Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Big oil fights Trump's ethanol plan | Judge upholds protections for sage grouse species | California counters Trump on car emissions standards

Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Big oil fights Trump's ethanol plan | Judge upholds protections for sage grouse species | California counters Trump on car emissions standards
© Anna Moneymaker

OIL LOBBY FIGHTING TRUMP ON ETHANOL: The oil industry is trying to stop the Trump administration from implementing a plan to allow more ethanol to be blended into gasoline during summer months.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE has stated that he's committed to allowing E15 -- gasoline with 15 percent ethanol -- to be sold in the summer, which is currently prohibited due to air pollution concerns.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to propose regulatory action to allow E15 soon, fulfilling a longstanding wish of the ethanol and corn industries, and lawmakers representing corn-heavy states.


But the American Petroleum Institute (API) -- whose member oil companies might sell less gasoline if the policy goes through -- has launched a campaign to push back.

It argues that higher ethanol blends are unsafe for car engines, the change can't be accomplished without congressional action and such a policy would kill bipartisan momentum to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard.

"The E15 waiver is a flawed, anti-consumer policy," Frank Macchiarola, downstream group director for the API, told reporters Friday.

"With this so-called deal, the EPA would be giving the store to the ethanol lobby and sticking the American consumer with the tab," he said. "We know that there is time. They can step back from this, they can reconsider it. And that's what we're urging them to do."

Macchiarola said the group might support allowing E15 year-round, but only if Congress does it and also agrees to completely end the federal ethanol mandate in 2022.

Read more.


Off to court?: Since every issue in energy policy ends up in court nowadays, it's likely that whatever the EPA does on E15 will result in litigation.

Macchiarola kept his cards close to the chest Friday, but made it clear that API won't be afraid to go to court.

"We are going to analyze the decision, but we intend to leave all of our legal options on the table," he said.

"We will respond very strongly to whatever the administration does if we don't find a fair solution to this issue."


What's next: The EPA has been tight-lipped about when it will move forward on its E15 plans, or even what it might do. But we're hearing that if something happens, it will be proposed in the coming weeks.



TGIF! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill. CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.


JUDGE UPHOLDS GUNNISON SAGE GROUSE LISTING: A federal judge has upheld Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the Gunnison sage grouse, rejecting challenges from the states that host it.

Judge Christine Arguello of the District Court of Colorado said that the Fish and Wildlife Service's 2014 decision, during the Obama administration, to list the bird as "threatened" and protect 1.4 million acres of its habitat followed the relevant laws.

"Substantial evidence supports that the near-extinction of the six satellite populations, coupled with the declining Gunnison Basin population, causes the entire species to face extinction 'in the foreseeable future,'" she wrote, quoting the ESA.

"The service thoughtfully progressed through the required analysis under the ESA, supporting its findings with scientific analyses and data," she said. "Affording it the highest deference, the court finds that the service's ultimate conclusion that the Gunnison sage-grouse is 'threatened' under the ESA was supported by reason and not arbitrarily drawn, nor was it contrary to law."

Arguello made a similar finding for the critical habitat designations.


CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCES COUNTER-PUNCH TO EPA VEHICLE ROLLBACK: California officials announced a regulatory counterpunch against the Trump administration's proposal to roll back auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards. Officials on the California Air Resource Board (CARB) announced Friday that only cars meeting the federal standards set forth in 2012 for model years 2017-2025 are compliant with the state's air pollution standards. It's a strong revoke of the Trump administration's newest proposal that would weaken the current federal emissions standards. The move essentially makes all auto manufacturers comply with the more stringent rules set out under the Obama administration in order to sell vehicles in the state.

"This will ensure California and the other 12 states that follow its vehicle rules will continue to be able to reduce climate-changing emissions from vehicles and take the necessary steps under the Clean Air Act to address air pollution and clean the air," a press release on the action read.

The other 12 states that also adopted California's emissions standards are also expected to update their regulations in a similar fashion, the release said.

Read more on the initial proposal here.



Imagine turning soybean oil, used cooking oil and waste animal fats into fuel so amazing it supports more than $11.4 billion in economic activity. That’s biodiesel.

Biodiesel is the innovation driving more than 60,000 US jobs and fueling $2.54 billion in wages. An American-made fuel transporting goods across the country, heating homes and driving our economy forward. Biodiesel: America’s Advanced Biofuel.


ON TAP NEXT WEEK: The nation's eyes are on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, but there's a lot happening in energy and environmental policy.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has put out an official notice that it will hold a markup meeting Tuesday, although the notice doesn't say what bills will be considered.

The Democratic staff for the committee said earlier this week that the panel will likely consider Ranking Member Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing MORE's (D-Wash.) bill to indefinitely reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanRepublican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Senators call for passage of bill to cement alcohol excise tax relief The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms MORE (R-Ohio) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Congress ends its year under shadow of COVID-19 MORE's (D-Va.) bill to use a portion of energy revenue from federal land and offshore to pay for National Park Service maintenance.


The Supreme Court will kick off its 2018 term Monday by hearing arguments in Weyerhauser Co. v. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The case concerns the dusky gopher frog, an endangered species. The main question at issue is whether federal officials can designate as "critical habitat" an area of private land where the species does not currently live, but which officials believe is biologically necessary for the frog's survival.

The court's decision could have a big impact on enforcement of the ESA, with potential ramifications across government for how agencies interpret statute.

Since Kavanaugh has not been confirmed to the court, he won't be able to participate in the Weyerhauser case.

Read more about the case at SCOTUSblog.



Ranchers in New Mexico and the National Park Service are at odds over whose responsibility it is to fix a fence that borders a national preserve, the Associated Press reports.

China's government says compliance with environmental laws is improving, but it identified some "weak links," Reuters reports.

Oil prices settled Friday at yet another four-year high, MarketWatch reports.



Check out Friday's stories ...

-Judge upholds protections for western bird species

-Oil lobby clashes with Trump over ethanol plan

-Trump administration predicted seven degree increase in global temperature by 2100