Energy & Environment — McCarthy leaving, Podesta joining WH climate team
Former Clinton aide John Podesta will join the White House climate team and current climate adviser Gina McCarthy will exit. Meanwhile, the G-7 has agreed to try to cap the price of Russian oil and fighting near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plan is causing concern.
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.
Programming note: There will be no Overnight Energy & Environment on Monday in observance of Labor Day. We’ll be back on Tuesday.
Podesta to oversee climate, clean energy enactment
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy will depart from her role later this month and former Clinton aide John Podesta will join the climate team.
McCarthy will leave her post on Sept. 16 and be replaced as National Climate Advisor by her deputy Ali Zaidi.
Podesta will oversee the implementation of the climate and clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, the major climate legislation Biden recently signed.
Some brief bios: Podesta was chief of staff to then-President Bill Clinton and later chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. During the 2016 campaign, the website WikiLeaks posted emails that had been hacked from his account.
Podesta, whose title will be senior advisor to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation, is currently chair of the board of directors for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
McCarthy’s appointment was announced prior to Biden’s inauguration, and she has been with the Biden administration since the start. She has helped guide the administration’s climate policy, including pushing for climate legislation.
Her exit comes after President Biden signed a bill that invests nearly $370 billion in climate and energy spending across the finish line. That bill is expected to boost the deployment of clean energy and help bring the country closer to its climate targets.
Zaidi, who will take over for McCarthy is currently her second-in-command. Previously, he served in the
- Zaidi, who will take over for McCarthy, is currently her second-in-command. Previously, he served in the Obama administration, working in both the Energy Department and the White House.
- McCarthy previously led the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration. In that role, she signed the first-ever standards to reduce planet-warming emissions from power plants, though this Clean Power Plan never took effect.
Read more about the climate team shakeup here.
RELATED: BIDEN NOMINATES REGULATION CHIEF
President Biden on Friday announced plans to nominate environmental law expert Richard Revesz to lead the small but powerful White House office in charge of overseeing federal regulations.
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which sits within the White House Office of Management and Budget, has been without a permanent occupant since Biden took office.
The White House said Friday that Biden intends to nominate Revesz, the dean emeritus of New York University’s law school, to serve as administrator of the OIRA, capping months of speculation about who the president would tap to serve in the role.
The office, which reviews proposed and final executive branch regulations, is currently being headed by a career OIRA official, Dominic Mancini.
Revesz must be confirmed by the Senate, where all Democrats will need to vote in favor of his nomination if Republicans are uniformly opposed to him.
- If confirmed, Revesz will be a critical figure in advancing the president’s policies — particularly those in the environmental space.
- The position will take on added importance if Democrats lose control of either the House or Senate in the November midterm elections, because in that case Biden will likely lean more heavily on regulations rather than legislation to accomplish his agenda in the next Congress.
Read more here, from The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant.
G7 agrees to cap Russian oil price
The G7 agreed to a price cap on Russian oil Friday as Russia shut a major gas pipeline to Europe, citing maintenance issues, amid the already fraught European energy situation.
The countries agreed that they would prohibit “services which enable maritime transportation,” like shipping, of oil from Russia if it’s sold at a price higher than the price cap — an attempt to curb Russian profits from the sale of the fuel.
“Today we confirm our joint political intention to [finalize] and implement a comprehensive prohibition of services which enable maritime transportation of Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products globally – the provision of such services would only be allowed if the oil and petroleum products are purchased at or below a price (“the price cap”) determined by the broad coalition of countries adhering to and implementing the price cap,” the group said in a statement sent out by the U.S. Treasury Department Friday.
The countries did not announce what the price cap would be, saying that this decision would come later.
Russia’s response: A Kremlin official said in response to plans of the price cap on Friday that Russia would not sell to any countries that participated in the price cap, rejecting any non-market principles associated with the sale of its energy products, Reuters reported.
- Russia is the third-largest oil producer in the world. Some countries, including the U.S., have already said they will not import Russian oil, but other countries including China and India have continued to provide a market for this oil.
- The refusal to ship Russian oil not sold below a price cap attempts to cut into these continued profits, Treasury officials said.
