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PRUITT CALLS OUT MERKEL: ‘SO HYPOCRITICAL.’ As Trump officials plan to hold climate talks on the sidelines of U.N. General Assembly in New York next week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, in an interview with the Washington Examiner, relayed what could be the tone of those meetings.
“You know, our [carbon dioxide] footprint dropped by over 18 percent from 2000 to 2014. How? Because of government mandate? No, because of innovation called hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling,” Pruitt said.
He then poked at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggesting she is a hypocrite for turning her back on emissions-free nuclear power while prodding the U.S. to do more. Merkel has been a leading critic of the Trump administration for deciding to exit the Paris climate change agreement, which seeks to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
“If Chancellor Merkel ... really cares about reducing CO2 in this world, why is she going away from nuclear?” Pruitt asked. “It’s so hypocritical for countries to look at the United States and say you need to do more. Really? So, we’ve reduced our pollutants under the Clean Air Act [criteria pollutants and CO2].”
The Left’s ‘do not touch’ policy: “The environmental Left has truly created this mindset that somehow environmental protection is ‘do not touch.’ Really? When we are called to feed the world, really? When we are called to power the world. When we do it better than anyone in the world already,” Pruitt said.
MERKEL’S FINAL STRETCH: The criticism of Merkel comes as she is in the final stretch of the German election where critics have been trying hard to displace her, to little avail.
The White House would not answer questions Wednesday about any of next week’s talks. But there is little doubt that Germany will be there.
WHITE HOUSE BRIEF: Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., is expected to brief reporters Friday on the General Assembly agenda for the president and his advisers. General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, also will be at the briefing. Gary Cohn, Trump’s National Economic Council chief, is slated to hold a breakfast meeting Monday with ministers to discuss climate and energy.
CLIMATE WEEK KICKOFF: Democrats led by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts will announce legislation on Thursday ahead of next week’s Climate Week rallies to coincide with the U.N. General Assembly.
Markey will hold a press conference with environmentalists and public health experts to roll out a climate bill that looks specifically at addressing the public health impacts of global warming in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Bicameral push: The senator will be joined by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., in an effort to make passing climate-response legislation an effort in both houses of Congress.
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DEMS WARN PRUITT TO BACK OFF: A group of Democrats wants to crash EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s party, warning him that the personnel reductions he is pursuing at the agency would make it impossible for the agency to do its job.
Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has direct oversight of the EPA, led a group of committee Democrats in a letter sent to Pruitt Thursday.
EPA’s mission: “We are concerned that adoption of the Trump administration’s proposed FY 2018 25 percent cut [of 3,785 full-time employees] to EPA’s workforce and further White House direction to plan for additional longer term downsizing would damage EPA’s ability to carry out its Congressionally-mandated mission to protect public health and the environment,” the letter read.
Carper’s cabal: The Democrats want answers to nine specific questions on Pruitt’s long-term employee-reduction strategy by Sept. 29.
That includes details on “how EPA developed the numbers for the maximum number of voluntary buyouts and early-outs that each program or regional office can offer this summer, along with an identification of the specific programs and types of work that could be impacted by the voluntary buyouts and early-outs.”
ETHANOL TO THE RESCUE: The ethanol industry is claiming a win for the corn-based fuel and the nation in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The Renewable Fuels Association released an update Thursday showing that Pruitt’s 38-state fuel waiver helped avoid fuel shortages by allowing fuel retailers to sell more 15-percent ethanol fuel blends.
Not everything industry wanted: Pruitt didn’t give the ethanol industry everything it wanted in the fuel waiver. It wanted him to waive misfueling protocols that anybody who sells E15 must get EPA to sign off on, which can take weeks or months. Not all cars can use E15 because of risk of engine damage.
Nevertheless, the waiver allowed the mid-level ethanol fuels to be blended and sold in gasoline ahead of schedule. E15 is not typically allowed to be sold until the winter fuel season.
“In a typical September, the Environmental Protection Agency’s onerous summer restriction on selling 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) would end this weekend,” RFA said in a press release with a little jab at EPA. “But with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wreaking havoc on the nation’s fuel market, this September has been anything but typical.”
Ethanol price cushion: The ethanol group said E15 helped “offset gasoline supply shortfalls, limit fuel price spikes and give consumers a higher-octane choice at the pump.”
It cites ethanol commodity prices that averaged 14 percent lower than gasoline prices since Harvey made landfall late last month. That’s about 25 cents per gallon.
HURRICANE FUEL FALLOUT: Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to try to relieve fuel shortages in states affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
In its latest move, the Department of Homeland Security extended a waiver of the Jones Act, a nearly century-old shipping law that requires all ships transporting goods between U.S. ports be owned and manned by U.S. citizens, and be built within U.S. shores.
State of play: DHS said the extended waiver will facilitate movement of refined petroleum products — including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel — to be shipped from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico.
