Overnight Energy: Zinke pushes back on elephant trophy criticism | Trump meets with oil execs | Perry defends proposed budget cuts
ZINKE PUSHES BACK ON ELEPHANT TROPHY CRITICISM: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday pushed back on criticism that the administration has greenlit new imports of African elephant trophies, telling a congressional committee that “we have not imported one elephant.”
Appearing before the House Natural Resources Committee to speak about the White House’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget, Zinke passed the buck on a new administration policy change that would open up elephant trophy imports on a case-by-case basis saying, “It’s not my policy.”
The policy, announced March 1, was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), an agency under the Interior Department.
Zinke’s response came after Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said the administration’s decision to allow the imports “represents an administration under undue influence by the National Rifle Association.”
Zinke said that the Interior Department was “on board with the president’s policy,” an apparent distinction from what the latest FWS policy states.
President Trump, however, has not commented on the recent FWS decision. The last time he commented on elephant trophy imports, he called the act “terrible” and said, “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country].”
Read more here.
Elephants, offshore drilling and doors, oh my!… Zinke also told committee members that there’s a new price to install a replacement door in his office. The price tag will drop significantly from $139,000 to $75,000, he said.
He blamed the cost on archaic rules.
“The problem is you have to follow stringent rules. We are bound by those rules–I don’t have a choice. I think a little more common sense can be put into it,” he said.
“Our rules have good intent, but when you’re bound by a law, this is when working together can be helpful.”
An Interior Spokesperson confirmed that negotiations were still in progress for the door’s replacement, saying in a statement, “The Secretary has directed that the contract be modified to change the scope of the project for a substantial cost savings.”
Read more here.
TRUMP MEETS WITH OIL EXECS: President Trump and Vice President Pence on Thursday met with oil company executives, who pressed the president on their trade policy priorities and cheered him for big moves on taxes and regulations.
The meeting was organized by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil industry’s top lobby, and included its president, Jack Gerard, as well as 13 executives from leading oil companies who sit on the group’s board, the White House said.
“The president met with members of the American Petroleum Institute to discuss the important role natural resources play in our energy sector,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement.
The event at the White House happened during a two-day meeting with the API leaders, who stayed at and met at the Trump International Hotel, owned by Trump and run by his son, Donald Jr.
Politico first reported on the meetings late Wednesday.
“API executives highlighted a host of the industry’s priority issues, including the importance of trade policies that recognize the integrated nature of North American and global markets,” API spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said in a statement.
“In particular, they discussed the industry’s desire to continue working with the Administration on necessary investment protections that advance the industry’s contributions to the U.S. economy, national security and reliable energy for American consumers,” Wohlschlegel continued.
While the oil sector has cheered Trump’s deregulatory and pro-fossil fuel agenda, API has joined the rest of big business in their concerns over Trump’s trade policy, including his recent announcement of massive tariffs on most steel and aluminum imports.
Read more here.
PERRY FACES SKEPTICISM OVER CUTS: Energy Secretary Rick Perry sought to assure House lawmakers Thursday that his proposed cuts to various programs does not mean he thinks they’re unimportant.
Perry said certain programs, like the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, are victims of their own successes and are eyed for cuts because they have met their goals.
“Just because a line item was reduced didn’t necessarily mean that that particular line had fallen out of favor,” Perry told the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee with authority over his department.
“We’ve had some successes, and we ought to be celebrating those successes.”
Perry pointed to two specific programs on vehicle technology and solar energy, which have both met their goals for each of the last five years. The overall office would get cut about about two-thirds under the Trump administration’s budget proposal released last month.
“We consider that to be meeting the goals that we put in place, and if you meet the goals — those are mature and they don’t need to be funded going forward,” Perry said.
“We’re re-prioritizing where these dollars need to go, what’s the best return on investment. We’re reprogramming — repurposing, if you will. But I think there’s some great celebration that needs to go on about some great successes that we’ve had, recognizing that we got a lot of competition around here, and that innovation, technology is what is going to take us to the lead.”
Read more here.
ON TAP FRIDAY: The Interior Department’s International Wildlife Conservation Council, an advisory committee Zinke formed to make recommendations on hunting and conservation policy, will have its first meeting.
AROUND THE WEB:
The Western Governors Association has released a ranking of the 50 worst invasive species in the western United States, the Associated Press reports.
Norwegian oil giant Statoil is rebranding as Equinor in a push to take attention away from oil, Reuters reports.
Steve Schlotterbeck, CEO of oil and gas driller EQT Corp., resigned abruptly after only a year as the company’s head, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
FROM THE HILL’S OPINION SECTION:
-Mike Carr, executive director of New Energy America, argues that clean energy manufacturing needs the federal government as a reliable partner.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Thursday’s stories …
-Dem rep corrects Zinke after he speaks Japanese in hearing
-Zinke says he negotiated down price of $139,000 office doors
-Oil execs press Trump on trade, regulations
-Green groups sue EPA for correspondence with climate skeptic group
-Zinke: ‘We have not imported one elephant’
-Perry defends proposed Energy Dept. cuts
-US officials battling global climate change despite Trump rhetoric: report