Overnight Energy: Senate panel clears Tillerson for State

Overnight Energy: Senate panel clears Tillerson for State
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TILLERSON GETS GREEN LIGHT: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Monday to recommend the Senate confirm former Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of State.

The panel's vote was 11-10 in favor of President Trump's pick to be the country's top diplomat, along party lines, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against.

Tillerson's vote was uncertain up until Monday morning, when Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field MORE (R-Fla.) said he would vote for Tillerson despite his significant reservations regarding his positions on human rights and Russia's aggression, concerns that Democrats also voiced.


"I concluded that it would not be good for our country to unnecessarily delay or create unwarranted political controversy over this particular nomination," Rubio said at the Monday meeting.

Corker said he had "no doubt that Rex Tillerson is well-qualified," citing Tillerson's experience leading a major corporation and conducting business around the world.

"Diplomacy has been a critical component of his positions in the past, and he has shown himself to be an exceptionally able and successful negotiator who has maintained deep relationships around the world," he said.

Democrats acknowledged Tillerson's business success, but were concerned that Tillerson showed no signs that he could translate that into being secretary of State.

"I did not see that commitment to be the advocate globally for human rights and good governance that I would like to see in a secretary of State," said Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks House Democrat: Staff is all vaccinated 'because they don't like to be dead' The evidence is clear: The US must recognize genocide in Myanmar MORE (Md.), the panel's top Democrat.

Read more here.

ZINKE AND PERRY TOMORROW: Aside from Tillerson, parts of Trump's energy and natural resources team are set to move this week.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will meet on Tuesday to consider two nominations: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to be the Secretary of Interior and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy (DOE).

Both nominees faced the committee in confirmation hearings last week, and neither are expected to be too controversial. Republicans, in fact, seem likely to vote unanimously for the nominees, moving them to the floor even without Democratic votes.   

During their hearings, both Zinke and Perry faced questions on their acceptance of the science behind man-made climate change (they said the climate is changing, though they insisted there is debate over humans' influence over that, an answer used by other Trump nominees).

Democrats also asked the two about issues unique to their would-be departments: whether Zinke accepts the concept of federal land ownership, for instance, or what Perry would do to protect climate research under Trump.

Assuming the committee approves the nominations, they'll move to the floor for a final confirmation vote.

Read more here.    

EPA EYED FOR CUTS: Transition officials for the Trump administration have proposed big budget cuts and a rollback of regulations and scientific work at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The transition team pitched more than $800 million in planned budget cuts, including to state and tribal assistance grants and climate programs, according to a Monday report.

The planning document says that the EPA should not fund scientific research, should make all science used for regulatory decisions public and should overhaul its scientific advisory board.

It also lists numerous regulations to cut, including the carbon dioxide rules for new and existing power plants, the Waters of the United States rule, and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan.  

"EPA does not use science to guide regulatory policy as much as it uses regulatory policy to steer the science," the document says, according to the report in Axios.

Myron Ebell, a scholar at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute and the author of the pitch, said the proposal was a planning document for Trump prepared before the election. It is not the transition team's formal "action plan" for the EPA.   

The proposed budget cuts are well higher than those considered by Republicans in the past. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee proposed a $164 million cut for the EPA last year and a $718 million cut the year before that. Both times, the EPA's budget stayed the same in end-of-the-year spending deals.

Read more here.

PUTIN ENERGY MINISTER PRAISES TRUMP, TILLERSON: Russia's energy minister is praising the Trump administration's approach to energy issues and Trump's nomination of Tillerson to be secretary of State.

In an interview with CNBC, Alexander Novak said Trump's conservative approach to energy issues is "very pleasant" for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

"We believe that for the industry as a whole this is good because the energy sector should develop and the fact that a large country, the largest country in economic terms, such as the USA will be developing its energy is overall a positive thing for the whole of the energy sector," he said.

Novak also praised Tillerson, who worked in Russia during his time at ExxonMobil.

"Rex Tillerson is a very famous energy industry specialist and I am certain that his actions will be positive, as a whole, for the industry," Novak said.

Novak repeated the Kremlin's opposition to economic sanctions against Russia following the country's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea. Top senators from both parties are working on a bill to prevent Trump from undoing those sanctions.

NEW MEMBERS IN CLIMATE CAUCUS: The House's Climate Solutions Caucus says it has five new members.

Freshman Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.) joined the bipartisan group, along with Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Mia Love (R-Utah) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

The caucus, now 20 strong, says it's working to educate lawmakers on "economically-viable" options to reduce climate change risks and look at bipartisan policies on the subject.

"We have a lot of work to do on this issue, and communities like mine in South Florida are counting on us to come together and have productive discussions about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient," Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), one of the co-chairmen, said in a statement announcing the roster.

ON TAP TUESDAY I: The Energy and Natural Resources hearing for Perry and Zinke is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Besides the two nominations, the committee will consider housekeeping matters.

ON TAP TUESDAY II: In the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee will meet to consider organizational matters. It will be the committee's first hearing under its new chairman, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

Rest of Tuesday's agenda ...

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will host an event on energy reforms in Mexico. State Department and Mexican government officials will speak.


Officials in Paris are using new color-coded stickers to determine which cars are allowed in the city, which is trying to tackle air pollution problems, Reuters reports.

Wisconsin's disaster management agency is highlighting the risk climate change poses to the state, something other agencies have resisted, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

Storms in the southeast killed at least 16 people this weekend, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.  


Check out stories from Monday and the weekend ...

-Senate panel votes to confirm Tillerson
-Committee to vote on Zinke, Perry nominations Tuesday
-Trump adviser in Canada: Prospects for Keystone XL looking up
-Rubio to vote for Tillerson
-Trump team plans big cuts at EPA
-Top Dem comes out against Tillerson ahead of key vote
-Trump nominees dodge 'climate denier' charge
-Biggest Dem donor thinks party needs new message
-Week ahead: Trump takes up ambitious energy agenda

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