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EPA GOES ON OFFENSE AS TRUMP CHEMICAL NOMINEE FACES STEEP CLIMB: The Trump appointee to lead the EPA’s chemical safety office, Michael Dourson, is facing an uphill climb toward confirmation, as a growing number of GOP senators say they likely will vote against his appointment.
That has the agency going on offense Friday, issuing statements promoting Dourson’s qualifications to head the office and his previous experience at the agency.
He “is a highly qualified scientist to lead EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.
“He worked at EPA for 15 years, founded a program that characterized the health hazards of chemicals, performed pro-bono work that saved a family near Cincinnati and his expertise on [ trichloroethylene] contamination resulted in settlements that helped 130 families outside of San Francisco.”
GOP pushback: North Carolina Republican Sens.Thom Tillis and Richard Burr began the push against his nomination this week by citing major chemical cleanup problems in their state that they believe he would not be qualified to handle.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, joined the opposition Thursday night, making it harder to get the votes required, especially with all Senate Democrats ready to vote against Dourson.
FEDS, CHAMBER START NATURAL GAS EXPORT INITIATIVE: The U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the Chamber of Commerce launched a new joint energy initiative to promote U.S. natural gas exports Friday.
Public-private partnership: The federal trade promotion agency, the Chamber of Commerce, the 27th World Gas Conference 2018, and LNG Allies, announced the U.S. Gas Infrastructure Exports Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s headquarters in Washington.
Expanding natural gas exports has been a top priority of Trump’s pro-growth energy dominance agenda.
How it will assist exports: The trade agency will deploy a range of tools, including reverse trade missions, feasibility studies, training, technical assistance, and the Global Procurement Initiative to accelerate and promote the export of liquefied natural gas.
The agency is working with the energy industry and the government “to facilitate new gas infrastructure exports, including LNG exports through the development of gas-related infrastructure in key LNG receiving countries.”
Helping U.S. allies: Karen Harbert, head of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, tweeted Friday that “US natural gas will help our allies around the world be #Energy Strong.”
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WHAT WILL BE THE FRANKEN EFFECT ON THE ENERGY COMMITTEE? Thursday’s accusation from a broadcaster and model that Sen. Al Franken groped and sexually harassed her while on a USO tour in 2006 has led to multiple calls for an ethics investigation. While Franken himself called for an ethics probe, he has not said he would step down. But if he were suddenly to leave the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, either during the investigation or as a punishment for his actions, which occurred before he was elected, it is hard to say who would hold the line on climate change at confirmation hearings on Trump’s energy and public lands nominees.
Asking appointees where they stand on climate change has been Franken’s go-to at most hearings for energy nominees.
Franken no longer has a leadership post on the committee. Moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia took over his spot as the top Democrat on the energy subcommittee. Manchin is more willing to work with Republicans on bills that support the Trump administration’s pro-energy export agenda while seeking to transform Appalachia into a natural gas refining hub.
HOUSE TAX BILL WOULD KILL MORE THAN HALF OF WIND FARMS, SAYS CEO: The wind industry is alarmed and a little outraged by the tax reform bill the House sent over to the Senate Thursday.
“The House tax bill, far from being pro-business, would kill over half of new wind farms planned in the U.S. and undermine one of the country’s fastest-growing jobs,” said Tom Kiernan, the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s lead voice in Washington.
What the House bill does: The House tax bill modifies the 2015 deal between the GOP and Democrats to extend wind credits for five years by phasing them out over that period.
The House bill extinguishes the credit a year ahead of schedule. It also would eliminate a crucial inflation adjustment benefit for wind under the 2015 deal.
Hope in the Senate: Kiernan is turning his sites to the Senate to save the 2015 deal, which the wind industry agreed to.
“The wind industry tax reformed ourselves with bipartisan agreement in 2015,” he said. “The Senate tax proposal gets it right by respecting those terms. Congress must act immediately in conference to drop the House provisions on the PTC and ITC, to restore the confidence of businesses ready to pour billions of dollars into job-creating American infrastructure.”
Retroactive change: The wind group said the House bill would provide a “retroactive change” to the subsidy rules for the wind production tax credit. And because businesses “can’t go back in time to requalify for the credits” after “inking construction contracts,” the result could be the loss of “tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment.”
BISHOP CHEERS ZINKE’S PLAN TO OVERHAUL INTERIOR: Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and other six other Republicans sent a letter to Trump Thursday supporting the Interior Department’s efforts to restructure the agency away from Washington to the states.
