Energy & Environment

Week ahead: Senate to consider Trump energy nominees | Lawmakers grapple with Paris fallout

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Senate committees are planning to take action on key nominees to energy posts in the Trump administration.

The action will start Tuesday morning in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That panel is scheduled to vote on David Bernhardt to be deputy secretary of the Interior, Dan Brouillette to be deputy secretary of Energy, and Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee to be members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Bernhardt’s nomination has so far been the most contentious of the four. At his confirmation hearing last month and beforehand, Democrats repeatedly grilled him over his work as a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

In that job, Bernhardt represented more than a dozen energy and resource extraction firms, leading Democrats to question whether he could be a fair deputy secretary. Bernhardt said he would recuse himself as necessary from particular matters related to former clients.

{mosads}Brouillette, Powelson and Chatterjee have not faced the same partisan opposition. At their confirmation hearing, multiple Republicans expressed support, and no Democrats said outright that they would oppose the nominations.

Each nominee needs to get approved by the full Senate to be confirmed.

Separately, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will start the process of considering four Trump nominees: Susan Bodine to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) office of enforcement and compliance assurance, as well as Kristine Svinicki, Annie Caputo and David Wright to be members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Some environmentalists have raised objections to Bodine, who currently serves as the Energy and Public Works Committee’s chief counsel. She previously worked at Barnes & Thornburg, and represented industry clients with business before the EPA.

Svinicki is currently an NRC member and has been since 2008. Caputo is an adviser to EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Wright served on the South Carolina Public Service Commission until 2013.

Trump’s Thursday decision to leave the Paris climate accord will also dominate attention in the coming week.

With Congress back in Washington after a Memorial Day recess, lawmakers will be under renewed pressure to comment on Trump’s decision to end American involvement in the climate deal and his pledge — already rejected by many key world leaders — to renegotiate it.

Many Republicans have rallied around Trump’s insistence that he can cut a better deal for the U.S. under some new climate agreement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — whose position on climate change is a moderate compared to some Republicans — tweeted Thursday: “I support President Trump’s desire to re-enter the Paris Accord after the agreement becomes a better deal for America and business.”

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, said: “Though flawed, the climate accord can be fixed. … It’s now up to the administration to deliver a better deal.”    

Republicans are likely to make a similar case when Congress returns on Monday. But even so, foreign leaders rejected the idea of renegotiating the accord, raising more questions for opponents of the Paris deal.

White House reporters peppered Trump administration officials about Trump’s belief in climate science this week, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was asked about his opinion as well. Congressional Republicans are likely to face similar questions.

The fate of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah may become clearer soon. The deadline for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to submit his recommendation for the monument’s future is June 10, under an executive order Trump signed in April.

The monument, which former President Barack Obama created in December, is widely opposed among Republicans, especially statewide leaders in Utah. Trump asked Zinke to recommend whether he should change the area’s boundaries, eliminate protections altogether or leave it as is.

The Antiquities Act doesn’t give the president express authority to resize or eliminate a national monument, and the question has not been tested in the federal courts.

 

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