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Political Scene

- - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

EPA

Subpoena issued on gas-drilling method

The Environmental Protection Agency has subpoenaed energy giant Halliburton, seeking a description of the chemical components used in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing.

The EPA said it issued the subpoena Tuesday after Texas-based Halliburton refused to voluntarily disclose the chemicals used in the controversial drilling practice, also known as "fracking." Halliburton was the only one of nine major energy companies that refused the EPA's request.

The agency said the information is important to its study of fracking, in which crews inject vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals underground to force open channels in sand and rock formations so oil and natural gas will flow.

The EPA is studying whether the practice affects drinking water and the public health.

HOUSE

GOP lawmaker: Palin 'cost us' Senate

A House Republican says Sarah Palin cost the GOP control of the Senate.

Questioned about those comments on Tuesday, a spokesman for Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama said the remarks had been taken out of context but didn't retract them.

Mr. Bachus, in line to become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, initially blamed Mrs. Palin last week at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon. According to the Shelby County Reporter, he said the Senate would be in Republican hands if not for losses by "tea party" candidates endorsed by the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee.

"Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

He added that while tea party candidates did well in House races, "they didn't do well at all" in Senate contests.

In a statement Tuesday, Bachus spokesman Tim Johnson said the congressman was expressing a widely held belief that stronger Republican candidates could have won in states such as Delaware and Nevada, where Republicans Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle lost.

"That's a lesson going forward," Mr. Johnson said. "As the article noted, [Bachus] was extremely complimentary of the tea party movement and Gov. Palin in crediting them with the great turnout of conservatives that led to many of the successes on Tuesday."

MINNESOTA

Emmer: Lawsuit decision premature

ST. PAUL | Republican Tom Emmer is pushing aside questions about whether he's willing to go to court over the Minnesota governor's race.

Mr. Emmer says it's not appropriate to talk about legal action until a recount is over. He trails Democrat Mark Dayton by about 8,700 votes in the three-way race.

A recount is automatic if the margin is less than half a percentage point, as it is expected to be when the results are certified later this month.

Both sides are gearing up for the postelection fight likely to stretch into December and possibly beyond.

And both candidates say they are engaging in a transition process so they will be ready to govern once the winner is declared.

CONGRESS

Black caucus to accept GOP frosh

The Congressional Black Caucus says it will allow two recently elected black Republicans to join the group if they ask.

The all-Democratic caucus had wavered over the issue since Tim Scott of South Carolina and Allen West of Florida were elected last week. Chairwoman Barbara Lee had pointed to the group's liberal mission statement as a potential point of conflict.

But in a statement Tuesday, the group said the two would be welcomed if they request membership.

Mr. West has said he wants to join to bring a new perspective to the group. Mr. Scott hasn't decided.

The 42-member caucus has had two Republican members in its four-decade history. The most recent black Republican in Congress, J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, who served from 1995 to 2003, declined to join.

The black caucus includes a handful of moderates,, but is mostly made up of liberals serving in safe Democratic districts. The addition of Republicans would likely shake up its weekly meetings and require its leaders to navigate around them to discuss strategy.

Mr. West, a former Army officer, said in an interview he's eager to steer the group away from "failing liberal social-welfare policies that have caused the demise of the black community."

NEW JERSEY

Administration seeks refund on tunnel

The Obama administration wants prompt repayment of more than $270 million in federal grant money dedicated to New Jersey for a rail tunnel to Manhattan that became a political flash point when the state withdrew from the project.

In a letter sent this week to New Jersey Transit Executive Director James Weinstein, the Federal Transit Administration said the state "must immediately repay all the federal assistance" spent so far on the project canceled by Gov. Chris Christie owing to costs.

This includes $271 million, plus interest and penalties, that already had been sent to the state. In addition, FTA is canceling nearly $80 million in funds that were scheduled to be delivered.

The tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan became a charged symbol during the just-completed congressional elections of Democratic efforts to stimulate the economy and Republican aims to cut spending.

Mr. Christie said in October that New Jersey could not proceed with the $8.7 billion project owing to billions in projected cost overruns that would be borne by the state.

TRANSPORTATION

LaHood nixes funding reallocation request

The Obama administration is turning down a request by the newly elected Republican governor in Ohio to use $400 million awarded to the state under the federal high-speed train program for road-building and other projects.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a letter to Gov.-elect John R. Kasich that the Ohio train project - which would create regular-speed passenger service between Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus - would be good for the state and national economy.

Mr. Kasich has promised to cancel the project, which he says the state can't afford. He sent a letter to Mr. Obama asking to use the money for roads and freight lines.

Mr. LaHood said the money can only be used for the train project.

JUSTICE

Former Glaxo attorney charged

Federal prosecutors say they have charged a former GlaxoSmithKline attorney with obstructing justice and making false statements in an effort to conceal illegal promotion of a company drug.

The Department of Justice says Lauren Stevens of Durham, N.C., signed several letters to federal health regulators denying that her company had promoted its drug for unapproved uses. An indictment filed in Maryland alleges Miss Stevens knew the company had paid physicians to promote the unapproved uses.

A spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline confirmed Miss Stevens worked in the company's legal department but has retired. A profile on the website LinkedIn lists her position at Glaxo as vice president and associate general counsel.