Elvina Nawaguna

House GOP Seeks to Ease or End Vehicle Emissions Standards
Lawmakers say benchmarks force automakers to adopt costly technologies

House Republicans want federal environment and transportation regulators to loosen or eliminate fuel efficiency and emissions standards for motor vehicles, saying that current requirements could become costly to the auto industry and reduce consumer choices.

As part of the Obama administration's efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012 set an average fuel efficiency goal of 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light duty trucks sold in the U.S. by 2025.

Regulators Call For Tougher Natural Gas Storage Safety Measures
2015 California leak offered lessons

Natural gas storage operators would face tougher requirements under new safety recommendations released Tuesday by a federal task force ordered by Congress, just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of the nation’s largest methane leak from a natural gas facility.

Drawing lessons from a massive leak at California’s Aliso Canyon facility last year, officials led by the Department of Energy and the Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, with other federal and state representatives, made 44 recommendations, including rigorous self-monitoring by natural gas operators.

Dana Young, a Republican Force in Florida
The conservative state House majoirity leader has higher ambitions

A chance to attend President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address in 1985 steered a congressional intern toward Republican politics, even though she came from a family that had been a force in the Florida Democratic Party for generations.  

Struck by Reagan’s ability to bring people together, "at that moment, I became a Republican,” said Florida House Majority Leader Dana Young. Now, at 51, Young is an attorney and conservative power-broker who has political ambitions in her home state.  

Interior Department Says Final Arctic Drilling Rule Will Boost Safety
But Republicans, oil industry concerned over harming energy production

The Interior Department on Thursday finalized a rule it says will make drilling in the Arctic safer and more environmentally sustainable by requiring oil and gas companies to set in place systems to prevent and contain oil spills in the region's difficult weather conditions.  

The rule, first proposed in February 2015, requires drillers on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf to have access to a separate rig ready to drill a relief well in case they lose control of an existing well.  

For Colorado’s Cynthia Coffman, Defending Sovereignty Is Not Easy
"We sometimes end up defending causes that we don’t support, but that’s our job."

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s firm belief in the sovereignty of states and her determination to defend it at all costs have placed her in a few difficult positions.

Since becoming attorney general in 2014, Coffman, a Republican, has had to defend Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws, which she opposed before voters approved it. Last year, she joined two dozen states in a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, leading to tensions with Colorado's Democratic governor who supports the plan.

Interior-Environment Funding Bill Passed by House
Democrats cry foul over EPA cuts, weakened environmental regulations

The House voted, 231-196, mostly along party lines on Thursday to advance the $32.1 billion fiscal 2017 Interior-Environment spending bill, marking the first time that the spending measure has made it out of the chamber since 2009.  

The package (HR 5538) takes aim at the Obama administration’s environment and climate change agenda and would cut by $64 million the budget for the EPA, the Interior Department and other covered agencies. Total funding is $1 billion below the administration's budget request.  

Mercury Rule's Benefits Outweigh Costs, EPA Tells Court
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Trump Feud Dims Susana Martinez's Veep Prospects
But billionaire mogul would still like her endorsement

The most prominent Latina in U.S. politics recently found herself joining a long list of public figures caught in the crosshairs of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez made history in 2010 as the state’s first female governor, and the first Latina to ever hold that position in the U.S.

Advocates Press Bigger Role for Nuclear in Clean Energy Goals
Bipartisan policy efforts in Congress aim to boost nuclear energy

North American leaders aiming for a 50 percent carbon-free energy generation by 2025 are counting on a mix that includes wind, solar and nuclear to reach that goal. But energy analysts say that without new policies to boost the nuclear industry, that goal would be hard to achieve in nine years.  The target set by President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto at the North American Leader’s Summit in Ottawa last week is part of an ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and combat human-induced climate change.  

The White House acknowledged that aiming for 50 percent clean energy by 2025 is a “stretch goal,” but argued that it's achievable with help from the renewable energy tax credits that Congress in December agreed to extend for another five years. Still, many energy analysts — and certainly the nuclear industry — say a bigger contribution from nuclear power, driven by some nuclear-friendly energy policy changes, would make the goal more attainable.  

Tillerson Says He Still Believes in Paris Pact, But Backs Trump
‘My views were heard out. I respect that the president heard my views.’

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has previously backed the U.S. staying in the Paris climate agreement, told lawmakers on Tuesday that his views have “never changed” but that he respects President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the international accord aimed at slowing global warming.

Tillerson was speaking at a budget hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where the panel’s top Democrat, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, asked if he had changed his position on the agreement ahead of the president’s decision or whether the move was “just a political decision” by the administration.

