Overnight Energy: Perry eyes decades-old law to boost coal industry | California to mandate solar panels on new homes | Dem states push for court decision on Obama climate rule

Overnight Energy: Perry eyes decades-old law to boost coal industry | California to mandate solar panels on new homes | Dem states push for court decision on Obama climate rule
© Camille Fine

PERRY EYES COLD-WAR ERA LAW TO HELP COAL INDUSTRY: Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryPartisan politics at independent agency draws bipartisan rebuke Overnight 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 MORE told lawmakers that the Trump administration is looking into using a Cold War-era law to prop up struggling coal and nuclear power plants.

Speaking to the House Science Committee Wednesday, Perry named the Defense Production Act as something the Department of Energy (DOE) is "looking very closely at" as a way to secure the nation's energy grid.

"That's approaching this from an economic standpoint and I think ... it's about the national security of our country, of keeping our plants, all of them, online, being able to deliver energy" in an emergency, Perry told the lawmakers

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"So, we're looking at a number of ways to approach this. I know the Defense Production Act is one of those ways to address [it] that we're looking at very closely as well."

Bloomberg reported last month that White House aides were looking into how to best implement use the 68-year old law, which was passed by Congress in the midst of the Korean War. The law gives the government broad latitude to nationalize private industry in the name of security.

Why it matters: Using the defense law is just one in a series of strategies that the Trump administration has considered or been pushed to use to boost coal and nuclear power.

Officials argue that without coal and nuclear, the electric grid is in danger. But other power sources say the administration is just trying to help their favored fuels.

Flashback: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a plan earlier this year by Perry to require higher payments to coal and nuclear plants than their competitors.

A big decision ahead: FirstEnergy Solutions, a major utility company that provides nuclear and coal power, has petitioned Perry to declare a grid emergency and order utilities to pay more for the coal and nuclear.

Read more here.

 

PRUITT TOUTS REG ROLLBACK ON BIRTHDAY: Environmental Protection Agency (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 celebrated the agency's regulatory reform achievements and initiatives with a roundtable discussion with industry groups Wednesday. Pruitt met with over 80 partners of EPA's Smart Sectors Program to kick start Trump's "2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions," the EPA said. Participants included the president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, Portland Cement Association, and the Real Estate Roundtable.

Pruitt called the agenda a reflection of "the Trump administration's commitment to reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens."

"EPA is advancing this agenda by listening and working in partnership with the regulated community to improve environmental protections for the American people while also promoting economic growth," he said in a statement.

Pruitt was simultaneously celebrating another achievement: his 50th birthday.

At the roundtable Pruitt reportedly told attendees he'd been celebrating all day.

No word on whether the administrator will frequent his favorite D.C. dining spot, Le Diplomate, to celebrate his milestone tonight.

 

CALIFORNIA TO MANDATE SOLAR PANELS ON NEW HOMES: California will soon become the first state to require all new homes be built with solar panels.

The California Energy Commission voted unanimously, 5-0, Wednesday to change a state building code that would require all new homes be equipped with the renewable energy technology.

The changes, which would go into effect in 2020, are expected to cost home-builders between $8,000 and $12,000 per house, but the commission says it will also save homeowners about $80 a month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.  

Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, called the vote, "historic."

"This is an undeniably historic decision for the state and the U.S. California has long been our nation's biggest solar champion, and its mass adoption of solar has generated huge economic and environmental benefits, including bringing tens of billions of dollars of investment into the state," Hopper said in a statement. "Now, California is taking bold leadership again, recognizing that solar should be as commonplace as the front door that welcomes you home.

The state is already the nation's leader for solar capacity. Several California cities have already been mandating some solar power in new buildings.

Why it matters: The decision comes as the Golden State is heavily pushing back against Trump administration initiatives focused on revitalizing the fossil fuel and nuclear industries.

In February, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE implemented a 30 percent tariff on solar-panel technology imported into the country -- a move many U.S. solar companies say will impact their bottom line and increase manufacturing costs.

Read more here..

 

More news from the Golden State ...

HUGH HEWITT WARNED OVER PRUITT LOBBYING: Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt is getting scolded over news that he pushed Pruitt to take action on a Superfund site in his home county.

Emails obtained by the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act show that Hewitt emailed Pruitt last year to set up a meeting with the law firm Larson O'Brien, where Hewitt works and which represents the Orange County Water District.

The water district wanted the EPA to put more effort into a Superfund cleanup effort that the Obama administration had designated. Pruitt soon put the project on a short list of sites slated for "immediate and intense action."

After Politico reported on the exchange this week, MSNBC, where Hewitt hosts the Saturday show "Hugh Hewitt," reprimanded him.

"He was given a verbal warning as such activity is a violation of our standards," an MSNBC spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesman said Hewitt had previously agreed not to discuss EPA matters on his show, since he considers Pruitt a friend and Hewitt's son works at the agency.

The Washington Post, where Hewitt writes columns, is also seeking to clamp down on potential conflicts of interest amid the news.

Read more here.

 

DEMS WANT RULING ON CLEAN POWER PLAN: A group of attorneys for Democratic states and cities is asking a federal appeals court to issue a ruling on former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing MORE's landmark climate change rule for power plants.

The coalition, led by acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, is fighting back against the Trump administration's request to delay the litigation over the EPA's Clean Power Plan for another 60 days.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the case in September 2016. But President Trump took office before the court ruled, and federal attorneys successfully asked the judges to hold off on their ruling to let the administration work through its process of repealing the climate regulation.

It has now been more than a year since the case was first delayed, and the attorneys for 16 Democratic states, six cities and a county are getting anxious.

"EPA has neither completed a rulemaking nor even committed to a deadline for doing so," the attorneys wrote Wednesday to the court, saying they "reiterate their continued opposition to EPA's attempt to stave off judicial review of the legality of the Clean Power Plan based on EPA's plans to repeal (and possibly replace) the Plan at some undisclosed future date."

Read more here.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY:

The House is expected to vote on the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, which is meant to move the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site project forward and allow interim waste storage sites, among other steps. The bill is likely to pass easily, but its future in the Senate is unknown, at best.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeEnergy development will likely land one bird on the Endangered Species list Montana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Overnight Energy: Navajo coal plant to close | NC dam breach raises pollution fears | House panel to examine endangered species bills MORE will testify to the Senate Appropriations Committee's Interior and EPA subpanel on his fiscal 2019 budget request.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee will hold a hearing on the state of the nation's electricity transmission infrastructure.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

A video posted on Facebook helped Utah wildlife officials track down a suspected poacher, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Pennsylvania regulators want lawmakers to allow them to audit natural gas companies' hiring of women and minorities, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.

Richmond, Calif.'s port has seen a spike in coal exports, CBS San Francisco Bay Area reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories...

-Dem states want court to decide on Obama climate rule

-Hugh Hewitt scolded for Pruitt advocacy

-California to be first state to mandate solar panels on new homes

-DOE looking 'very closely' at Cold War-era law to boost coal, nuclear production