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REPUBLICANS URGE TRUMP NOT TO IMPOSE STIFF TARIFFS ON SOLAR PANELS: Sens. Gory Gardner of Colorado and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina led a group of Republican senators Wednesday morning in urging the president not to place stiff protectionist tariffs on solar modules imported into the United States.
“We strongly support the president’s goal of strengthening American manufacturing, and are concerned that imposing the requested trade protections on the solar industry will hinder that objective,” the letter stated.
Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina also signed the letter. North Carolina has become a leader in the nation for solar power alongside California and New Jersey.
U.S. trade representative hosts hearing: The letter was sent to Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is holding a hearing Wednesday on recommendations from the International Trade Commission to impose tariffs on solar imports.
While the broader U.S. solar energy opposes tariffs, two foreign companies with manufacturing facilities in America, Suniva and SolarWorld, asked the Trump administration to act, saying their business was harmed by cheap solar panel and module imports from Asia.
The hearing was standing room only, with a huge line out the door.
Splitting an industry: The solar industry is eyeing what Trump will do with the ITC’s recommendations, with many inside the industry viewing tariffs as hurting solar’s recent progress in producing jobs and boosting manufacturing.
SolarWorld CEO Juergen Stein, however, testified at the hearing that tariffs will benefit the “solar industry as a whole.” A “tariff and quota combination will allow SolarWorld and industry to improve affordability,” he said.
But Ed Fenster, chairman of San Francisco-based Sunrun, which installs solar panels on homeowners' roofs, told the Washington Examiner tariffs would do the bidding of the two petitioning companies at the expense of others.
"Americans, who want jobs and energy choice, can see that Suniva and SolarWorld are just the pawns of lenders and foreign interests,” said Fenster, who is scheduled to testify at the hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Trump’s timeline: Trump has until Jan. 26 to make a decision. He can accept or reject the ITC’s recommendations or come up with a different policy.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE RAGES: A 50,500-acre wildlife is spreading through Ventura County in California, destroying at least 150 structures and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate.
Oil fields in fire’s path: Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as some 1,000 personnel fought the fire, the Los Angeles Times reports, with the fire burning through oil fields before crossing a major freeway. The fire on Wednesday closed the 405 Freeway, a major commuting thoroughfare, as it reached the tony Bel Air section of Los Angeles.
Weather conditions fuel fire: Wind and dry weather helped spark the fire, officials said, which was zero percent contained as of Tuesday night.
The fire acted similarly to a wildfire that devastated Northern California in October, killing 20 people.
Costly firefighting season: The year has been the costliest firefighting season on record, as fires have become larger, more frequent and more expensive, which many climate scientists say can be attributed partly to increasing dry conditions caused by climate change.
Fires now are also considered more dangerous because they are burning closer to homes and people as the West becomes more populated.
REFINERS SCRAMBLE AHEAD OF WHITE HOUSE MEETING ON ETHANOL: Refiners are gearing up for a what could be a major showdown at the White House Thursday over the future of corn ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Sen. Ted Cruz will be sitting down with Trump and members of his Cabinet to discuss his administration’s decision not to curtail the RFS, and continue support of blending high amounts of corn ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply, while supporting soybean diesel and other more advanced fuels derived from crop waste.
Sources with large refiners said they are scrambling in preparations for the meeting, which is likely to include an industry component in addition to EPA and Agriculture Department officials and other high-level White House advisers. Cruz led a group of senators in sending a letter to Trump urging a meeting when it became apparent that the administration was scrapping proposed reductions in the RFS’ annual targets that refiners are required to abide by.
Independent refiners complain that the cost of complying with the RFS would force them to lay off workers if they are not provided some kind of relief in meeting the standard. EPA set the 2018 goals last week with no changes to the annual targets, while rejecting refiners’ request to significantly change the program to free them from having to abide by the requirements.
RFS ‘has failed to deliver:’ The free-market think tank American Enterprise Institute issued a report Wednesday ahead of the White House meeting listing the shortcomings of the RFS and is holding a briefing ahead of the meeting.
