Drillers blame Interior for expected permit delay – House Dems back Obama’s new ‘chunky’ energy agenda

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— On Thu, 9/30/10, Morning Energy <morningenergy@politico.com> wrote:

From: Morning Energy <morningenergy@politico.com>
Subject: POLITICO’s Morning Energy, presented by America’s Natural Gas Alliance – All eyes on Salazar – Drillers blame Interior for expected permit delay – House Dems back Obama’s new ‘chunky’ energy agenda

Date: Thursday, September 30, 2010, 4:33 AM

POLITICO’s Morning Energy
By Josh Voorhees

ALL EYES ON KEN SALAZAR – The Interior secretary is slated to deliver a speech this morning on the Obama administration’s “comprehensive energy strategy” and his department’s “progress in raising the bar for the oil and gas industry’s safety and environmental practices in deepwater.”

That last part has observers guessing Salazar will unveil the new interim offshore drilling rules that are expected this week. An Interior spokeswoman declined to comment on the rumors, but the administration has previously suggested that the rules would be unveiled by the end of this month. (SPOILER ALERT: Today is Sept. 30.) Speech is at the Wilson Center in D.C. at 10:30 a.m.

INDUSTRY OFFENSIVE – The American Petroleum Institute briefed reporters in advance of the expected rollout, and the group signaled a possible future line of attack if a permitting holdup follows the end of the moratorium as many expect. API upstream director Erik Milito stressed that the industry was confident that it will be able to meet the new rules and that any delays that occur would be the result of an understaffed Interior Department.

“Just lifting the moratorium isn’t going to put people back to work,” he said. “It’s going to take the commitment of resources from the government to allow the industry to get back up and running.”

Milito said that API is concerned that BOEMRE’s restructuring has so far focused mostly on safety at the expense of beefing up the permitting staff and that he’s “just not sure” if the few personnel moves the agency has made to bolster the permitting side will be enough to avoid lengthy delays.

Happy Thursday and welcome to Morning Energy, where we were a bit surprised by the number of our readers who seem to be Detroit Red Wings fans. Congress may be going home for campaign season but we’ll still be in town, so keep the e-mails coming to Josh Voorhees at jvoorhees@politico.com

TOP TALKER – NYT [Front Page, Above the Fold] looks at the possibility of Cuba offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Next year, a Spanish company begins drilling 50 miles off the Florida Keys, but Cuba’s unprepared for anything like the BP disaster. Expect to see the GOP and industry tout this piece to show why the U.S. is best equipped to drill safely offshore.

NYT: “Cuba currently produces little oil. But oil experts say the country might have reserves along its north coast as plentiful as that of the international oil middleweights, Ecuador and Colombia – enough to bolster its faltering economy and cut its dependence on Venezuela for its energy needs.

“The nascent oil industry in Cuba is far less prepared to handle a major spill than even the American industry was at the time of the BP spill. Cuba has neither the submarine robots needed to fix deepwater rig equipment nor the platforms available to begin drilling relief wells on short notice.” http://nyti.ms/97Afwt

CUBA EMBARGO? – The NYT story quotes N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson as saying the drilling plans are a “potential inroad” for loosening the economic embargo on Cuba, especially given American drilling contractors are Republicans who could work on Congress. Richardson: “I think you will see the administration be more forward-moving after the election.”

** A message from America’s Natural Gas Alliance: In 2008, the natural gas industry supported 2.8 million jobs across the United States. Natural gas also added $385 billion to the economy. How does your state benefit from natural gas? http://bit.ly/d9LJ7V **

CHUNKY CHANGE – House Democratic leaders yesterday suggested to Morning Energy that they agree with President Obama’s recent remarks about breaking the climate and energy issue up “in chunks” next congress. “I think what the president said reflects the thinking of many of us on the Hill,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told ME. “I do believe that will be the likely direction we go.”

The Maryland lawmaker didn’t bite when asked how energy and climate legislation would fare under Republican leadership. “I’m not even going to talk about it. But if we are the majority … it’d probably be broken up into different pieces and not as one package. That’s my best guess.” (hat tip: Samuelsohn)

NOT A NEW IDEA – Majority Leader Steny Hoyer struck a similar tone in a conversation with ME, in which he downplayed the notion that Obama’s remarks had broken new ground. “First of all, the Senate automatically broke it up because they had two jurisdictions,” Hoyer said. “So it’s not necessarily a new idea.”

Asked if the Democrats would push the same agenda next year if they remain in the majority, Hoyer replied, “Certainly, we’re for dealing with both energy security independence and dealing with the global warming challenge.”

SENATE ON SAME PAGE – Hoyer and Van Hollen’s comments came hours after key Senate Democrats and Republicans signaled that they, too, were on board with the piecemeal approach. “From John Kerry to Lamar Alexander, the reaction on Capitol Hill to the president’s remarks in a Rolling Stone magazine interview suggest there’s room for compromise on energy and environmental issues when Congress returns next year,” reports Samuelsohn. http://politi.co/boJtn4

MORAN TO PUSH OFFSHORE BAN IN ALASKA, MID-ATLANTIC – The Washington Post looks ahead to legislative fights over offshore drilling, quoting House Interior Approps Chairman Jim Moran (D-Va.) saying that if the Dems stay in power, he will press for a drilling ban off Alaska and the mid-Atlantic.