Closer to ‘the people’: “Any thoughtful DOI reorganization should give serious consideration to relocating select agencies away from Washington, D.C., and closer to the American people they were created to serve,” wrote Bishop, R-Utah. “Simply put, federal employees should know and live around the people, lands and economies they regulate.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has proposed a "huge" plan to restructure the agency away from Washington and to the states to speed up oil and natural gas permitting. He has not provided details of the proposal, although he told the Salt Lake Tribune this week he is looking to move the Bureau of Land Management to Salt Lake City or Denver.
EPA DELAYS WATER RULE FOR TWO YEARS: The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to delay the start date for the Obama administration's Waters of the U.S. rule for two years, giving the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers more time to reconsider a key definition that is at the heart of litigation opposing the regulation.
Less confusing: “This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the ‘Waters of the United States,’” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Overreach: Critics say the definition of what constitutes a waterway under the Obama-era rule is the reason why so many groups oppose the regulation.
The rule’s definition of a waterway includes everything from a simple drainage ditch to streams and rivers. That means many more areas would fall under EPA's enforcement jurisdiction and control, from farmers to individual homeowners to oil companies, critics of the rule say.
What the courts started: The EPA appears to be seeking to continue the delay started in the courts, especially given that the initial stay may be coming to an end soon, based on whatever the Supreme Court decides.
PRUITT DECLARES WAR ON LEAD IN DRINKING WATER: Pruitt says he’s planning to ask Congress to work with him to do “big things” to address lead in drinking water.
Pruitt, in an interview with the Washington Post, said he is acting more aggressively than the Obama administration’s EPA in tackling issues such as abandoned mines and lead in drinking water after the crisis in Flint, Mich.
One of ‘greatest challenges’: “It's one of our greatest challenges in this country: lead in our drinking water … that threatens the mental acuity of children,” Pruitt said. “I'm likely going to go to Congress next year and will ask them to do some big things. … We can do those things together. Why do we have to continue this divisive type of approach to these very, very important issues to the country?”
Hear me out: Pruitt also addressed criticism for signing a nearly $25,000 contract this summer to construct a secure, soundproof communications booth in his office. He said the device is a time-saver.
Time saver: “Well, it's no more than a secure phone line,” Pruitt said. “I didn't have a secure phone in this office to have the conversations that sometimes need to be secure. And it's kind of hard to tell someone that's reaching out that, to have a confidential secure conversation, I've got to go down two floors, and over two levels, and I'll call you back. That's just not … how things should work. … And sometimes legend leads to misinformation in the marketplace. Not everything you read, by the way, is fully reflective of what the truth is.”
More from Pruitt: He is scheduled to speak later this morning at the Federalist Society’s annual National Lawyers Convention in Washington.
PRUITT STAGES CAPITOL HILL COMEBACK: Pruitt will begin a long-awaited series of appearances in Congress soon after the Thanksgiving recess, congressional committees announced Thursday.
Lawmakers and others in recent weeks have criticized Pruitt's lack of appearances on Capitol Hill since his Senate confirmation.
He will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment panel on Dec. 7. But the Senate will have to wait a little longer. They don’t get to hear from Pruitt until well after the New Year on Jan. 31, 2018, according to the Environment and Public Works Committee that announced the EPA administrator’s appearance.
GREEN GROUPS SEEK PERRY’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH INDUSTRY ON GRID PLAN: The Environmental Working Group and American Oversight filed a freedom of information request on Thursday for the Energy Department to release communications between the Trump administration and energy industry officials over Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear plants.
In September, Perry ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to consider a rule that would force regional electricity grid operators to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants for the “reliability and resilience” they provide.
‘Hatched scheme’: “The American people deserve nothing short of a full explanation of how the Trump administration hatched this scheme to prop up these dirty, dangerous and expensive sources of energy that will force consumers to pay higher utility bills,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook.
Too close for comfort?: Bloomberg recently reported that Travis Fisher, a senior Energy Department adviser, communicated with Raymond Shepherd, a lobbyist for Peabody Energy, a coal company, on an agency coal study that came out before Perry issued his proposed rule.
Another report from Politico showed that Perry’s narrowly written proposal would mostly affect power plants in parts of the Midwest and Northeast where Murray Energy is the predominant supplier.
Bob Murray, the outspoken CEO of Murray Energy and ally of Trump, has been a leading proponent of Perry’s proposal.
FERC, which is independent, is set to rule on the proposal by Dec. 11.
PERRY APPEARS VIA VIDEO TO CONGRATULATE MURKOWSKI: The energy secretary sent a video message to a clean energy conference for women Thursday which his agency is sponsoring.
He sent his congratulations to Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who were award recipients at the sixth annual Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Women in Clean Energy Symposium. The conference was held in Massachusetts.
Perry was in Houston this week to discuss energy with his counterparts from Canada and Mexico at a high-level meeting among the three countries.
