Overnight Energy: EPA stands firm on fuel standards

Overnight Energy: EPA stands firm on fuel standards

EPA STANDS FIRM: Federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks will stay at projected levels between 2022 and 2025, regulators announced on Wednesday, despite a push from automakers to lower the levels.

The EPA proposed Wednesday that the standards should remain in place and do not need to be revised for cars and small trucks from model years 2022 to 2025.

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The proposal is part of an EPA review to determine whether President Obama's car efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions rules, which target an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, are still attainable and sufficient.

"It's clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyIt's time for Congress to address the 'forever chemical' crisis Overnight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage MORE said in a statement.

The decision is a loss for automakers, who had complained that the EPA's earlier projections on the standards were too rosy. Auto groups said compliance going forward would be much more expensive than the EPA thought.

"Rather than asking whether the auto industry can build a vehicle that achieves MY2025 compliance, the agencies should be asking whether the auto industry will be able to sell a fleet of vehicles that meet these future targets," the Auto Alliance wrote to the EPA in response to a July report on the standards.

The group wrote to President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE this month asking him to change the standards, something he can do through a new rulemaking process after he takes office.

Read more here.

OPEC TO CUT PRODUCTION LEVELS: The oil-producing nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Wednesday agreed to cut production levels for the first time since 2008, a move designed to raise global oil prices.

OPEC delegates agreed to reduce output by 3.7 percent to 32.5 million barrels per day, Bloomberg reported early Wednesday.

The production deal could cause increases in oil prices, which crashed globally starting in 2014 due to a worldwide supply glut and have only increased modestly since then.

Prices of Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, climbed 8.8 percent to $50.47 per barrel on Wednesday; American oil prices hit $48.98 per barrel, an 8.3 percent increase.

The new deal is likely to have worldwide consequences. It could help major oil companies that operate in the U.S. that slashed thousands of jobs due to low prices the last two years, while nations that depend highly on oil revenues are also likely to benefit.

Read more here.   

GOP SET TO PICK NEW ENERGY AND COMMERCE CHAIR: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is the favorite to be the next chairman of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, GOP insiders tracking the race told The Hill on Wednesday.

The House GOP's Steering Committee will meet on Thursday to consider committee chairmanships for the next Congress. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) needs to yield the Energy gavel because of term limits, and Walden and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) have worked to court the votes necessary to succeed him.

Walden, who has had two successful cycles as the House GOP's campaign chief, appears poised for victory. As the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) chairman, Walden has campaigned and raised cash for many of the lawmakers who will ultimately decide the chairmanship.

"Walden is going to walk away with it," said one House Republican who sits on the Steering Committee and has spoken with all three contenders about the race.

"And I wouldn't be surprised if Ryan weighs in for Walden during the Steering meeting."

Shimkus carries slightly more seniority on the panel than Walden. In a letter to members earlier this month, the 20-year veteran of the House noted his time serving on each of the committee's six subpanels, and his work crafting a major rewrite of federal chemical safety laws, which became law earlier this year.

Walden brings experience on the committee's technology and telecom subpanel, and he's worked on healthcare issues in Oregon. But his trump card could end up being his time at the campaign committee.

"He's running on his NRCC record," said a senior GOP leadership aide. "And he exceeded expectations both times he was chair."

Read more here.  

AROUND THE WEB:

A Marketplace and American Public Media investigation dives into changes the EPA made last year to its major hydraulic fracturing safety study.   

Officials say seven people died, 400 homes and businesses were destroyed and 15,000 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains burned in this week's wildfire in Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

A $1.5 billion containment arch has moved into its final position over the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The New York Times has video of the containment shell encasing the former power plant.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories…

-Walden emerges as clear favorite in key committee battle
-EPA decides not to weaken car efficiency rules
-OPEC agrees to first oil production cut since 2008
-Greens slam Trudeau for Canadian pipeline approvals
-2,000 vets vow to defend Dakota pipeline protesters

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