Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Feds say solar panel makers skirted tariffs 

Solar panels at the DTE O’Shea Solar Park work in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Commerce Department says four solar panel makers circumvented U.S. tariffs. Meanwhile, the EPA sets the stage for a final veto of the Pebble Mine, and House Natural Resources Committee leaders want documents on a controversial Trump-era pardon. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Zack Budryk.

Probe finds solar manufacturers dodged US tariffs 

The Commerce Department has reached a preliminary determination that Chinese solar panel manufacturers illegally circumvented U.S. tariffs by shipping them through southeast Asian nations. 

Who’s involved? A Commerce official confirmed on a call with reporters Friday morning that the investigation found four companies were engaged in circumvention: BYD Hong Kong, Canadian Solar, Vina Solar and Trina. The official also identified solar companies that were determined not to have circumvented tariffs, including New East Solar, Hanwha, Boviet and Jinko. 

  • The tariffs will not be actively collected until June of 2024, according to the official. 
  • The investigation began earlier this year in response to a complaint filed by U.S. company Auxin Solar, which alleged Chinese manufacturers were evading U.S. tariffs by routing manufacturing through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
  • The probe was vocally condemned by the U.S. solar power industry at large, which warned that it could severely disrupt the renewable energy supply chain as the Biden administration has set a tight deadline to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

Pushback: Pro-solar energy members of Congress have questioned the investigation as well.

“We are only able to supply about 15 percent domestically of the demand for solar panels. So we don’t have the capacity here right now to fulfill all the orders there are and even finish the projects that are already bid out,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) told The Hill in May. 

In June, President Biden announced the four nations in question would be exempted from solar tariffs for two years to offset any impact from the investigation “in order to ensure the U.S. has access to a sufficient supply of solar modules to meet electricity generation needs while domestic manufacturing scales up.” 

Read more about the announcement here.

EPA closes in on veto of controversial mine project

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended blocking a proposed gold and copper mining project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Thursday. 

  • The proposed Pebble Mine seeks to extract ore from the Pebble deposit in the southwestern part of the state, the largest known undeveloped copper ore deposit in the world. It is also home to a salmon fishery that supplies half the world’s sockeye salmon, and opponents of the mine have warned the project would devastate the fishery. 
  • “If affirmed by EPA’s Office of Water during the fourth and final step, this action would help protect salmon fishery areas that support world-class commercial and recreational fisheries, and that have sustained Alaska Native communities for thousands of years, supporting a subsistence-based way of life for one of the last intact wild salmon-based cultures in the world,” regional administrator Casey Sixkiller said in a statement recommending a veto. 

What’s next? The recommendation from Sixkiller, the administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Northwest region, is the penultimate step in the long, involved veto process. The recommendation will now go to the desk of Radhika Fox, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water, who has 60 days to either issue the veto, amend it or decline. 

Local environmentalists and conservationists had long opposed the project, while the state of Alaska, which owns the land, has backed it. However, some conservatives such as Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. have also come out against the project. Carlson aired a segment opposing the project on his show, the top-rated cable news program, in 2020. 

  • Another high-profile opponent is Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola (D), who won a full Congressional term in November on a promise of “pro-fish, pro-family and pro-freedom” policies. 
  • “Pebble Mine poses an existential risk to the greatest sockeye salmon run in the world. In Congress I’ll work to establish permanent protections. I’m made of salmon. I’ll fight for salmon,” she said in a July tweet

Read more about the veto recommendation here.

Dems seek Interior documents on bribery allegation 

Two Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee are seeking documents from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that they say could shine line on whether President Trump offered a pardon to two people convicted of setting fires on public land because of a campaign donation. 

In a letter to Haaland on Friday, Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) outline what they say are indications that real estate developer Mike Ingram donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men. 

  • Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son Steven were convicted in 2012 of deliberately setting a series of fires on lands they leased from the Bureau of Land Management, shortly after allegedly illegally killing several deer on the property. 
  • They were sentenced to five years in prison with time served in 2015, sparking outrage among many involved in conservative politics in the western U.S. Anger at the sentence was the impetus for the 40-day armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.  

In 2018, the letter states, an assistant to Ingram emailed the Interior Department’s Senior Deputy Director for External and Intergovernmental Affairs to make the case for a pardon of the Hammonds. The subject line of the email was “Articles Mike told you about,” suggesting Ingram had been discussing the case with administration officials. Democrats on the committee have previously claimed Ingram’s status as a donor allowed him access to high-level administration officials to lobby on issues. 

A few weeks later, then-Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a vocal backer of pardoning the Hammonds, tweeted that Trump was considering it. The following day, Ingram donated $10,000 to the pro-Trump America First Action, Inc. Super PAC, according to the letter. Trump pardoned the Hammonds eight days later. 

Grijalva and Porter requested all communications pertaining to the Hammonds in 2017 and 2018 between Interior Department personnel and Ingram, representatives from Ingram’s company and representatives of the super-PAC, as well as any documents relating to the pardons. 

Read more about the letter here. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Lula proposes pact to curb Brazilian soy linked to savanna deforestation (Reuters
  • Can electric leaf blowers slow Colorado ozone pollution? (The Colorado Sun
  • Should you not have kids because of climate change? It’s complicated. (The Washington Post
  • This California city asked where its recycling went. The answer wasn’t pretty. (NBC News
  • Denver gets go-ahead from EPA after progress on lead pipes (The Associated Press

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

   Tuesday

  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on overcrowding in national parks 
  • The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing entitledSolving the Climate Crisis: Key Accomplishments, Additional Opportunities, and the Need for Continued Action” 

🐪 Lighter click: You’re on Candid Camel 

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.  

Tags Biden Donald Trump Jr. Jacky Rosen Mary Peltola Tucker Carlson

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