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CLIMATE CHANGE BATTLES HEAT UP: The battles over climate change reached new heights this week, with New York City suing Exxon Mobil and four other oil companies to help pay for the costs of climate change, and Exxon fighting back at the seven California cities that are looking for a similar payout.
Exxon counterattack: Exxon wants a district court in Texas to allow it to expose California city officials for misleading municipal bond investors on the effects of climate change while the cities simultaneously went after Exxon and other energy companies for cash settlements that they argue will help them cope with sea-level rise.
Exxon argues that the cities cannot sue energy companies to pay for climate mitigation when the climate argument never existed in trying to convince investors to put money into the municipalities’ infrastructure.
Many scientists blame the burning of fossil fuels for causing the Earth’s temperature to rise and the ice pack to melt.
Big Apple challenge: New York City Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer on Wednesday announced that the city also would sue energy companies, trying to hold them responsible for any damage to the city caused by climate change.
They also announced that the city would fully divest from fossil fuel companies and has begun analyzing a five-year plan to do so.
‘Politics over performance:’ New York’s pension funds hold about $5 billion in fossil fuel securities, while managing a total of $189 billion of assets, according to the free-market think tank American Council for Capital Formation, which released a report Thursday criticizing New York City’s decision to divest its pension funds from fossil fuel investments.
“The performance of the New York City pension funds over the past decade has not kept pace with what is needed to stay solvent over the long term,” the think tank said. “Unfortunately, even conservative estimates project unfunded liabilities to be in excess of $56 billion.”
The report called the decision “another alarming example of prioritizing politics over performance.” If the city moves forward with the plan, it would be the first major pension plan to do so.
The think tank said the plan will cost the city billions of dollars while worsening its pension performance.
“Although environmental issues — including climate change — are legitimate concerns, pension fund managers have a fiduciary duty to prioritize performance,” the ACCF said
The National Association of Manufacturers, which is tracking the climate suits, called the mayor’s action “a deeply misguided lawsuit against energy manufacturers.”
Who’s leading the Washington discussion?: C. Boyden Gray, President H.W. Bush’s White House counsel and Clean Air Act expert, will lead a discussion with the Federalist Society Thursday afternoon in Washington to pick through the details and provide a broader picture of what is occurring in these climate fights between industry and left-leaning cities.
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TRUMP ENERGY CONFIDANTE DECLINES SENATE SEAT: Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., an adviser to President Trump on energy policy, is not going to run against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2018 for her Senate seat.
Cramer made the announcement on a local North Dakota radio station Thursday morning and sources confirmed his decision to the Washington Examiner Thursday morning.
ZINKE PROMISES TO MEET GOVERNORS OPPOSED TO OFFSHORE DRILLING: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday he plans to meet with every governor whose state would be affected by his offshore drilling proposal, vowing the public engagement process would take at least a year.
Coastal uproar: Coastal governors who oppose offshore drilling are pressing Zinke for exemptions from his proposal, after he granted one to Florida Tuesday night upon meeting with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Zinke had announced last week his plans to open almost all federal waters to oil and gas drilling.
Why Florida? Zinke told the Washington Post Wednesday that Scott was quick to voice his opposition to drilling off Florida’s coast.
Scott and almost the entire Florida congressional delegation opposed Zinke's drilling proposal, arguing that the risk of spills could harm the state's huge tourism economy.
Politics ‘don’t matter’: “Quite frankly, Gov. Scott called me and [also] expressed in writing a desire to have a meeting,” Zinke said.
That meeting was the first “in what I believe will be a series of conversations” with other governors, Zinke added.
“I will no doubt talk to every governor. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Republican or Democrat. This is going to be a long process. This is going to be at least a year with public comment. We have to get it right, look at the geology, look at the science.”
OIL GROUP BLASTS ‘PREMATURE’ DECISION TO BLOCK EASTERN GULF DRILLING: The American Petroleum Institute criticized the Trump administration Wednesday for its “premature” decision to remove the eastern Gulf of Mexico from its offshore drilling plan.
"This announcement is premature,” said CEO Jack Gerard. “Americans support increased domestic energy production, and the administration and policymakers should follow the established process before making any decisions or conclusions that would undermine our nation's energy security.”
