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STUDY: RYAN ZINKE WINNING OVER RICK PERRY ON ENERGY DEVELOPMENT: The Energy Department is not pulling its weight on developing energy on its own lands, according to a study out this hour from the National Academies of Sciences.
The Interior Department, headed by Ryan Zinke, on the other hand, has led by example on that front.
Less on renewables: “While other government agencies, such as the Department of the Interior, have examined and marketed opportunities to promote renewable resource development on public lands, [the Department of Energy] appears to have done much less,” according to the report.
Perry’s agency has the skills: “But with DOE’s depth and breadth of skills and technical capabilities with energy resources, it too could leverage such opportunities and play a major role in forging private-public partnerships in land development serving the national interest. The agency has varying degrees of responsibility over 164 sites in 32 states.”
Paul DeCotis, chairman of the committee that wrote the report, said if the Energy Department begins looking at energy development opportunities, it would help achieve the Trump administration’s “national objective of energy independence and greater national security.”
Energy pays the bills: “Development of such lands has the potential to turn idle properties into valuable income-generating assets,” DeCotis said. “With the most cost-effective resources developed at the most appropriate sites, DOE lands can serve as a commercial and research hub for innovative energy technologies.”
Cut out coal mining: The report says coal and uranium mining should not be considered. “DOE should eliminate fossil and uranium resource sites from further consideration for development when compelling factors exist related to current and foreseeable use, and the environmental, legal or other factors that tend to be associated with developing those resources.”
Oil and natural gas: The analysis showed “limited opportunities for oil and gas development on DOE lands, due to the size of the property needed for development.”
Thumbs up to solar: “In follow-on work, DOE should conduct an expanded analysis of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal that goes beyond [costs] to consider technical, economic and market potential.”
Study wind subsidies: “DOE should perform a sensitivity study that illustrates the potential for wind development on DOE-managed lands that addresses federal incentives such as investment tax credits, production tax credits, and renewable energy credits.”
TRUMP TO CUT RED TAPE BEFORE HEADING TO PUERTO RICO: President Trump is going to have last hurrah on eliminating industry-stifling regulations Monday before jetting off to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico Tuesday.
Monday is officially “Cut Red Tape Day,” according to a White House email sent to groups that would support such an effort.
The White House wants to use the day to push for permanent solutions to federal overreach and lock in several regulatory repeal efforts it has started. It also will give support to the Republican National Committee’s recent resolution supporting deregulation through such bills as the REINS Act and others.
Perfect time: “This would be a perfect time for you or a group you work with to highlight the deregulation successes of this administration and to highlight as well the growing support for the RNC-endorsed Regulation Freedom Amendment to preserve those reforms by permanently requiring that major new federal regulations be approved by Congress.”
Amending the Constitution: The White House is referring to amending the Constitution.
The White House points out that it gave the RNC resolution its stamp of approval in August. It points out that a “key” clause reads: "RESOLVED, that the RNC urges Congress to propose the Regulation Freedom Amendment (RFA) to the U.S. Constitution which will permanently require new major federal regulations to be approved by Congress prior to taking effect..."
Nader fights back: “We urge you not to simply pass on Trump’s bogus claims and distortions to your readers without challenging them on empirical grounds,” Public Citizen founder Ralph Nader told the media. “Public Citizen is providing you with information in this memo so you can challenge his falsehoods with the truth.”
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TRUMP WAIVES JONES ACT UNDER PRESSURE: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Thursday morning that the administration waived the Jones Act for Puerto Rico.
What it does: The waiver, to last 10 days, allows foreign-flagged vessels to deliver fuel and other important supplies to Puerto Rico as it recovers from Hurricane Maria. Enacted in 1920, the Jones Act prohibits tankers from hauling crude oil between U.S. ports unless those vessels are American-made, flagged and manned by a crew that is made up of 75 percent U.S. citizens.
‘Support lifesaving efforts’: "This waiver will ensure that over the next 10 days, all options are available to move and distribute goods to the people of Puerto Rico," Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said. "It is intended to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms.”
Asking for help: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said he asked the White House Wednesday to waive the law. But the White House had been resistant and had said American vessels could adequately serve the island.
Trump cites shipping industry concerns: Trump noted the powerful shipping industry had lobbied against a waiver, and critics seized on that comment to suggest the White House basing its decision what industry wanted.
"A lot of people that work in the shipping industry ... don't want the Jones Act lifted," Trump told reporters Wednesday. "We have a lot of ships out there right now.”
Pressured to act: Trump faced strong pressure from lawmakers, led by Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz., to issue the waiver, as he had done for Texas and Florida after hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Permanent repeal: The dispute has once again amplified calls to repeal the law, a task that would require overcoming the shipping industry’s lobbying efforts.
DEMOCRATS WANT TRUMP TO DO MORE: Leading Democrats say Trump can still do more to help the island.