TRUMP WILL ‘BE A LEADER’ ON CLEAN ENERGY, US OFFICIAL PROMISES: The U.S. will maintain a leadership role in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, even though President Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, a top State Department official assured a global audience in Germany Thursday.
Judith Garber, acting assistant secretary for oceans, environment and science at the State Department, said in a speech at the United Nations-led climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, that the U.S. will “continue to be a leader” on clean energy and remains committed to helping other countries “adapt to the impacts of climate change.”
Bonn’s away: The two-week Bonn conference, closing Friday, is meant as a forum for countries to shore up their commitment to the Paris Agreement. President Trump plans to remove the U.S. from the agreement in 2020, becoming the only nation to not commit to it.
“Irrespective of our views on the Paris Agreement, the United States will continue to be a leader in clean energy and innovation, and we understand the need for transforming energy systems,” Garber said, adding the U.S. remains “open” to rejoining the Paris deal on “terms more favorable to the American people.”
Helping others: “Beyond energy, the United States will continue to help our partner countries reduce emissions from forests and other lands, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to respond to natural disasters,” she said.
VIRGINIA TAKES BIG STEP TOWARD JOINING NORTHEAST CLIMATE PACT: Virginia took a major step forward Thursday to join a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that extends from New England to Maryland.
The state's air pollution board unanimously approved the state's plan to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions beginning in 2020. The plan was submitted by the state's environment agency soon after Democrat Ralph Northam won the governor's race.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the rule that was approved Thursday would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent in the decade between 2020 and 2030, while linking the state to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, that currently includes nine states.
"I am thrilled that the Virginia Air Board voted unanimously to approve regulations that will make this commonwealth a leader in the global fight to cut carbon and promote clean energy technologies," he said.
KEYSTONE PIPELINE SHUTS DOWN AFTER 5,000-BARREL LEAK: A section of the Keystone pipeline was shut down Thursday after a 5,000-barrel oil leak occurred in Amherst, S.D., just days before Nebraska regulators decide whether to approve the Keystone XL expansion of the pipeline.
TransCanada, the pipeline developer, said the leak happened in an agricultural area and there have been no reports of the oil entering waterways or water systems.
The impact: The pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, in Canada to Cushing, Okla., and to Wood River/Patoka, Ill., is expected to remain shut as TransCanada responds to the incident, the developer said.
Key decision awaits: The Nebraska Public Service Commission will make its long-awaited decision on whether to allow the Keystone XL expansion of the network on Monday, representing the last regulatory hurdle facing the pipeline.
The Keystone XL pipeline, which at 1,179 miles long would ship oil from Canada’s Alberta oil sands to Steele City, Neb., and then on to refineries along the Gulf Coast, has been contested by environmental advocates worried about spills and climate change.
ZINKE GAVE INCOMPLETE TRAVEL DOCS, INSPECTOR GENERAL SAYS: Zinke has failed to properly document his travel, which has stymied the agency’s inspector general from investigating him for his use of military and chartered flights.
Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall told the secretary’s office in a memo, obtained by the Washington Post, that she has been unable to complete her investigation into allegations of improper travel by Zinke because he has provided “absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips.”
All in the same: Kendall said the records do not “distinguish between personal, political and official travel” or provide an explanation of costs to justify his choice of military or charter flights.
The memo also shows the inspector general’s office is investigating Zinke’s wife, Lola, who has joined him on official trips.
Inheriting a ‘mess’: Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, in a letter obtained by the Post, told Kendall in his response to her memo that the agency would provide the missing travel documents. He blamed the Obama administration for the record-keeping problems.
Reuters New $200,000 Tesla Roadster speeds in front of electric big-rig truck
New York Times 19 countries vowed to phase out coal. But they don’t use much coal.
Wall Street Journal Germany’s Siemens to slash 6,900 jobs amid shift to renewable energy
Bloomberg Bid to revive U.S. solar factories runs into familiar job-killer: automation
Dallas Morning News Texas wind energy projects worth about $11 billion in limbo after U.S. House tax vote
Washington Post New Delhi’s pollution problem is so bad that some diplomats are packing their bags
Reuters Norway's $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, proposes to drop oil, gas stocks from index
FRIDAY, NOV. 17
11:15 a.m., 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt delivers remarks at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention with the theme "Administrative Agencies and the Regulatory State.”
All day, Colorado. The Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy holds its annual Program Review as an opportunity for Indian tribes to meet, learn from other Indian tribes that are pursuing energy self-sufficiency, and share in each other's successes.
MONDAY, NOV. 20
11 a.m. EDT. Nebraska Public Service Commission decides whether to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through the state.
Congress is out of town all week for its Thanksgiving recess.