Bush-era secretaries defend drilling oversight
Former Interior secretaries Gale Norton and Dirk Kempthorne today strongly defended the oversight of offshore drilling under the George W. Bush administration at a hearing probing the department's failures leading up to the Gulf of Mexico spill. Norton, who served as Interior secretary from 2001 to 2006, said Interior's regulation under both Democratic and Republican administrations was "based on a past history of success" and that since 1980, the largest spill from a blowout in federal waters was 800 barrels. Future policies must be based on a worst-case scenario beyond anything most people had contemplated, she said.
Senate confirms EPA IG, DOE officials
The Senate voted today to confirm President Obama's nominees for U.S. EPA inspector general and two senior Energy Department posts. The confirmation of Arthur Elkins Jr. gives EPA its first Senate-confirmed inspector general since 2006. Currently associate general counsel at the agency, Elkins will be tasked with providing independent oversight of EPA at a time when it has come under heavy political pressure for its efforts to regulate greenhouse gases. Elkins cleared the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in March with support from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the EPW Oversight Subcommittee. Barrasso said he hoped having Elkins in place would help the public arrive at "the truth about the issues raised" by the agency's December finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.
Senate fills final open commission seat
The Senate today confirmed Philip Moeller and Cheryl LaFleur to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. LaFleur will fill the open fifth seat and give FERC a full roster of commissioners; her term will end in 2014. Moeller joined the commission in 2006 and is now scheduled to serve until 2015. FERC currently has two Democrats, Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and John Norris, and two Republicans, Moeller and Marc Spitzer.
Senate confirms energy lawyer as La. district judge
The Senate voted unanimously today to make New Orleans-based energy attorney Brian Jackson, an expert on environmental cleanup cases, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Jackson has defended oil and gas companies such as Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Devon Energy Production Co. in their defense of environmental contamination lawsuits. A shareholder at Liskow & Lewis, he was previously a first assistant U.S. attorney in Louisiana.