Elvina Nawaguna

Summer of Storms Tests Energy Resilience
Lawmakers, administration battle over what it means to rebuild

While the Trump administration proposes to make the nation’s electric grid more “resilient” by propping up nuclear and coal-fired power plants, a wide range of energy advocates say there are better — and greener — ways to achieve the same goal.

And they are urging leaders to heed the lessons provided by the massive storms that took down electricity lines in parts of Texas and Florida and left U.S. island territories in the Caribbean in the dark for weeks.

On Climate Issues, House GOP Warms Gradually
As more Republicans sign on, the Climate Solutions Caucus is gaining steam

BY ELVINA NAWAGUNA

When a Republican congressman in July tried to strip the 2018 defense spending bill of its requirement to plan for global warming and rising sea level threats, a group of House GOP lawmakers joined Democrats to kill the effort.

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.

EPA Moves to Repeal Climate Rule; Lawsuits to Follow
With Clean Power Plan on the chopping block, environmental groups gear up to sue

The EPA’s move on Tuesday to undo the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule will almost certainly trigger an onslaught of lawsuits from environmental groups and many blue states that have been bracing for that action since President Donald Trump took office.

The agency said it had filed a notice with the Federal Register proposing to unravel the 2015 Clean Power Plan and will seek public input into that proposal over a 60-day period. But the EPA did not commit to promulgating a replacement policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which environmentalists have said would lead them to sue to stop the repeal or force the agency to write a new policy.

Natural Resources Chairman Has Questions About Zinke’s Travel

 The Republican chairman on the House Natural Resources Committee has joined Democratic lawmakers who have taken an interest in the travel expenses incurred by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

In a letter sent late Tuesday, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, whose committee has oversight of Interior, asked the agency chief to provide details about its travel policies and travel records for Interior secretaries over the last eight years. The letter, which was also signed by the panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., also suggested that Bishop believes Democrats may be trying to draw attention to the issue for political purposes.

Minnesota Gardens Grow Solar Energy
Sun juice accounts for 15 percent of state’s energy production

Solar power is taking off in a big way in Minnesota, a state known more for deep snow and icy winds than sunny skies, and it’s being fueled by local co-op projects, a method known more for producing community gardens than electricity.

The co-ops — actually called community solar gardens in the Twin Cities area — have sparked astounding growth in solar power generation in the North Star State. In 2016, co-ops provided 38 megawatts of power, or about 15 percent of the 246 MW of solar energy produced in the state; this year solar co-ops are expected to generate a little over 400 MW, or more than half of Minnesota’s total solar energy supply of 800 MW.

After Storms’ Devastation, No Change in Hill Climate Debate
“I don’t think there is going to be some big ‘come to Jesus’ moment”

Florida, parts of Texas and the U.S. Virgin Island are facing months or years of recovery after hurricanes Irma and Harvey pummeled communities, turned streets into rivers and upended lives, but it does not appear that the catastrophic storms have changed the conversation about climate change in Washington.

GOP lawmakers skeptical of climate science didn’t announce new views or a sense of urgency in addressing the global warming that scientists say exacerbated the impact of the storms.

EPA Continues to Get a GOP Beating in Interior-Environment Bill
Calls for massive reductions rebuffed, but criticism continues

Although Republicans appeared to have rejected the White House’s call for sharp cuts to the EPA, their disdain for the agency has reappeared as the House debated amendments to the often contentious Interior-Environment spending bill on the House floor last week.

The 80 amendments House lawmakers sifted through consisted of Democrats’ attempts to remove what they described as harmful environmental riders from the measure, and Republicans’ measures to further reduce spending on environmental programs and give the Trump administration more authority to advance its deregulatory agenda. The Democratic amendments were mostly thwarted by the GOP majority.

Monuments Review Spurs Call to Overhaul Antiquities Act
Interior Department does not recommend overturning any designations

The Interior Department's conclusion of a contentious review of national monuments might give Congress some impetus to revisit the Antiquities Act of 1906, which presidents of both parties have used to designate monuments through executive action. 

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop on Thursday called for Congress to overhaul the Antiquities Act to place “reasonable limits” on the way presidents use the statute. Bishop’s statements came shortly before the Interior Department submitted recommendations to the White House after an executive-ordered review of monument designations made over the last two decades.

Democrats Tell Trump to Withdraw Clovis Nomination for USDA
Schumer, Schatz cite nominee’s “extremist views” on race, homosexuality

Senate Democrats said Wednesday they would “vehemently oppose” the appointment of Sam Clovis Jr., President Donald Trump’s nominee for a top scientific post at the Department of Agriculture, potentially dovetailing with unrelated reservations already expressed by a key Senate Republican.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii cited Clovis’ rejection of climate science and his “extremist views” on race and homosexuality in a press release. They called for the immediate withdrawal of his nomination as USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics.

House Appropriators Ignore Trump’s Proposed Cuts to Arts
NEA, NEH would each receive $145 million

Federal arts and humanities programs targeted for elimination by the Trump administration would get a lifeline from House appropriators willing to ignore the president’s proposal and keep them running.

The $31.5 billion fiscal 2018 Interior-Environment spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday includes $145 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Trump Budget a Shock to Farmers, Needy and Environment
The Week Ahead, Episode 55

...