Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: House begins moving spending bills

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT SPENDING DAY: House appropriators began moving two spending bills Wednesday covering the Departments of Energy and Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The full committee took a voice vote to move forward the energy and water appropriations bill, which would dole out $37.6 billion for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps.

The legislation for fiscal 2018 would reduce funding for the programs in its jurisdiction by $203 million compared with 2017 on an annualized basis.

But the bill is $3.2 billion above the drastic cuts that President Trump had sought as part of his effort to shift $54 billion from nondefense programs to defense ones.

{mosads}”Increases over last year are targeted to those areas where they are most needed to drive our nation’s defense and to support our nation’s infrastructure,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the subcommittee responsible for the programs.

Democrats criticized the bill primarily for its deep cuts to Energy Department programs such as the Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy — which would be cut by about half — and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which would be eliminated.

“I strongly disapprove of the choice to shun the energy accounts that will invent our future, most notably the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the subcommittee responsible for the bill.

“Technology is reality, and it’s changing our nation and our world,” she said. “And we must lead, or choose to be left behind as new energy horizons are invented elsewhere.”

Amid bipartisan support for those programs, Simpson stood up strongly for ARPA-E and hinted that the funding might be restored later in the process, such as when lawmakers negotiate with the Senate on a final funding bill.

“The department should not take actions to shut down ARPA-E until Congress directs it to by law,” Simpson warned. “We’ll see how this turns out by the time we get through the floor and to final consideration on conference with the Senate … until then, they should keep ARPA-E open and going.”

A subcommittee, meanwhile, approved the chamber’s $31.4 billion spending bill for Interior, EPA and other programs.

The bill would cut the EPA’s budget by $528 million, or 6.5 percent, next year, a move that would send the agency’s funding to 2008 levels, but far smaller than the $2.6 billion cut President Trump had sought.

Lawmakers also cut spending for the Interior Department and programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. None of the cuts were close to the levels Trump envisioned in his budget proposal.

The full appropriations committee has yet to schedule a markup on the measure.

Read more about the energy bill here, and the Interior and EPA bill here.  


GREENS SUE EPA OVER OZONE: Environmental and health groups launched a legal challenge Wednesday against the Trump administration’s attempt to delay enforcement of the Obama administration’s ozone rule.

The groups, led by Earthjustice, said that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt acted illegally when he decided last month to delay by one year the implementation of the Obama administration’s regulation.

“EPA’s delay flouts the rule of law,” Seth Johnson, an Earthjustice attorney who is representing the coalition, said in a statement.

“It’s illegal and wrong,” he said. “It forces the most vulnerable people, like children, people with asthma and the elderly, to continue to suffer from dangerous ozone pollution. The EPA is wrong to put its polluter friends’ profits before people’s health.”

In his previous job as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt was one of the lead litigants suing to stop the ozone rule. He is in the process of deciding whether to try to change the rule or repeal it.

Pruitt’s delay last month relied on a provision in the Clean Air Act that allows for such delays if the EPA has insufficient information to decide which areas in the country are in compliance with the new standard.

The green and health groups suing Wednesday said the EPA has all of the information it needs, since states submitted that data last year.

“EPA’s Designations Delay is devoid of any showing that the copious information already before the agency is somehow ‘insufficient,’ ” the groups wrote in their lawsuit. “Indeed, [the] EPA did not even attempt such a showing.”

Read more here.


SENATE PANEL MOVES THREE TRUMP NOMINEES: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved Annie Caputo and David Wright to serve as members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday. Members also advanced Susan Bodine’s nomination to lead the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The actions move all three nominations to the Senate floor, where they have joined the backlog of nominees awaiting confirmation.

If the Senate confirms Caputo and Wright, it will give the NRC a full roster of five commissioners.

Bodine, meanwhile, would be only the second confirmable EPA nominee to move through the Senate  — because she’s only the second EPA nominee Trump has named.

The nominees “all have proven themselves to be well-qualified, experienced and dedicated public servants,” EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said during a Wednesday hearing. “Their confirmations will fill critically important roles in protecting Americans’ public health and safety.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) voted against all the nominees, saying that he couldn’t support Bodine due to issues he has with the EPA’s responsiveness to Democrats’ oversight letters. Carper also said he would like to pair the NRC nominations with the reconfirmation of a Democrat sitting on the commission.

Read more here.


ANTARCTIC ICE SHELF BREAKS LOOSE: A large iceberg broke away from Antarctica, scientists said Wednesday.

The 1-trillion-ton iceberg, one of the largest icebergs in recorded history, broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, according to multiple reports.

It broke off sometime between Monday and Wednesday.

“The iceberg is one of the largest recorded, and its future progress is difficult to predict,” said Adrian Luckman, professor at Swansea University and lead investigator of Project MIDAS, which has been monitoring the ice shelf for years, according to Reuters.

“It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters.”

Read more here.


“How do you say ‘the size of Delaware’ in Polish?” In news reports about the ice shelf, international media didn’t use the Delaware comparison, of course.

Quartz, thus, endeavored to list all different ways foreign reporters tried to put the iceberg’s size into perspective.

Our favorite? Ukraine, where the ice shelf is “half the size of the Transcarpathian region.”


ON TAP THURSDAY: A House Natural Resources Committee panel will hold a hearing on land acquisition in Indian country.



California lawmakers have delayed a planned vote on cap-and-trade legislation until Monday, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Officials are considering opening up a large natural gas field in Wyoming for drilling, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reports.

Officials have approved a Duke Energy plan to open three solar power facilities in Kentucky, the Associated Press reports.



Check out Wednesday’s stories …

-Greens sue EPA over smog rule delay

-House panel approves $31.4B Interior, EPA funding bill

-House committee passes spending bill for energy, water programs

-Zuckerberg visits North Dakota to learn about energy industry

-Senate panel approves Trump EPA, nuke agency nominees

-One of largest icebergs on record breaks loose from Antarctica


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 John Barrasso Tom Carper

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