OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Is Obama’s ‘clean’ standard the next cap-and-trade?

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STATE OF PLAY: Obama’s ‘clean’ plan faces uncertain future

Is President Obama’s State of the Union push for a “clean” energy standard the stuff of bipartisan deals, or destined to fall victim to partisan battles?

Maybe the not-so-distant past provides a clue. Climate advocates pushing cap-and-trade plans — and now lamenting their death — have long noted that the concept has conservative and Republican roots. A cap-and-trade plan to cut sulfur dioxide emissions (which cause acid rain) was a key part of 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, which then-President George H.W. Bush proposed and Congress overwhelmingly approved.

(This piece in Smithsonian magazine notes early support from a “a strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists.”)

But jump ahead two decades, and Democratic cap-and-trade proposals for greenhouse gases are kaput on Capitol Hill and vilified by Republicans. 

With climate bills dead for now, Obama floated a plan in Tuesday’s speech to generate 80 percent of U.S. electricity from low-carbon “clean” sources — including renewables, nuclear, coal plants that trap carbon, and natural gas — by 2035. 

It’s another idea with GOP roots that top Democrats have now embraced. During a big energy bill debate in 2007, now-retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) countered Democratic proposals for a renewable electricity mandate on utilities. His plan? A broader “clean” standard that also credited nuclear power and coal plants with carbon capture, although the latter technology isn’t yet commercialized. 

Even more recently, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTop Louisiana health official rips Cassidy over ObamaCare repeal bill Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-S.C.) has talked up the idea of a “clean energy standard” for utilities that Obama has now embraced (at least in concept — the White House hasn’t released a specific plan). 

But, as E2 reported Tuesday, key Republicans including Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) greeted Obama’s speech skeptically, although Upton did not address the “clean energy standard” idea head-on. 

It remains to be seen what form Obama’s plan takes. Any proposal that imposes requirements on power companies could face big GOP hurdles, but at the same time, nuclear power and natural gas enjoy wide GOP support. Stay tuned.


Whitfield open to talks on ‘clean’ standard

Rep. Ed WhitfieldEd WhitfieldWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science MORE (R-Ky.), the chairman of the Energy and Power subcommittee, told reporters Wednesday he’s open to talks on a “clean” standard, which Obama proposed Tuesday.

But he also cautioned that the long federal approval process for nuclear power plants — a frequent target of nuclear advocates — could hinder the effort.

“There are some practical problems with it. No. 1, the 10-year permitting process for nuclear really does make a clean energy standard sort of meaningless in a way,” Whitfield told reporters when asked if he could get behind a clean energy standard.

But he added: “We are open for discussion about any of those things. Clean energy standard means different things to different people, but we look forward to working with the president, and we have a lot of issues to face, there is so much uncertainty out there, particularly as it relates to investment for utilities, and other industries.”

The subcommittee he leads is part of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Graham lauds Obama’s energy push

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill he found Obama’s plan “encouraging.” But Graham cautioned that the 80 percent target — which would more or less double current low-emissions power generation — might be too high. (Graham has floated a less aggressive plan in the past.)

“It really is an area for Republicans and Democrats to come together,” he said. “I think it is maybe one of the areas where we can have a breakthrough this year.” Graham said he plans to introduce energy legislation this spring.

Spill panel seeks to clear up misconceptions

National oil spill commission co-chairman William Reilly said Wednesday night there is "significant confusion" among lawmakers about the commission's final report.

Republicans criticized Reilly and the panel's other co-chairman, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), for the administration's deepwater drilling moratorium. 

Reilly stressed the commission has never supported the moratorium, which has since been lifted.

"We have never been fans of the moratorium," Reilly said, adding that he hopes lawmakers will be able to separate the drilling ban from the panel's recommendations.

 Reilly and Graham testified before the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday.

