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Overnight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts

Overnight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts
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TRUMP ENERGY PICKS IN THE SENATE: President Trump's nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Energy faced senators worried about the president's plans for those agencies on Thursday.

Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee lodged few, if any, complaints against the three nominees before them: Dan Brouillette to be the deputy secretary at the Department of Energy (DOE), and Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to be members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy Committee, said she supported the nominees, and her colleagues did little to disagree.

Instead, the panel sought assurances that their states' priorities would be protected if the nominees were confirmed.

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The hearing came two days after President Trump unveiled his first budget proposal, which included deep cuts to many programs in the DOE, especially those related to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"The budget the president released earlier this week proposes to slash many of DOE's essential programs. It would devastate our emerging clean energy economy and it would raise electricity rates across the country by auctioning off public assets to the highest bidder," said Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart Franken#MeWho? The hypocritical silence of Kamala Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' MORE (D-Minn.), who served as the panel's top Democrat for the hearing.

Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.) worried that Trump's cuts to renewable energy would hurt the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in his state.

Brouillette said he is not intimately familiar with the budget proposal, but he cheered the Colorado lab.

"It's a fascinating place. It's a place filled with incredible talent," said Brouillette, who worked at the DOE under President George W. Bush. "You have my assurance, if confirmed to serve in this role, that I will advocate for the programs in this department," he said.

Read more here.

Protesters interrupt: Anti-FERC protesters interrupted the hearing no fewer than five times to denounce what they see as the agency's role in expanding pipelines, hydraulic fracturing, natural gas exports and more.

The first protester interrupted about 45 minutes into the hearing, and the others followed within minutes. Each was removed by Capitol Police.

"I am compelled to interrupt this because I have seen the destruction that climate change causes," one woman yelled as Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinGame of votes — why budget reconciliation isn't the answer Democrats need Why President Biden is all-in in infrastructure Senators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision MORE (D-W.Va.) was questioning Chatterjee.

"FERC hurts families! Shut FERC down," yelled another one.

One protester had chained himself to a chair, which was removed along with him, and another threw a loud alarm while he was being removed.

The senators and nominees generally ignored the disruptions, either trying to speak over the protesters or waiting until they were out.

Beyond Extreme Energy said that it helped organize the protests along with affiliated organizations.

The groups say the Senate should not confirm any FERC nominees until it investigates what opponents see as abuses of power and law by the commission.

OPEC AGREES TO MAINTAIN PRODUCTION CUTS: OPEC member states agreed on Thursday to extend its oil production limits for at least the next nine months as a way to ensure higher crude prices.

Members of the 13-country Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, as well as a dozen non-members including Russia, will likely abide by the output limits.

OPEC initially decided to cut production levels last December, when a sustained global supply glut and increasing production from non-OPEC members -- including the United States -- caused oil prices to sag.

Prices rebounded but have nonetheless been weak throughout the spring, leading OPEC to maintain the production limits through early next year.

Oil futures fell on Thursday, though: investors had hoped OPEC would deepen or lengthen its production cuts.

Read more here.

MORE PARIS POSTURING: Several key Senate Republicans want President Trump to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.

In a letter to Trump, 20 Republicans said the Paris agreement would create "burdensome regulations" in pursuit of cutting climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions.

They argued environmentalists could use the Paris deal as a "legal defense" in lawsuits calling for more stringent regulations, and they dismissed arguments from the deal's supporters about the diplomatic impact of pulling out of Paris.

"We applaud you for your ongoing efforts to reduce overregulation in America," the senators wrote in their letter to Trump, noting his use of executive orders and legislation cutting Obama-era rules.

"To continue on this path, we urge you to make a clean exit from the Paris agreement so that your administration can follow through on its commitment to rescind the Clean Power Plan."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult Why President Biden is all-in in infrastructure MORE (R-Ky.) was among the Republicans to sign the letter, which was penned by Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye passage of infrastructure bill; health experts warn of fourth coronavirus wave MORE (R-Wyo.) and Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (R-Okla.).

The letter comes before the Group of Seven (G7) summit, after which Trump is expected to make his decision on the Paris deal.

On Wednesday, a group of 40 Senate Democrats sent their own letter to Trump asking him to stay in the Paris accord.

Read more here.

Cohn says Trump expects 'robust' climate talk at G7: Gary Cohn, Trump's National Economic Council Director (and a Paris deal supporter), told reporters on Air Force One that the White House expects Paris to come up a lot during the G7 meeting this week.

"He's interested to hear what the G7 leaders have to say about climate. It will be a fairly robust discussion on that," Cohn said.

"I think he's heard arguments that are persuasive on both sides. They're both good arguments," he said, noting both big business's support for the Paris deal and competing concerns about the impact the Obama administration's greenhouse gas emissions goals could have on economic growth.

"The Europeans, as a whole, are pretty much in favor of the Paris accord, but the Europeans as a whole have a much easier standard to abide by than the standard we were left with by the previous administration."

TRUMP WON'T NIX MINNESOTA MINING STUDY: The Trump administration will follow through on an Obama-initiated study into the impacts of precious metals mining on a wilderness area in Minnesota.

Testifying before an Appropriations Committee panel on Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said they would continue studying the viability of copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a two-year assessment that environmentalists hope will conclude that it would be too dangerous to allow mining there.

"I'm not smart enough to know [what] to do without the facts base and the sound science and we are absolutely allowing that to proceed," Perdue told Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) who has led the charge against the mining plan.

The Obama administration initiated the study in December when it also declined a company's mineral lease renewal request for a plot of land in northeastern Minnesota.

AROUND THE WEB:

A proposed class-action lawsuit accuses General Motors Co. of cheating on diesel emissions tests, Reuters reports.

Two offshore wind energy developers have accepted the terms put on their projects by Maryland regulators, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Bloomberg examines how credit rating agencies are considering climate change's threat to coastal communities.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories...

-Canada proposes methane pollution standards for oil and gas drilling
-Senators air grievances on Trump energy budget, delays
-Top GOP senators tell Trump to ditch Paris climate deal
-Trump administration stands by three Obama-era energy rules
-OPEC agrees to extend oil production cuts

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