Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Trump seeks Dems’ help on infrastructure

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TRUMP BRINGS INFRASTRUCTURE PITCH TO OHIO: Speaking in front of a coal barge on the Ohio River Wednesday, President Trump decried the state of the nation’s infrastructure and asked Democrats to join him in his bid to improve it.

The setting in Cincinnati let Trump focus heavily on water infrastructure like dams, locks and canals. But he also spoke about highways, railroads, pipelines and more.

Trump criticized former President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus as ineffective and said congressional Democrats are being “obstructionist,” but called on them to work with him on his major infrastructure proposal.

“I’m calling on all Democrats and Republicans to join together, if that’s possible, in the great rebuilding of America,” he said in front of the barge, filled with coal from West Virginia coal. “The people… they want to see us all come to together. But I just don’t see them coming together.”

{mosads}Trump called the water transportation infrastructure of the United States “dilapidated” and in “very, very bad shape,” pointing to an $8.7 billion maintenance backlog.

But his budget proposal from last month would slash the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction budget by about half.

The Ohio trip is part of what the White House is dubbing Infrastructure Week, when Trump is trying to focus on his $1 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats want to work with Trump on infrastructure, but he hasn’t shown a willingness to listen to them.

“I’ve talked to the president several times on the phone. I said I want to work with you on infrastructure. No response, and now their plan, without any consultation among Democrats and even talk they should do this on reconciliation, no Democratic support or votes or input,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

“Let’s not have a few financiers whispering into the ear of the president to determine what our infrastructure policy will be, because it will be a flop.”

Read more here.


ANOTHER ROUND OF PARIS AFTERSHOCKS: Hawaii lawmakers formally aligned the state with the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Paris climate deal this week, spurning Trump’s decision last Thursday to pull out of the global pact.

Gov. David Ige (D) signed the bill into law during a Tuesday ceremony, saying Hawaii is the first state to put its commitments to Paris into legislation and pass it.

“Hawaii is committed to environmental stewardship, and we look forward to working with other states to fight global climate change. Together, we can directly contribute to the global agenda of achieving a more resilient and sustainable island Earth,” Ige said.

The new Hawaii law creates a state commission to explore strategies the state could adopt toward climate change mitigation and adaptation.

It also formally states that the goals of the Paris pact are also the state’s goals, including keeping global warming at or below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, increasing the ability worldwide to adapt to the consequences of climate change and making financial flows align with low-greenhouse gas goals.

Read more here.

Paris, Pittsburgh mayors team up on op-ed: The mayors of two cities Trump tried to use last week to illustrate the policy debate over climate change came together to pen an op-ed in The New York Times on Wednesday.

“As the mayors of Pittsburgh and Paris, we’re here to say that we’re more united than ever,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto (D) wrote in their op-ed.

“The only way to do right by Pittsburghers and Parisians is to abide by the principles of the Paris Agreement, which guarantees the future health and prosperity of both of our cities — and every other city in the world,” they wrote.

In pulling out of the Paris deal last week, Trump said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” insisting the Steel City stands to be hit hard by the Paris deal. But Peduto has pushed back against that argument, saying he supports the deal.

Read more here.

Even North Korea’s not happy: Trump garnered more international criticism on Wednesday, when Pyongyang said pulling out of Paris was “the height of egoism and moral vacuum” and accusing the U.S of  “seeking only their own well-being, even at the cost of the entire planet.”

“The selfish act of the U.S. does not only have grave consequences for the international efforts to protect the environment but poses great danger to other areas as well,” a spokesman for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, according to state news agency KCNA.

North Korea frequently criticizes U.S. foreign policy so this week’s statement isn’t exactly damning. But the bitter, angry reactions to Trump’s Paris decision from U.S. allies last week show the depth of international concern about American climate diplomacy.

Read more about North Korea here.


DEMS PRESS DEVOS ON CLIMATE STATEMENT: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is in hot water with Democrats for her reaction to the Paris decision.

In a Wednesday letter to DeVos, four Senate Democrats pointed to a statement in which she praised Trump’s decision as an “example of his commitment to rolling back the unrealistic and overreaching regulatory actions by the previous administration.”

That statement, the Democrats said, was her first comment on an administration decision that does not involve the Education Department. They called it an “about-face” from January, when she said during her confirmation hearing that the Education Department doesn’t have jurisdiction over climate issues and committed to deferring to other agencies on the issue.

“Between January and last week, you apparently decided to present your views on an issue over which your department ‘does not have any jurisdiction,'” Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ed Markey (Mass.) wrote.

“In doing so, you landed squarely on the side that argues, incorrectly, that climate change science is not settled.”

The Education Department was one of several federal agencies — including Housing and Urban Development — that put out statements reacting to the Paris decision.

Read more here.


TRUMP OFFICIALS RECONSIDER SAGE GROUSE PROTECTIONS: The Trump administration is convening a task force to consider changes to the Obama administration’s policies to protect an imperiled bird native to the American West.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday that the team’s goals are to evaluate whether the federal government’s policies related to the greater sage grouse are compatible with state policies, whether they’re beneficial for local economies and jobs and how they impact production of domestic energy.

Conservationists warned that the internal policy review in the Interior Department threatens the delicate balancing act the Obama administration and western states executed in 2015 to avoid listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, an option that critics say is blunt and inflexible.

Zinke said he wants to restore trust in the process, listen to states and businesses and improve consistency among Interior agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in enforcing the policies.

“There’s a lot of mistrust and anger out there about how the federal government is managing the lands and that we’re not listening to the states and the local communities,” he told reporters.

The task force creation is the latest step in a years-long saga over the unique, chicken-sized bird, whose population has dropped from millions decades ago to somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 today, due largely to the loss of its habitat.

Since the sage grouse’s habitat is so large and in areas important to oil and natural gas drilling and agriculture, it became a lightning rod in the debate over the Endangered Species Act and how to balance competing interests like conservation and energy production, which is harmful to the bird.

Read more here.


ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will testify on his agency’s 2018 budget request before a House Appropriations Committee panel. President Trump has requested $11.6 billion for the department, a 12 percent cut from 2017 levels.   


ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The Senate Energy Committee will hold a hearing on “emerging energy technologies.”

Rest of Wednesday’s schedule …

A House Natural Resources Committee hearing will meet to discuss legislation related to fisheries and reclamation.



The world’s electric vehicle fleet surpassed 2 million last year, The Guardian reports.

Supporters and opponents of a replacement Enbridge pipeline in Minnesota presented their arguments to regulators at a public hearing this week, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Play in the Sunshine: On his birthday, Bloomberg looks at Prince’s investment in a solar energy start-up.



Check out Wednesday’s stories … 

-Trump administration to reconsider sage grouse protections
-Lawmakers move to protect funding for climate change research
-Trump urges Dems to work with him on infrastructure
-Mayors of Pittsburgh, Paris team up for climate change op-ed
-Hawaii law aligns state with Paris climate pact
-Senate Democrats push DeVos on climate change statement
-North Korea hits Trump decision to withdraw from Paris climate deal 


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

Tags Barack Obama Chuck Schumer Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Sheldon Whitehouse
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