Reid sends placeholder energy bill to Finance Committee

As The Hill reported Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Memo: Trump pulls off a stone-cold stunner The Memo: Ending DACA a risky move for Trump Manchin pressed from both sides in reelection fight MORE (D-Nev.) introduced placeholder energy legislation Tuesday. But the legislation was not referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It was instead referred to the Finance Committee, according to the Congressional Record.

The placeholder energy bill was co-sponsored by the following Democrats: Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell Brown'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE (Ohio), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE (Ill.), John KerryJohn Forbes KerryBringing the American election experience to Democratic Republic of the Congo Some Dems sizzle, others see their stock fall on road to 2020 The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Mass.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetGOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts NFL star claims he was victim of 'abusive conduct' by Las Vegas police Gardner throws support behind DREAM Act MORE (Colo.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE (N.Y.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsRaising awareness about maternal health worldwide on National Bump Day Senate plans hearing for bills to protect Mueller Entering a new era of African investment MORE (Del.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTrump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job Pelosi's chief of staff stepping down Time is now to address infrastructure needs MORE (Calif.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenWeek ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Five things to know about the Kaspersky-Russia controversy DHS bans Kaspersky software in federal agencies MORE (N.H.) and Daniel Akaka (Hawaii).

EPA administrator going to Texas

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson is going to Texas on Thursday as part of her “environmental justice tour.” The visit comes as the EPA has moved to issue greenhouse-gas permits in the state because Texas officials have refused to comply with the agency’s climate rules.

Jackson will “highlight the agency’s work safeguarding Americans from health threats like toxic chemicals, contaminated water, and pollution in the air we breathe and to discuss how to ensure all Texans receive the same health and environmental protections,” according to an EPA statement.

Obama talks energy in Wisconsin

A day after his State of the Union address, President Obama underscored his energy policy commitments during remarks at a solar company in Manitowoc, Wis.

Via White House transcript:

“We need to get behind clean energy companies like Orion.  We need to get behind innovation.  That’s how we’ll meet the goal I set last night and make sure 80 percent of America’s electricity comes from clean energy sources by 2035.  That is a goal that we can meet. That is a goal we must meet. That’s how we’ll make America the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. In five years, a million electric cars on the road.  That’s how America will lead the world in clean energy.  And as I’ve said before, the nation that leads the world in clean energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century.”

Boxer, Feinstein introduce legislation to limit chromium-6 in drinking water

California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, introduced legislation Wednesday to require the Environmental Protection Agency to set “an enforceable drinking water safeguard” for Chromium-6. A recent study found potentially unsafe levels of chromium-6, a likely carcinogen, in a number of U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C.

ON TAP THURSDAY: Oil industry to call for increased reliance on oil sands

The American Petroleum Institute will hold a call Thursday morning to underscore what they see as the economic benefits of Canadian oil sands. The oil industry trade association will call for approval of a major pending oil pipeline slated to stretch from Canada to Texas.

ON TAP THURSDAY II: Bingaman to speak at nuclear science event

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) will speak Thursday at a National Nuclear Science Week event in the Capitol. Other attendees at the event include: Nuclear Energy Industry President Marvin Fertel and Audeen Fentiman, associate dean of engineering at Purdue University

ON TAP THURSDAY III: Homeland security panel holding hearing on 'Gulf coast recovery'

The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Thursday afternoon titled, "Gulf Coast Recovery: An Examination of Claims and Social Services in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill."


Here’s a quick roundup of E2’s reporting Wednesday:

Sens. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-W.Va.) and Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE (D-Iowa) introduced their mine safety bill;  Sen. David VitterDavid VitterYou're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator MORE (R-La.) introduced a bill to block EPA climate rules until China and India act to reduce their emissions; and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said he will work with the White House on President Obama’s “clean energy standard” proposal.

Meanwhile, EPA reached a $5.3 million Clean Air Act settlement with a major petroleum refiner; White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t take the bait when asked about the future of Carol Browner’s office; House Democrats introduced oil spill legislation; and a House Republican compared the risks of drilling in the Gulf to those associated with driving a car or slipping on ice.