Trump Withdraws US From Paris Climate Agreement
President says country could re-enter accord under a ‘deal that’s fair’

BY ELVINA NAWAGUNA AND JOHN T. BENNETTUpdated 4:26 p.m. | President Donald Trump said the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, fulfilling a campaign promise and handing victory to Republican lawmakers who had pushed for an exit from what they termed a bad deal that would put a drag on the U.S. economy.

Trump left open the possibility of re-entering the accord after renegotiating a “deal that’s fair.”

Senate Panel Advances Energy and Interior Nominees
Members wonder where the other nominees are

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced four energy-related nominees on Tuesday as lawmakers grow increasingly impatient with President Donald Trump’s slow pace of filling key administration positions.

The panel voted 14-9, mostly along party lines, to advance the nomination of longtime energy lobbyist David Bernhardt, Trump’s pick for deputy Interior secretary. Bernhardt, also a former congressional staffer and attorney, has challenged the agency in courts on behalf of clients that critics fear would benefit from his appointment.

Corn State Lawmakers Get Ethanol Hearing

Bowing to pressure from corn state lawmakers, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso allowed a hearing on legislation that would ease restrictions on the sale of gasoline blended with at least 15 percent ethanol, a measure he opposes.

The bill (S 517) sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., would order the EPA to waive its rule prohibiting the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent corn-based ethanol, also known as E15, during the summer months. The prohibition was based on findings that tied the mixture to smog-causing emissions during warm weather.

EPA Budget Cuts Won't Fly, House Appropriators Tell Pruitt

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s defense of the administration’s proposal to his agency’s budget by 30 percent are falling short with House appropriators, who are making clear that they’ll toss it aside when they write their Interior-Environment spending bill.

The sharp cuts proposed in the President Donald Trump’s budget are “untenable,” Interior-Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert told Pruitt at a hearing, a sharp rebuke from a key appropriator.

EPA Inhofe Alumni Group Closer to Expanding

President Donald Trump’s nominations for an assistant EPA administrator and two members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were advanced Wednesday by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Lawmakers on the panel voted, 11-10, to move forward with the nomination of Susan Bodine to become the EPA’s assistant administrator of enforcement and compliance assurance. The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance enforces EPA’s rules and oversees the agency’s environmental justice and compliance.

Energy Pipeline Permitting Bills Passed by House

As Republicans rush to join the Trump administration’s efforts to boost oil and gas production, the House pushed two measures on Wednesday aimed at easing the permitting process for pipelines that cross state and international lines.

Lawmakers voted, 254-175, to pass a bill by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., which would transfer authority to issue permits for pipelines and power transmission lines that cross international borders from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Mullin and other Republicans argued the measure is necessary to keep politics out of the pipeline permitting process.

Democrats Want Probe of Interior Scientists' Reassignments

Democrats at a hearing for Interior and Energy Department nominees seized on the published comments of an Interior scientist who claims that Secretary Ryan Zinke was using forced reassignments to coax experienced scientists to resign.

The top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Maria Cantwell of Washington, said at the Thursday hearing that she will ask Interior’s Inspector General to investigate the allegations raised by the scientist, Joel Clement, in an op-ed published by The Washington Post.

EPA Sets Aside $12 Million for Employee Buyouts in FY 2017
Democrats have criticized plans for deep cuts to the agency

The EPA is setting aside $12 million of its fiscal 2017 budget allocation for a previously announced plan to offer employee buyouts and incentives for early retirements as part of a Trump administration effort to cut the agency’s workforce, according to a memo from its chief financial officer, David A. Bloom.

The $12 million comes from a pool of $24 million in unused money from fiscal 2016, according to the memo.

Bipartisan Pressure Mounts on Trump to Stay in Paris Agreement
Schumer: Leaving the deal would be a ‘historic mistake’

The White House has continued to delay a decision on whether it will stay in the Paris climate agreement, but pressure is mounting on the president from both Republicans and Democrats to keep the U.S. in the deal, albeit for different reasons.

Democrats, like environmental groups, see the accord as crucial in efforts to slow global warming. And while many Republicans despise the deal, they fear leaving it would undermine U.S. global leadership and take away the opportunity to reshape, even weaken the accord.

Rick Perry Defends Private Travel Costs at House Energy Hearing
Some sites are too remote to be accessed by commercial airlines, secretary says

BY ELVINA NAWAGUNA

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told lawmakers Thursday that his use of private aircraft for work travel is sometimes justified because his department’s national laboratories and some sites he has to visit are too remote to be accessed by commercial airlines.