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HOUSE GOP LOOKS TO GIVE FERC THE KEYS TO ENERGY DOMINANCE: Republicans and Democrats sparred Friday morning over legislation to make the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the gatekeeper for approving natural gas exports.

The current process provides for a two-step process in which FERC’s primary siting approval must be evaluated and approved by the Department of Energy, which has typically dragged its feet in issuing final decisions on export decisions.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wants to make FERC approval the final say on exports, foregoing the drawn-out Energy Department public interest finding.  

GOP say changes long overdue: The Republicans on the committee at a hearing Friday morning said changes to the natural gas export approval process are long overdue, especially with the shale revolution and fracking boom that has made the U.S. a net natural gas exporter.

Minority pushes back: Democrats on the committee said the legislation “is not in the public interest” and would undermine environmental safeguards, according to Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the panel.

Trump still reviewing bill: The Trump administration “has not taken a position” on the legislation, said a senior Energy Department official at the hearing.

“The administration has not taken a position,” said Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for fossil energy. “Congress gave authority to the Department of Energy to perform the public interest. We certainly look forward to working with this committee to review the bills in more detail and understand the implications that they have.”

Winberg acknowledged that the the legislation would amend the Natural Gas Act and “remove DOE’s authority in regulating natural gas trade for the United States.” Under the bill, FERC’s authority it unchanged.

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U.S. OIL PRODUCTION EXPECTED TO SURPASS SAUDI ARABIA: The U.S. this year is expected this year to pass Saudi Arabia in crude oil output and challenge Russia as the world’s top producer, the International Energy Agency said Friday.

The agency projects U.S. crude production, bolstered by “explosive” growth in shale output, will reach more than 10 million barrels per day in 2018, higher than any year since 1970.

The head of the international agency said as much earlier this week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Fatih Birol recalled that the only time in history that such growth occurred was when Saudi Arabia opened its Ghawar oil field nearly 50 years ago. The oil field is the largest known reserve in the world.

ROB BISHOP TO CONVENE WORKING GROUP ON EASTERN GULF DRILLING BAN: Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, will convene a working group to discuss the impact of the ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, his office told the Washington Examiner Friday.

No go zone: The government has a moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf until June 30, 2022, imposed partly because the Pentagon worries oil development would interfere with military testing and training in the area.

The working group, made up Florida lawmakers and Natural Resources Committee members, will convene its first meeting Friday at 1 p.m.

Proactive dialogue: “This is the beginning of a proactive dialogue to build consensus on addressing the expiration of the eastern Gulf moratorium,” said Katie Schoettler, a spokeswoman for the committee. “We want input and for members and stakeholders to be aware of potential avenues forward.”

Full-court press: Florida lawmakers have been pressing to extend the moratorium on leasing in the eastern Gulf, to possibly permanently ban drilling, after the Trump administration indicated it would seek to begin drilling there in 2023.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., agreed to work with Florida lawmakers to extend the moratorium, his office has said.

Flip flop: The Trump administration this month released a draft five-year leasing plan that would open almost all federal waters to oil and gas drilling.

But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke later changed course and said he would not allow drilling off the coast of Florida, and potentially, the entire eastern Gulf, after he met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who strongly opposed the potential move.

DEMOCRATS BLAST ZINKE’S ‘DRILL EVERYWHERE’ PLAN: Democrats criticized Zinke’s “drill everywhere” offshore plan during a Friday Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Corporate favoritism: “This is the latest example of Republicans governing for the benefit of corporations, not citizens,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif. “Republicans wants to satisfy Big Oil’s insatiable appetite, all while rolling back safety actions in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

‘Political ploy’: Coastal governors who oppose offshore drilling are pressing Zinke for exemptions from his proposal, after he granted one to Florida.

Lowenthal said Zinke’s exemption to Florida was “nothing more than a political ploy” that shows the Interior secretary “couldn’t care less about California’s history or local voices opposed to his drill everywhere plan.”

Ongoing analysis: Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said at the hearing that Zinke has spoken with eight governors who have expressed their concerns about potential drilling off their coasts, and that Interior plans to undertake a rigorous public review process before finalizing its plans.

“We are following the process conducting a full analysis of all areas included in the draft proposed program,” Cruickshank said.

He added that Zinke’s commitment to withdraw Florida from offshore drilling is not a “formal action” and the state remains subject to the government’s official analysis.

GOP push for seismic research: The comments came at a Republican-led hearing on the “deficiencies” of the permitting process for offshore seismic research, to determine the oil and gas potential in federal waters.

