OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Obama to unveil fuel-economy compromise

Friday's Big Story: President Obama is slated to announce a high-profile compromise Friday that has been negotiated behind closed doors for months.

No, Obama won’t unveil a sweeping agreement to raise the debt ceiling. Instead, he’ll tout new fuel-economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks.

The compromise agreement — developed after months of closed-door talks with the country’s major automakers — represents a coup for the Obama administration at a time of increasing frustration over debt talks.

Sources on and off Capitol Hill confirm to The Hill that Obama will announce fuel-economy standards of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025 as part of the administration’s new rules for model year 2017-2025 cars and light-duty trucks.

The standard represents a retreat from an earlier proposal floated by the administration, which called for a 56.2 mpg standard. Both standards fall short of the 60 mpg goal environmental groups have been pushing for months.

Still, the White House will tout the plan as a historic compromise between the auto industry and the administration, echoing its framing of a fuel-economy agreement for model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

Obama will announce the new fuel-economy standards at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. He is expected to be joined by executives from the country’s major automakers, who will endorse the 54.5 mpg standard.

But environmental groups, while praising the standards, will be looking closely at the agreement’s fine print.

Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell said Thursday he fears the agreement will include loopholes intended to sweeten the pot for the country’s automakers, including a measure allowing for a midterm review that could leave room for weakening the standards.

The loopholes, O’Donnell said, lower the standard to more like 48 mpg by 2025.


NEWS BITES:

Nuke waste panel to unveil draft report: A White House-created panel tasked with guiding the future of U.S. nuclear-waste policy is slated to release draft recommendations Friday.

The closely watched Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future was created in the wake of the Obama administration’s decision not to pursue the long-planned — and long-delayed – Yucca Mountain permanent waste repository in Nevada.

The panel is expected to float ideas including centralized interim storage sites. Stay tuned.

House plan would roll back EPA cement rules: 
A bipartisan group of House members —with the support of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — opened a new front in attacks on EPA air-pollution rules Thursday.

The group that includes several members of the Energy and Commerce Committee floated legislation that would upend air-pollution rules for cement plants — regulations the lawmakers say will cost jobs and force closures.

The legislation would give EPA at least 15 months to rewrite “achievable” toxics rules for cement plants and extend compliance times by two years, among other requirements.

Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.) sponsored the bill along with several others. “This legislation would give EPA time to develop achievable standards that protect public health without threatening jobs or the global competitiveness of America’s industries,” Sullivan said in a statement.

The bill comes as Republicans and conservative Democrats are also taking aim at other EPA rules on industrial boiler toxic emissions, greenhouse gases and other policies.

American Lung Association launches new ad: The American Lung Association released a new television advertisement Thursday blasting House Republicans for their efforts to block or weaken key Environmental Protection Agency clean air rules.

The ad, which will run in Washington, DC, shows a red baby carriage with a baby coughing.

“More air pollution means more childhood asthma attacks,” the ad says.

The ad comes as the House is debating an Interior and EPA spending bill that includes dozens of policy riders aimed at hobbling Obama administration energy and environmental regulations.

The American Lung Association has launched a broad campaign to preserve the EPA's clean air regulations.

DOE touts clean energy standard: The Energy Department touted a clean-energy standard —which would mandate that a certain percentage of the country’s electricity be generated from low-emissions sources like natural gas, wind and nuclear — in a blog post Thursday.

"All in all, a well-designed technology neutral clean energy standard would be a win for American workers, and a win for America on global competitiveness," DOE said. "And when paired with measures to improve energy efficiency, a comprehensive energy standard could even reduce electricity bills for consumers."

You can read the post here. A clean energy standard, which President Obama proposed in his State of the Union address this year, faces huge hurdles on Capitol Hill.

Caterpillar to pay $2.55 million under Clean Air Act settlement: The Obama administration has reached a settlement with heavy equipment-maker Caterpillar Inc. under which the company will pay $2.55 million to resolve Clean Air Act violations.

The settlement — announced by the Justice Department and EPA — will resolve claims that the company shipped more than 590,000 engines without the right emissions controls, and failed to comply with emissions control reporting and labeling requirements.

“Caterpillar will pay a $2.55 million penalty, continue a recall of noncompliant engines and reduce excess emissions. Engines operating without proper emissions controls can emit excess nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter and other air pollutants that impact people’s health, potentially causing respiratory illnesses and aggravating asthma,” states an EPA summary of the agreement.


ON TAP FRIDAY:

Green energy conference continues with WH official: Friday brings the final day of the big International Green Energy Economy Conference in Arlington, Va.

Speaker will include Gary Guzy, the deputy director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. More info here.

Forum to explore electric vehicles, alt fuels: 
The Women's Council on Energy and the Environment will host experts for a briefing on enhancing energy security with electric vehicles and other alternative fuels.

The event will include officials from the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the Clean American Transportation Alliance and congressional staff. More info here.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Here’s a quick roundup of Thursday’s E2 stories:

— EPA proposes air pollution standards for 'fracking'
— Shell exec’s confidence rising that feds will allow Arctic drilling
— Seven Interior bill amendments rejected
— House Republicans call on EPA chief to testify on smog rules
— Energy nominee sees oil projects as lifeline for carbon capture
— Energy Department nominee defends strategic oil release
— Oil companies report soaring profits

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