Overnight Energy: Perry takes heat for sexual assault comments | Clovis withdraws nomination for USDA post | Battle lines drawn on Arctic refuge drilling | Energy regulator back to full strength

Overnight Energy: Perry takes heat for sexual assault comments | Clovis withdraws nomination for USDA post | Battle lines drawn on Arctic refuge drilling | Energy regulator back to full strength
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

PERRY DRAWS FIRE FOR REMARKS ON SEXUAL ASSAULT: Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryPartisan politics at independent agency draws bipartisan rebuke Overnight Energy: House panel approves park funding, offshore drilling bills | Green group putting M into races | Perry applauds Russia boosting oil production Perry welcomes efforts by Russia, OPEC to boost oil production MORE took heat Thursday for arguing that reducing sexual assault in Africa is among the potential benefits of increasing fossil fuel use there, because electricity can power lights.

At a morning event hosted by Axios, Perry spoke about his recent trip to the continent, where he said "people are dying" due to lack of energy access, and recalled a girl telling him that electricity allows her to read at night without toxic fumes.

"But also from the standpoint of sexual assault," he continued. "When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people's lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it's going to play a positive role."

ADVERTISEMENT

Perry's office later sought to clarify his remarks and frame them as commentary on how energy access can dramatically improve lives.

"The secretary was making the important point that while many Americans take electricity for granted there are people in other countries who are impacted by their lack of electricity," spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement.

"One person told him about how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and security in remote areas," she said.

Nonetheless, the backlash to his comments was swift, with accusations that it was improper to use the issue of sexual assault to push fossil fuels.

The Sierra Club called on him to resign over the remarks.

"It was already clear that Rick Perry is unfit to lead the Department of Energy, but to suggest that fossil fuel development will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.

"He does not deserve to hold office another day with these twisted ideas, and he should resign from his position immediately before he causes any more damage."

Read more herehere and here.

 

CLOVIS WITHDRAWS NOMINATION: Sam Clovis, President Trump's nominee to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) chief scientist, withdrew his nomination Thursday, days after he was embroiled in the investigation into Russia's influence in the presidential election.

Clovis was already facing significant scrutiny over his lack of scientific credentials and his past controversial statements on race and liberal politics, among other issues, before his name came up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

In a Thursday letter to Trump, Clovis blamed the "political climate" for his decision to withdraw.

"The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position," Clovis wrote.

"The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases in intensity each day. As I am focused on your success and the success of this Administration, I do not want to be a distraction or negative influence, particularly with so much important work left to do for the American people."

The Senate Agriculture Committee was said to be planning a Nov. 9 hearing for Clovis's nomination to the post overseeing billions of dollars of research and education for the Agriculture Department. But the panel never formally scheduled the hearing.

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsPat Robertson asks followers to help cast 'shield of protection' ahead of hurricane Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke The farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act MORE (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, told reporters Clovis "made a wise decision" to drop out of the confirmation process. Roberts said he did not ask Clovis to withdraw.

Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms Trump attacks Dems on farm bill Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security MORE (Mich.), the panel's top Democrat, said in a statement that Clovis's withdrawal is a victory for science and farmers.

"From day one, it was clear to me that Sam Clovis was the wrong choice for our farmers and ranchers," she said. "His lack of qualifications and long history of politically divisive statements were disqualifying, and the recent news surrounding his time as co-chair of the Trump campaign has raised even more questions."

Shortly after campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to officials regarding the Russia probe, Clovis was identified as a campaign official he had communicated with about working with Russian officials.

Clovis has been cooperating with the investigation and recently testified before the grand jury.

Read more here.

 

SENATE FILLS ENERGY REGULATOR: The Senate confirmed two new members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), filling the five-member board for the first time since October 2015.

Republican Kevin McIntrye and Democrat Richard Glick were installed as FERC commissioners on a voice vote Thursday afternoon. McIntrye is Trump's nominee to lead the commission.

The confirmations establish a full commission at FERC, which is currently mulling a controversial proposal from Perry to overhaul the payment system for electricity and prop up coal and nuclear plants.

McIntyre will take over as chairman from Neil Chatterjee, who had been filling in on an interim basis.

He welcomed the pair to the commission on Thursday, saying in a statement that "both Kevin and Rich bring years of experience and knowledge to the significant issues before the commission, and, importantly, their arrival restores the commission to full strength."

Read more here.