“Seismic research is the most effective and least intrusive way to study our oceans,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., noting current data is old.

FEARS RISE FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES AS SPENDING BILL COUNTS DOWN: Environmentalists are raising alarms that a renewed Republican campaign to gut the Endangered Species Act is afoot on Capitol Hill as the clock ticks down toward the midnight deadline for a government spending bill or shutdown.

Resistance: The Center for Biological Diversity and other national groups started a campaign this week to get voters and others to call on lawmakers not to reverse species protection rules under the law.

Their fears stem from a push last year in the Senate to attach a rider to the Interior Department spending bill.

Goodbye, prairie chicken: The previous riders sought to weaken the Forest Service’s obligations to consider how to minimize harm to newly listed species and their habitats. The legislation would stop the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service from taking action to protect the lesser prairie chicken, as well derail protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes, according to the groups.

‘What the hell is going on?’: When asked if the provisions could make it into the short-term spending bill, Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity put it this way: “No one knows what the hell is going on right now, anything is possible.”

TRUMP WAITING OUT THE CLOCK TO ACT ON SOLAR TARIFFS: There is no rush at the White House to decide on whether to impose stringent new tariffs on solar panel imports. President Trump has until Jan. 26 to make a decision on recommendations from the International Trade Commission that voted to impose new protectionist barriers on foreign imports of solar panels into the United States.

The decision has been met by a last-ditch campaign by the solar industry and its supporters to convince the president that doing so would be devastating for manufacturers that support the solar industry and its 250,000-plus workforce.

ENVIRONMENT GROUPS SUE WILBUR ROSS FOR LETTING WHALES DROWN: Environmental groups sued Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday for not protecting endangered North Atlantic right whales from being entangled in lobster traps and drowning off the U.S. coast.

Whales vs. extinction: “The law is clear: The federal government must act, and act immediately, to save the right whale from extinction,” said Jane Davenport, a senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, one of the groups filing Thursday's lawsuit.

Commerce ignores own evidence: The lawsuit argues that that the National Marine Fisheries Service, one of the agencies that Ross oversees, has determined that lobster traps are leading to the deaths of North Atlantic right whales, but has refused to act under the standards of the Endangered Species Act.

Court action wanted: The groups want the federal district court in the District of Columbia to order the fisheries service to take action to protect the whales by declaring that the administration is violating the endangered species law and that continued operation without assessing the harm to the whales, or requiring lobster fishermen to obtain take permits that allow for accidental kills, "is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion."

ZINKE VS. NORTH CAROLINA SALAMANDER AND CATFISH: One of the groups suing Ross is also threatening to sue Zinke if the agency doesn't take action to protect several species in North Carolina.

Countdown to sue: The Center for Biological Diversity said Thursday it was giving Zinke 60 days notice of its intent to sue him under the Endangered Species Act for failing to make decision on whether the Neuse River Waterdog, a type of aquatic salamander, and the Carolina Madtom catfish that lives in North Carolina are threatened.

A long time coming: The group had petitioned the agency for protections for both species nearly eight years ago to be listed as threatened or endangered. The endangered species law gives environmental groups the right to file civil suits to hold the agency accountable if a determination has not been issued.

MOVING FORWARD ON KEYSTONE XL: The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline said Thursday that it will move ahead on the project after gaining enough customers to make the oil pipeline viable for the next two decades.

The 500,000-barrel question: TransCanada announced that it has enough customer interest to ship 500,000 barrels of oil per day over the next 20 years, the company said a week ahead of the one-year anniversary of President Trump's signing an executive order to expedite the project's approval after nearly a decade of delays.

Season of opportunity: The company made the announcement after concluding its "open season" process for the pipeline, which is the period when proposed pipelines attract customers. The success of the open season in attracting customers is used to determine whether the pipeline gets built.

"Interest in the project remains strong and TransCanada will look to continue to secure additional long-term contracted volumes," the company said.

TransCanada did not commit to building the pipeline, however.

CLIMATE ACTIVISTS SAY DON’T BELIEVE THE ‘BLUSTER’: Climate change activists blasted TransCanada’s announcement as nothing more than unsubstantiated "bluster."

"TransCanada's statement shows that the company has still not secured the customers it needs for its Keystone XL pipeline," said Patrick McCully, the Rainforest Action Network's climate and energy director. The group has been a staunch opponent of the project for years.

All ‘bluster:’ "It’s just bluster from TransCanada to pretend that this unnecessary and unwanted pipeline is close to proceeding," McCully said. "It still faces enormous regulatory and legal hurdles and continued fierce opposition from landowners, farmers, indigenous peoples, and activists alike."