“The gulf is going to go back to drilling. That’s just the nature of the gulf,” Moran said. But “I think we have at least a 50-50 chance of protecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.” http://wapo.st/aQsJAY

LAME DUCK HOPES SHRINK – With lawmakers headed home until after the election, many energy observers are holding their breaths in hopes of lame duck action (we’re looking at you, RES-ers). But the chances of any substantial energy action appear to be a long shot. “Senate Democratic leaders are backing away from plans to tackle any type of energy legislation during the upcoming lame duck session, including a renewable electricity standard and a response to the BP oil spill,” your morning host and Samuelsohn report. http://politi.co/bBDl6m

STEALING THE RES’S THUNDER – The standalone RES has seemed like the only major energy game in town since summer recess, but that’s not the case anymore. Sen. Lindsey Graham yesterday floated a proposal that would set a nationwide “clean energy standard” that also allows nuclear power and “clean coal” power plants to qualify.

“The RES introduced by Senators Bingaman and Brownback short-changes nuclear power, a safe reliable form of clean energy,” Graham said. “It is essential that nuclear power be fully embraced in any clean energy standard. … [The standalone RES] also does not have an expansive view of biomass opportunities. It is too quick to pick winners and losers in the clean energy race.”

NOT TO BE OUTDONE – Clean energy advocates who have continued to beat the drum for a standalone RES told ME yesterday that they believed Sen. Chuck Schumer will become the latest lawmaker to attach his name to the Bingaman-Brownback proposal. A spokesman for the New York Democrat did not return messages, but, if true, his addition would bring the unofficial head count of likely Yes votes to 44.

AT LEAST IT’S SOMETHING – Harry Reid filed for cloture last night on motions to proceed to three bills once Congress returns, one of which is the natural gas vehicle legislation that had been part of this summer’s narrow energy package.

The vote on the T. Boone Pickens-backed bill is expected Nov. 17. Mark your calendars.

SUBPOENA POWER – The good news for the co-chairs of the president’s oil spill panel is that someone is listening to their complaints that they don’t have subpoena power. The bad news is that it’s not the people that they need to convince.

Senate Democrats were unable to get their Republican colleagues to agree to a UC motion last night to grant the panel the power it wants. The GOP has shown little interest in giving subpoena power to a panel that was chosen by the president and that they view as anti-drilling.

Meanwhile, Democrat Reps. Ed Markey and Lois Capps sent letters yesterday afternoon to Harry Reid and McConnell begging them to take action. “Senate Republicans need to stop providing cover for Big Oil, and pass my bill giving the commission subpoena power so it can report back to the President by the January deadline with all the facts that led to this environmental and economic catastrophe,” Capps said in a statement.

A ‘HOSTAGE’ SITUATION – That’s how Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu described the ongoing drilling moratorium yesterday, making it clear that she has no plans to drop her hold on Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee for OMB director, until Gulf drilling restarts. “Let my people go. Let them get back to work,” she told reporters. “I know that [the administration is] working hard but all of that good will and wish and leaning forward is not resulting in more permits being issued.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PERMITS – Landrieu also stressed that she won’t necessarily lift her hold when the administration lifts the moratorium. “It doesn’t do me any good to technically have the moratorium lifted if there are no permits issued,” she said.

DELIVERING A MESSAGE– That’s how Sen. Jay Rockefeller yesterday described his EPA-regulation-delaying bill that he hopes will make it to the floor by the end of the year (despite the fact that Obama is expected to veto it should it make it to his desk). “The point is the message,” the West Virginia Democrat told reporters. “I want to have it happen. I want to have him not veto it.” Samuelsohn has more: http://politi.co/aa8Yxy

REPUBLICAN RESPONSE – Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, e-mails Morning Energy: “Americans don’t need a messaging bill, they need someone to address this issue head on. Sen. Murkowski offered legislation to stop the EPA and her Republican colleagues continue to push such a solution. If the president chooses to veto such legislation, so be it. He will have to face voters in two years and justify his decision.”

And a statement from Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.): “Democrats keep finding excuses to avoid protecting Americans from a new energy tax, and yet they express surprise that Americans are so fed up with Washington. Senator Reid should honor his promise and grant an up-or-down vote on the EPA’s backdoor, job-killing carbon regulations.”

CLIMATE ADAPTATION – The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research delivered a report to John Holdren yesterday detailing the needed national and regional preparations for adapting to a changing climate. Report: http://bit.ly/ck0a55

BOXER UP A TOUCHDOWN – A new Public Policy Institute of California poll out today has the EPW chairwoman up 7 points on GOP challenger Carly Fiorina, 42-35. http://bit.ly/9VzfmE

COBELL SETTLEMENT STUCK IN SENATE – As if Ken Salazar needs another headache, the Indian trust fund deal can’t get past Tom Coburn. http://politi.co/9GB5za


LAT – BP and governors of the five Gulf Coast states announced plans Wednesday to funnel a promised $500 million in research funds through an organization run by the governors, not the nation’s scientific community. http://lat.ms/9RWlIy

LAT – New Interior Department scientific integrity rules: http://lat.ms/aJUkWm

Houston Chronicle – New BP chief says safety is Job 1: http://bit.ly/cPfYTn

POLITICO – Congress sends CR to Obama http://politi.co/cKVFO2

** A message from America’s Natural Gas Alliance: One solution for more abundant domestic energy is staring us in the face. Natural gas is the natural choice-now and in the future. We know we need to use cleaner, American energy. And, we have it. Today, the U.S. has more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil, giving us generations of this clean, domestic energy source. Natural gas supports 2.8 million American jobs, most states are now home to more than 10,000 natural gas jobs. As Congress and the Administration look for ways toward a cleaner tomorrow, the answer is right here: natural gas. Learn more at www.anga.us. And, follow us on Twitter @angaus. **

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