October 4, 2022
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Gas gouging politics- POLITICO

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With help from Kelsey Tamborrino and Josh Siegel

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— House Democrats passed their largely symbolic gasoline price gouging bill while the fate of a clean energy tax credits package remains in the shadows.

— Trump Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was in touch with a former client, but the Interior watchdog did not find evidence of illegal lobbying.

— Interior Secretary Deb Haaland pledged to propose a new five-year offshore leasing plan by the end of June.

HAPPY FRIDAY! I’m your host, Matthew Choi. Congrats to E3 Consulting’s Elizabeth Stolpe for knowing Nicomachus was Aristotle’s father. For today’s trivia: Indira Gandhi was born in what city? Send your tips and trivia answers to [email protected]. Find me on Twitter @matthewchoi2018.

Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast — all the energy and environmental politics and policy news you need to start your day, in just five minutes. Listen and subscribe for free at politico.com/energy-podcast. On today’s episode: How NEPA is making strange bedfellows.

DEMOCRATS SPIN THEIR WHEELS: House Democrats scrounged the votes to pass a gasoline price gouging bill Thursday, though it’s going nowhere in the Senate, and lawmakers acknowledged to POLITICO’s Josh Siegel that it largely amounts to political messaging.

“Sometimes we do energy policy and sometimes we do energy politics,” Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) said before reluctantly voting for the measure. “This is the latter.”

That action closed a week in which Democrats’ preferred agenda of acting together on their signature tax-and-climate bill faded into the background — all while their unofficial Memorial Day deadline for making a decision on whether to drop the effort crept ever closer.

“We have around six legislative weeks left so we need to be moving very, very quickly,” Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) said, referring to the period before the August recess that’s expected to mark the last feasible period before the election to pass legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) who is driving the agenda on the other side of the Capitol, continues to chase a bipartisan energy and climate deal, while still giving glimmers of hope to his Democratic colleagues that he remains interested in a reconciliation deal by holding a meeting with Leader Chuck Schumer.

Together, the atmospherics of the week gnawed at many Democrats who realize their last-ditch effort to pass a party-line clean energy and social spending bill during an election year keeps getting swallowed by events.

“The need for a big climate package has not diminished over the past year,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. “I am frustrated.”

Still, some leading Democrats insist that conversations are happening behind the scenes on the nitty-gritty of clean energy tax credits that would form the core of a reconciliation bill. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) waved away concerns that closed doors mean little movement, saying: “The likelihood of something happening is greater when it’s not public-facing.”

“This is not as if there aren’t discussions about reconciliation happening,” said Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who led the charge on the tax credits last year.

Manchin’s bipartisan discussions, meanwhile, are showing no signs of progress towards a deal, as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) acknowledged, saying “we don’t have a lot of focus at this stage.” But many of Manchin’s colleagues aren’t pressing him to leave the table with Republicans as they realize he alone dictates what they can pass.

“If he sends something over here, I’ll vote for it,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). “He has to get himself to a place where he’s comfortable. I hope he does.”

BERNHARDT’S BUSINESS: Former Trump Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stayed in touch with a former client after giving up his lobbyist registration, but DOI’s inspector general didn’t find evidence that he acted illegally as a lobbyist during that time, according to a report released Thursday.

A 2019 POLITICO investigation found that Bernhardt had met with his former client, Westlands Water District, and worked on policies that benefited it shortly after taking his position as deputy secretary. Bernhardt’s ethics agreement barred him from working on anything involving his former client for a year after joining the agency.

After reviewing over 100 electronic communications between the two, DOI’s inspector general determined Bernhardt continued advising Westlands anyway. But the report says it did not see evidence of direct communication with legislative officials.

“Based on the evidence we obtained, we concluded that the conduct we identified, standing alone, did not show that Mr. Bernhardt acted as a lobbyist within the meaning of the statute after deregistration,” the report said. A spokesperson for the former agency chief said the “report completely vindicates Secretary Bernhardt.” Read more from POLITICO’s Ben Lefebvre.

A JUNE SALE: In case you missed the Senate Energy Committee’s rather colorful interrogation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, she announced Thursday a June 30 deadline for DOI’s next five-year offshore leasing proposal, and everyone is pouncing on the chance to shape the forthcoming plan.

House Natural Resources Chair Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) called for a leasing plan with as few offshore drilling lease sales as possible to ”break our dependency on oil and gas extraction.” The five-year proposals are mandated by the Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Act, but the Natural Resources Defense Council asserted it doesn’t actually have to include new lease sales.

Republicans, industry representatives and Manchin have been pushing DOI to unveil a new drilling plan for weeks. House Natural Resources ranking member Bruce Westerman (R-Ariz.) expressed relief Thursday that the plan is in the works, but said in a statement that delaying future lease sales “is what drives industries to other nations with poor environmental records, when we can produce energy safer, cleaner and cheaper here in America.”

