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GOP puts Keystone XL in category with Apollo program

House Republicans on Monday compared the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline to the Apollo space program, the Transcontinental Railroad and the Hoover Dam, calling it a "landmark" project that the Obama administration is entangling in red tape.

In an issue brief released Monday by the Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Republicans claimed the Keystone project is just one example of a major oil, gas and coal project that has fallen victim to President Barack Obama's regulatory meddling.

PG&E officials removed for improper communications

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Four senior officials with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and the state commission regulating it were removed or resigned over emails released Monday showing the utility and state regulators appeared to negotiate which judge would be assigned to hear one of the utility's rate cases.

The emails show the commission ultimately assigned to the case a judge for whom PG&E had expressed a preference, rather than another judge who PG&E said "has a history of being very hard on us."

Corps halts review of Oregon coal export terminal

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has brought its review of a proposed coal export terminal to an immediate halt, a blow to the Australian company that's trying to get coal from the Northern Rockies to a hungry Asian market.

Last month, Oregon state regulators rejected a proposed terminal on the Columbia River because it potentially would interfere with tribal fishing rights.

On Monday, the Corps announced it had put its review on hold while a judge considers an appeal of the state's decision.

China rig finds gas after Vietnam sea standoff

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese exploration rig at the center of a tense maritime standoff with Vietnam earlier this year has made its first deep sea gas discovery in the politically volatile South China Sea, state media announced Tuesday.

The discovery by China National Offshore Oil Corp. was made about a month after its rig withdrew in July from Vietnam's exclusive economic zone to far less-contested waters closer to China.

Associated Press

GAO: Coal retirements will hit 13 percent under mercury rule

The Environmental Protection Agency's rule limiting mercury releases from coal-fired power plants will prompt the closure of about 13 percent of coal-fired power generation capacity by 2025, the Government Accountability Office reported Monday, more than it previously predicted.

In an audit of federal monitoring of reliability issues as power generators comply with the rule and three others affecting coal plants proposed by EPA as of 2012, GAO said the operators plan to retire about 42,192 megawatts of capacity.

That estimate is a percentage point higher than upper end of the 2-to-12 percent in capacity retirements GAO projected two years ago, while planned retrofits are down about 30 percent.

Study: Leaky wells, not fracking, taint water

WASHINGTON (AP) — The drilling procedure called fracking didn't cause much-publicized cases of tainted groundwater in areas of Pennsylvania and Texas, a new study finds. Instead, it blames the contamination on problems in pipes and seals in natural gas wells.

After looking at dozens of cases of suspected contamination, the scientists focused on eight hydraulically fractured wells in those states, where they chemically linked the tainted water to the gas wells. They then used chemical analysis to figure out when in the process of gas extraction methane leaked into groundwater.

EPA administrator pushes for water rule

CORRALES, N.M. (AP) — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday she's not backing down on her agency's efforts to implement a new rule that would assert regulatory authority over many of the nation's streams and wetlands despite criticisms that it amounts to a federal water grab.

The U.S. House approved a bill last week that would block the agency from moving forward with the rule, which aims to clarify the streams and waterways that could be protected from development under the Clean Water Act.

Powerful Washington lobbyist Boggs dies at 73

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., a son of congressional royalty who evolved into a top-tier lobbyist and prolific Democratic fundraiser and embodied what it meant to have Washington clout, died Monday He was 73.

His brother-in-law, journalist Steve Roberts, said Boggs died Monday morning at his home in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland. The cause of death has not been determined, but the family suspected a heart attack, Roberts said.

Boggs was a driving force in transforming the law firm now known as Squire Patton Boggs into one of Washington's most influential and best-known lobbying powerhouses. A Washington lifer with an encyclopedic list of Democratic contacts, he was also known for constantly hosting fundraisers and relentlessly persuading friends and family to contribute to Democratic candidates.

UN nuke agency indicates slow going on Iran probe

VIENNA (AP) — With his probe of suspected nuclear weapons work by Iran sputtering, the head of the U.N. atomic agency on Monday urged Iran to either cooperate or accept the prospect of a ruling on the allegations based on incomplete information.

Comments to reporters by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano focused on the latest IAEA attempt over more than a decade to follow up the suspicions.

Correction to story about migrating birds in Calif. drought

YUBA CITY, Calif. (AP) — In a posted on EnergyGuardian this morning about efforts to provide habitat for migrating birds despite California's drought, The Associated Press erroneously reported the name of a conservationist. He is Greg Golet, not Greg Gulot.
A corrected version of the story is here.

Keystone XL, nominees on tap as Congress eyes the exits

Lawmakers hope to leave Washington later this week to campaign uninterrupted until Election Day, leaving any possible action on energy and environment issues, including tax breaks, until November.

But before they go, the Senate is expected to take up pending nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and lawmakers in the House plan to pitch themselves to voters with a fresh endorsement of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Chemical reform bill faces uphill battle in Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Efforts to come up with a new chemical regulation bill face an uphill battle in the Senate.

Over the summer, Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and David Vitter of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, provided a revised draft of their chemical regulation bill to committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer, who told The Associated Press this week that the draft still falls short.

Oil

Oil helping Islamic State group's war chest to grow daily

WASHINGTON (AP) — Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts.

The extremist group's resources exceed that "of any other terrorist group in history," said a U.S. intelligence official who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments. Such riches are one reason that American officials are so concerned about the group even while acknowledging they have no evidence it is plotting attacks against the United States.

Arizona candidate attacks energy overregulation in weekly GOP address

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona congressional candidate Andy Tobin said Saturday that rural Arizona and parts of the country have been forgotten by Washington.

Tobin made the remarks while delivering the Republican national radio address from Picacho Peak, a prominent landmark in Arizona's 1st Congressional District.

The current Arizona House speaker said the state was essentially "under attack" from all the regulations enforced by the federal government. He cited the overregulation of energy and the "perpetrating a war on coal" as an example.

In Vermont, a milestone in green-energy efforts

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources such as wind, water and biomass.

With little fanfare, the Burlington Electric Department crossed the threshold this month with the purchase of the 7.4-megawatt Winooski 1 hydroelectric project on the Winooski River at the city's edge.

When it did, Burlington joined the Washington Electric Co-operative, which has about 11,000 customers across central and northern Vermont, which reached 100 percent earlier this year.

In drought, "pop-up" wetlands provide bird habitat

YUBA CITY, Calif. (AP) — For the swirling flock of migrating shorebirds banking to a landing in California's Central Valley, a recently flooded rice field is providing a new kind of triage station during a drought that's drastically reducing places where they can rest on their long journeys.

The new arrivals to the field — hundreds of them — are dowichers, says conservationist Greg Golet, standing on a dirt berm and focusing his binoculars to identify a wading bird that is one of the first to fly south in an annual migration that brings 350 species to California's Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

With millions of birds on their way from the Arctic and subarctic and the drought cutting critical wetlands to as little as one-sixth, the field is one of the first to come on line this fall under a new program of "pop-up" habitats.

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