Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Koch backs bill opposing carbon taxes | Lawmakers look to Interior budget to block offshore drilling | EPA defends FOIA process

KOCH INDUSTRIES BACKS MEASURE OPPOSING CARBON TAXES: Koch Industries on Monday offered support for a House resolution that would oppose any carbon tax.

In a letter to House lawmakers supporting the measure, Koch takes a clear stance that Congress should denounce potential taxes on carbon dioxide emissions.

The company's president of government and public affairs, Philip Ellender, urges support for the GOP-backed resolution that would make clear that "a carbon tax would be detrimental to the American economy."

"Rather than imposing a carbon tax that would ultimately hurt the very people it is trying to protect, it is important that the government allow energy innovation to progress in line with market demand," Ellender wrote. "At a time when more American families are feeling the benefits of tax reform and a strong, pro-growth economic agenda championed by Congress and the administration, it is important to keep the momentum at full speed."

The House is set to vote this week on the measure, which would condemn the idea of a carbon tax. The legislation would ultimately be nonbinding.

The resolution was introduced by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) in April, and would say that a tax on carbon dioxide emissions "would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States."

"A carbon tax would make energy more expensive and raise the costs of consumer products and services on which people depend," Ellender said in his letter. "It would also make U.S. producers less cost competitive, driving production and jobs to other parts of the world."

The stakes: Carbon taxes have long been supported by many Democrats and environmentalists as a way to discourage the use of fuels that contribute to climate change. But lately, some conservative economists have also backed the idea.

Read more here.

Read more about the bill.

 

Happy Monday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill.

 

SPENDING BILL AMENDMENTS WOULD BLOCK OFFSHORE DRILLING: House lawmakers in both parties are hoping to use a spending bill to block offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the waterways off their states' coasts.

A handful of lawmakers, mainly from coastal states, are sponsoring proposed amendments to the annual appropriations bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would block Interior funding to allow drilling in particular areas.

The full House is set to vote on the funding measure this week.

Why now: The amendments match with the bipartisan opposition in many coastal states to the Trump administration's controversial January proposal to allow oil and gas drilling along nearly the entirety of the United States' coasts, including the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and all around Alaska.

The proposed amendments would block Interior from issuing drilling rights leases along the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which touches Florida.

One such proposal from a bipartisan group of nine lawmakers, led by Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), would block drilling and leasing from the entire Pacific coast.

"Protecting our coastal communities, local economies, and fragile ocean ecosystems should not be a partisan issue," Huffman said in a statement, adding that he's "grateful to Rep. Reichert for joining our bipartisan amendment to block President Trump's planned oil and gas drilling off of our Pacific coast, which reflects the unified opposition of the Governors of Washington, Oregon, and California."

In his own statement, Reichert said he's "deeply concerned" about Trump's proposal for Pacific coast drilling.

"Drilling off our coasts has the potential to have a negative lasting effect on our oceans and shorelines," he said. "Our country is at the forefront of developing efficient and cost effective alternative energy technologies and we should continue to support innovation in this area."

Read more.

 

EPA DEFENDS FOIA POLICY: A top attorney at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is defending the agency's handling of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests after criticisms from a key House Democrat.

Kevin Minoli, the EPA's principal deputy general counsel, argued in a Sunday letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that the changes made to the FOIA program in recent years help both EPA employees and people seeking public records and that they do not hinder the process.

Background: The EPA started in 2013, under the Obama administration, to implement a FOIA Expert Assistance Team (FEAT) to handle complex or high-profile requests.

After Ryan Jackson, chief of staff to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, told investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that certain FOIA requests were put under more intense scrutiny because they were "politically charged," Cummings, the panel's top Democrat, accused the EPA of impeding requests.

But Minoli said that's not the case.

"The purpose of the FEAT was to provide strategic direction and project management assistance on the most challenging or complex FOIA requests," he said of the 2013 foundation of the team.

Read more here.

 

PUTIN SEES 'SPACE FOR COOPERATION' ON SOARING GAS PRICES': Russian President Vladimir Putin said there's "a space for cooperation" between the U.S. and Russia when it comes to lowering gas prices.

Speaking at a joint press conference with President Trump on Monday in Helsinki, Putin tamped down accusations that Russia has been arbitrarily raising gas prices and said the U.S. and Russia "can work together" to determine the right pricing for Russia's Liquid and Natural Gas (LNG) exports. He added that Trump is aware of Russia's need to keep prices from dropping.

"We can work together on the regulation of oil and gas international markets because neither of us is actually interested in the plummeting of the prices -- and the consumers will suffer as well -- the shale gas will suffer," Putin said.

"Beyond a price bracket, it is no longer profitable to produce oil and gas, but also we are not interested in driving prices up."

Gas prices have soared in the U.S. in recent months, getting close to an all-time high that topped $100 a barrel in 2014. This past Memorial Day weekend saw the most expensive gas prices nationally since 2014, according to the American Automobile Association.

A number of factors including orchestrated oil production cuts by Russia and OPEC as well as the U.S.'s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal could contribute to the costs of gas climbing higher.

The price surge has led a number of lawmakers to push Trump to put more pressure on world leaders to increase production of oil.

"If the president wants to take action, he can," Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said. "One: OPEC. He's very, very tight with the crown prince [of Saudi Arabia]. He's very, very tight with the head of [United Arab Emirates].

Read more here.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY:

The Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee will consider amendments to the Endangered Species Act -- a decades old law that Republicans have increasingly challenged as too restrictive to industry. The main bill to be considered was unveiled by Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) earlier this month.

The Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee will discuss the Interior Department's final list of critical minerals for 2018. An area of disagreement will likely stem from proposals to add uranium to the list.

The House Natural Resources Committee's subcommittee on federal land will hold a hearing on eight bills in its jurisdiction.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on Interior will hold a hearing on tribal energy resources.

The House Science Committee's subcommittees on energy and environment will hold a hearing on the future of fossil fuels.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

A federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Geological Survey isn't responsible for the death of a helicopter pilot who flew into an overhead cable the agency owns, the Arizona Daily Sun reports.

Rumors about potential releases from the United States' federal oil stockpile helped send oil prices plunging Monday, CNNMoney reports.

An investment group announced plans Monday for a 7,100-acre solar farm on federal land in Nevada, KSNV reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and the weekend ...

-Koch backs House measure opposing carbon taxes

-EPA defends FOIA policy after criticism

-Putin on high gas prices: There is 'space for cooperation here'

-Lawmakers aim to use spending bill to block offshore drilling

-WeWork will stop serving meat at company events in effort to reduce environmental impact

-Adidas to only use recycled plastics in its products by 2024

-New EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt

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