Schumer makes demands: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, are among those pressing Trump to take eight specific actions.
‘Not a second to lose’: "At a time when there is not a second to lose and the health and well-being of millions of Americans in the U.S. territories depend on swift action, we have identified several areas where strong and decisive leadership is needed," the senators wrote in a letter to Trump.
The actions requested include: Issue a full disaster declaration for Puerto Rico; Request more funding to assist Puerto Rico's Medicaid program; Use all federal resources to restore power, including sending Department of Energy experts, 500 utility employees, 100 fuel trucks and 200 generators; Work with Congress to waive the local cost share requirement for FEMA public assistance disaster funding.
See the full list of requests here.
GOP WANT QUICK REPEAL AND REPLACE OF WATER RULE: Republican senators want the Environmental Protection Agency to move swiftly in withdrawing the Obama administration's Waters of the U.S. rule, which expanded its federal clean water jurisdiction to include everything from drainage ditches to rivers.
The GOP sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Wednesday, the last day to submit comments on the administration's proposal to scale back the rule. Trump ordered Pruitt to roll back the rule in one of his first executive orders.
Repeal and replace: "We urge EPA and the [Army] Corps to develop a replacement WOTUS rule as soon as possible," the letter said. "The definition of waters of the United States has been the subject of many years of litigation, which could be brought to rest by a scientifically sound WOTUS rule that respects the intent of Congress."
The letter was sent to Pruitt and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Douglas Lamont, as EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers both hold jurisdiction over the rule. The letter supports the proposed withdrawal of the Waters of the U.S. rule, underscoring evidence that the Army was shut out of the rule's development.
The senators want the 2015 rule withdrawn and a new rule issued that does not aggressively seek to expand federal enforcement jurisdiction and is scientifically sound.
Pruitt told the Washington Examiner earlier this month that he anticipates a new rule to be issued sometime early next year.
BETTER ENERGY SECURITY: Energy security is rapidly improving, according to a study issued by the Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute.
The 2017 edition of Global Energy Institute’s “Index of U.S. Energy Security Risk” finds that U.S. energy security is rapidly improving to reach to one of the best scores in decades, after hitting bottom just five years ago.
The Index employs 37 energy security metrics in four major areas of risk: geopolitical, economic, reliability and environmental. A lower Index score indicates a lower level of risk. The eighth annual edition of the index covers 1970-2040 and incorporates the latest historical data and forecast models. In 2016, the most recent year available, the risk score dropped another 1.3 points to 76.0, the lowest score since 1995.
“American energy security has now improved for five years in a row, despite rapidly challenging market conditions and geopolitical tensions,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute.
ZINKE DROPS OUT OF MINING MEET AT TRUMP HOTEL: Zinke won’t speak at the National Mining Association’s annual fall meeting next week as previously scheduled.
On the menu: The event at the Trump Hotel, scheduled for Oct. 3-4, is supposed to include a discussion of policy strategy, with speeches by members of the Trump administration.
Avoiding conflict: Zinke did not say why he canceled his speech, Politico reported, but he has been criticized for addressing the American Petroleum Institute at the hotel, which critics say represents a conflict of interest. Trump, whom Zinke works for, has not divested from the Trump Organization, which runs the hotel.
CONGRESS FIGHTS OVER WILDFIRE FUNDING: Western lawmakers are pushing for Congress to address funding and management challenges at the U.S. Forest Service as the government struggles to respond to an extreme year for wildfires.
The disagreement: Lawmakers disagree over how to address the funding problem at the agency, with some Republicans pushing for any fix to be matched by forest management reforms that they say will address the root causes of fires.
Bigger, costlier fires: The Forest Service is frequently borrowing from other accounts when money runs out for responding to wildfires, as fires have become more frequent, deadlier and costlier.
This year’s wildfire season has burned more than 8 million acres, about 2.5 million more than in an average year, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. Congressional committees held hearings on the subject Wednesday, with lawmakers comparing the seriousness of the situation to the recent hurricanes.
The funding problem: Under current law, forest fires are not treated the same as disasters such as hurricanes. That forces the Forest Service to take money from accounts dedicated to preventative maintenance, such as clearing underbrush.
The solutions: All sides agree the funding problem needs to be fixed, and are eager to see their proposals attached to upcoming must-pass measures, such as disaster relief for Puerto Rico, or government spending bills. But some Republicans say conditions should be attached.
The management plan: Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., who is the only licensed forester in Congress, has a bill that would allow extreme wildfires to qualify for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But the bill also has “preventative reforms.” For example, the plan would limit environmental reviews for "forest management projects," in which Forest Service removes dead or dying timber and sell it to mills, and then can use the proceeds to care for the forests and make them more resilient to wildfires.
