Overnight Energy: Lawmakers challenge Trump's proposed EPA cuts

Overnight Energy: Lawmakers challenge Trump's proposed EPA cuts
© Greg Nash

PRUITT FACES CONGRESS: Both Republicans and Democrats made it clear they aren't big on President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget request Thursday.

During a hearing with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Appropriations Committee members of both parties said they have major problems with the proposed 31 percent cut to the EPA's budget and pressed Pruitt to defend it.

Pruitt argued in favor of the budget, saying the cuts would still allow the EPA to carry out its "core" missions.

"I believe that we can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trimmed budget, with proper leadership and management," he told members of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees EPA funding.

"We will continue to focus on our core missions and responsibilities, working cooperatively with the states to improve air, water and land."

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), the subcommittee's chairman, said he had problems with plans to eliminate a local air quality grant program, slash a program to reduce diesel emissions and big cuts to the Superfund budget.

Democrats, led by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said they rejected spending cuts that move the agency away from the climate change focus imbued by the Obama administration.

In response to most concerns about programs that lawmakers want to keep, Pruitt promised to work with them on it.

"This is our approach presently, but we look forward to your input on how, maybe, this can be restored, and/or addressed in a different way," he said.

Read more here.


DOE SHUTTERS INTERNATIONAL CLEAN ENERGY OFFICE: The Energy Department (DOE) has closed an agency office that focuses on developing clean energy technology with international allies.

An agency spokesperson said DOE is "looking for ways to consolidate the many duplicative programs that currently exist within DOE," and that the Office of International Climate and Technology would close.

The office opened in 2010 as a way for the U.S. to work with international allies on energy sector technology to reduce greenhouse gases.

But DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said that, in the face of potential spending cuts from the Trump administration, other offices within the department could pick up the work of the closed office.

"The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has an International Affairs team, while the International Affairs Office has a renewables team," she said.

"The Department is looking for ways to eliminate this kind of unnecessary duplication -- just like any responsible American business would."

Read more here.


OZONE, YUCCA BILLS ADVANCE: A House panel approved three environmental bills on Thursday, including controversial measures on nuclear waste storage and ozone pollution.

Democrats on an Energy and Commerce subcommittee broadly opposed those two bills. The nuclear waste measure, they said would fast-track permitting decisions for the Yucca Mountain waste repository in Nevada despite the state's longstanding objections to the project.

"States, especially western states, are incredibly protective of these rights and I would recommend caution before going down this road," Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said.

Members also reiterated their opposition to a bill that would change the timetable for EPA reviews of ozone rules. Supporters of the measure say the EPA's five-year review schedule for the pollutant moves too fast for states and cities that are out of compliance.

"This bill creates a path to move forward on air quality," Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) said.

"It fixes the mess of the last eight years by giving long overdue reforms to the process of how EPA sets new ozone standards. ... This is about improving air quality in a manner that doesn't allow states to duplicate paperwork requirements."

The bills advanced alongside a bipartisan measure to reauthorize the EPA's Brownfields program. All three bills now go to the full Energy and Commerce Committee on their way to the floor.

Read more here.


NUKE AGENCY NOMINEE ADVANCES: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee easily approved Kristine Svinicki's nomination Thursday for a third term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Svinicki, a Republican who serves as the body's chairwoman, now faces a vote in the full Senate. The Environment Committee approved her nomination by voice vote.

She has served on the NRC since 2008, and started a second term in 2012. Her current term expires at the end of the month, so the panel expedited her confirmation process.

Committee chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review Senate panel advances Trump pick for No. 2 official at EPA MORE (R-Wyo.) said Svinicki "has proven herself to be a well-qualified, experienced and dedicated public servant," while Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump states would bear brunt of gas tax increase: conservative groups Trump talk riles advocates on both sides of gas tax Senate bill would let EPA implement global greenhouse gas deal MORE (Del.), the top Democrat, said he has "high regard" for her.



Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill to revive the state's rooftop solar industry, Nevada Public Radio reports.

A North Dakota coal group is presenting a four-day seminar on the coal sector for teachers, the Bismarck Tribune reports.

Arizona is bracing for record heat next week, with temperatures topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the state, the Arizona Daily Star reports.   



Check out Thursday's stories ...  

-Energy Department closes international clean energy office
-Trump's EPA budget cuts hit strong opposition at House panel
-Committee votes to extend tax credit for nuclear power
-House panel advances Yucca Mountain, ozone bills
-Interior secretary: Maine national monument should stay in federal hands


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