Thursday in Washington:
Neither the House nor the Senate are in session and most offices are functioning on a skeleton staff with religious holidays occurring this week. Most focus continues to be on same-sex marriage arguments going on at the Supreme Court.
Other Items of interest:
IMF Report Highlights Government Subsidization of Energy
According to the study, governments spend nearly $2 trillion per year to subsidize oil, natural gas, coal and electricity production through direct support to those industries, consumer rebates and avoided taxes on pollution. The United States is the top overall subsidizer, with $502 billion directed to support energy industries in 2011, according to IMF, followed by China at $279 billion and Russia at $116 billion. A copy of the report can be viewed here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2917yhby438urhc/IMF%20report%20on%20Energy%20Susidies.pdf
RFA releases Study on RFS & RINs Impact on Gas Prices
Responding to concerns about the price impacts of the RFS, the analysis, commissioned by RFA, found RINs are likely contributing no more than $0.004 (four-tenths of one cent) to the retail price of a gallon of gasoline. Meanwhile, ethanol’s wholesale discount to gasoline in 2013 has reduced the pump price for blended gasoline by an average of $0.044 per gallon. According to the study, when the net impact of both RIN costs and ethanol’s discount to gasoline are considered, ethanol-blended gasoline is saving consumers an average of $0.04 per gallon based on straight blending economics. A copy of the study can be viewed here:
Chairman Baucus Requests Information on IRS StarTrek Video Expenditures
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT demanded a line by line accounting from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today of the time, resources, and personnel involved in the making of Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island parody videos that reportedly cost $60,000 to produce. Amid painful cuts being imposed as a result of the government wide sequester demanding furloughs and other high profile cuts, the IRS’s use of federal dollars for training videos came under scrutiny this week. Additional information and a copy of the Baucus letter requesting additional information can be viewed here: http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/chairman/release/?id=a30a988d-ef9a-4994-9f77-fe6e2f62879b.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Questions Coal Regs
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressing disappointment at the Department’s lack of transparency and failure to respond to the Committee’s oversight questions surrounding OSM’s decision to rewrite a carefully crafted 2008 Stream Buffer Zone regulation. A copy of Chairman Hasting’s letter can be viewed here: http://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/03-27-13hastingsltrsecsalazar.pdf.
DOI Announces withholding of State Mineral Royalties Citing Sequestration
The DOI is cutting federal mineral payments to 35 states by about $110 million this fiscal year as part of the automatic federal spending cuts that started this month. The federal government has told the state of Wyoming that it will deduct 53 million dollars from the state’s share of federal mineral royalties between now and July as part of the federal sequester. The government says it may remove more money at a later date. The loss of funds would have an impact on state education and local government budgets. Governor Matt Mead says the lack of communication concerning the cut is unacceptable. Other states with similar arrangement would be similarly affected by the decision. New Mexico will take the next-biggest hit, a loss of $26 million. Other states hit hardest include Colorado, which is losing $8.4 million, and California, which will get $5.5 million less. A copy of the letter sent to the State of Wyoming can be viewed here:
Train Derailment Leads to 20,000 to 30,000 Leak of Oil in MN
Thousands of gallons of oil leaked onto the ground after a train carrying crude from Canada derailed Wednesday in western Minnesota. The 94-car Canadian Pacific train was headed south near Parkers Prairie. Fourteen tankers derailed. Three either leaked or spilled oil. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 gallons leaked onto the ground according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. A report of the accident can be viewed here:
Sen. Begich Holds Hearing on Arctic Development
Sen. Mark Begich, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, held a field hearing on increased Arctic marine activity at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The hearing was attended by representatives of the Interior Department, the Coast Guard and Shell Oil. News reports focused on drilling problems experienced by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, including the grounding of one of its two Alaska drill ships, but the unregulated ship traffic is a bigger concern according to US Sen. Begich. Additional information about the hearing and copies of the testimony can be viewed here: http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&ContentRecord_id=12a5ee11-a874-4c5f-b526-b7b5f2b54c35&ContentType_id=14f995b9-dfa5-407a-9d35-56cc7152a7ed&Group_id=b06c39af-e033-4cba-9221-de668ca1978a.
IG Audit Faults DOE’s Use of Stimulus Funding for Carbon Capture and Storage
DOE received nearly $1.5 billion in the stimulus bill to invest in carbon capture and sequestration projects. As of February 2013, only about $623 million, or less than 42 percent of the allocated funds, had been spent. Of that amount, the report criticized the department’s decision to use the funding for existing projects rather than new proposals. A copy of the report can be reviewed here: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/OAS-RA-13-15.pdf.
New Member of the Day: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX)
Committee Assignments: Armed Services and Foreign Relations
Chief of Staff: Carlos Sachez
Legislative Director: Matthew Jones
Rep. Joaquin Castro was born in San Antonio, Texas on September 16, 1974. After finishing high school a year early, Joaquin left San Antonio to graduate with honors from Stanford University in 1996. He then went on to attend Harvard Law School where he received his Juris Doctorate degree in 2000. He joined a private law practice and was elected into the Texas Legislature. He served five terms as state representative for District 125. In 2012 Joaquin was elected to serve in the U.S House of Representatives as representative of Texas Congressional District 20, which covers a large portion of San Antonio and Bexar County. Joaquin’s identical twin brother, Julian Castro, was elected in 2011 to his second term as Mayor of San Antonio.
Rep. Castro was chosen as 2013 co-President for the House freshman Democrats and named Assistant Whip for House Democrats, charged with assisting in rallying members around important legislation. He is considered one of the rising Hispanic political stars of the future. He has already formed a leadership political action committee to make contributions and political appearances on behalf of other Democratic candidates.
If you have any questions, please contact me anytime. Previous updates and Member profiles can be reviewed here: http://www.mzehrhbw.wordpress.com. Hope you all have a great Thursday!
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