Up-To-the-Minute Energy

Real-time news updates from National Journal -- Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A wind turbine stands in a landscape near Husum, northern Germany, on September 21, 2010. The Wind Energy 2010 fair is running in the northern city from September 21 to 25, 2010. (National Journal)

5:18 p.m. - BOXER TAKES AIM AT MANCHIN'S EX-IM COAL PROVISION. Quick update from a skirmish in the battle over the Export-Import Bank's reauthorization: Sen. Barbara Boxer is bashing Sen. Joe Manchin's bid to weaken the Ex-Im restrictions on financing construction of coal-fired power plants abroad. "What his language does is just throws out practically everything that would lead to cleaner air," Boxer, a California Democrat who heads the Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters in the Capitol. See our daily "Energy Edge" post here for more. -- BG

4:05 p.m. - SENATE APPROVES LAFLEUR, BAY TO FERC. The Senate cleared the nominations of Cheryl LaFleur and Norman Bay to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Bay, the head of FERC's enforcement office, was approved by a narrow 52-45 vote, with Republicans opposing his nomination over a lack of experience and for what they say is a history of targeting carbon-intensive business.

LaFluer, the acting chairman of the board, was also granted another term by a 90-7 vote. Under an agreement between lawmakers and the White House, Bay is expected to become FERC chairman after nine months as a member of the commission. -- JP

2:30 p.m. - EPA SPENDING BILL CLEARS COMMITTEE. The House Appropriations Committee approved a $30.2 billion Interior and Environment spending bill that includes plenty of environmental riders to block President Obama's climate plan. The bill passed 29-19, with Democrats saying the bill's funding level was too low and contained too many poison pill provisions. Among those: language that would block the EPA's rules limiting emissions from power plants, blocking the EPA's proposal to redefine its Clean Water Act jurisdiction and delay an Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse.

Among the amendments that were attached to the bill was one that would block the EPA from finalizing a rule permitting the collection of fines and penalties by garnishing wages. The committee also added language that would require all iron and steel in drinking water infrastructure be sourced domestically and designating February 22 as the celebration of George Washington's birthday. -- JP

12:56 p.m. - SENATE EASILY ADVANCES LAFLEUR TOWARD ANOTHER FERC TERM. The Senate voted 85-10 Tuesday to advance the nomination of Cheryl LaFleur, a Democrat, to another term on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It was a procedural vote and final confirmation is expected later this afternoon.

LaFleur is acting chairwoman of FERC and is expected to remain in that role for nine months before Norman Bay, another Democrat, moves into that position. Bay, who currently heads FERC's enforcement office, is also slated for confirmation as a FERC member later today over the opposition of Republicans. Earlier, on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell alleged that he doesn't have enough experience and has "shown a history of targeting carbon-intensive businesses." -- BG

12:32 p.m. - SENATE MOVES FERC CHAIRMAN-IN-WAITING CLOSER TO CONFIRMATION. The Senate advanced President Obama's nomination of Norman Bay to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Tuesday in a 51-45 procedural vote that broke down mostly along party lines. A final vote is expected later this afternoon. Bay currently heads FERC's enforcement office, and the White House wants him to be FERC chairman.

Under an agreement between lawmakers and the White House, Bay is expected to become FERC chairman after nine months as a member of the commission. Cheryl LaFleur, the acting chairwoman, is slated to be confirmed to another FERC term later today and will remain in the chairman's seat until Bay takes over. -- BG

12:12 p.m. — SHELL ANNOUNCES GULF OF MEXICO DISCOVERY. The onshore fracking boom gets a lot of the spotlight, but the Gulf of Mexico remains a big draw for oil companies with the capital for the costly projects. Like Shell, which on Tuesday announced a "major discovery" in the Gulf. The company said its Rydberg exploration well, in waters nearly 7,500 feet deep about 75 miles off the Louisiana coast, hit paydirt.

"Shell is completing the full evaluation of the well results but expects the resource base to be approximately 100 million barrels of oil equivalent," the company said. It joins two other Shell discoveries in recent years in what's known as the Norphlet play. "Together with the Appomattox and Vicksburg discoveries, this brings the total potential Norphlet discoveries to over 700 million barrels of oil equivalent," Shell said. -- BG

11:50 a.m. — DEMS FAIL IN ATTEMPT TO STRIP RIDERS FROM SPENDING BILL. Rep. Jim Moran, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, said he thought the committee's EPA spending bill could pass, were it not for a slew of controversial riders. Moran offered an amendment that would have stripped 24 policy provisions, including language that would block EPA's rules limiting pollution from power plants and EPA's proposal to redefine its Clean Water Act jurisdiction; it also would delay an Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse.

The amendment failed by a 29-19 party line vote, but Democrats said they would offer up other amendments on specific policy riders. -- JP

7:14 a.m. — LOBBYING TUSSLE OVER CRUDE-OIL EXPORTS ESCALATES. Look for energy companies' second-quarter lobbying disclosure reports to provide a glimpse into the growing fight over whether the U.S. should lift the decades-old ban on exporting crude oil. Valero Energy, the nation's largest refiner and an opponent of lifting the ban, lists crude exports among its various lobbying areas in a newly filed second-quarter report.

The company spent $310,000 on total lobbying in the April-June period, more than the $200,000 it spent in the second quarter of 2013 and among its highest quarterly totals ever. Valero also listed the ban in last quarter's filing. The deadline for companies to file second-quarter reports is July 21. -- BG

7:14 a.m. — GLOBAL GREEN-ENERGY FUNDING CLIMBS IN SECOND QUARTER. Worldwide investment in clean-energy sources grew to $63.6 billion in the second quarter, a 33 percent jump from the prior three-month period, according to newly released data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Investment remains below levels reached a few years ago but is on the upswing, the company said in the report that tallies financing of wind, solar and other projects.

"The past two years have seen investment decline by over 20 percent from its 2011 peak, driven equally by the European fiscal crisis, policy uncertainty and plummeting costs for renewable energy equipment. Now, what we are seeing is the new competitiveness of renewable energy winning through, driving a surge in demand," said Michael Liebreich, advisory board chairman at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. -- BG

7:14 a.m. — CARBON-CAPTURE PROJECT BREAKS GROUND IN TEXAS. The Energy Department said Tuesday that construction has begun on a federally backed project to trap carbon emissions from a coal-fired power plant in the Houston area. It's the first commercial-scale project underway to retrofit an existing coal-fired power plant with carbon-capture technology, DOE said.

The $1 billion Petra Nova Project by NRG Energy and JX Nippon, backed by $167 million in DOE funding, aims to capture carbon from part of the power plant and pipe it 80 miles to a depleted oilfield. It will be injected to help boost the aging field's production. Reuters has more on the project here. -- BG