Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances regulatory reform bills

Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances regulatory reform bills
© Getty

SENATE COMMITTEE MOVES FORWARD WITH REG OVERHAUL: A Senate committee on Wednesday approved several regulatory reform bills, including those to give Congress more power over repealing regulations and requiring more "cost-effective" rules.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bills on Wednesday as Republicans look to solidify Congress's influence over agency rulemaking.

One of the bills approved Wednesday would make it easier for lawmakers to strike down multiple regulations at the same time, a measure that would build on the Congressional Review Act that Congress used to strip more than a dozen Obama administration rules from the books this year.

Another bill, from Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP leader: Congress may settle for pared-down immigration deal Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Key senator floats new compromise for immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHouse passes bill to ease menu labeling rules under ObamaCare In 2018, Trump must be the small-business champion he claimed to be GOP goes on offense with 20-week abortion vote MORE (D-N.D.) would require the government to issue rules with more scientific data backing them up, and institute major financial reviews for the regulations every 10 years.

Several of the bills are controversial with groups that warn they could erode federal protections for the environment, among other things.

Read more here.

TRUMP TO PROPOSE DEEP RENEWABLE ENERGY CUTS: Details about President Trump's 2018 budget proposal have begun leaking out ahead of its release next week.

Axios reported Wednesday that Trump will propose a 70 percent cut to the Department of Energy's (DOE) renewable energy research office, according to a proposed budget document.

Other departments would face cuts over the proposal, as well: the proposal aims for a 31 percent cut to DOE's nuclear energy office and 54 percent less going to its fossil fuel office.

The potential cuts are only proposals, and Congress will eventually write the appropriations bills that fund the government.

Read more here.

GRASSLEY SLAMS ELECTRIC GRID STUDY: Wind energy ally Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach Overnight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Grassley to Sessions: Policy for employees does not comply with the law MORE (R-Iowa) is taking on the Energy Department over its electric grid security study, saying it's designed to be anti-wind.

Grassley, the self-styled father of wind's federal tax credit, told Energy Secretary Rick Perry in a Wednesday letter that he's concerned about the research Perry ordered to determine if certain renewable energies are hurting baseload power sources like coal and nuclear.

"I'm concerned that a hastily developed study, which appears to pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability, will not be viewed as credible, relevant or worthy of valuable taxpayer resources," Grassley wrote.

He noted that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory already completed a study on the subject and it took two years, far longer than the two months Perry ordered his staff to take for the research.

"As the former governor of Texas, you surely have an appreciation for the enormous economic contributions wind energy is already providing in many parts of the country," Grassley said.

Read more here.

PRUITT REPLIES TO SENATOR'S LETTER WITH PRESS RELEASES: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt sent Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Regulation: EPA sued over water rule delay | House passes bill to ease ObamaCare calorie rule | Regulators talk bitcoin | Patient groups oppose FDA 'right to try' bill Dem senator questions EPA on stark decline in grant awards Green group backs Sens. Baldwin, Nelson for reelection MORE (D-Del.) six pages of press releases in response to an inquiry the senator sent last month.

Carper had asked Pruitt what he plans to do to regulate carbon dioxide once he completes the Trump administration's plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Carper, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, argued with 21 colleagues that Pruitt has a responsibility to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.

Pruitt's response, which Carper revealed Wednesday, consisted of a brief letter explaining President Trump's March 28 energy executive order, along with a press release about his Clean Power Plan review, a copy of a letter he sent to governors about the review and press clippings praising the order.

"Your response was not responsive to our requests, provided none of the requested information about the agency's CPP review process, and consisted entirely of a four-sentence summary of the executive order, copies of two publicly available press releases and a letter you sent to the governor Nevada in March," Carper said in a new letter asking again for the information he requested.

ON TAP THURSDAY I: President Trump's pick to be the Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department will face the Senate Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday for what's likely to be a contentious confirmation hearing.

Democrats and environmental groups have telegraphed their opposition to David Bernhardt's nomination, contending his time as an energy industry lobbyist raises conflicts of interest.

"He has represented the legal and political interests of a host of different extractive and energy development corporations, and I just see him as being hopelessly conflicted," Tyson Slocum, the director of Public Citizen's Energy Program, told The Hill on Wednesday.

Republicans are likely to support Bernhardt's nomination, noting his time at Interior under President George W. Bush. But Thursday's hearing is likely to illustrate the partisan divide over Trump's pick, and the direction of the Interior Department as a whole.

Read more here.

ON TAP THURSDAY II: A House Natural Resources Committee panel will hold a hearing on two energy and water bills.  

Rest of Thursday's agenda...

Pruitt will speak at a Hoover Institute event on "EPA originalism."

A House Transportation Committee panel will meet to discuss water quality.


West Virginia's top environmental regulator is refusing to schedule a hearing appealing the agency's approval of a controversial pipeline, the Charleston Gazette Mail reports.

Residents of Kalamazoo County, Mich., voted to support shutting down Enbridge's contentious Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, MLive reports.

Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller is now under investigation as part of the ongoing diesel emissions scandal at the company, CNN reports.


Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Trump Interior pick faces contentious fight
-GOP senator slams DOE's electric grid study as anti-wind
-House Democrats release $85B infrastructure plan
-Senate panel advances reg reform bills
-Trump eyes 70 percent cut to DOE's renewables office

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