to be from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party during his primary race against Rep. Tim Holden, a moderate Democrat.
On January 7th, Rep. Cartwright was elected to serve as co-president of this year’s class of Democratic freshmen along with Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas. He has stated that he does not believe that economic development and environmental protection are mutually exclusive, and he has voiced support for increased regulatory oversight of hydraulic fracturing. His stated top priorities are winning increased infrastructure funding and repeal of a 2005 law that stripped the EPA of its authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing–he refers to it regularly as the “Halliburton loophole.” Cartwright has promised to amend the Safe Water Drinking Act to increase disclosure of chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing. His position on the Natural Resources Committee and his legal training along with the highly charged politics surrounding resource extraction in parts of PA put him in a position to be a strong and legitimate advocate for increased environmental regulation of energy production activities.
If you have any questions, please contact me anytime. Previous updates and new Member profiles can be reviewed at:http://www.mzehrhbw.wordpress.com. Hope you all have a great Friday and a nice weekend!
Vice President US Federal Affairs
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