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TRUMP WEIGHS PERRY AS REPLACEMENT FOR VA SECRETARY SHULKIN: President Trump is reportedly weighing firing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and replacing him with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Trump and Perry had lunch at the White House Monday, but the president did not formally offer the job to Perry then, the New York Times reported.
Back channel info: A source with close ties to the administration and the Energy Department told John that the meeting at the White House was about the VA post. But Perry has been considered for other posts in the past, for example, when Homeland Security was up for grabs. No one really knows, yet: So, the current caveat is “who knows?” the source says. Nevertheless, Trump has been considering removing the embattled Shulkin from his post and may be interested in having someone else already in the Cabinet to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Vet credentials: Perry, the former governor of Texas, served as a pilot in the Air Force before starting a career in politics. It’s not known if Perry would accept the position or if the president has a replacement for Perry at the Department of Energy in mind. At the Energy Department, Perry has announced an initiative to use the agency’s top-notch data-crunching capabilities to solve problems among American veterans, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, and eventually leverage that information to benefit everyone. He talked to John about the initiative last month. Shulkin’s problems: Shulkin has been the subject of scrutiny in recent weeks, and Trump has reportedly grown frustrated with him. Last month, the VA’s inspector general found Shulkin misused taxpayer dollars for an 11-day trip to Europe last year, improperly accepted tickets to Wimbledon, and misled agency ethics officials about how he obtained the tickets. ‘Retirement gig’ or bigger workload? Moving from Energy to the VA would be taking on a real workload compared to Energy Department, the source told John. “DOE is an easy gig,” the source said. “Perry is treating it like a retirement gig,” but the “VA would be an actual job.”
PERRY PUSHES INFRASTRUCTURE AS ENERGY CHIEF: “I am excited to be here today,” Perry told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee at an infrastructure hearing Wednesday morning.
Perry said Trump understands “the far-reaching impact” of infrastructure. He the nation’s infrastructure is in an “unacceptable state of disrepair” that must be rebuilt now.
He focused on the need to upgrade the security for pipelines and electric grid infrastructure. The Energy Department is ramping up a new grid security office to focus on protecting energy infrastructure from cyber attacks.
He also is focused on streamlining permitting for energy projects during the oil and natural gas revolution.
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MURKOWSKI, CANTWELL GANG UP ON HOUSE AS THEY SEEK TO ADVANCE ENERGY PRIORITIES: Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, the chairwoman and top Democrat of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively, pressured their House colleagues Wednesday morning to support measures in Congress to boost renewables and bolster cyber security.
Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Cantwell, D-Wash., described themselves as partners in supporting clean energy and power grid modernization, as they gave separate addresses to the American Council on Renewable Energy’s annual policy forum in Washington.
High hopes for energy bill: The duo is seeking to soon advance a comprehensive energy bill they co-authored that would be the first update to the country’s energy policies from Congress in a decade. A version of their bill passed out of the Senate in 2016 by a 85-12 vote but failed to advance in the House. “We are looking for floor time to move the Senate energy bill,” Murkowski said Wednesday. “This will be major shot in arm for innovation, energy efficiency and grid modernization all at once.” ‘Short’ time window: Murkowski expressed irritation that the Senate has been bogged down by considering Trump administration nominees, which will get worse with the president’s shuffling of the State Department and CIA leadership. But she’s optimistic the Senate will vote on the energy bill this session. The real challenge, is the House, she said. “What we have built and demonstrated is bipartisan support for this policy, which is somewhat evergreen in that it was good two years ago and is still good now, and needs to be moved forward,” Murkowski said. “The more important issue is how we move it on the House side. That is where things broke down last time. But my hope is we find a short window of time to make it through the Senate.”
THEY’RE EYEING TAX BENEFITS FOR RENEWABLES: The two senators are also pushing policies to support renewables.