‘Futile’ approach: Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, supports Westerman’s bill, which passed his panel in June. “Over the long term, new funding without the management component is futile," Bishop told the Washington Examiner.
Environmental concerns: Other lawmakers say Congress must address the funding issue before anything else, and say Westerman’s plan goes too far in shortchanging environmental reviews, which they say would invite litigation.
"We need to fully fund wildfires, not clear-cut more forests," said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., the ranking member of the Natural Resources committee.
Grijalva supports an approach promoted by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The funding-first plan: Wyden’s legislation, supported by equal number Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, would allow the Forest Service to use disaster relief funding once the original money dedicated to fighting fires runs out.
Wyden’s office says Westerman’s bill would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate, and they say extreme wildfires believed to be exacerbated by climate change demands immediate action.
PRUITT’S HIGH-CLASS FLIGHTS COSTING TAXPAYERS: Pruitt has taken at least four charter and military flights since mid-February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000. The Washington Post obtained the flight records provided to a congressional committee.
His itinerary: The most expensive of the four trips came in early June, when Pruitt traveled from Andrews Air Force Base to Cincinnati to join Trump as he spoke about U.S. infrastructure. The administrator and several staff members then traveled from there using a military jet to John F. Kennedy airport in New York, where they hooked onto a flight to Italy for an international meeting of environmental ministers. The cost of that flight was $36,068.50.
His defense: The EPA says the Office of General Counsel approved each trip, and said he generally flies commercial flights except in unusual circumstances. “When the administrator travels, he takes commercial flights,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.
Turbulent flying habits: EPA’s inspector general is already investigating Pruitt’s travels to his home state of Oklahoma, where he served as attorney general.
The Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group, learned through public records requests that Pruitt had spent nearly half of the days in March, April and May in Oklahoma.
Unusual practices: The news about Pruitt’s flying habits comes after the Post reported the EPA is spending nearly $25,000 to install a secure phone booth in his office. He also has round-the-clock security.
The moves provide more ammunition to Pruitt’s critics, who say he is beholden to corporate interests that are motivating his rollback of environmental regulations.
MARYLAND SUES EPA: The state sued the EPA Wednesday, claiming the agency has not done enough to stop neighboring states from emitting air pollution that harms Maryland.
State Attorney General Brian E. Frosh filed the lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
The legal claim: Maryland officials say power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are violating a “good-neighbor provision” of the Clean Air Act by not using their pollution-control technology during the summer, when heat and sunshine hasten emissions of ozone gases.
Progress in ‘jeopardy’: Seventy percent of Maryland’s ozone pollution comes from regions outside the state, harming the state’s ability to meet federal air-quality standards.
“Maryland has made significant progress in improving our air quality in recent years, and that progress is in jeopardy due to a lack of action by the EPA,” said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
New York Times EPA considers ending funding for Department of Justice’s environmental enforcement work
Washington Post Interior Department inspector general’s office probes whether agency leadership broke rules when reassigning workers
Reuters In windy Denmark, government boosts subsidies for solar power
Bloomberg Residents living near Superfund site in St. Louis hope Trump’s EPA helps them
CNBC Militants threaten to attack energy infrastructure of Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer
Bloomberg China gives carmakers more time in phasing out of diesel vehicles for electric-powered ones
THURSDAY, SEPT. 28
All day, 2850 S. Potomac Ave., Arlington, Va., The EPA holds a meeting of the Science Advisory Board Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee to receive a briefing from the EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment on the content and presentation of assessment products to be released at early stages of development of draft assessments.
All day, 2777 South Crystal Drive, Arlington, Va. The EPA holds a meeting of the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest System Advisory Board.
4 p.m., Teleconference, The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration holds a meeting by teleconference of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee to potentially approve recommendations to the commerce secretary informing of actions to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.
6:30 p.m., Asia Society, 725 Park Ave., New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivers an address on Iranian foreign policy. The speech is likely to touch on the oil glut and sanctions, as well as Iran’s approach to the Trump administration. The event is for Asia Society members only. Webcast at asiasociety.org/new-york/live-webcast
FRIDAY, SEPT. 29
11:30 a.m., 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. The Heritage Foundation holds a discussion on "A Vision for American Energy Dominance" with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
TUESDAY, OCT. 3
9 a.m., National Press Club, The Global CCS Institute hosts “Carbon Capture: A Business Opportunity in the Global Low-Carbon Economy.”
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee holds a hearing called, “Resiliency: The Electric Grid’s Only Hope.” The purpose of the hearing is to define resiliency, examine electric resiliency from both physical and cyber threats and to study the effectiveness of private and government coordination on resiliency across the electricity delivery sectors.
10 a.m., 1334 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands holds a hearing on a bill to promote innovative approaches to outdoor recreation on federal land and to open up opportunities for collaboration with non-federal partners, and for other purposes.