 

SENATORS DRAW BATTLE LINES ON ARCTIC REFUGE DRILLING: A marathon, four-hour-long Senate hearing on Thursday crystallized the debate over potential oil drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

Republicans from Alaska and on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee cast drilling in the refuge as an operation that can be done safety and one that would help the economies in both the state and the nation.

But Democrats vowed to fight drilling there, saying the area is too ecologically important to allow industrial production.

"The economic benefits will be substantial, our national security will be strengthened and the environmental impact will be minimal," Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP confidence grows on Kavanaugh Senate panel schedules Friday morning vote for Kavanaugh Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Texas coal plant to shut down | Macron rejects trade deals with climate pact outsiders | Vote on park funding bills to miss deadline MORE (R-Alaska), the chairwoman of the committee, said during a hearing.

"Because Alaskans have been so careful with development, fears of impacts to our wildlife and lands have been proven wrong."

Both sides of the debate played up the personal stakes associated with ANWR drilling. Democrats invited a representative from the Gwich'in tribe to voice their opposition to the plan.

"We're not saying we need hospitals, we need schools, we need all these things," tribe member Samuel Alexander said. "We're not saying, give us money. We're saying let us live as Gwich'in. ... When we talk about the land, when we talk about the caribou, it's in reverence to them."

Republicans and other Alaskans, though, said they opposed what Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungElection handicapper moves 10 races toward Dems Dunleavy, Begich win party nods in 3-way race for Alaska governor Alaska congressional candidate has never visited the state: AP MORE (R-Alaska) called "ignorance and misinformation" from opponents of ANWR drilling.

"For those of us who call Alaska home, to suggest that we would despoil our environment for short-term gain is offensive," Murkowski said.

Read more here.

 

LAMAR SMITH TO RETIRE: House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) will not seek reelection in 2018, he announced Thursday.

"For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else," he said in a statement At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!! And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics."

Smith was term-limited as chairman of the committee.

Read more here.

 

EPA PLANS WEST VIRGINIA HEARING ON CLEAN POWER PLAN REPEAL: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing this month in West Virginia on its plan to repeal the Obama administration's climate change rule for power plants.

The hearing will be in Charleston and stretch over two days, Nov. 28 and 29.

By comparison, the Obama administration held four hearings in 2014 when it proposed the Clean Power Plan, in Pittsburgh, Denver, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittKavanaugh’s fate rests with Sen. Collins Trump admin appeals ruling ordering EPA to ban pesticide Government watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response MORE said picking West Virginia, a major coal-producing state, as the location for the hearing shows that the agency cares about the impact of the Clean Power Plan on coal-heavy areas.

"The EPA is headed to the heart of coal country to hear from those most impacted by the CPP and get their comments on the proposed Repeal Rule," he said in a Thursday statement. "The agency looks forward to hearing from all interested stakeholders."

Read more here

 

TAX REFORM PLAN ENDS ELECTRIC VEHICLE CREDIT: The tax reform bill introduced by House Republicans on Thursday would end a $7,500 credit for the purchase of electric vehicles and overhaul other energy-related provisions within the tax code.

The 429-page bill includes a repeal of the electric vehicle tax credit, which supporters have credited with reducing the price of emission-free cars for consumers and helping the burgeoning American electric vehicle industry grow.

The electric vehicle credit is one of several tax breaks Republicans would end as a way to help pay for their bill, which aims to reduce individual brackets and cut rates for businesses.

The legislation also reforms several energy-related tax credits, including production for renewable energy, small oil industry credits and nuclear power incentives.

Read more here.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Some Northern Californians are suing Pacific Gas & Electric Co., saying its maintenance of power lines caused the wildfires that started last month, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.

The Sierra Club is helping groups in Europe expand its Beyond Coal campaign there, Business Standard reports.

A report from the Oceania advocacy group says potential drilling off the coast of Virginia would conflict with military operations there, the Daily Press reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories...

-Senate confirms two energy regulators to fill commission

-EPA plans coal-country hearing on Obama climate rule repeal

-Lamar Smith to retire from Congress

-Energy Dept. clarifies Perry's sexual assault comments

-Senators spar over proposal to drill in Alaska wildlife refuge

-Sierra Club calls for Perry to resign over sexual assault comments

-GOP tax bill ends electric vehicle tax credit, overhauls other energy taxes

-Trump USDA pick linked to Mueller probe withdraws nomination

-Perry defends power restoration in Puerto Rico

-Perry links fossil fuel development to preventing sexual assault

-Trump science nominee admits lack of hard science credentials

-Tom Steyer raises profile with impeachment push

 

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