Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: EPA has big plans in Obama’s final stretch

CARBON AND CANADA AND METHANE, OH MY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a long agenda to get through before the end of the Obama administration.

Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor event Tuesday, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said she is focusing on everything from new methane regulations to international agreements on refrigerant chemicals in her last year at the helm of the Obama EPA.

{mosads}”Those regulations will be coming out, as we indicated, in spring and early summer for most of the rules we’ve been talking about,” McCarthy said about the agency’s rulemaking agenda. “Our intent is to move expeditiously to get these rules out, but we’re not going to cut corners in terms of appropriate reviews and public comment on any of these.”

The EPA’s to-do list includes:

-Methane emissions at new and existing oil and gas wells. The agency has proposed — and is finalizing — a rule to cut methane emissions from new gas wells and it’s begun the process of regulating the same from existing sites. The Obama administration is looking to cut methane emissions by up to 45 percent from 2012 levels over the next decade.
-Implementing the Clean Power Plan, where it can. The Supreme Court stayed Obama’s biggest climate rule in February, but McCarthy said she’s still working with states and utilities that want to cut their emissions.
-Reaching new international climate agreements. The EPA is looking to finalize a multinational agreement this year on the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a refrigerant that is also a powerful global warming chemical. McCarthy will go to Canada later this week to discuss climate matters with officials in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

Read more here.

EPA reassessing Flint response: McCarthy also said Tuesday the agency is reassessing its response to the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

Republicans and interest groups have criticized the way the EPA pushed Michigan regulators on the lead problems in Flint’s water, as well as its inability to inform the public about the water’s risks.

McCarthy acknowledged a March hearing on the matter was “tough,” including Chairman Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) call for her to resign over the crisis. But she said the agency is looking into the way it handled the matter.

“Are we doing our job on oversight as effectively as we need to?” Gina McCarthy asked Tuesday.

“We’re exploring those issues, and our Office of Inspector General is in the middle of doing an investigation that was at my request. They are doing an audit of our entire oversight in the region.”

Read more here.

WILL ENERGY TAX CREDITS GROUND FAA BILL? Senators grappled Tuesday with the prospect of including a renewable energy tax credit in their bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration.

When Congress passed a tax extenders bill in December, lawmakers forgot to update a tax credit for investments in fuel cells, geothermal, biomass, combined heat and power systems and small wind power. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday members had agreed to include the tax credit in the FAA reauthorization bill, which Congress must pass this year.

Now senators are pushing to insert the credit into the bill, something Republicans have both resisted but acknowledged as a likely outcome.

“It’s going to be hard to probably get on the bill, a motion to proceed, or to get off the bill, unless we in some fashion address the Democrats’ concern,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)  

“I thought we fixed that earlier this year,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said, referring to the tax extenders package passed in December. “I just don’t know where that is. I’m against that, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t [happen].”

Lawmakers have until July 15 to reauthorize the FAA.

Read more here.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: The four commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will testify at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on President Obama’s 2017 budget request.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s rural development programs. Monte Shaw, the Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, is slated to speak, meaning ethanol will likely be on the agenda.

Rest of Wednesday’s agenda …

The Wilson Center’s Polar Initiative and Institute of the North will host a forum on Arctic economic development. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Angus King (I-Maine) are scheduled to speak.

George Allen, the former Republican governor and senator from Virginia, and businessman T. Boone Pickens will appear at a Hudson Institute event on natural gas development.   


Industry and environmentalists are fighting over the future of a $1 billion coal plant in energy-starved (and pollution-choked) Kosovo, Foreign Policy reports.

Saudi Arabia has agreed to a $20 billion plan to finance Egypt’s petroleum needs, Reuters reports.

Melting ice caps are helping humpback and bowhead whales find food, National Geographic reports.  


Check out Tuesday’s stories …

-Push for energy tax breaks roils Senate FAA debate
-Petition demands EPA revoke license for popular herbicide ingredient
-EPA’s 2016 agenda focused on methane, carbon emissions
-Sea turtles facing new protections
-EPA chief: Agency reassessing Flint response
Ex-mining CEO won’t have to pay restitution

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill  

Tags Angus King Charles Schumer Gina McCarthy Jason Chaffetz John Thune Lisa Murkowski Orrin Hatch

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