“The main potential benefits to society from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) stemmed from potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions due to increased biofuel and decreased fossil fuel use. The policy has failed to deliver these benefits,” according to the report’s summary.
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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO LEASE 10 MILLION ACRES IN ALASKA PETROLEUM RESERVE: The Trump administration on Wednesday will auction off 10 million onshore acres of the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, in what would be the largest ever lease sale there.
Alternative to ANWR: The National Petroleum Reserve is 23.5 million acres of federal land in the western part of Alaska’s north slope already set aside for energy development.
The sale signals how the federal government is exploIting energy opportunities in Alaska even as Republicans move toward opening the more controversial Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling.
Senate Republicans approved a tax plan last week that includes a provision permitting drilling in the refuge, but the upper chamber still must reconcile that legislation with the House.
Existing opportunity: Energy experts who are less bullish about ANWR note that the Trump administration has the authority to begin leasing land for oil and gas development in the Petroleum Reserve.
About 1.4 million acres currently are leased for drilling in the reserve.
GREENS CALL FOR A ‘FIGHT’ OVER LEASE SALE: Conservation groups are threatening action and more lawsuits over the lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve.
“Trump is auctioning off our wildlife and a livable climate to the highest bidders. It’s disgusting,” said Kristen Monsell with the Center for Biological Diversity. The group has sued the Trump administration 38 times, with the latest cases filed Monday after Trump’s move Monday to shrink two Utah monuments. Monsell is a lead attorney with the group.
“North Alaska is the country’s last frontier, and he’s letting the oil industry suck the life out of it,” Monsell continued in a statement ahead of the lease sale.
Stand and ‘fight’: “We can either let greed, ignorance and short-term thinking doom our grandchildren to climate chaos or we can fight back and try to protect these wild places and avert disaster,” she said. “That choice is ours, but it’s a choice we need to act on quickly.”
The group points out that both Alaska and the federal government will be auctioning leases on Wednesday. The state lease bids are slated to begin at 9 a.m. and the federal bids at 1 p.m. Anchorage time.
The state leases are for drilling in the Beaufort Sea.
Big auctions: Last year’s lease sale in the reserve, held the month after Trump was elected president, was the largest in more than a decade, with 457,648 acres going for $18.8 million. The bids were larger than officials or analysts had expected, partly driven by hopes Trump would expedite oil production.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced in October that 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico would be auctioned off in March.
TOP DEMOCRAT BLASTS PRUITT FOR PLANNED BREAK DURING FIRST HOUSE HEARING: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will testify for an hour at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Thursday before breaking and returning later in the afternoon, an unusual process that is upsetting the top Democrat on the panel.
“The Trump administration and Administrator Pruitt continue to thumb their noses at Congress – defying any real attempts for congressional oversight,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. “It is outrageous enough that Mr. Pruitt is testifying before Congress for the first time since becoming administrator, and now that outrage is taken to another level by the administrator needing to leave after a mere one hour of testimony.”
First time for everything: Pruitt, in his first appearance before Congress since being confirmed, is slated to talk about his agenda and performance so far at the EPA. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. Pallone says Pruitt will testify for an hour, take a three-hour break, and then return in the afternoon.
ZINKE URGES TRUMP TO CUT TWO MORE NATIONAL MONUMENTS: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Tuesday that President Trump shrink two more national monuments and change how six others are managed, expanding the administration’s effort to roll back what it sees as excessive use of presidential authority to protect public lands.
On the chopping block: Zinke, a day after Trump signed proclamations reducing the size of two Utah national monuments, urged the president to cut Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou.
He is still considering the exact size of the proposed reductions for the two monuments. Trump has not acted on the Gold Butte and Cascade-Siskiyou recommendations.
Made by Democrats: Former President Barack Obama created the 296,937-acre Gold Butte in 2016. Former President Bill Clinton designated 52,000 acres as the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in 2000, and Obama expanded it by nearly 48,000 acres in 2017.
