Overnight Energy: Trump open to gas tax increase

Overnight Energy: Trump open to gas tax increase
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IS THE GAS TAX ON THE TABLE? President Trump on Monday floated raising the gasoline tax to pay for a roads and bridges improvement package, adding a new twist to the upcoming congressional debate over spending on infrastructure.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Trump said he would "certainly consider" a gas tax hike "if we earmarked money toward the highways."

The gas tax last went up under President Clinton. There is little appetite among most conservatives for raising the gas tax now, though some Republicans have supported proposals to increase it, as many states have done.

Trump has made passing a $1 trillion infrastructure package a top priority for his first term in office. He is also pushing for an overhaul of the federal tax code, though he did not include a boosted gas tax in the proposal the White House released last week.

Read more here.

MINERS BENEFITS COMING: An omnibus bill to fund the government through the end of September includes a long-term extension of healthcare benefits for retired mine workers and their families.

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The spending bill, released late Sunday, includes money to permanently extend health benefits for retired miners, a top priority of several coal-state lawmakers like Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress braces for chaotic December The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Trump calls into 'Fox & Friends,' talks impeachment MORE (R-W.Va.) and Senate Democrats facing reelection next year, such as Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinNo one wins with pro-abortion litmus test Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary Political purity tests are for losers MORE (W.Va.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank Hillicon Valley: Senate Dems unveil privacy bill | Trump campaign, RNC rip Google political ad policy | Activists form national coalition to take on Amazon | Commerce issues rule to secure communications supply chain Warren, Brown call for greater enforcement of fair lending laws after Goldman gender discrimination allegations MORE (Ohio).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Schumer briefs Democrats on impeachment trial 'mechanics' Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (R-Ky.) joined the push last week, and on Monday praised the deal. "I'm proud to have secured this important provision as we put together the final package, and I will continue to fight to provide relief for coal communities going forward."

Congress will vote on the spending bill this week.

The package does not address the issue of miners' pensions, another federally-backed benefit facing insolvency due to the decline of the coal industry.

Read more about the spending package here, and Brown's reaction to the miner's provision here.

What else is in the spending deal? The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both absorb 1 percent spending cuts in the spending deal.

NASA sees a nearly 2 percent increase in spending, with its Earth science budget flat, while the Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy budget goes up more than 5 percent.

Science Magazine has a thorough breakdown of the science provisions in the spending bill.  

DEMS SAY AGENCY STUDY IS ANTI-RENEWABLE ENERGY: A handful of Senate Democrats say the Department of Energy's electric grid study is set up to be anti-renewables.

The group led by Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Senators urge FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senators inch forward on federal privacy bill MORE (D-Wash.) wrote to Energy Secretary Rick Perry to criticize his request for a study last month, saying it's meant to boost power sources like coal and nuclear.

"The study, as you have framed it, appears to be intended to blame wind and solar power for the financial difficulties facing coal and nuclear electric generators and to suggest that renewable energy resources threaten the reliability of the grid," the group wrote.

"The notion that a 60 day review conducted by ideologues associated with a Koch brothers-affiliated think tank should supplant research and analysis conducted by the world's foremost scientists and engineers would be a grave disservice to American taxpayers," the senators said, referring to Travis Fisher, a veteran of the pro-fossil-fuel Institute for Energy Research, who has been tapped to lead the study.

In a separate Monday letter to Perry, a trio of associations representing renewables took a more diplomatic approach, encouraging DOE to look positively upon wind and solar and be transparent and open in the preparation of the report.

"We note that these homegrown energy resources are proven technologies that help support grid reliability," wrote the coalition of the American Wind Energy Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association and Advanced Energy Economy.

Read more here.

OIL INDUSTRY EYES EASTERN GULF: Fresh off an order from Trump last week designed to support offshore drilling, the nation's leading oil group said it hopes regulators will eventually clear the way for new drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

"The eastern Gulf is in close proximity to existing production and infrastructure, and opening it would spur investment and economic activity that could create thousands of jobs and provide billions of dollars in government revenue," Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute's upstream and industry operations group director, said during a conference call with reporters.

Federal law prohibits oil drilling in the Gulf within 125 miles of the coast of Florida. That moratorium is due to expire in 2022, but Milito said API hopes the administration will consider future drilling in the region in its review.

"We're optimistic -- we think that it would be essential, from an energy security standpoint, both for national security reasons and for the continuing demand for oil and gas that we're going to see for a long time, for Interior to take a serious look at the eastern Gulf of Mexico," he said.

Congress formally banned drilling near the Florida coast in 2006, and some Democrats have pushed to extend the ban further.

"Drilling near Florida's coast poses a direct threat to Florida's environment and multi-billion-dollar, tourism-driven economy," Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Fla.), one of the Senate's loudest opponents of eastern Gulf drilling, said in a statement last week.

"Ever since I was a young congressman, I've been fighting to keep oil rigs away from Florida's coast, and I'm not going to stop now."

Read more here.

ON TAP TUESDAY I: Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) and others testify at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the use of the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments. Read more about the hearing here.

ON TAP TUESDAY II: A House Oversight committee panel will hold a hearing on red snapper fishing management in the Gulf of Mexico.

AROUND THE WEB:

Supporters of a solar power incentive program in Maine have asked the state's high court to review a plan to scale it back, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Companies would have to pay a higher price to be able to buy emissions credits under a cap-and-trade program that California Democrats unveiled Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Rhode Island's Block Island has been connected to the state's offshore wind farm, the Providence Journal reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and this weekend ...

-Interior secretary starts process for offshore drilling expansion plan
-Trump to 'consider' raising the gas tax
-Oil lobby pushes for offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico
-Justices deny review of case challenging polar bear habitat
-Dems blast DOE study as biased toward coal, nuclear
-Ohio senator: Miners won 'huge victory' in spending bill
-Week ahead: House GOP to probe national monuments
-Wasserman Schultz: Trump's agenda 'irrational and extreme'
-Dems blast Trump's policies at Climate March
-Climate March draws huge crowd to DC
-Nine clever signs from the Climate March
-Warren reads middle school students' letters on climate change
-Trump using executive orders at unprecedented pace

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