Overnight Energy: Former Exxon chief Tillerson takes the hot seat

Overnight Energy: Former Exxon chief Tillerson takes the hot seat
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TILLERSON'S TURN BEFORE THE SENATE: Former ExxonMobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson faces Congress on Wednesday as the Senate begins considering his nomination to be President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE's secretary of State.

The hearing is expected to cover a range of issues related to Tillerson's career at the oil giant and how it informs his views on foreign policy.

That includes, front and center, Russia. Since revelations that Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic groups during the election, the U.S. relationship with Russia under Trump has been a major point of contention for members of both parties.


A nominee as plugged in with Russian politics and business as Tillerson is likely to face tough questions about how to approach diplomacy with Vladimir Putin. Tillerson won a top award from Putin in 2013 and he opposed U.S. sanctions on the country after its foray into Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014, major issues likely to rear their heads at Wednesday's Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Democrats are also likely to probe how foreign policy will impact Exxon, the company that employed Tillerson for his entire career. They are also preparing questions related to climate change, something Exxon acknowledges but Trump denies.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (D-Tenn.) on Tuesday said he expects the hearing to go all day, and he set high expectations for Tillerson.

"I think people are going to want to hear that he understands the difference between being CEO of a company and looking after a company's interest, and being the chief person carrying out our foreign policy. ...I think he's going to likely do very well," he said.

"There's some people that certainly will be hardened against him just because to them Exxon is the devil incarnate. I got that and he understands that."

Follow The Hill on Wednesday for live coverage of the hearing.

DEM PUMPS BRAKES ON PRUITT HEARING: Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases MORE (D-Del.) wants to hold off on a hearing for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Scott Pruitt until Pruitt answers all of the questions the senator sent him.

Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters Tuesday that Pruitt hadn't answered the 50 or so questions Carper and other Democrats sent him almost two weeks ago, nor has the FBI completed his standard background check.

"We would certainly want to have responses to the seven pages of questions," Carper said.

"We want to have the opportunity to review those questions and maybe ask some follow-up questions to them if the responses are not comprehensive. And we'd want to have a chance to drill down on the FBI review of this nominee, as we would for any other nominee," he said.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation MORE (R-Wyo.), the panel's chairman, pushed back against Democrats in a Tuesday letter.

'The authority to schedule hearings rests within the sole discretion of the chairman," Barrasso wrote in the letter, according to the Washington Examiner. "There is no requirement for the committee to formally receive a nomination before holding a hearing."

Carper said he and Barrasso were hashing out the details of a hearing Tuesday, and it would likely be next week. Barrasso's staff has not yet said if the date has been set.

Read more here.

VW AGREES TO EMISSIONS SETTLEMENT: Volkswagen (VW) has reportedly agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement to end a legal fight with the U.S. government over its diesel emissions scandal.

The company will pay the fine and also plead guilty to criminal misconduct as part of a criminal and civil settlement with regulators, Reuters reports. VW's board is meeting this week to approve the settlement deal, though the company did not reply to a request for comment from The Hill.

VW is now set to spend more than the $19.2 billion it had earmarked to deal with legal issues arising from the scandal.

The company has settled a handful of complaints against it related to software designed to allow vehicles to skirt federal emissions tests. That includes a $14.7 billion deal covering owners of 2-liter diesel vehicles and environmental violations, and a $1.2 billion deal with U.S. franchise dealers. The company is also planning to buy back 3-liter diesel vehicles that include the emissions software.

Read more here.

FEDS SAY OIL DECLINE LIKELY OVER: The historic, deep drop in domestic oil production has probably ended, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Tuesday.

"The general decline in U.S. crude oil production that began almost two years ago is likely over, as higher average oil prices and improvements in drilling efficiency are giving a boost to output," EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said in a statement accompanying the release of the EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook.

He predicted that the final data will show that oil output ticked up in the last three months of 2016, the first such increase since 2015.

The report was the first to start forecasting out to 2018. EIA is predicting that West Texas Intermediate crude will average $55.18 a barrel that year, up from $44.33 last year and $52.50 this year.

Read more of the outlook here.

TOMORROW IN THE HILL: Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia's attorney general and a top court challenger of President Obama's climate agenda, is likely to try to challenge Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget McConnell on filibuster talk: Democrats want to 'vandalize' Senate rules MORE (D) for his Senate seat next year.

Such a race would probably make coal front and center, spurring each candidate to outdo one another on his support for the industry and policies that protect it.

Read more tomorrow in The Hill.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: Tillerson appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The hearing starts at 9:00 a.m.; follow along at The Hill.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellNational parks pay the price for Trump's Independence Day spectacle Overnight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone MORE will speak on the Obama administration's "Record of Progress on Energy" during an event at Columbia University.

Rest of Wednesday's agenda ...

Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE will speak at the National Press Club.


The Petra Nova clean coal project in Texas -- the first of its kind in the United States -- went online on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports.

Two environmental groups are suing the federal government over a copper-nickel mine project in Minnesota, saying it threatens the habitats of endangered species, the Fargo Forum reports.

The United Arab Emirates will invest $163 billion for renewable energy projects that will generate half the country's electricity by 2050, BBC News reports.


Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-Report: VW agrees to $4.3B settlement in emissions scandal
-Dem: No hearing for EPA pick until questions answered
-GOP slows Trump Cabinet confirmation pace
-Feds: Some bumblebees are endangered
-Top Democrat calls for party unity on regulations

Jordain Carney contributed.

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