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REPUBLICANS GET THEIR WISH WITH WHITE HOUSE MEETING ON ETHANOL MANDATE: Trump administration officials will meet with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republicans at the White House Thursday to try to hash out a deal on the Renewable Fuel Standard that would please oil refiners.
Cruz, a former presidential contender, and a coalition of other Republicans sent President Trump a letter in October calling for a meeting between the ethanol industry and refiners to work out a compromise on the renewable fuel program after it was clear that the administration would not consider curtailing the standard.
The issue became even more stark for refiners when the Environmental Protection Agency issued the 2018 RFS blending targets without taking into consideration concerns raised by the oil and refinery industries. Refiners had called for major changes to the program that would have freed them from the burden of buying costly renewable fuel credits to comply with the requirements.
The RFS requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of mostly corn ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s diesel and gasoline supplies.
The meeting comes a week after the 2018 RFS targets were finalized.
The meeting is expected to include a number of Cabinet officials such as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, according to a source privy to the meeting.
On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to Pruitt asking that he use his authority under the Clean Air Act to waive the RFS requirements for Texas.
The White House meeting will cover the RFS as well as EPA’s fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.
TRUMP VISITS UTAH TO ANNOUNCE SHRINKING OF TWO NATIONAL MONUMENTS: Trump on Monday afternoon will announce his decision to dramatically reduce Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
Salt Lake visit: During a ceremony at the state capitol in Salt Lake City, Trump is expected to say he will reduce the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears by 85 percent. Grand Staircase, created by President Clinton in 1996, could be cut in half. The president won’t visit the monuments themselves.
Striking Obama’s legacy: Former President Barack Obama created Bears Ears just before he left office, protecting a vast area of mesas and canyons in Utah's poorest county. It is an area in the southeastern part of the state that five Native American tribes consider sacred.
Republicans cry overreach: Trump, shortly after inauguration, ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to undertake a review of 27 national monuments created since 1996. In August, Zinke delivered the report to Trump, recommending he reduce the size of six of those monuments, including the two in Utah.
It’s a win for Republicans and most of Utah’s political delegation, who say previous presidents abused their authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to unilaterally declare national monuments, by setting aside larger and larger swaths of public land, limiting development opportunities and stifling local control.
Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah will join Trump. House Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, whose committee passed legislation this year to limit the Antiquities Act, is also slated to join Trump.
Utah ‘ground zero’: “Utah has become ground zero for politically motivated national monument designations that are excessive in size and contemptuous of people’s livelihoods,” Bishop said ahead of the visit. “The president has stood against prior abuses of executive power and his administration has demonstrated a commitment to work in concert with local communities to protect unique public antiquities and objects the right way.”
Questionable authority: Supporters of the monuments note the Antiquities Act does not explicitly give authority to presidents to reduce the size of national monuments, although some have done so on a limited scale. The concept has not been tested in court.
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COAL, RENEWABLE ADVOCATES WANT CHANGES TO TAX BILLS: Almost all corners of the energy industry are lobbying Republicans to make changes to their tax reform bills, as the House and Senate this week begin the process of sorting through their differences.
Hampering clean energy investment: Renewable groups are concerned about a Senate provision called "Base Erosion Anti Abuse Tax" that they say would threaten their ability to use tax credits for financing projects.
“We are concerned about provisions that will have a negative impact on clean energy investments that have been critical to the growth of the clean energy sector,” said a coalition of groups, including the American Council on Renewable Energy, American Wind Energy Association, and Conservatives for Clean Energy. “If these provisions are retained, they will result in broad instability and uncertainty for businesses and investors across many sectors, including the clean energy sector.”
Losing tax credits: Renewable groups and advocates for electric vehicles are also worried about provisions in the House tax plan that would weaken tax credits for the wind industry and eliminate the credit for electric vehicles. The Senate bill would the credits alone.
Coal cry: Bob Murray, a Trump ally and CEO of coal giant Murray Energy, is angry over the Senate’s decision to keep the Alternative Minimum Tax, instead of repealing it as planned. The Wall Street Journal reports the decision could force companies to lose other tax breaks, including the research and development credit.
Murray told the Journal the Senate tax plan would raise his company’s tax bill by $60 million.
“What the Senate did, in their befuddled mess, is drove me out of business and then bragged about the fact that they got some tax reform passed,” Murray said.
