Battle in east Libya’s Benghazi sets ship ablaze

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Battle in east Libya’s Benghazi sets ship ablaze

CAIRO (AP) — Fierce fighting near the port of Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi set fire to a large ship Monday, with witnesses and the country’s military spokesman disagreeing whether it was an oil tanker or a naval warship engulfed in flames.

Mohammed Hegazi, the army spokesman, told The Associated Press that Islamist militias fired rocket propelled grenades from high-rise buildings overlooking the port, hitting an oil tanker.

Baran, Burns confirmed to NRC

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Barack Obama’s two Democratic nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which will bring the five-member safety regulator back to full strength.

Senators approved Jeffery M. Baran on a 56-44 vote, and Stephen G. Burns on a 60-40 vote.

After 5 reports: Future of UN climate body debated

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — After a six-year scientific marathon that involved about 4,000 authors, contributors and reviewers and 30,000 climate studies, the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change has published its latest assessment on global warming. Now many wonder what’s next.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has answered the most important question on global warming — whether humans are causing it — with 95 percent certainty: Yes.

Alaska conservationists concerned with cruise ship rules

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Towering cruise ships, sometimes four at a time, sit at port in Juneau at the peak of summer, delivering tourists important to the economy of this and other southeast Alaska communities. But some conservationists worry about what the ships could be leaving in Alaska waters and are fighting proposed new rules for the discharge of treated wastewater.

The issue has come up before, pitting business interests against environmental concerns.

3 California counties voting on fracking bans

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Voters in three coastal California counties vote Tuesday on whether to ban fracking and other intensive oil production, even as slumping prices globally are leading companies to start to scale back on production.

Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil companies have donated about $7 million to try to defeat the fracking bans in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Monterey counties. In Santa Barbara and San Benito counties, the ballot measures would ban not only fracking — a method of injecting water and chemicals into rock at high pressure to force out oil — but one of the most commonly used drilling methods in the state, steam injection.

Wyden says Midwest propane shortage raises questions about exports

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden on Tuesday linked his concerns about natural gas exports to the propane shortage hitting consumers in the Midwest during this month’s Arctic cold blasts.

Wyden, D-Ore., said at a committee hearing that he and ranking Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska arranged a staff briefing later in the day by the Energy Information Administration and the department’s Office of Electric Delivery and Energy Reliability on the shortage and spikes in retail prices.

Senate sends tax extenders bill to Obama

The Senate on Tuesday easily approved the $41.6 billion one-year tax extenders bill previously passed by the Republican-led House, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The package cleared the chamber on a 76-16 vote after a brief floor debate. It includes a renewal of the expired wind Production Tax Credit and biofuels incentives, but only through the end of 2014.

The wind industry hoped to see the PTC extended through 2015.

Senate may confirm up to 88 federal judges

WASHINGTON (AP) — Impeded no more by Republican blocking tactics, Democrats are on track to win confirmation of up to 88 of President Barack Obama’s top judicial nominations this year, a total that would be the highest for any president in two decades.

Last year, Democrats made it harder for Republicans to derail Obama’s nominations by weakening the Senate’s rule on filibusters. So far this year, the chamber has approved 76 federal court of appeals and district court judges, all of them lifetime appointments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is hoping to confirm a dozen more before adjournment later this week — votes he is pushing with the knowledge that the Republicans who control the Senate next year will be less accommodating.

Senate confirms Honorable, Smith

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Colette Honorable to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Christopher Smith to become the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for fossil energy.

Both were approved by voice votes as lawmakers pushed to wrap up the 113th Congress. Senators earlier voted 65-28 on a procedural measure to advance Honorable’s nomination, with Republicans casting all of the votes against moving to final confirmation.

She will become the third Democrat on the five-member commission.

Smith has been the department’s principal deputy assistant for fossil energy. His nomination has languished for more than year.

Senate climate bill would end Obama ‘clean coal’ research

The major climate bill introduced last week by two key liberal senators would not only impose carbon fees on major energy sources and oil refiners, it would also effectively end President Barack Obama’s research and development into “clean coal.”

The Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development would be eliminated under the Sustainable Energy Act introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The office got about $560 million for its work in 2012 and Obama proposed putting $421 million toward its programs this fiscal year.

Rain could spell trouble for Calif. water conservation

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After California’s driest three years on record, there have been few sounds as disturbing to water conservationists as the whisk-whisk-whisk of automatic lawn sprinklers kicking on directly behind TV reporters covering some of the state’s first heavy downpours in years.

Recent storms eased the drought somewhat, but there’s a long way to go. And state officials are worried that the rain will give people an excuse to abandon the already inconsistent conservation efforts adopted to deal with the dry spell.

Production up, pump prices down if crude exports allowed: GAO

The Government Accountability Office has given new support to lawmakers and oil companies clamoring to repeal the 1970s-era ban on most crude oil exports.

GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a new report on Monday that a repeal could raise domestic oil prices from $2 a barrel to as much as $8 a barrel, a potential boon to drillers. At the same time, consumers would likely pay less at the pump for gasoline, as much as 13 cents a gallon, because of expanded world oil supply.

Obama to sign Russia sanctions legislation

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will sign legislation slapping new sanctions on Russia and providing weapons and other aid to Ukraine despite White House concerns that military assistance will further escalate the conflict, the White House said Tuesday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama continues to have misgivings about the bill, which cleared Congress with overwhelming support, but believes the legislation still gives him the flexibility he needs.

Regulators close case questioning California reactor repairs

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal regulators have closed a case that questioned whether Southern California Edison violated government rules when it installed faulty equipment at the now-closed San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling Thursday concluded the issue is no longer relevant since the coastal reactors, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, are retired.

California zeroes in on conservation stragglers amid drought

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California residents heeded the call to turn off sprinklers in the first month of mandated water conservation, leading to a 27 percent plunge in June.

Nearly two-thirds of the 411 local agencies in the state hit or nearly reached savings targets, according to data released Thursday by the State Water Resources Control Board.

November retrial date expected for former BP engineer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Attorneys are eyeing a November retrial date for Kurt Mix, the former BP engineer charged with obstructing a federal investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Court papers filed Thursday show attorneys are working toward a Nov. 16 date but may seek to push the trial back to Nov. 30.

Greens preview legal defense ahead of carbon rule release

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s final regulations to slash power plant carbon emissions imminent and states and industry preparing to take legal action against EPA, environmental groups are readying their defense of the landmark climate rule.

The Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council on Thursday offered an optimistic view of the Clean Power Plan — which could be finalized as early as Monday — and its chances for surviving legal challenges.

Guest Opinion: Ocean policy reaches far beyond the sea

If there’s one accomplishment President Obama can take credit for during his first term in office, it’s expanding the size and reach of the federal government.  While this may be good for government bureaucrats, the policies and regulations imposed by the Obama Administration are hurting American businesses and impeding economic recovery.  Instead of focusing on creating new jobs, the administration has instead allowed the federal government to insert itself in places it’s never been and doesn’t belong.

One prime example of this, which has largely flown under the radar, is the President’s new plan to zone and regulate our oceans.  Done unilaterally through Executive Order, the President’s National Ocean Policy will change how all federal agencies regulate activities impacting the ocean and Great Lake ecosystems.  Without clear statutory authority, it sets up a new level of top-down federal bureaucracy with authority over the way inland, ocean and coastal activities are managed.

This has the potential to inflict damage across a spectrum of sectors including agriculture, fishing, construction, manufacturing, mining, oil and natural gas, renewable energy, and marine commerce, among others.  These industries currently support tens of millions of jobs and contribute trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy.