OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA nomination faces some hard math

STATE OF PLAY: The path forward for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyBiden to meet with CEOs to discuss Build Back Better agenda Gina McCarthy: Why I'm more optimistic than ever on tackling the climate crisis The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dems hit the gas on Biden agenda MORE hit a snag Thursday — and could hit a few more in the coming weeks.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Democrats couldn’t get quorum for a vote after Republicans boycotted the hearing. Two Democrats were absent, most notably Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), whose health has kept him away from the Capitol recently.

The showing doesn’t bode well for McCarthy, the EPA’s top air quality regulator, as Republicans have tossed around the idea of filibustering her nomination if it were to get to the floor.

“I think everything’s on the table,” Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Postal Service expansion into banking services misguided Arkansas governor backs Sarah Huckabee Sanders to replace him MORE (R-Ark.) told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money — No SALT, and maybe no deal Menendez goes after Sanders over SALT comments It's time for the Senate to vote: Americans have a right to know where their senators stand MORE (I-Vt.) said during Thursday’s hearing that he doesn’t believe Democrats can muster the 60 votes to surmount a filibuster.

Democrats appear flustered — and a bit puzzled as to what Republicans hope to achieve.

"I really don’t understand their view, other than being an obstructionist," Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSALT change likely to be cut from bill, say Senate Democrats Senators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate On The Money — Support for new COVID-19 relief grows MORE (D-Md.) told reporters Thursday.

He added that while using a filibuster on a Cabinet-level position would be “unprecedented ... it doesn’t mean that they (Republicans) won’t.”

"Let's be reasonable," Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperNearly 200 Democrats back EPA in Supreme Court emissions case Bottom line Biden comments add momentum to spending bill's climate measures  MORE (D-Del.) told reporters, adding, "Elections have consequences. I think President Obama has the right to nominate his team."

On a potential timeline for moving McCarthy's nomination, Environment and Public Works ranking member Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE (R-La.) said, "That is completely up to EPA."

Vitter made the comments at a Thursday press conference explaining the Republican Environment and Public Works members' boycott.

Vitter explained that the GOP members want the agency to hand over more information about the data they use to craft regulations that Republicans and industry oppose.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWatch: GOP leaders discuss Biden's first year in office McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection MORE (R-Wyo.), a committee member who opposes McCarthy's nomination, issued a veiled threat to block the nomination indefinitely.

"The acting administrator of the EPA, Bob Perciasepe, is more than capable of managing the agency until a nominee is confirmed. ... He knows what he's doing there, and I think we should be absolutely willing to wait," Barrasso said.

But before worrying about a potential filibuster, Democrats first need to get McCarthy to the floor.

Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBass raises nearly million since launching LA mayor campaign Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Congress can prevent another Jan. 6 by updating a key elections law MORE (D-Calif.) said during Thursday’s hearing that she would look into changing committee rules to hold a vote to advance McCarthy.

Current rules require members to vote in person. If Republicans continue to boycott, that means Democrats need to get Lautenberg into the hearing room for quorum.

Caley Gray, a spokesman for Lautenberg, said in a statement that Lautenberg “will certainly be there if Republicans force” a party-line vote, which Boxer said she wanted to avoid.

Another option is for Boxer and other Democrats to try to convince a Republican to attend the vote.

Carper said that’s his plan, hinting that he thought a vote could come next week. He said he would meet with Republican counterparts to discuss the issues they have with McCarthy.

“This woman has worked for five Republican governors ... it’s not like she’s some crazy person who could never get confirmed,” Carper said, adding that the Senate confirmed McCarthy to the post she currently holds.


Check out these stories that ran on E2-Wire Thursday ...

Biden defends Obama's climate change record
— Obama officials roll out climate and health data tool
— White House: GOP displaying 'historic level of obstructionism' with EPA vote boycott
— Sen. Graham hints at possible compromise on DOE hold
— Democrat hits colleague for saying ‘God won’t allow us to ruin our planet’
— Obama-backed natural-gas van company shuts down
— GOP boycott thwarts EPA vote
GOP to boycott EPA nominee vote


House Energy and Commerce leaders push gas pipeline bill

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is floating new legislation to speed up permitting of natural-gas pipeline projects.

The measure has a Democratic co-sponsor (Utah’s Jim MathesonJames (Jim) David MathesonMcAdams concedes to Owens in competitive Utah district Trump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Utah redistricting reform measure likely to qualify for ballot MORE) and support from the Energy and Commerce Committee’s GOP leadership — a sign it could move through the powerful panel.

“We’re looking forward, modernizing how we approve natural gas pipelines as natural gas becomes more prevalent as a source of electricity generation,” Pompeo said in a statement about the bill. “Consumers must have affordable and reliable energy choices.”

Sen. Begich to Interior: Put an Alaskan on climate change panel

Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter Begich11 former Democratic senators call for 'meaningful reform to Senate rules' Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Alaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch MORE (D-Alaska) is irked that the Interior Department hasn’t placed an Alaskan on its newly announced climate change advisory panel, and is asking the department to fix the “oversight.”

“We understand the Department of the Interior undertook a modest effort to generate interest in the Advisory Committee, but did not contact my office, which would have been glad to help. The failure to include any of the scores of knowledgeable Alaskans, who are experts in the impacts of climate change, in America's only Arctic state just doesn't make sense,” Begich said in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA MORE.

Jewell on Wednesday announced the advisory panel that’s comprised of people from federal agencies, state, tribal and local governments, academia, industry, green groups and elsewhere.

But Begich said that the effect of climate change on Alaska means someone from his state should be included, and says he’s ready to offer recommendations.

“Over the past 50 years, Alaska temperatures have increased nearly 4 degrees; twice the warming rate in the Lower-48 over the same period,” the letter states.

“Climate change is also opening the Arctic to new resource development, shipping and tourism opportunities,” Begich noted.

Chevron notches legal victory against US

Bloomberg reports on a lawsuit that pits Chevron Corp. against the U.S. government:

Chevron Corp. (CVX) is entitled to unspecified damages against the federal government in a contract dispute over oil deposits in California worth $37 billion, the U.S. Court of Claims ruled.

The Department of Energy “repeatedly and materially violated” two agreements governing determination of equity interests in oil and gas deposits located in the Elk Hills Reserve of California, Judge Susan Braden in Washington wrote in a 90-page ruling.

Click here for the whole story.

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Zack Colman, zcolman@thehill.com.

Follow E2 on Twitter: @E2Wire, @Ben_Geman, @zcolman