‘Clean coal’ investments at risk: Another contested House provision would eliminate the use of private-activity bonds that are used for construction of infrastructure projects, including carbon capture and storage projects. The Senate bill maintains use of the bonds.
A private-activity bond allows companies to raise money cheaply for a project that serves a public purpose.
New Jersey’s NRG Energy used private-activity bonds to build the Petro Nova plant outside Houston, America’s only successfully running carbon capture facility.
WITH TAX BILL, SENATE APPROVES PLAN TO ALLOW DRILLING IN ARCTIC REFUGE: Senate Republicans passed legislation early Saturday morning allowing oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as part of a tax reform package, moving closer to fulfilling a long-time GOP goal.
Murkowski’s moment: The passage of the bill marked a significant achievement for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who has introduced legislation to open a portion of the Alaskan refuge to drilling every term she has served in the chamber, only to be blocked by Democrats.
“Opening the 1002 area and tax reform both stand on their own, but combining them into the same bill, and then successfully passing that bill, makes this a great day to be an Alaskan,” Murkowski said after passage of the bill.
How Republicans did it: Democrats have long been successful in blocking Republican efforts to allow energy exploration in a 1.5 million acre section of the 19.6 million acres of ANWR known as the “1002 area,” where billions of barrels of crude oil lie beneath the coastal plain.
But this year, Republican control of Congress and the White House spurred Senate Republicans to consider the provision with the tax reform measure under budget reconciliation rules that allow it to avoid a filibuster and pass with a simple majority vote.
What the bill does: The bill would permit drilling in 2,000 acres of the 1002 area of the refuge and split the expected revenues over the next decade between Alaska and the federal government.
Murkowski's bill requires the Interior Department to hold at least two lease sales within 10 years of the bill's passage.
Obstacles remain: The Senate still needs to reconcile its ANWR bill with the House, which did not include a drilling provision in the tax plan it passed.
NO SMOOTH SAILING FOR EPA’S HEAVY-DUTY GLIDER REPEAL: The EPA is holding its first public hearings Monday on rolling back so-called “glider” regulations for making big-rig trucks more efficient.
The rule would cover older 18-wheeler trucks that have been retrofitted with new aerodynamic body panels while still using their older diesel engine drivetrains. The rule is part of a much broader fuel-economy standard that affects newer truck engines and even trailers.
Environmental groups will use the all-day EPA public hearing in Washington to admonish the Trump administration’s action as wrong for clean air.
“These vehicles pose a threat to public health,” said the Union of Concerned Scientists before the hearing. “This rule withdrawal fits perfectly within Pruitt's pattern — ignoring science and the public interest in order to reward his allies in industry.”
A group representing large tractor trailer fleets and global heavy-duty engine makers, such as Cummins, also will criticize Pruitt’s actions.
Undermining investment: “Truck and engine manufacturers over the past 10 years have made enormous investments in sophisticated emission control technologies to comply with current emissions standards,” Patrick Quinn, executive director of the Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, will testify Monday, according to prepared remarks reviewed by the Washington Examiner.
Competitive disadvantage: “If EPA’s proposed repeal of emission requirements for gliders has the anticipated effect of expanding glider production, truck and engine manufacturers will face a significant competitive disadvantage.”
Quinn’s group represents engine and transmission giants Cummins and Eaton, owners of large trucking fleets such as FedEx, PepsiCo and Waste Management, as well as Wabash, the nation’s largest manufacturer of semi-truck trailers.
MANUFACTURERS PUSH BACK AGAINST ENVIRONMENTALISTS’ COURT TACTICS: Manufacturers are pushing back against a growing array of climate change and other lawsuits brought by environmentalists and state attorneys general, saying the activists are blaming business for activities that could go back as long as a century.
The effort is the first by the National Association of Manufacturers, the large national trade group representing manufacturers, or any large industry trade group for that matter, said spokesman Michael Short. "No effort like this,” said Short. “We are the first group out there.”
It quietly announced the new legal initiative last month.
The intention is clearly ‘push back’: “We’ve launched what we’ve called the Manufacturers' Accountability Project and the intention is to push back on the use of lawsuits funded by activists to target manufacturers for a variety of problems, including we’re looking at the climate lawsuits,” said Linda Kelly, the trade group’s senior vice president and general counsel, in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
Counterpoint to Democratic AGs: One of the actions they intend to push back against is an investigation by Democratic state attorneys general, led by New York's Eric Schneiderman, into claims that Exxon Mobil suppressed information about climate change after its own scientists warned it would harm their business.
Court action to watch: Other actions go beyond climate change, such as last month’s decision in California state appeals court that used a nuisance ruling to get paint manufacturers to increase their payments to the state’s lead paint abatement program to include homes built before 1951, when the companies said they no longer were advertising lead in their paint.
OIL AND UTILITIES ANNOUNCE NEW VOLUNTARY ENVIRONMENTAL EFFORTS: Shell, the American Petroleum Institute and the Edison Electric Institute are rolling out new environmental initiatives Monday.
API and oil giant Shell are jointly announcing a new initiative to showcase the environmental progress the natural gas and oil industry have made.
“Industry has shown tremendous progress in advancing environmental objectives and this new platform brings the industry together to continue that trend,” the American Petroleum Institute, Shell, and Pioneer Natural Resources said in a media advisory Monday morning.
Utilities’ new push: Meanwhile, the utility industry’s lead trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, took a separate step in announcing Monday morning that “it is launching a pilot environmental, social, governance, and sustainability-related reporting template, with the goal of helping EEI’s member electric companies provide investors with more uniformity” in using environmental data and metrics.
Commitment to clean energy: “EEI’s member companies are committed to a clean and affordable energy future, and our industry is leading the way in emissions reductions, having cut carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent below 2005 levels as of the end of 2016,” said Tom Kuhn, the trade group’s president.
“In an effort to become a model industry for ESG/sustainability reporting, EEI has been working closely with our large investors and financial institutions to better understand their informational needs regarding reporting metrics.”
The metrics will help investors understand a company’s risks from stranded assets, which could include coal plants. It will also provide banks with a better way of evaluating a utility company’s long-term prospects.
DEMOCRATS WARN TRUMP NOT TO INCLUDE FOREST SERVICE LAND IN BEARS EARS REDUCTION: A pair of Senate Democrats are asking Trump to explain why he is poised to remove protections of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service from the Bears Ears National Monument even though the agency did not recommend the change.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, say Bears Ears is one of five national monuments that Trump is seeking to shrink that have Forest Service land as part of their designation. The other four are in California: Berryessa Snow Mountain, San Gabriel Mountains, Giant Sequoia, and Sand to Snow national monuments.
How land is governed: A national monument can include land overseen by multiple agencies, including land managed by the Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture, and the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management under Interior.
Stabenow and Bennet say removing Forest Service land from Bears Ears or the other four monuments would contradict the agency’s recommendations to Zinke.
REPUBLICANS REJOICE AS ANOTHER OBAMA MINING RULE BITES THE DUST: The EPA on Friday rolled back rules on hardrock mining that the Obama administration rushed out a year ago after the November elections.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, praised the action, saying the decision ends a burdensome financial assurance measure imposed on mineral mines other than coal under the agency’s Superfund waste cleanup program.
Duplicative and burdensome: “I’m pleased the EPA took all of the facts into consideration and decided against imposing new, duplicative, and burdensome financial assurance requirements for hardrock mines,” Murkowski said.
Protect mining jobs: “Significant requirements are already in place at both the state and federal levels to ensure resources are available for mine cleanup and environmental protection. Today’s decision will protect mining jobs, our nation’s mineral security, and help ensure we can responsibly access the materials needed for our national defense, manufacturing, and other high-tech industries.”
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the EPA made “the right decision to scrap another punishing midnight regulation.” Barrasso’s committee has direct oversight of the EPA.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Preliminary investigation of big Keystone spill raises red flag about weights used to anchor pipelines
Axios Coal and nuclear firms seek billions in new tax credits from Congress
New York Times Builders said their homes were out of a flood zone. Then Harvey came.
Wall Street Journal Hard to invest in electric vehicle batteries when prices keep plummeting
Reuters Exxon eyes Egypt's offshore oil and gas
New York Times From the Arctic’s melting ice, an unexpected digital hub for high-speed internet
Reuters Enter the 'petro': Venezuela to launch oil-backed digital currency
MONDAY, DEC. 4
12:30 p.m., Virgin Islands. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Interior, Energy and Environment Subcommittee holds a field hearing on "The Historic 2017 Hurricane Season: Impacts on the U.S. Virgin Islands."
TUESDAY, DEC. 5
All day, Las Vegas. Powergen International holds its annual convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
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."
THURSDAY, DEC. 7
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."