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EPA CHIEF PRUITT: OBAMA NO ‘ENVIRONMENTAL SAVIOR.’ The Washington Examiner sat down with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt in his office this week to discuss his efforts to dramatically reshape the EPA and move the agency’s focus away from climate change.
He calls his agenda “back to the basics,” removing the EPA from what he considers extraneous activity — namely, the climate change battle taken up by former President Barack Obama, who he questioned as an "environmental savior."
Gloves off on Obama: “I’ve got to say this to you: what is it about the past administration?” Pruitt said. “Everyone looks at the Obama administration as being the environmental savior. Really? He was the environmental savior? He’s the gold standard, right? Well, he left us with more Superfund sites than when he came in. He had Gold King [the 2015 mine wastewater spill] and Flint, Michigan [drinking water crisis]. He tried to regulate CO2 twice and flunked twice. Struck out. So what’s so great about that record? I don’t know.”
‘Back to Basics’: In addition to his high-profile deregulation push, Pruitt says he wants to return the EPA to its core functions of protecting the nation’s air, water and public health.
He says he has demonstrated that commitment leading the EPA’s response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, where the agency has worked to secure some of the nation’s most contaminated toxic waste sites under the agency's Superfund program.
Pruitt says he is a champion of states' rights and a defender of the fossil fuel industry. He argues that businesses can achieve innovation and meet greenhouse gas emissions targets without the government telling them to.
No labels: “What happens in the environmental space is there are all these labels, environmental skeptic, climate denier, this, that or the other,” Pruitt said. “No one is focused on what are we doing to achieve, what action do we need to take, and are we actually showing progress.”
Pruitt insists he cares about the agency he once loved to sue when he was Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general. He contends a leaner, hyperfocused EPA is a better one.
His legacy: “You ask, what is the greatest as far as [my] legacy is concerned?” Pruitt said. “It’s regulatory certainty, being focused on outcomes, but the greatest thing we can do is reorient thinking so as a country you can be an environmental steward and also about growth. You can be about jobs, and you can be about using the natural resources God has provided us with and also be a an environmental steward.”
PRUITT’S CLEAN COAL SCORECARD: Coal power plants are getting cleaner in the eyes of the EPA administrator.
Pruitt said carbon dioxide levels are at a historic low, which has been achieved through innovation.
“We’ve done that through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling through 2000 and beyond, [and] the conversion to natural gas in generation,” he told the Washington Examiner. “But we are also burning coal cleaner.”
A power plant can turn to low-sulfur, pulverized coal from the Powder River Basin out West to cut emissions, he said. But it also can use an advanced, super-efficient technology that other countries have picked up on, but that the U.S. has slipped behind on using.
Keeping score: “I think that this country has led through reduction of CO2,” but “... Japan, I think, has over 45 [of] what we would call ultra-supercritical coal generating facilities,” he told the Washington Examiner. “We have one.”
That single plant is in Fulton, Ark., called the John W. Turk Jr. Coal Plant. The 600-megawatt plant is touted by its owner, American Electric Power subsidiary Southwestern Electric Power, as the cleanest, most efficient coal power plant in the country.
Why aren’t there more? Regulations under the Obama administration made building new, advanced coal plants cost-prohibitive because the administration favored less commercial and unproven carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technologies.
“So, the question should be asked, how do we take advantage of the natural resources we have in the is country such as coal, and as we do that, how do we do it with technology that achieve better outcomes?” Pruitt asked.
Pruitt didn’t mention CCS technologies when asked what the administration considers to be “clean coal.” Instead, he volunteered ultra-supercritical plants such as Turk.
Clean coal burns hot: The supercritical plants burn coal at higher temperatures, therefore producing fewer emissions and less waste. They are more efficient than normal low-temperature coal plants and can be adapted to use other technologies, such as carbon capture, more easily once the technology becomes commercial.
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To find out what Pruitt said about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, read tomorrow's issue of Daily On Energy. Click here to get it in your inbox.
GARY COHN’S BREAKFAST CLUB: The chief White House economic adviser on Monday will hold an informal meeting of senior climate and energy officials from roughly a dozen nations.
The focus: The meeting will focus on the Trump administration’s focus of clean energy development outside of the Paris climate change deal, the White House confirmed Tuesday, according to the New York Times.
The opportunity: The breakfast meeting is described as "an opportunity for key ministers with responsibility for these issues to engage in an informal exchange of views and discuss how we can move forward most productively," an invitation read.
CLIMATE CONSTERNATION: President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement dominated the U.N.’s second annual "Climate Chance Summit” as it heads into its third day.
The summit brings together the United Nations, local and provincial governments to discuss implementing the 2015 climate change agreement agreed to by their respective countries in Paris. The summit is meant to lay the foundation for a major November U.N. climate meeting in Bonn, Germany, on the way forward on the Paris agreement.
