Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oklahoma senator says he'll block big public lands, water, and wildlife bill

The man who describes himself as the Senate's most conservative member said Wednesday that he'll block a huge bill that would expand protections for wilderness, scenic rivers, wildlife, and marine resources.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement that the provisions in the measure require additional debate and should not be considered during the current lame-duck session of Congress.

"I stand in firm opposition to this package, the contents of which are still uncertain," Inhofe said. "The first step to controlling government spending is for the authorizers to set reasonable and achievable authorization levels. I am perfectly willing to work with my colleagues to advance some of these bills individually, but we need time to examine the changes that have been made since they emerged from the EPW committee, and we must consider their effect on the deficit."

Inhofe was referring to the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, of which he is the ranking minority member.

According to a Nov. 15 report in E&E News, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, planned to ask the chamber to enact a bill that would encompass at least some of 60 natural resources-related measures already approved by Senate committees.

Inhofe's opposition may have been encouraged by the attitude of the ranching industry, which has urged Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to set the omnibus bill aside.

Incoming Speaker Boehner eliminates House global warming committee

The only Congressional committee exclusively focused on global warming will soon be in the cooler.

A spokesperson for House of Representatives Republican caucus leader John Boehner of Ohio, who is expected to become speaker when the 112th Congress convenes in January, said that the GOP would eliminate the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming.

"We have pledged to save taxpayers' money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress," Michael Steel said in a statement. "The Select Committee on Global Warming was created by Democrats simply to provide political cover to pass their job-killing national energy tax. It is unnecessary, and taxpayers will not have to fund it in the 112th Congress."

The death of the committee will not mean that the chamber cannot consider legislation touching on the issue or investigate the problem.

Before 2007, when the special panel was created, climate change issues were under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Natural Resources.

It is expected that those two panels will regain control over the subject when the new Congress convenes in January.

Nevertheless, the Democratic chair of the select committee lamented its impending death.

"We are not going away because the problems that climate change presents are too dangerous, too urgent, for us to disappear into the abyss of cynicism and lost opportunity," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said. "We are not going away because China and India and Germany are not going away as competitors for global energy dominance. We are not going away because the national security threats from our continued dependence on foreign oil are not going away."

One Republican even had positive things to say about the panel's work during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., had opposed its creation but said at the committee's last meeting Wednesday that it had been a useful forum to discuss the issue.

"This hearing will be the last of the select committee," he said. "And while I was initially skeptical of the select committee's mission, it ultimately provided a forum for bipartisan debate, and an opportunity for House Republicans to share a different view on the pressing energy and environment issues that we currently face."

The Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming did more than provide an avenue for debate. Overall, according to Politico, it held more than 75 hearings. They focused on renewable energy, reducing American dependence on oil resources obtained abroad, and the impacts of global warming.

Report: Oil drilling off Atlantic coast, Gulf coast of Florida to be banned

Reuters is reporting today that the Obama administration has decided to ban oil drilling off the Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast of Florida.

The decision, which Reuters says was shared in a briefing to members of Congress, would apply for the five-year period between 2012-2017.

The report also says the administration won't approve leases off the coast of Alaska until 2012.

The Washington Post reports that the next Outer Continental Shelf drilling plan will also prohibit exploration activities off the Pacific coast.

If accurate, the decision to block drilling off the Atlantic coast and Florida's Gulf coast would be a reversal of the policy direction announced by Interior secretary Ken Salazar last spring.