Zinke also is recommending Trump change management plans for six more monuments, allowing for additional grazing, ranching, fishing, hunting, and other activities.
New monuments proposed: And he proposed Trump create three new monuments: the Badger II Medicine Area, a 130,000-acre section of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in his home state of Montana; Camp Nelson, an 1863 Union Army site in Kentucky; and the Mississippi home of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
ATTORNEYS GENERAL SUE EPA FOR MISSING OZONE RULE DEADLINE: Attorneys general from 14 states and the District of Columbia sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday for missing a deadline to implement strict Obama-era standards for controlling smog-forming pollution.
The attorneys general want the EPA to designate the regions of the nation that are not in compliance with the ozone rules.
‘People at risk’: The states represented are New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
“By continuing to ignore its legal obligations to cut smog pollution, the Trump @EPA is putting the health and safety of millions of people at risk,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a tweet.
Tardy time: The EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to designate noncompliant areas of the country under the ozone rule by Oct. 1, but it failed to do so.
OBAMA TELLS MAYORS HIS CLIMATE ACTIONS IMPROVED ECONOMY: Former President Barack Obama jokingly congratulated himself Tuesday for strong employment numbers this year during an address to a global conference of mayors convened in Chicago to discuss climate change.
‘Thanks, Obama’: "As we took these actions, we saw the U.S. economy grow consistently. We saw the longest streak of job creation in American history by far, a streak that still continues by the way," Obama told attendees of the North American Climate Summit Chicago, referring to clean energy priorities and carbon pollution regulations he introduced during his two terms in the White House.
"Thanks, Obama," the former president quipped, quoting a meme used by his supporters and opponents alike throughout his time in office.
‘Unusual time’: Obama made the remarks before the group of mayors from around the world while arguing that rising temperatures can affect national security and economic stability.
He said it was "an unusual time" for American leadership since Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord in June, adding "it was a difficult position to defend."
"But the good news is that the Paris Agreement was never going to solve the climate crisis on its own," Obama said, saying national governments can set goals, invest in alternative energy research, and incentivize market responses.
Mayors make deal: The centerpiece of the conference was the signing of the Chicago Climate Charter, designed as a substitute to the Paris deal, by the mayors present.
Obama praised the local leaders for their contribution.
"That's a powerful signal to the world, that's what leadership means, and it will make a difference," he said.
CNBC China's drive for cleaner energy is causing a gas shortage for winter
New York Times As Greenland melts, where’s the water going?
Bloomberg Trump solar tariffs give first solar panel a new lease on life
Washington Post Maryland’s largest jurisdiction aims to eliminate greenhouse emissions by 2035
New York Times China will lead an electric car future, Ford’s chairman says
The Hill Exxon Mobil opposes conservative group’s attempt to challenge EPA’s endangerment finding
Bloomberg Oil producers regain their sea legs
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 6
10 a.m., 1324 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Committee Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee hearing on the "Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act of 2017."
10 a.m., 406 Dirksen. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of R.D. James to be assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
THURSDAY, DEC. 7
9 a.m., 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The Washington International Trade Association holds a discussion on "Energy and the NAFTA."
10 a.m., 2125 Rayburn. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before House Energy and Commerce Committee Environment Subcommittee.
10 a.m., 1324 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee holds a hearing on "Transforming the Department of the Interior for the 21st Century."
2 p.m., 1324 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Committee’s Federal Lands Subcommittee holds a hearing on the "Tulare Youth Recreation and Women's History Enhancement Act"; a bill to amend the Wilderness Act to ensure that the use of bicycles, wheelchairs, strollers and game carts is not prohibited in Wilderness Areas; the "Modoc County Land Transfer and Economic Development Act of 2017"; and the "Kissimmee River Wild and Scenic River Study Act of 2017."
2 p.m., 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) holds a discussion on "OPEC's World Oil Outlook 2017," focusing on the impacts of worldwide shifts in demographics, emissions reductions, and technological development.