California dreamin’: On day one of the summit, California was hailed as key non-country government at the talks. The state's "presence demonstrates the important and effective mobilization of non-state actors in the United States" toward meeting the Paris Agreement, according to a communique.
California and other states have agreed to continue meeting the goals of the Paris deal in the wake of Trump's decision. However, Trump's June 1 decision to exit the deal was not discussed in the U.N. climate framework's first communique. Instead, it paid tribute to Matt Rodriquez, secretary of state for Environmental Protection of California, as a "key figure" from the United States.
Trump Tuesday: The day after, however, the second official communique showed that the focus of the summit seemed to revolve around Trump's withdrawal decision.
The second official communiques said the day closed with "U.S. non-state actors reaffirm[ing] their mobilization and ambitions for the fight against climate change, despite the announcement of the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement."
SENATE TAKES A LOOK AT CLEAN COAL: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is diving into the world of clean coal technology Wednesday, specifically examining Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage technology, or CCUS.
The technology is seen as a way to make coal power plants cleaner in a world constrained by climate change by stripping out the carbon dioxide gas and injecting it underground. The term “utilization” has been added in recent years to mean anything that creates a market for CO2, rather than just injecting it underground.
For example, carbon dioxide can be turned into a fluid and sold to the oil industry, which can use it to extract hard-to-reach petroleum deposits. CO2 can also be used to grow algae to produce biofuels.
The hearing is aimed at looking for ways to accelerate the technology, with the Obama administration’s former Energy Department clean coal program director, Julio Friedmann, testifying.
A ‘win-win’: Carbon capture presents a “win-win” opportunity, said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the chairman of the environment committee, at Wednesday’s hearing.
Bipartisan support: A bill Barrasso introduced this year supporting tax credits for the technology “now has over 24 bipartisan co-sponsors,” he said.
Addressing climate change: Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the top Democrat on the committee, said Wednesday that the technology offers one area where the two parties have come together. It is also offers an opportunity where both parties can address climate change because CCUS is about reducing greenhouse gases.
“It is refreshing to have a hearing that looks at solutions to climate change, as opposed to a hearing that fuels the debate over the science of climate change,” Carper said.
GOP ‘DENYING REALITY’: While the environment committee touted bipartisanship, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, in an interview with Politico, blasted Republicans for “denying reality” on climate change.
Florida has taken a beating from Hurricane Irma, driving evacuations, fuel shortages, millions without electricity, while devastating homes and leaving many stranded. Nelson said it is obvious that the intensity of the storm was driven by global warming.
It’s not politics: “You can call it politics or whatever, but the Earth is getting hotter. This storm is another reminder of what we’re going to have to deal with in the future,” Nelson said.
TWITTER TROUBLE AT ENERGY: The Government Accountability Office said Tuesday it will probe the Department of Energy’s use of Twitter to promote an op-ed by Secretary Rick Perry on pending healthcare legislation.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, requested the GAO investigation after the Energy Department sent a tweet July 25 sharing Perry’s commentary critical of Obamacare.
Possible violation of federal laws: Pallone wants the probe to cover whether the department’s actions violate several federal laws including the Antideficiency Act, the Anti-Lobbying Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.
Wall Street Journal Almost 60,000 utility workers from the U.S. and Canada work to return power to Florida
The Hill The Department of Homeland Security is waiving environmental laws to speed construction of border fencing
Politico Democrats hold their fire on climate change after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma
Washington Post Scientist say damage to Florida’s coral reef makes state more vulnerable to storm surges
Bloomberg GasBuddy app helped drivers find scarce fuel during Irma
Alaska Public Radio Start-up company tries to lure renewable energy investors to rural Alaska
Platts Coal to remain India’s main power source until 2040
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 13
2:30 p.m., 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Energy Subcommittee holds a hearing on "Fostering Innovation: Contributions of the Department of Energy's National Laboratories." energy.senate.gov
Sept. 13-14, Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave. NW. The ethanol group Growth Energy holds its 2017 Biofuels Summit. growthenergy.org/news-media/events-calendar/2017-advocacy-conference/
Sept. 13-18, Massachusetts Water Week shines a spotlight on water-innovation and highlights the work of the region's water innovators and companies in Boston.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 14
8:30 a.m., Columbus Club, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, The Alliance to Save Energy hosts a forum with the Energy Department featuring top corporate and government leaders in the energy efficiency sector discussing the key trends and policy issues in the field today. ase.org/events/great-energy-efficiency-day-ii
9:30 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a business meeting to consider Trump energy nominees: Joseph Balash to be assistant secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management; Richard Glick to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; David Jonas to be General Counsel of the Department of Energy, Kevin McIntyre to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Ryan Nelson to be solicitor of the Department of the Interior.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn. The Energy and Commerce Committee begins the first in a series of electric grid hearings. “Part One: Powering America: Defining Reliability in a Transforming Electricity Industry,” features Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation; Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Patricia Hoffman, acting under secretary for science, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity at the Department of Energy.
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
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