McCarthy stands by Bristol Bay mining review

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday defended her review that could potentially restrict or ban surface mining near Alaska's sensitive Bristol Bay, despite complaints that it has put a cloud over the proposed Pebble Mine.

McCarthy's decision to consider a ban on mining in the area came under strong questioning from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on EPA's budget. Murkowski argued that EPA was moving ahead with the review before any formal permit application by Pebble developers.

Iran: '50 to 60 percent agreement' on nuke deal

VIENNA (AP) — Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday his country and six world powers are in "50 to 60 percent agreement" on the shape of a nuclear deal meant to crimp any potential Iranian attempt to build nuclear arms in exchange for an end to crippling economic sanctions.

Speaking for the six, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was less upbeat as the talks reached the half-way mark toward their informal July deadline. But she said that after several rounds of exploratory talks the two sides were now ready to bridge remaining gaps standing in the way of agreement.

The talks paused until May 13 amid stern warnings from Iran's supreme leader, whose message has varied over the past months between support for the discussions and accusations of bad-faith negotiating on the part of the United States and its allies.

Russia threatens Ukraine on gas supply

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin turned up the heat on Ukraine on Wednesday by threatening to demand advance payment for gas supplies, a move designed to exert economic pressure as Ukraine confronts possible bankruptcy, a mutiny by pro-Russian separatists in the east and a Russian military buildup across the border.

NATO's top commander in Europe warned that the alliance could respond to the Russian military threat against Ukraine by deploying U.S. troops to Eastern Europe, but Putin's latest tactics suggest he may be aiming to secure Russia's clout with its neighbor without invading.

Kornze gets Senate approval to head BLM

The Washington Post

Neil Kornze, who has worked in the office of Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the past, has won Senate confirmation of his appointment as director of the Bureau of Land Management, The Washington Post reports.

Dozens leave offices seized by Ukraine separatists

LUHANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's Security Service said Wednesday that 56 people held inside the agency's local headquarters in the eastern city of Luhansk by pro-Russian separatists have been allowed to leave.

The Luhansk security services building was among several government offices seized by pro-Moscow groups Sunday in an escalation of protests against the interim government in power since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February.


Oil company fined for failing to report production

ARTESIA, N.M. (AP) — The federal government is fining an Artesia oil man more than $700,000 for failing to submit reports on production on its federal leases in New Mexico.

The Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue said Tuesday it has assessed Louis Fulton, doing business as C.F.M. Oil Company , a $717,136 civil penalty.

Biden discusses Ukraine with 2 European leaders

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden has discussed the crisis in Ukraine with the leaders of Montenegro and Slovakia.

Biden met at the White House on Tuesday with Montenegro's prime minister, Milo Djukanovic. The White House said Biden and Djukanovic discussed the situation in the Balkans as well as Russia's pressure on Ukraine.

Biden praised Montenegro for making progress toward joining NATO and said the U.S. supports Montenegro's aspirations to form closer ties with Europe.

Ariz. budget passed, lawmakers OK renewables tax credit for Apple

PHOENIX (AP) — Just a day after adopting a $9.23 billion state budget, the Arizona House and Senate gave final approval Tuesday to a pair of tax cuts for manufacturers, including one that would give a multi-million-dollar tax credit to the world's biggest corporation to install and run a solar facility.

The Legislature approved Senate Bill 1413, pushed by Gov. Jan Brewer, eliminating sales taxes on electricity purchased by manufacturers and mining smelters. It is expected to cost the state general fund $17 million a year. Brewer called for the elimination of the tax in her State of the State address in January, saying it was needed to make Arizona more competitive and draw new manufacturing to the state.

Correction to grid security hearing story

Our preview Tuesday morning of this week's grid security hearing incorrectly reported that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Acting Chairman Cheryl LeFleur had written to lawmakers that during briefings on grid security, FERC shared with utilities and industry groups grid modeling information that identified sites critical to reliability.

The letter did not refer to sharing the information, and the modeling was not shared with industry in the briefings.

The corrected version of the story can be seen here.

Shell photo

Interior prepares to propose Arctic Drilling Rule

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Brian Salerno on Tuesday said the Interior Department is getting ready to unveil its new offshore Arctic oil and gas drilling safety rule.

In a blog post, Salerno said BSEE has been working with the Interior Department's offshore leasing arm, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to develop the new Arctic Drilling Rule. The department had hoped to make the proposal public by the end of 2013, but pushed back its release in part because of the government shutdown last October.


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