New tax status: Murkowski said it’s possible Congress, as part of its infrastructure package, could include a provision that would allow solar and wind producers to lighten their tax loads. Murkowski wants renewables to have access to financing tools created for the oil and gas industry, called "master limited partnerships.” The partnerships allow companies to pool their capital resources, while lowering their overall corporate taxes. Companies have used these limited partnerships to create oil refineries and pipelines. ‘Bullish’: Renewable companies want Congress to expand the partnerships to include wind turbines and solar farms, for example. “There is a growing group of supporters interested in moving forward to allow for this financing in the renewable sector,” Murkowski said. “It’s just the right policy in my view. I believe we will be able to advance it. I think it's this year. I only say that because it's been so many years coming. I am bullish on it.” All-in for ‘extenders’: Cantwell, meanwhile, said she expects the Senate to include renewable energy “tax extenders” as part of the upcoming spending bill. The tax benefits, set to expire, would benefit electric vehicles, residential energy equipment, biodiesel, and more.
TILLERSON SUED OVER CLIMATE CHANGE SOON AFTER BEING FIRED: An environmental group leading several lawsuits against the administration sued Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday for not meeting the deadline for issuing a climate report under the Paris climate agreement.
The Center for Biological Diversity had threatened to sue the State Department if it failed to abide by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change in sending the updated climate data to the United Nations. The group sent a letter to Tillerson last month threatening to sue if the report was not compiled and sent.
Critical report: “After a year of deadly, record-breaking storms, blowing off climate reporting requirements is wildly irresponsible,” said Jean Su, the group’s associate conservation director. “We need to know who or what is holding up this critical report, given the Trump administration’s dangerous record of climate denial and aversion to transparency.” The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia soon after reports circulated early Tuesday morning that Tillerson had been fired by President Trump. The lawsuit asks the court to order the agency to hand over records related to the report’s delay and the timeline for its preparation and release. The group’s lawsuit follows the State Department’s failure to respond to the group’s Feb. 1 Freedom of Information Act request.
ZINKE SUGGESTS ‘RISKIER’ OFFSHORE DRILLING PLAN LIKELY TO BE SCALED BACK: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday he is prepared to scale back his controversial proposal to massively expand drilling in federal waters off the U.S. coasts.
“What we are seeing is more production onshore than offshore,” Zinke said during testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, seemingly downplaying offshore oil and gas prospects. “There is no question offshore oil and gas drilling is riskier. It's riskier for a number of reasons, one is environmentally."
Thanks, but no thanks: At least 12 states want to be removed from the drilling plan, after he said he would exclude areas off Florida after Republican Gov. Rick Scott complained. California and other states, meanwhile, have said they would deny needed permits for onshore services or transport. ‘Political games’: Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee, said Zinke played “political games” by saying he would block Florida’s shores from drilling, and not yet approving similar exemptions to other places opposed to his plan. “Dramatic increases in offshore drilling pose a direct threat to the robust coastal fishing economy in my state,” Cantwell said. “You are playing political games on where to drill. The process is arbitrary and capricious to taxpayers.” Doubts about Pacific drilling: Zinke said he would take Cantwell’s complaints, and others, into consideration. He said his department will complete another draft of the proposal, incorporating public comments, by late fall. He expressed doubt that oil and gas drilling will happen off the Pacific coast, saying California, Oregon and Washington have “no known resources of any weight.” “I will mark down Washington as opposed to oil and gas drilling,” Zinke said. “The state of Washington is deeply, passionately opposed to oil and gas drilling off their coast. We will have the interests of Washington reflected in [the] plan as well as Florida, the Gulf states and where there is enormous opposition. We will do that.”
PRUITT SIGNALS FIGHT WITH CALIFORNIA OVER FUEL-EFFICIENCY STANDARDS: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signaled Tuesday he plans to confront California over the state’s ambitious fuel efficiency rules for cars and trucks.
Golden State can’t ‘dictate:’ "California is not the arbiter of these issues," Pruitt told Bloomberg in an interview. California regulates greenhouse gas emissions at the state level, "but that shouldn’t and can’t dictate to the rest of the country what these levels are going to be,” he said. Lone Ranger: California, which can set its own fuel efficiency standards, has fought the EPA over the proposed weakening of rules set by the Obama administration that would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The EPA has an April 1 deadline to decide whether the regulations covering the 2022-2025 model years should be revised. California has warned it could withdraw from the nationwide vehicle emissions program if the EPA limits the regulations. Federal law since 1967 has allowed California, because of severe air pollution problems caused by smog, to obtain a waiver, allowing it to set its own fuel efficiency regulations that are tougher than the national standards.
EPA STREAMLINES POLLUTION CONTROL PROGRAM TO BOOST PLANT EXPANSIONS: The EPA moved Tuesday to relax requirements for power plants and other industrial facilities in a way that will allow them to expand operations without the fear of being punished.
New guidance, New Sources: Pruitt said the new guidance affects New Source Review rules that have been difficult for industrial facilities to navigate when considering adding more plant capacity or making upgrades. Removing barriers: EPA's air chief, Bill Wehrum, said the new guidance outlines a "common-sense interpretation of NSR rules," and said the result is the removal of "unnecessary administrative barriers to the construction of cleaner and more efficient facilities.” The industry has long seen New Source Review as a tricky regulation that should be avoided when possible. The EPA program attempts to determine if, by modifying a power plant, or building a new manufacturing plant, for example, a significant new source of pollution is being created.
NATURAL GAS CEO ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT: American Gas Association President and CEO Dave McCurdy announced Wednesday morning that he will retire next year.
“I am gratified that during my career, we have moved from an era of scarcity to a time of natural gas abundance which has helped us achieve our national goals of boosting our economy, enhancing our security and protecting our environment,” McCurdy said. “I am optimistic about the future of the United States as we continue to benefit from our energy advantage.”
He said he plans to retire in February 2019, adding that he is confident that he “will be leaving this organization better than I found it, with a positive, results-oriented culture and staff that a new leader will be able to rely on as they build for the future.” The group’s board of directors will begin its search for the new CEO shortly, he said.
Auto legacy: McCurdy joined AGA after serving four years as president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, where he was instrumental in developing the national program to increase fuel economy. Those emission standards are being reconsidered by the Trump EPA.
Washington Post Scott Pruitt’s $25,000 soundproof phone booth? It actually cost more like $43,000
New York Times China unveils superagencies to fight pollution and other threats to party rule
Time Chernobyl is now the world’s unlikeliest green energy experiment
Wall Street Journal Mediterranean gas bounty suddenly seems within big oil’s reach
Politico At climate speech landmark, Whitehouse aims for deals on carbon
Reuters Oil majors' interest in Argentina tests free-market reforms
Bloomberg Add cow manure to your list of renewable energy sources
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14
8:30 a.m., 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda, Md. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds its 30th annual Regulatory Information Conference through March 15.
8 a.m., National Harbor, Md. The Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) holds its ninth annual Energy Innovation Summit through March 15.
All day, Washington Marriott at Metro Center. American Council on Renewable Energy holds its annual Renewable Energy Policy Forum.
All day, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute holds its Energy Summit: A World in Transition.
10 a.m., 106 Dirksen. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Administration Perspectives.” Testifying will be Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn. The Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy subcommittee holds a hearing called “DOE Modernization: Legislation Addressing Cybersecurity and Emergency Response.”
THURSDAY, MARCH 15
8 a.m., 1030 15th St. NW. The Atlantic Council holds a discussion on "Strategic Oil Product Stockholding: International Experience and U.S. Prospects."
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to consider the following nominations: Theodore Garrish to be an assistant secretary of energy for international affairs; and James Edward Campos to be director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact at the Department of Energy.
10 a.m., 2362-B Rayburn. Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on energy and water development, and related agencies on the Department of Energy’s fiscal 2019 budget.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee holds a committee hearing titled “An Overview of the National Science Foundation Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2019.”
12:30 p.m., 1619 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The School for Advanced International Studies holds the Energy in China conference.