Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Lawmakers work toward deal on miners’ benefits

SENATORS AIM FOR DEAL ON MINERS HEALTHCARE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he wants a permanent fix for miners' healthcare in the next government funding bill, moving Congress a big step toward a deal on the issue.

"I'm in favor of a permanent fix on miners' healthcare. It's my hope that that will be included in the final package," McConnell told reporters Tuesday after meeting with the GOP caucus.

McConnell's endorsement is significant, as he had previously supported temporary fixes but held back support for a long-term legislative solution.

The healthcare fund, administered by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), will be in trouble at the end of the month unless Congress acts.

Senators on the finance and spending panels, as well as lawmakers from coal country, said earlier Tuesday they expect to include a permanent fix for expiring miner healthcare benefits in legislation to fund the government through the fall.

"I think we're working hard to make sure it's permanent, that's absolutely critical," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said. "We've been working not just the Senate side but the House side. I'm feeling optimistic, but I want to see it in writing."

"It seems that there is consensus in the Senate, across both parties," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Read more here.

PERRY: TRUMP SHOULD 'RENEGOTIATE' PARIS: Energy Secretary Rick Perry wants President Trump to keep the United States in the Paris climate change agreement, but renegotiate some terms.

"I'm not going to say tell the president of the United States let's just walk away from the Paris accord," Perry said during an onstage interview at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance event Tuesday in New York.

"But, what I'm going to say is that I think we probably should renegotiate it."

Perry's comments come amid a large rift in the Trump administration over whether the president should seek to pull the country out of the Paris agreement.

He joins Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in arguing that staying in the pact is better than abandoning it. Tillerson has said it's better diplomatically to stay in the pact and retain a seat at the table in international climate policy.

But others, including Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt and Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, say it's a harmful deal for the United States and Trump should get out of it.

Read more here.

DEMS FIGHT TALK OF CLOSING EPA OFFICE: Midwestern lawmakers are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep its Region 5 office open in light of reports that the Trump administration is considering shuttering it.

In a Tuesday letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members said they have "grave concerns" about a report this month that said the Trump administration is considering closing the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago.

"While shutting down EPA's Region 5 Chicago office would make it more difficult and less efficient for the federal government to work in partnership with state and local communities, it is unclear that it would reduce costs to the EPA as a whole," the members, led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), wrote.

Only one Republican -- Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) -- signed the bill, alongside 37 Democrats.

"We urge you to protect the environmental health and well-being of our states by keeping Region 5 intact and fully supporting its critical mission."

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that the Trump administration is considering closing the Region 5 office, though officials have dismissed that report. Robert Kaplan, Region 5's acting regional administrator, told reporters earlier this month that the administration has "reaffirmed there's no discussion about shutting the Chicago office."

Trump has proposed a 31 percent cut to the EPA's $8.1 billion annual budget.

Read more here.

METHANE RULE ROLLBACK COMING SOON? Senators may be moving close to passing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution stripping a new methane regulation off the books.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said Tuesday that "we're making good progress" and the bill could come to the floor soon.

He said Senate leadership had released a new schedule for bringing the resolution to the floor, but that he couldn't reveal it. McConnell's office did not reply to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Supporters of the CRA action have long hunted for enough votes to pass the resolution, which would nix an Interior Department rule regulating methane emissions from drilling sites on public land.

Key Republicans, including Sens. Lindsay Graham (S.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine), have indicated their opposition to the measure, resulting in supporters and opponents of the CRA putting new pressure on undecided lawmakers.

CRA resolutions are subject to a majority vote in the Senate, meaning Republicans need only 51 votes to undo the drilling rule, a longtime priority for the oil and gas industry.

MOVES: The Natural Resources Defense Council's David Goldston is leaving to become the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's top lobbyist.

Goldston, director of government affairs at the green group, is starting May 1 at MIT, where he'll be responsible for the university's relationships with Congress, research agencies and others in Washington.

"MIT is especially well-placed in Washington because of the nature of its reputation as both an intellectual powerhouse and as a university built on technical expertise," Goldston said in a statement.

Goldston has been at NRDC since 2009. Previously he worked for the House Science Committee.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: President Trump will sign an executive action ordering a review of national monuments under the Antiquities Act.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will hold a hearing on the proposed nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain.  


Alaska's Senate is moving forward with a bill that would eliminate a subsidy program for oil companies, the Alaska Dispatch News reports.

Mexico's government says Trump's proposed border wall could worsen flooding, NPR reports.

Environmentalists are suing the EPA to force it decide on a petition to label Lake Erie as impaired, the Toledo Blade reports.


Check out Tuesday's stories ...

- Congress nears deal on help for miner

- Lawmakers urge Pruitt not to close Midwest EPA office

- McConnell backs miners health fix in funding bill

- Rick Perry: Trump should 'renegotiate' Paris climate pact

- Dems introduce bill to create climate change bond program

- Trump takes aim at Obama monument

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill

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