Overnight Energy: GOP chairman has 'more questions' on Whitefish deal | Dems slam EPA science board changes | Industry pushes back on Perry grid plan

Overnight Energy: GOP chairman has 'more questions' on Whitefish deal | Dems slam EPA science board changes | Industry pushes back on Perry grid plan
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CHAIRMAN RAISES NEW QUESTIONS OVER WHITEFISH: A Republican House chairman said Tuesday he has more questions for Puerto Rican authorities about their controversial hurricane recovery contract with a small Montana energy firm.

Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopLand and Water Conservation Fund is good for business Trump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Looking to the historic leasing program to alleviate the maintenance backlog in national parks MORE (R-Utah) said documents provided to his House Natural Resources Committee last week raised fresh concerns about the island's $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy. Officials rescinded that deal last month amid questions from lawmakers and government watchdogs.

"There are some other circumstances within those documents that add more questions, which means at some point I would like those to be answered, and someone needs to look at that," Bishop said during a hearing on Hurricane Maria recovery efforts. He didn't expand on what questions the documents raised during the hearing or in a short interview later Tuesday.

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Bishop's committee was due to hear Tuesday from Ricardo Ramos, the executive director of the state-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). But Ramos didn't attend the hearing, with PREPA saying in a letter that "he is unable to participate in the scheduled hearing due to urgent efforts on the ongoing emergency restoration" to bring power back to the island.

Instead, officials from a federal oversight board used the hearing to defend their decision to appoint an emergency "chief transformation officer" to manage PREPA and its response to Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and others are due to testify before the Natural Resources Committee next week.

Read more here.

 

ENERGY INDUSTRY PUSHES BACK ON GRID RULE: A coalition of 20 energy groups and companies argued Tuesday that the supporters of Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight 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 The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Hurricane Florence a new test for Trump team MORE's proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants haven't proven a need for the regulation.

The coalition, which includes strange bedfellows representing natural gas, oil, wind energy and solar energy, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to scrap the proposal, saying the comments filed by supporters don't show a legal justification for it.

"The record in this proceeding, including the initial comments, does not support the discriminatory payments proposed" by Perry, the groups wrote.

"The commission is simply not authorized to provide an entire class of generation with a new payment stream, whether temporary or permanent, based on a desire to keep all options open for the future," they said.

"While the undersigned support the goals of a reliable and resilient grid, adoption of ill-considered discriminatory payments contemplated in the [proposal is not supportable -- or even appropriate -- from a legal or policy perspective."

Tuesday was the deadline for final reply comments in FERC's consideration of Perry's September proposal.

The Nuclear Energy Institute used its reply comments to reiterate its support for the proposal and its position that there is a real grid resilience problem that needs a quick solution.

"Generation resilience and resource diversity are critical to our ability to continue providing reliable electric supply, and those attributes are not currently valued by the markets," the group wrote. "Few parties dispute either point. That alone provides a basis for the commission to act."

Read more here.

 

SYRIA SIGNS PARIS DEAL: Syrian officials said Tuesday they would sign the Paris climate deal, a move that leaves the U.S. isolated in its resistance to the greenhouse gas-cutting agreement.

Syria made the announcement during a United Nations climate meeting in Germany, the first since President Trump announced he would pull the United States out of the climate deal when it's allowed to do so in 2020.

At the time, the only countries not to sign the agreement were Nicaragua and Syria. The former  -- which wanted a stronger climate deal -- signed on in October.

Read more here.

 

State hits back at Syria: The State Department hit back at Syria later Tuesday, mocking the nation's Paris agreement signing and using it to criticize the human rights abuses by President Bashar al-Assad.

"I find it ironic that the government Syria would say that it wants to be involved and that it cares so much [about] climate and things like CO2 gases," State spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

"If the government of Syria cared so much about what was put in the air, then it wouldn't be gassing its own people."

Nauert reiterated the Trump administration's position in Paris: it will pull out as soon as possible unless the terms can be improved for the United States.

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo working to rebuild ties with US diplomats: report NYT says it was unfair on Haley curtain story Rubio defends Haley over curtains story: Example of media pushing bias MORE had supported Paris and unsuccessfully pushed Trump to stay in the pact.

 

France won't invite Trump to climate meeting: A French official said Tuesday that Trump won't be invited to a climate change summit President Emmanuel Macron is hosting next month in Paris.

"The United States have a bit of a special status for that summit," the official told Reuters, adding that it will be limited to nations committed to the Paris pact.

But a spokeswoman for the French embassy in Washington downplayed the Reuters report, telling the Washington Examiner that it is still possible Trump will be invited, and that invitations have not yet gone out.

Read more here.

 

DEMS SLAM EPA OVER SCIENCE PANEL MOVE: A group of mostly Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday slammed a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy designed to overhaul the agency's scientific advisory panels.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE, 62 members of the House said his new policy blocking scientists who receive EPA grants from serving on the agency's science panels is an "arbitrary and unnecessary limitation to disqualify preeminent experts" from advising the agency.

"We are alarmed at the signal this sends about the EPA's willingness to seek out objective, independent scientific expertise in fulfilling its mandate to protect the environment," the members wrote in their letter.

"The [Science Advisory Board] has been well-respected because of its historical inclusion of independent, objective scientists from both academic and industry backgrounds."

Pruitt last week announced the agency would block scientists who receive EPA grants from serving on science advisory boards, saying such positions represent a conflict of interest and regulated industries should have a louder voice in EPA operations.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear from two Trump nominees: Andrew Wheeler to be Deputy Administrator of the EPA, and Kathleen Hartnett White to lead the Council on Environmental Quality

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The House Natural Resources Committee will vote on the GOP's energy bill for public lands and offshore, along with eight other bills in its jurisdiction.

 

Rest of Wednesday's agenda ...

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote on whether to confirm Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineNASA looking into selling naming rights for rockets to corporate brands: report NASA administrator says he always thought humans caused climate change We really are going back to the moon and then on to Mars MORE to be administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Officials in New Delhi said toxic haze there has gotten so bad that the city is akin to a "gas chamber," The New York Times reports.

The judge overseeing rancher Cliven Bundy's trial in Las Vegas delayed proceedings Tuesday so she could review a newly disclosed video that Bundy's attorney says shows that the government had a surveillance camera at his house, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports.

EBay is cracking down on sales of Hawaii beach sand which violate a state law, HawaiiNewsNow reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...  

-Lawmakers 'alarmed' by EPA's science board changes

-Supporters of DOE coal rule haven't proven their case, energy groups say

-GOP chairman has 'more questions' about Puerto Rico's Whitefish Energy contract

-France: Trump not invited to climate change summit 'for the time being'

-Syria signs Paris climate agreement

-EPA, Pruitt may face lawsuits over advisory board changes

 

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