Massive protests planned: Other groups vowed to block the project if TransCanada decides to construct it.

The resistance: The Promise to Protect coalition said it has received commitments from almost 14,000 people to join in “peaceful resistance along the Keystone XL route when called upon.”

‘Bad’ is the bottom line: “The bottom line remains that all fossil fuel pipelines are bad for people and the planet,” said May Boeve, executive director of the fervently anti-fossil fuel group

NASA SAYS 2017 WAS SECOND HOTTEST YEAR EVER: Last year was among the hottest on record, government scientists said Thursday.

NASA said 2017 was the second warmest ever by global average surface temperature, ranking only behind 2016.

Hot, by any measure: Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a separate study, reported last year as the third-warmest, following 2016 and 2015.

The two agencies keep independent records of the Earth’s temperature, but traditionally release their findings together.

Their analyses differ because they evaluate the Arctic differently. NASA more heavily incorporates Arctic temperatures in the overall average.

‘Warming uniformly’: “The planet is warming remarkably uniformly,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters Thursday. “We are in a long-term warming trend, despite the ups and downs that we sometimes get on an annual basis.”

TRUMP NAVY NOMINEE SAYS CLIMATE CHANGE TOP PRIORITY: Trump’s nominee to oversee Navy facilities said Thursday she would make handling threats from climate change and rising sea levels a top priority for the service if confirmed.

Phyllis Bayer testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that climate change is already causing issues for the Navy and she would delve even deeper into the issue than required by Congress, which has ordered a report on the 10 military facilities most threatened by changing climates.

Committed to study: “I commit to you, senator, that in the effort that the Department of the Navy will be contributing to that study for the Department of Defense I will look even further into those issues,” Bayer told Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a committee member.

The report was part of Congress’ annual National Defense Authorization Act, which also deems climate change a “direct threat” to U.S. national security that is endangering 128 military bases.

Trump signed the NDAA but the law is at odds with his new National Security Strategy, which dropped the past administration’s references to climate change in favor of focuses on the U.S. business and economic climate.


Reuters Most U.S. states lost coal mining jobs in 2017, government data shows

New York Times Warming, water crisis, then unrest: how Iran fits an alarming pattern

Wall Street Journal Former hub of Venezuela’s oil wealth turns to hunger and rust

Bloomberg Big Oil is hiring women. Keeping them is the challenge, CEO says

Reuters Mexico's energy opening faces test in deepwater oil auction

New York Times Rising oil prices buoy Russia’s economy, despite sanctions

Yale Environment 360 How one lawmaker is breaking the bipartisan barrier on climate change

Bloomberg Nigeria moves closer to energy overhaul with new oil bill



Deadline for government spending bill.


10 a.m., 1225 I St. St. NW. Bipartisan Policy Center holds the first conference in the Infrastructure Lab and “3I” Series — Infrastructure Ideas and Innovations. The effort is aimed at providing policymakers with fact-based evidence that can shape strategies for restoring America’s infrastructure. The first lab will focus on sustainability efforts in Detroit, which includes taking into account energy and environmental concerns.


9 a.m., 11555 Rockville Pike. Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds a hearing on a construction permit for a northwest medical isotopes production facility.

10 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to examine the performance of the electric power system in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic during recent winter weather events.

1 p.m., EPA holds a meeting by teleconference of the Human Studies Review Board to advise the agency on the ethical and scientific review of research involving human subjects, Jan. 23-24.

1 p.m., 11545 Rockville Pike. Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds a meeting of the NuScale Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards to review draft proposed acceptance criteria for reviewing an exemption request from GDC 27 as part of the NuScale design certification application, Jan. 23-24.

1 p.m.,  EPA holds a meeting by teleconference of the Human Studies Review Board to advise the agency on the ethical and scientific review of research involving human subjects, Jan. 23-24.


8 a.m., 2121 P St. NW. Energy Department holds the Wind Industry Partnership Summit to share innovative technologies that may be beneficial to your firm and engage industry leaders in a dialogue about the future of public research and development laboratory R&D investments, Jan. 24-25.  


10 a.m., 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a field hearing, called “The Road to Tomorrow: Energy Innovation in Automotive Technologies,” to examine the opportunities and challenges facing vehicle technologies, especially energy-relevant technologies.  


All day, Altoona, Iowa. Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit kicks off at the Meadows Conference Center.

2 p.m., 1324 Longworth. House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands holds a legislative hearing on a bill to create the first tribally managed national monument — the Shash Jáa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument, formerly part of Bears Ears National Monument.