Lost opportunity: API, the largest trade group for the oil and natural gas industry, and others in the energy industry had been excited about drilling in the eastern Gulf, more so than any other area proposed by the Trump administration. That’s because it is close to existing pipelines and processing facilities in the western Gulf as well as refineries in Texas and Louisiana.
Oil and gas production in the western Gulf, which accounts for almost all current U.S. offshore production, is expected to hit a record high in 2018, after suffering three years of losses.
EPA ANNOUNCES DATES FOR NEW CLEAN POWER PLAN REPEAL HEARINGS: The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced the dates of three more public hearings it is hosting on its move to repeal the Clean Power Plan.
The hearings will be held Feb. 21 in Kansas City, Mo.; Feb. 28 in San Francisco; and March 27 in Gillette, Wyo.
EPA had originally planned only one public hearing, which it held in November over two days in Charleston, W.Va., the heart of coal country.
EPA INSPECTOR GENERAL TO PROBE SCOTT PRUITT’S TRIP TO MOROCCO: EPA’s inspector general said Wednesday it will investigate Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent trip to Morocco to promote natural gas.
Out of his lane: Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who requested the probe, says Pruitt’s four-day trip to Morocco last month was inappropriate because the EPA plays no formal role in overseeing natural gas exports, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Energy Department or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Expanded probe: The EPA inspector general already is investigating Pruitt for his use of private and military flights and his frequent travel as administrator to his home state of Oklahoma, where he served as attorney general. The inspector general’s office expanded the probe to include Pruitt's travels through the end of 2017, including the Morocco trip, which cost $40,000.
TRUMP SAYS U.S. COULD ‘CONCEIVABLY’ REJOIN PARIS DEAL: The United States "could conceivably go back in" to the Paris climate change agreement, President Trump said Wednesday.
“Frankly, it’s an agreement that I have no problem with, but I had a problem with the agreement that they signed, because, as usual, they made a bad deal,” Trump said during a press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Soldberg at the White House.
Translating Trump: Under the terms of the Paris deal, Trump can’t remove the U.S. from it until 2020. So he was merely reiterating his position that the Obama administration committed too much in its carbon emissions reduction target, as compared to countries such as China and India.
Mixed signals: Trump, in the press conference, also complimented Norway for its investments in renewable energy. “Norway has tremendous hydro power,” Trump said. “I wish we’d do some of that, but hydro power is fantastic and it’s a great asset that you have.”
But then he derided his former opponent Hillary Clinton for supporting investments in renewable power sources, including wind.
“I am for massive oil and gas and everything else, and a lot of energy,” Trump said. “Hillary, my opponent, was for windmills, and she was for other types of energy that don’t have the same capacities at this moment.”
WARREN ‘DELIGHTED’ MASSACHUSETTS ENERGY FIRM REDUCING RATES DUE TO GOP TAX PLAN: Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she is "delighted" to hear that an energy company in her home state of Massachusetts will lower rates for customers due to the Republican tax overhaul that she and fellow Democrats opposed.
Good with the bad: Fox News host Bret Baier asked the senator during an interview Wednesday if she would support repealing the tax law, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Trump late last year, if Democrats take over as the majority party.
Baier then mentioned that Eversource is planning millions of dollars of rate cuts for customers in response to a reduced corporate tax rate.
"And good for them. I'm delighted to hear that," said Warren, who was being interviewed alongside Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
ROB BISHOP REQUESTS BRIEFING FROM BLM ON BUNDY CASE: Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, asked Bureau of Land Management Director Brian Steed on Wednesday for a briefing on how the agency conducted itself over the case of rancher Cliven Bundy.
Land stand: Bundy and others, including his sons, were indicted in 2016 by a federal grand jury for an armed standoff two years earlier against federal land managers on the range where his cattle grazed.
Bundy refused to pay grazing fees, arguing the land belonged to the state, not the federal government. He was jailed for nearly two years. A judge dismissed the criminal charges against him on Monday.
‘Serious and systematic misconduct’: “The court’s decision follows numerous reports of serious and systematic misconduct by the BLM officials involved in the Bundy case,” Bishop, R-Utah, wrote with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., to Steed.
