Overnight Energy: Zinke, Perry take heat over Trump budget

Overnight Energy: Zinke, Perry take heat over Trump budget
© Greg Nash

ZINKE, PERRY DEFEND BUDGET: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Energy Secretary Rick Perry went to opposite sides of Capitol Hill on Tuesday to defend President Trump's proposals to slash their departments' budgets.

At Zinke's appearance before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, senators repeatedly told him the proposal to cut Interior by 11 percent wouldn't fly.

Committee Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSessions torched by lawmakers for marijuana move Calif. Republican attacks Sessions over marijuana policy Trump's executive order on minerals will boost national defense MORE (R-Alaska) told Zinke his budget is "better than what we have seen in the last few years," but that it's still not going anywhere on Capitol Hill.

"I don't expect many of [the cuts] to become a reality, especially those that target popular programs," she said.

"I find the budget so focused on the oil and natural gas aspect of revenue that I think that you are neglecting the fact that the outdoor economy generates $887 billion a year," Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Overnight Energy: Senate close to approving Arctic drilling | EPA cancels controversial media tracking contract | Trump officials sound alarm on mineral imports Lawmakers introduce bipartisan AI legislation MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member, said.

Zinke told the committee that the $11.7 billion budget prioritizes spending for maintenance while cutting funding for other Interior efforts, including land acquisition.  

"This is what a balanced budget looks like," he said. "There's tough decisions throughout, but if we want to balance the budget, this is the starting point for what that looks like."


At a House Appropriations Committee subpanel, much of the hearing on Perry's budget request centered on Trump's request for $120 million to restart the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site's licensing process.

"We have a moral obligation ... to remove this from as many of these sites as we can and put it in the safest repository," Perry told lawmakers.

"Listen, I understand this is a politically sensitive topic for some," he said. "But we can no longer kick the can down the road."

The Obama administration cut off the licensing process in 2010 due to opposition from Nevada, but Republicans and the nuclear industry have been pushing since then to get it back on track.

Perry's first official trip as Energy secretary earlier this year was to the Yucca site, which currently exists solely as an exploratory tunnel in the mountain.

He also has visited the closed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, which suffered multiple meltdowns in 2011 following a tsunami.

Perry warned that a similar incident could happen in the United States, with onsite storage at plants for spent fuel making that possibility even more disastrous.

"It's your citizens that have the most to lose if we continue to leave this waste in your districts," he told lawmakers.

Read more here and here.


HOUSE PASSES NUCLEAR POWER BILL: The House quickly passed an expansion of a nuclear energy tax credit on Tuesday.

The bill, from Reps. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerFifth Dem announces plan to boycott Trump's State of the Union Maxine Waters to skip Trump's State of the Union People with addiction issues should be able to control their own health data MORE (D-Ore.) and others, would increase the number of utilities that can qualify for the tax credit and remove construction deadlines for facilities that use it.

The legislation lifts a requirement that nuclear facilities be placed into service by the end of 2020 in order to receive the 1.8 cent per kilowatt hour tax credit. It would allow government-owned utilities and nonprofit electric coops to receive the credit and give them the power to transfer credits to other partners on the facilities, such as the projects' designers.

The House passed the bill, which would cost $16 million over 10 years, on a voice vote.

"Without this legislation, the nuclear power industry may cease to exist as we know it in this country, which is exactly why passing this bill now is more important than ever," Rice said.

"We need to give these plants the certainty of these tax credits, just as Congress intended."

Read more here.


DAKOTA ACCESS GOES BACK TO COURT: Lawyers for Dakota Access pipeline developers, the federal government and the tribes opposing the pipeline return to court on Wednesday for a hearing in their ongoing legal fight over the project.

U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg last week ruled, in part, against the environmental review that the federal government conducted before it approved the Dakota Access pipeline, a key legal victory for the tribes.

Boasberg scheduled a Wednesday hearing to discuss the next steps in the case, including the question of whether the pipeline should continue to transport oil in light of his decision.

Follow The Hill for more on Wednesday.


ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: Perry and Zinke return to Capitol Hill for another round of budget hearings.

Both secretaries will testify before their respective Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday: Zinke in the morning and Perry in the afternoon.


ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: A House Science Committee panel will hold a hearing on environmental technologies.


Rest of Wednesday's agenda...

Former Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOvernight Energy: Zinke under fire for exempting Florida from drilling plan | Trump floats staying in Paris deal | NYC sues big oil over climate A Department of Energy foundation: An idea whose time has come Stop wasting tax dollars on failing nuclear projects MORE will speak at the National Press Club.



Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that gas revenue from state forests must go to conservation and cannot be used for general budgetary purposes, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

A group of investors is hoping to raise $80 million to build a coal treatment plant in Wyoming to serve the Powder River Basin, the Casper Star Tribune reports.

Groundwater tests in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., show far more perfluorooctanoic acid than previously thought, the Albany Times Union reports.



Check out Tuesday's stories...

-Dems, greens press Trump administration on methane rewrites
-House passes nuclear energy tax bill
-Perry cites 'moral obligation' to build Yucca nuclear waste site
-Senators: Trump's Interior budget is going nowhere
-Oil giants back carbon tax proposal
-Manchin faces primary challenge from the left
-Trump regulators trigger pollution fight
-Solar panel makers look to White House for help


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