The American Petroleum Institute’s Frank Macchiarola asserted that June 30 should be when a plan is finalized rather than first proposed. New lease sales won’t be possible until November at the earliest on DOI’s timeline, and Macchiarola cast doubt they’ll occur before the end of the year.

ON THE MOVE: EPA is moving forward on a proposed rule to establish an alternative Renewable Identification Number retirement schedule for small refineries under the Renewable Fuel Standard according to a notice on the Office of Management and Budget dashboard. The notice signals the draft proposed rule is currently undergoing interagency review — the last step before the agency makes it publicly available.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS JENNIFER GRANHOLM? The Energy secretary heads up to Connecticut today, where she will make an announcement at DOE’s Southern New England Industrial Assessment Center that will conduct industrial assessments to help local manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint and train a new energy workforce, per last year’s bipartisan infrastructure package. She’ll be joined by UConn Interim President Radenka Maric, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes.

She’ll also meet with Gov. Ned Lamont and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) at the Connecticut State Pier to chat with representatives in the offshore wind industry on developments in southeastern Connecticut.

ICYMI: “FERC approves three natural gas projects as Democrats tee up policy changes,” via POLITICO’s Catherine Morehouse.

US-EU LAWMAKERS SLAM GAS FINANCE PLAN: Members of both the House and the European Parliament wrote to Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urging them not to allow the response to the war in Ukraine to include new financing of fossil fuel infrastructure, licensing or extraction. The 45 signatories included Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Green MEPs, including Marie Toussaint, and Socialists and Democrats, including Mohammed Chahim. They said the transatlantic Task Force for Energy Security should set up guardrails so that “our countries not lock ourselves into decades of further reliance on fossil fuels when climate science, environmental justice, and public health concerns necessitate a rapid transition towards full renewable energy.”

One day after the EU’s REPowerEU proposal that would spend billions on oil and gas infrastructure, the lawmakers said: “Liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure can take at least three years to build, thus failing to address Europe’s short-term energy needs to transition off Russian gas.”

ARIZONANS FOR CLEAN WATER TECH: The Democrats of Arizona’s congressional delegation are urging EPA to include new water distribution technologies in its drinking water programs to help remote communities, including the state’s Indigenous population, access clean water.

In a letter to EPA water lead Radhika Fox, the lawmakers say current EPA programs, including the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, largely benefit public water systems, leaving out more remote households, and that expansions of traditional water lines to rural areas in the state often get delayed because of extended permitting. New tech that can serve more localized needs such as atmospheric water harvesting would get around those concerns, the lawmakers write.

“It is our understanding that EPA has enough flexibility within existing programs and the aforementioned proposed programs to utilize distributed drinking water technologies. We respectfully request your assistance in ensuring that the deployment of distributed water solutions are eligible under these programs, in order to close the equity gap for rural communities, Native American communities, and communities of color.

FIELD TRIP: The House Science Research and Technology Subcommittee is heading to Pontiac, Mich., today for a field hearing on creating an electric vehicle workforce. They’ll hear from representatives from labor, local government and academia to hear about what kind of skills are in demand in the sector, education and training needs, and challenges to transitioning from traditional car manufacturing.

EPW IN THE AIR: Biden’s pick to lead EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Joe Goffman, goes before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for a confirmation hearing on Wednesday. He’s currently the office’s principal deputy assistant administrator. He met with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who co-chairs the Environmental Justice Caucus, to talk about ways to address legacy air pollution, preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard and keep environmental justice priorities as a focus of the office’s work.

GUNNING FOR GUNNISON: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is releasing draft text for a bill to protect his state’s Gunnison Basin today. New oil and gas leases and new mining claims would be banned in the protected area, but existing leases wouldn’t be impacted. The boundaries of the protected area are still flexible, with Bennet accepting public comment on the proposal till July 19. Read the bill text here.

THAT’S HOT: Prepare for an unseasonably hot weekend in much of Eastern U.S., with the heat index in D.C. expected to hit triple digits Saturday. The high temperatures are already causing soaring spot power and natural gas prices as more folks turn on the air conditioning, Reuters reports.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation warned this week that large swaths of the West and Midwest could face power shortages this summer as heatwaves crank up demand for air conditioning and drought impedes hydro generation.

SPACEX SCRAPS LNG PLANS: Elon Musk’s SpaceX dropped plans to build a desalination, power and liquefied natural gas plants at its Boca Chica launch site, Bloomberg reports citing US Fish & Wildlife Service documents. Musk had initially hoped to drill his own natural gas to provide rocket fuel on site, though the plans faced backlash from environmental groups.

— “Italian police raid climate activists over Gazprom protest,” via POLITICO.

— ”Greece emerging as new hub for Russian ship-to-ship fuel oil exports, data shows,” via Reuters.

— “The Department of Energy to dole out $3.5 billion for carbon removal hubs,” via The Verge.

— “Upstate New York becomes hotbed for cryptocurrency mining. It might not last,” via POLITICO.

THAT’S ALL FOR ME!





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