Big picture: The hurricanes have inspired calls to repeal the Jones Act. Free-trade advocates see the law as protectionist, and in cases of emergency, foreign-flagged vessels could be useful in filling shipping needs.
HOUSE VOTES TO KILL OBAMA METHANE RULE: Republicans pushed through an amendment to a fiscal 2018 spending bill on Wednesday that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing an Obama administration rule to limit methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., passed 218-195.
What it means: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt targeted the methane rule as part of his effort to curb Obama administration regulations. But a federal appeals court blocked Pruitt from delaying implementation of the rule, as he had proposed.
The House measure effectively would make moot the methane rule by blocking the funding to enforce it.
Long odds: The methane amendment faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Democrats could filibuster the measure because of the chamber's 60-vote threshold. Republicans hold 52 Senate seats.
VOTE-A-RAMA: In other environmental-related votes, the House approved an amendment Wednesday blocking the social cost of carbon, a metric created by the Obama administration, from being used in future government rule making. The metric weighs the cost savings to society from eliminating carbon emissions.
The House also voted down an amendment that would have cut the EPA's funding by $1.87 billion.
EPA’S COAL RULE RESET: The Environmental Protection Agency imposed a two-year delay on Obama-era rules governing wastewater from coal-fired power plants.
"Today's final rule resets the clock for certain portions of the agency's effluent guidelines for power plants, providing relief from the existing regulatory deadlines while the agency revisits some of the rule's requirements," Pruitt said.
FERC NOMINEES POSTPONED: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee postponed a vote scheduled for Thursday on whether to confirm President Trump's nominees to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The vote is now scheduled for Tuesday.
The nominees are... Kevin McIntyre, Trump's Republican FERC chairman-in-waiting, and Rich Glick, a Democratic attorney.
What they’ve said: Both nominees pledged during their confirmation hearings to adhere to the commission's basic duties of approving and regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil, without favoring one energy source over another.
Slow progress: After the committee vote, the entire Senate will have to approve the nominees for them to take a seat on the commission.
If McIntyre and Glick are approved, FERC finally will have its full five members. That’s welcome news for the commission, which was forced to close down earlier this year for the first time in its 40-year history because it didn’t have enough members.
GRID HEARING: FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee is on Capitol Hill testifying after becoming chairman of the commission about one month ago. He is discussing the commission’s agenda with the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
FERC’s security role: One area that Chatterjee will discuss, according to his prepared remarks, details how deep FERC’s role in defending the nation from physical and cyber attacks go.
The grid watchdog works routinely with a number of federal agencies to avert attacks on energy infrastructure, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
A more agile agency: “This approach can be more agile and focused and was developed in response to the growing cyber and physical security threats targeting our nation’s energy infrastructure,” Chatterjee said in prepared remarks.
Washington Post New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will propose a plan to force existing buildings to become more energy efficient
Politico Exposure to carbon dioxide could be affecting the health of the plants we eat
Wall Street Journal Saudi Arabia aims to curtail oil exports from OPEC countries
Reuters China takes step to dominate the market for high-performance solar power
Forbes Britain may exit European Union’s carbon trading program
McClatchy White House tables idea of imposing oil sanctions on Venezuela due to supply concerns from recent hurricanes
Los Angeles Times Renewable energy bills stall in California legislature
Baltimore Sun New campaign seeks to require half of Maryland’s energy to be from renewable sources
THURSDAY, SEPT. 14
6 p.m., Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW. The Alliance to Save Energy holds its 25th annual Evening With the Stars of Energy Efficiency Awards Dinner, with nearly 400 leaders from industry, government and the non-profit sectors will convene what has become known as "energy prom." ase.org/events/2017-evening-stars-energy-efficiency-awards-dinner
Sept. 14, Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave. NW. The ethanol group Growth Energy wraps up its 2017 Biofuels Summit. growthenergy.org/news-media/events-calendar/2017-advocacy-conference/
Sept. 14-18, Massachusetts Water Week shines a spotlight on water-innovation and highlights the work of the region's water innovators and companies in Boston. masscec.com/events/massachusetts-water-week-2017
SUNDAY, SEPT. 17
Sept. 17-20, New Orleans. The National Association of State Energy Officials, representing state-appointed energy officials, holds its annual 2017 meeting. naseo.org/event?EventID=1421
TUESDAY, SEPT. 19
7 a.m., New York. The Energy Marketing Conference for Retailers holds its Eighth Semi-Annual Energy Marketing Conference. energymarketingconferences.com/september-2017/
10 a.m., 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts Laszlo Varro, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, to discuss the IEA's World Energy Investment 2017 report. csis.org/events/ieas-world-energy-investment-2017
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to examine the vegetation management requirements for electricity assets located on federal lands and to receive testimony on Section 2310 of the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 and the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act.