Bishop and Westerman cite a recent memo from a BLM whistleblower to the Department of Justice that shows “misconduct and unprofessional behavior” by BLM officials that was “knowingly withheld from prosecutors.”
“The failure of prosecutors to achieve a conviction in the Bundy case raises questions about their ability to carry out effective, fair and professional law enforcement investigations,” Bishop and Westerman said, requesting a briefing no later than Jan. 24.
GREENS: TRUMP ‘CODDLING VIOLENT ZEALOTS’: The environmental group that has sued the Trump administration nearly 40 times in the last 10 months says the administration should be distancing itself from the Bundys, not “coddling’ their cause.
"The Trump administration is coddling violent zealots and preventing the public from feeling safe to enjoy our new national monument," said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s director in Nevada.
BIPARTISAN BILL FOR DRONES TO HELP FIGHT FIRES: Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., joined forces Wednesday night in introducing new wildfire management legislation in the wake of the devastation in California.
The Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act of 2017 is designed to bring firefighting agencies up to date with latest in drone technology to scout and map wildfires.
“Firefighters on the front lines and those who give their lives to protect us deserve fair treatment from their government,” said Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“My legislation would combine these two technologies [real-time fire mapping and GPS locating] to give our firefighters more safety and security as they deal with these unbelievable conditions.”
TRUCK OWNERS SUE FORD, SAYING TRUCKS CHEATED EMISSIONS TESTS: Truck owners sued Ford in federal court Wednesday for apparently rigging 500,000 diesel pickup trucks to cheat U.S. emissions tests.
Wrong turn: The drivers accuse Ford of "knowingly installing emissions-cheating software devices” in F-250 and F-350 Super Duty models, although the company marketed the trucks as “the cleanest super diesel ever.”
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, says the trucks emit nitrogen oxide pollutants at 50 times the legal limit.
Ford denied any wrongdoing.
New York Times How much has climate change been scrubbed from federal websites?
Washington Post Interior plans to move thousands of workers in the biggest reorganization in its history
Wall Street Journal China’s auto market slips into slow lane — except for electric vehicles
Bloomberg Hype meets reality as electric car dreams run into metal crunch
Reuters China is stuck in a petroleum Catch-22
CBS News Radium contamination in water most widespread in Texas, environmental group says
NPR Montana barley fields become front line for climate change and beer
THURSDAY, JAN. 11
All day, Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Transportation Research Board holds its 97th Annual Meeting through Jan. 11, where the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is planning to issue a new report on how roads contribute to climate change. A number of sessions and workshops will focus on the spotlight theme for the 2018 meeting: “Transportation: Moving the Economy of the Future.”
11:45 a.m., 900 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Conference Hall 1. The World Bank holds a discussion on "Fixing Pollution: A Winning Formula for Health and Wealth."
3 p.m., teleconference. The Federalist Society will hold a teleforum conference call on the latest developments in the California climate change lawsuits against Exxon Mobil. To RSVP and for dial-in information, contact Tom Buchanan at email@example.com
4 p.m., 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz leads a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on "the role of nuclear weapons in today's increasingly dangerous global security environment."
MONDAY, JAN. 15
Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Federal offices are closed.
TUESDAY, JAN. 16
10 a.m., Senate Dirksen Office Building, Room 366. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing to examine the domestic and global energy outlook from the perspective of the International Energy Agency.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 17
8:30 a.m., U.S. Geological Survey National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Va. The Geological Survey holds a two-day meeting of the Advisory Committee on Water Information. The agenda includes topics relating to national water initiatives, and the development and dissemination of water information, as well as updates from subcommittees.
10 a.m., Senate Dirksen Office Building, Room 366. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on water and power will hold a hearing to examine the Bureau of Reclamation’s title transfer process and potential benefits to stakeholders.
THURSDAY, JAN. 18
9 a.m., 11555 Rockville Pike, Commissioners’ Conference Room, Rockville, Md. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a meeting to discuss the strategic programmatic overview of the decommissioning and low-level waste and spent fuel storage and transportation business lines.