Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Democrats could see a win on climate

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Greg Nash
Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 following the passage of the bipartisan Chips and Science Act providing $280 billion to subsidize the domestic chip manufacturing industry.

Many climate activists and experts see a victory in the deal between Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — despite some provisions that boost oil and gas. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Manchin-Schumer deal has big climate investments

The deal crafted by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would result in historic investments in combating climate change if the package is signed into law by President Biden.   

Climate activists, who earlier this month were in despair after Manchin seemingly torpedoed an earlier deal, generally have praised the new agreement as a meaningful step in protecting the planet — even if it would still leave plenty of more work to do.   

“It’s going to be the largest climate investment in American history by far,” Leah Stokes, an environmental politics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told The Hill.  

The bill also comes as Democrats have little time to spare. With Republicans favored to win back the House majority in the fall, losing an opportunity to pass meaningful climate legislation with Democrats in the White House and holding power in the House and Senate would be devastating.  

The package contains a series of investments in clean energy and other programs that are expected to help the U.S. reduce its emissions.  

And while the nearly $370 billion in climate and energy investments are pared down from the $555 billion passed by the House last year, they are still expected to make significant cuts to global warming.   

Democrats’ projected cuts are possible: Ben King, associate director of Rhodium Group, which has modeled the potential emissions reductions of past iterations of Democrats’ climate proposals, said his initial reaction was that the Democrats’ projection the package could cut 40 percent of emissions was plausible.   

Combined with additional regulations, he said the U.S. may now be on track to meet Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. emissions at least in half by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels.  

“While we are still analyzing the full text, the deal announced on Wednesday includes a long-term extension of clean energy tax credits in line with what we’ve previously modeled, which means it could plausibly put the U.S. on track to reduce emissions by 40 percent in 2030,” King said in a statement.   

“Additional action by the Biden administration and states can help close the rest of the gap to the target of a 50-52 percent cut in emissions by 2030,” he added. 

Rhodium Group’s modeling has shown that without any legislative action, the U.S. would be expected to reduce its emissions by between 24 and 35 percent.  

Read more here.

THE DEAL’S POLICY SPECIFICS

The bill would provide $30 billion in tax credits for the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and critical minerals processing. It includes $10 billion in tax credits for clean energy technology manufacturing facilities that make electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels.  

It would create another program to give financing to the oil and gas industry to cut down on their emissions of planet-warming methane and charge them for excess emissions. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period and is frequently released during oil and gas production.  

Other provisions include $30 billion in loans and grants to help states and electric utilities transition to clean energy and $27 billion for a green bank that would provide more incentives for clean energy technology.   

The bill would also expand royalties that companies pay for public lands drilling to include planet-warming natural gas that is burned off or otherwise released into the air.  

And, while not directly related to climate change, the bill also puts $60 billion toward environmental justice — addressing disproportionately high pollution levels faced by people of color and low-income communities.  

What’s the catch? Some of the bill’s provisions would further lock in fossil fuel use and add to planet-warming emissions. 

Specifically, it would require the federal government to hold oil and gas lease sales as a condition for selling leases for renewable energy on public lands and waters. 

In order for the government to allow new wind or solar energy development on federal lands, it will be required to hold onshore drilling lease sales. In order for the government to hold a lease sale enabling new offshore wind energy, it will need to have held a lease sale for new offshore oil and gas. 

The legislation would also reinstate the results of a November lease sale for new offshore drilling that sold the rights to drill on 1.7 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico and was later struck down on environmental grounds. It would also require the Interior Department to hold other lease sales in the near future. 

Read more about the bill here.

Manchin stands by provision Sinema may oppose

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday he is standing firm on keeping a proposal to close the so-called carried interest tax loophole in the tax and climate deal he reached this week, despite potential opposition from fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).   

Closing the tax loophole has long been a goal of Democratic tax reformers, but it was dropped out of the House tax bill last year after Sinema indicated she opposed ending the tax break.   

This dynamic has prompted a storm of speculation about whether the Arizona senator will withhold her support for Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) Inflation Reduction Act, which became public Wednesday.   

