By Asha Glover
Week In Review
Energy Conference Committee Has Long Road Ahead
Conferees from both chambers met to resolve differences between their energy bills. Members heard opening statements, but no bill text or amendments were considered.
The meeting showed the wide-ranging energy bill could have a difficult time in the conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. Key issues some members want to see resolved include investment in energy infrastructure and measures to address the California drought and wildfire management. Republicans also tried to convince Democrats to compromise instead of trying to work out a new deal for the bill if they end up being the majority in the next Congress. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Democrats that it was a bipartisan effort to get both the House and Senate to pass the energy legislation, and that Democrats need to work with the other side of the aisle to get something to the president’s desk before the end of the year.
Industry and environmental advocates don’t expect lawmakers to come to an agreement on their energy bills until after the November elections, in part because there isn’t enough time to negotiate certain issues before lawmakers leave Washington again.
Waterways Bill Moves Forward
The Senate also began working on the Water Resources Development Act — a waterways bill that includes funding for 25 Army Corps of Engineers projects and would allocate $220 million for water infrastructure updates to help alleviate the lead water crisis in Flint, Mich., and other cities. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed for cloture on the measure on Thursday and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) asked senators to file amendments by noon on Friday.
Obama Administration Steps Into Dakota Access Pipeline Fight
The Obama administration on Friday blocked the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, at least temporarily, after a court had ruled that its construction was legal. The Army Corps of Engineers will not authorize the pipeline’s construction on federal land bordering or under Lake Oahe, “until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider” earlier steps it took to authorize the pipeline, the Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and Department of the Interior announced in a joint statement.
The move walked back a decision by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to deny the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to block construction on the $3.8 billion pipeline, that said it was likely the Army complied with the National Historic Preservation Act in its decision to grant permits for the project.
The departments said the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations raised concerns about the Dakota Access pipeline and pipeline-related decision making, and the Army Corps of Engineers needs to determine if it needs to reconsider any previous decisions it made concerning the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act or any other federal laws. The departments also asked the pipeline company to voluntarily pause construction within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.
Both the House and Senate will be in session.
The House Science Committee will hold a hearing featuring four law professors on Congress’ “subpoena authority and recourse for failure to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas.” The hearing follows a back-and-forth between the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) over investigations into how much Exxon Mobil Corp. knew about climate change and whether the company suppressed climate change data in order to save its business.
Smith subpoenaed the attorneys general and other groups for communications relating to the state’s investigations, the attorneys general refused to comply with the subpoenas, saying they were unconstitutional. Smith said the subpoenas are legal because the states issued subpoenas to Exxon Mobil for its communications with scientists who studied climate change, and some of the requested studies were at least partially funded by the federal government.
On Thursday, a House Science subcommittee will hold a hearing on the EPA’s methane regulations. Representatives from the American Petroleum Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund and others will testify.
Morning Consult Energy Top Reads
1) The Coming Week: For Congress, It’s About Getting Out on Time
2) House Panel Votes to Weaken Obama’s Coal Moratorium
3) Senate Moves on Water Bill With Flint Aid
4) U.S.’s Aging Oil-Reserve Infrastructure Needs an Update
5) Oil-Pipeline Protest Turns Violent in North Dakota
6) Unexplored Territory: CPP and the Power Grid
7) Apache Has High Hopes for New Oil-Field Discovery in Texas
8) Judge Grants Partial Stop on North Dakota Pipeline Work
9) These Stunning New Alaska Maps Could Transform Our Understanding of the Arctic
10) End in Sight for U.S. Natural-Gas Glut