Countries like India and China, which have friendlier positions toward Russia than the West and have declined to condemn the country’s invasion of Ukraine in venues like the United Nations Security Council, could still purchase oil at or above the price set by the cap.
- But a senior Treasury official said the cap, which is enforced through restrictions on shipping-related industries like marine insurance, is being designed in a way that will still make it more expensive for Russia to sell energy outside of the coalition of participating countries.
- “If they choose to sell outside of the price cap coalition, it’s going to cost them more to sell because the services will be more expensive, and the countries they’re selling to will know that there’s a lower price out there that they can potentially get,” the official said.
Analysts are skeptical: Energy market analysts doubt whether the price cap will have a significant effect on global energy prices since Russia has been able to continue selling its oil and gas despite waves of sanctions from the U.S. and Europe.
“The truth is that Russia is already selling their oil despite all these sanctions,” Phil Flynn, energy analyst with the Price Futures Group, said in an interview with The Hill. “[The price cap] is actually raising the risk to Europe that Russia will cut off their supply, especially when they’re going to be most vulnerable.”
Read more about the cap here, from Rachel and The Hill’s Tobias Burns.
Shelling around nuclear plant sparks concerns
The world’s nuclear watchdog is visiting the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine this week amid concerns sparked by shelling around the plant.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned last month that military action around the plant raised “very real risk of nuclear disaster.”
- Experts say the effects of such a disaster could lead to radiation leakage that affects the local communities but would most likely not lead to a global catastrophe.
- “The kind of shelling we’re seeing should not be a significant impact on the reactors. In the way that it’s being done now, which is, you know, occasional shelling,” said Jonathan Cobb, senior communication manager at the World Nuclear Association.
The Zaporizhzhia plant — the largest nuclear plant in Europe — is directly on the front lines of the fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
The IAEA’s visit comes days after Ukraine warned of “renewed shelling.” In a statement released Aug. 28, the IAEA said the shelling hit the area of the plant’s “two special buildings” which house facilities like water treatment plants, equipment repair shops and waste management facilities.
All clear for now: All measurements of radioactivity at the site were within normal range, and there was “no indication of any hydrogen leakage.”
- There have only been two major accidents related to nuclear reactors in history. The first was Chernobyl in 1986, when a reactor when out of control during a test, leading it to explode.
- More recently, in March 2011, Japan was hit by a major earthquake followed by a tsunami that led to power loss at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The power led to the cooling systems failing in three reactors, causing the core to overheat.
Fukushima, not Chernobyl. Experts say the worst-case scenario at Zaporizhzhia would look more like what happened in Fukushima rather than what happened in Chernobyl.
Fighting between the Russians and Ukrainians could disrupt the cooling mechanism of the reactors, which could cause the core to overheat, leading it to melt — often referred to as a nuclear meltdown.
But getting to a nuclear meltdown would take a major event, experts say, because the reactors themselves have six-feet-thick concrete containment vessels protecting them.
- “At least in theory, if even if there was a direct hit, there would be at least some protection,” said Mitchel Wallerstein, a nonresident senior fellow at The Chicago Council.
- The greatest concern in such a scenario is for the local population that lives around the area.
The Ukrainian government has reportedly begun distributing potassium iodide pills, which help prevent inhaled or swallowed radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid — a gland located in the neck that makes hormones to help to regulate the many functions of the body, such as its metabolic rate. Exposure to radiation can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Read more here from The Hill’s Jordan Williams.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on bills related to preventing new regulations for livestock and motor sports, and that would create a grant program for mitigating impacts of wildfire smoke
- The Senate EPW Committee will also hold a confirmation hearing on nominees for the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Texas’ heat index could reach 125 degrees over the next 30 years, study finds (The Texas Tribune)
- What makes this California heat wave exceptional (SFGate)
- Scientists detect second ‘vast’ methane leak at Pemex oil field in Mexico (Reuters)
- Tire Pollution Will Get Worse As Heavy EVs Hit the Road (Jalopnik)
- Hurricane-free August was extremely rare. Don’t relax yet, experts say. (NOLA.com)
😂 Lighter click: Kerry’s got jokes
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 next week.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.