Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Poll finds majority oppose Trump offshore drilling plan | Senators say Trump endorsed ethanol deal | Automaker group wants to keep increasing efficiency standards

MAJORITY OF VOTERS OPPOSE TRUMP’S OFFSHORE DRILLING PLAN: More than half of voters oppose proposed plans by the Trump administration to expand oil and gas drilling off coastal states, according to a poll out Tuesday.

The survey conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland found that 60 percent of voters surveyed are against the Interior Department’s plan to lift a ban on oil drilling along coastlines and expand drilling around Alaska.

Additionally, 70 percent of respondents supported states’ rights to request a drilling exemption through a waiver, the study found.


Support for lifting the ban on drilling largely fell along party lines. Democrats and independents opposed lifting the ban by 86 and 60 percent, respectively, and similarly supported granting states waiver authority by 86 and 65 percent, respectively. On the other hand, two-thirds of Republicans surveyed supported lifting the offshore drilling ban, with 56 percent of Republicans supporting state waiver rights.

When the study asked respondents who lived in one of the 15 coastal U.S. states currently requesting an exemption, 88 percent of Democrats approved of their state’s request, as did 50 percent of Republicans.

Why it matters: The poll comes at a time when states are mulling over the authority they have to deny the Trump administration its plan to expand offshore drilling on the coast to increase profits from oil and gas royalties.

Currently, most coastal states that would be affected have requested a waiver. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke admitted in a hearing last month that oil and gas company interest in offshore drilling is also significantly lower than their interest in land drilling.

Read more here.


SENATORS SAY TRUMP AGREED TO ETHANOL DEAL: President Trump has agreed to make a handful of changes to the federal ethanol mandate sought by oil and ethanol interests, according to senators who met with the president Tuesday.

The changes are meant to reduce the prices of credits that oil refiners buy if they can’t blend ethanol into their fuels — a win for refiners — and to allow higher concentrations of ethanol to be sold year-round — a win for the ethanol and corn industries.

The changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, all of which Trump will reportedly seek to make through regulatory or executive action, will be the most concrete result from months of efforts by oil- and corn-state Republican senators to push Trump to act.

“The president’s deal will save the jobs of thousands of blue-collar union workers working at refineries in Pennsylvania, in Texas and across the country,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who met with Trump earlier Tuesday, told reporters.

Allowing sales of higher ethanol concentrations “is a big, big win for corn farmers,” Cruz said, estimating it would spur 700 million gallons of new ethanol sales a year.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), whose state hosts the East Coast’s largest refinery, called the deal an “agreement in principal,” and said some important details need to be worked out.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), whose state dominates the country in corn ethanol production, confirmed the deal via Twitter, but noted the “devil [is] in details.”

All three GOP senators were in the meeting, along with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

The details are due to be fleshed out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Agriculture.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the deal, ethanol produced domestically and sold abroad would for the first time count toward minimum sales volumes that the EPA sets each year under the RFS. That is meant to make it easier for the industry to meet the annual volumes, and reduce pressure for domestic fuel refiners to buy ethanol or blending credits, pushing prices down.

Read more.


AUTOMAKERS’ GROUP DOESN’T WANT EFFICIENCY FREEZE: One of the nation’s main automaker lobbying groups opposes the Trump administration’s proposal to stop increasing federal fuel efficiency standards.

Mitch Bainwol, head of the Auto Alliance, told lawmakers Tuesday that his group instead wants federal regulators in the EPA and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to implement standards that increase each year.

“We’re hopeful that the slope continues to rise,” Bainwol told Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), when the congressman asked about reports that the Trump administration wants to freeze standards in 2020 and stop increasing them after that.

“We’re in favor of year-over-year fuel efficiency [increases],” Bainwol continued at the hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment.

The administration is planning soon to propose that the standards on car efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions enforced by the two agencies stop increasing in 2020, people familiar with the matter said.

Read more.


DOE WANTS TO BUILD SMALL COAL PLANTS ‘OF THE FUTURE’: The Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking comment on plans to invest in the development of small-scale, modular coal plants they are deeming the “power plants of the future.”

DOE submitted a request for information Tuesday to gather input from stakeholders on developing pilot versions of the plants, for construction by 2025.

“The coal-based pilot plant will be used as the basis for scaling up to a commercial offering that is highly efficient (40 percent or greater higher heating value), modular (unit sizes of approximately 50 to 350 [megawatts]), and economical for both international and domestic power generation,” according to the request.

The request marks a shift for the government from investment in carbon capture technologies to reduce emissions from coal plants to the development of more efficient coal plants without the capture technologies. The guidance though does say the pilot plants must be “carbon capture ready.”

It’s more common for the words “small” and “modular” to be applied to nuclear reactor technologies. The U.S. is largely known for behemoth coal plants that are hard to turn off.

The DOE’s push toward developing smaller scale plants indicates President Trump’s desire to revive coal, despite the industry seeing revenue drop.

Read more here.



-White House aides telling Trump to fire Pruitt: report

-Trump’s support for embattled Pruitt could be wavering



Energy Secretary Rick Perry will head to the House Science Committee to testify on his department’s budget request for fiscal 2019.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s subpanel on federal lands will hold a hearing on law enforcement programs at the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet to vote on its water infrastructure legislation.



The San Jose water agency approved funding of up to $650 million to build Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels project, the Mercury News reports.

A California judge affirmed an earlier ruling that coffee sold in the state must carry cancer warnings, the Associated Press reports.

The international environmental impact of tourism is about three times bigger than previously estimated, BBC News reports.



Check out Tuesday’s stories …

-Puerto Rico’s electric grid under scrutiny as new hurricane season looms

-Trump officials seek ideas on coal ‘power plants of the future’

-Trump agrees to ethanol mandate changes, senators say

-Senators unveil bipartisan water infrastructure bill

-Automaker lobby opposes Trump proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards

-Majority of voters oppose Trump offshore drilling plan: poll

White House aides telling Trump to fire Pruitt: report

-EPA pesticide settlement comes under scrutiny


Tags Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Jerry McNerney Joni Ernst Natural gas Offshore drilling oil Pat Toomey Rick Perry Ryan Zinke Ted Cruz

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