Headlamp – CONSERVATIVES UP PRESSURE ON PRUITT TO APPROVE ALASKA MINE

“Incoming Scud missiles…” Susan Combs, a former Texas state official who compared proposed endangered species listings to “incoming Scud missiles” and continued to fight the Endangered Species Act after she left government, now has a role in overseeing federal wildlife policy. Combs was selected by Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke as acting secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. Zinke made the move after his bid to make her an assistant secretary for policy, management and budget stalled in the Senate. The nomination has been on hold since July because of opposition from Republicans and Democrats for various reasons. At first, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was preoccupied with a pileup of Environmental Protection Agency nominees who required confirmation. Later, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, held up hearings for Combs because of a dispute during President Trump’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. When that ended, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., held up the nomination over concerns about the administration’s bid to redraw national monument boundaries.

Walker wants to settle debt. Gov. Bill Walker wants to settle a debt with the oil industry – about $800 million worth. Walker wants to sell up to $1 billion in bonds so the state can buy back the outstanding oil and gas exploration credits. Rather than repay the minimum under state law over several years, the state will buy back the credits in full, but it would come at a discounted rate to the companies who hold these credits. The state designed the credit program several years ago to attract smaller companies to explore for oil and gas. It worked, but low oil prices made it difficult to pay off these credits as quickly as the state hoped. The proposal is part of a bigger fiscal plan Walker put forth in December when he introduced his budget. On Wednesday, Revenue Commissioner Sheldon Fisher explained the plan to the House Resources committee. “What this allows is that these companies can clean up their balance sheet,” Fisher said. “They can get a clean audit because they don’t have outstanding debt at that point, and then they can access other sources of capital that they will reinvest. So it won’t necessarily be the exact same money that will come back into the Alaskan economy but it will allow these companies to attract money.” House Rep. Chris Birch (R-Anchorage), who serves on the House Resources Committee, said he was initially skeptical but believes this is the right way to proceed. “I’m one for settling our debts,” he told committee members. “I think the Legislature has a duty and responsibility to do that, and to me, this is a reasonable solution. It provides predictability and closure.” So far, the budget, which was recently passed by the House and sent to the Senate, has the state paying down $49 million based on a statutory formula.

From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

CONSERVATIVES UP PRESSURE ON PRUITT TO APPROVE ALASKA MINE: A coalition of conservative groups told Pruitt it was “disappointed” with him, not because of his condo quarters in D.C., but for not fulfilling the action required to open a copper mine in Alaska.

They want Pruitt to restore the normal process of public comment in considering the mine request, which the Obama administration did not do.

The Obama EPA kept the Pebble Mine from opening by using its special Clean Water Act “veto” authority to stop the project.

Suspended animation: Pruitt was withdrawing the Obama-era action, but stopped midway through the process. And that’s where the groups have a problem.

Oh, the disappointment: “We are disappointed with your action to suspend the withdrawal of the Obama administration’s ‘Proposed Determination’ against mining in Southwest Alaska and urge you to move forward with overturning the ‘veto’ as soon as possible,” reads the letter reads signed by Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, Competitive Enterprise Institute and several others.

Returning due process: “This action would be an important step in returning fair and due process to the EPA,” the letter added.

Open for business: “Rescinding the pre-emptive 404(c) veto will signal to the rest of the world that the United States will re-institutionalize a traditional, rational permitting process — a basis businesses use to make sound investment decisions based on acumen — that would enhance the overall economic growth in the United States.”

First Reads:

A fierce opponent of the Endangered Species Act is picked to oversee Interior’s wildlife policy
Anchorage Daily News, Darryl Fears, April 4, 2018

House committee hears Walker’s oil tax credit bill
KTVA, Steve Quinn, April 5, 2018