Sinema’s office has so far declined to comment on the legislation. She did not attend a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting Thursday to discuss the deal, according to a senator in attendance. The senator noted that Sinema often misses caucus meetings and that it was not unusual for her to miss the specific meeting Thursday.   

But Manchin on Thursday told reporters that he will insist on keeping the carried interest provision in the bill, arguing that it’s unfair for asset managers to only pay a 20 percent capital gains tax rate on income they earn from the profits of managed investments.   

“I’m not prepared to lose” it, Manchin said. “What we have is a good bill that’s fair with everybody. It’s a give-and-take proposition.  

Any disagreements could pose a threat to the climate and tax deal in the evenly-divided Senate. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Alexader Bolton.

Senate GOP blocks bill for vets exposed to toxins

Veterans’ advocacy groups lashed out on Thursday after Senate Republicans blocked a much-anticipated bill aimed at expanding care for veterans who were exposed to toxins during military service. 

The Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act was the product of a year of negotiations between the House and the Senate, and Wednesday’s vote was largely expected to be a victory for veterans in need of care. 

But the majority of GOP senators voted against advancing the bill, infuriating its Democratic sponsors and the veterans who have been pushing for it, who focused their ire on Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) 

“This is total bull****,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said during a press conference in front of the Capitol on Thursday. 

“We had strong bipartisan support for this bill. And at the eleventh hour, Sen. Toomey decides that he wants to rewrite the bill, change the rules, and tank it.” 

Tom Porter, executive vice president of governmental affairs for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, pointed out that some Republicans who voted against the bill are veterans. 

“How can fellow veterans turn their backs, and stab us in the back like that,” Porter said. 

The Senate voted 55-42 to advance the PACT Act, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The upper chamber passed the bill last month by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 84-14 vote, and the House passed the bill earlier this month by a vote of 342-88. The Senate needed to vote on it again because of technical changes made in the House. 

An explanation: In floor speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday, Toomey said he opposed the bill because it moves $400 billion from discretionary spending to mandatory spending, which he called a “budgetary gimmick.” 

The Pennsylvania Republican proposed to amend the bill by moving that funding back to discretionary spending, which is subject to annual congressional appropriations. 

After Wednesday’s vote, Toomey said the failed cloture vote allows the upper chamber to amend the bill, adding that it was a “pretty easy fix.” 

“Once that’s done, this bill sails through this chamber and goes to the president and gets signed into law,” he said. 

Read more about what went down here.

CHIPPING AWAY 

The House passed a $280 billion bill on Thursday to strengthen the domestic chip manufacturing industry and finance scientific research in a bid to boost the United States’s competitiveness on the global stage, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk for final approval. 

The legislation, titled the CHIPS and Science Act, cleared the House in a 243-187-1 vote. Twenty-four Republicans supported the measure, and one Democrat voted “present.”  

The Senate approved the measure in a bipartisan 64-33 vote on Wednesday, receiving support from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The bill’s passage through both chambers marks a significant congressional achievement and the culmination of more than a year of negotiations over legislation to increase the U.S.’s competitive edge against China.  

What does it do? Lawmakers ultimately came to a consensus on the CHIPS and Science Act, which will allocate $54 billion for chips and public wireless supply chain innovation, including $39 billion that will go towards financial assistance to build, expand and modernize semiconductor facilities in the U.S. It also includes $11 billion for research and development by the Department of Commerce. 

The measure seeks to establish a 25 percent tax credit for investment in semiconductor manufacturing and funnel $81 billion to the National Science Foundation (NSF), $20 billion of which will go towards an NSF directorate. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Mychael Schnell.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • OPEC+ to weigh holding oil output steady or small hike, sources say (Reuters
  • The air in Boston isn’t as safe as we think (Axios
  • Why Fungi Might Really Be Magic (When It Comes to Climate Change) (The New York Times
  • Flash drought intensifies, causing agriculture concerns in the Plains and water shortages in the Northeast (CNN)

And, In celebrity news: Who’s contributing to climate change via private jet? 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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