FEATURED:

Overnight Energy: Coal consumption on track for four-decade low | Greens sue for records of EPA chief's meetings | Zinke picks fight with key Dem at odd time | White House jumps into energy subsidies fight

COAL USE ON TRACK FOR FOUR DECADE LOW: The United States is on track for the lowest yearly coal consumption in nearly four decades, the federal government said Tuesday.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), the nonpartisan data arm of the Energy Department, said it is expecting coal use to fall 4 percent, to 691 million short tons, for 2018.

That would be the lowest level since 1979.

"The decline in coal consumption since 2007 is the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal's market share," the EIA said in a Tuesday blog post.

ADVERTISEMENT

The United States had 1,470 coal-fired power generating units in 2007, with 313 gigawatts of capacity, the EIA said.

But 529 of those units, with 55 gigawatts of capacity, had closed by 2017. And another 11 gigawatts of coal capacity retired through September of this year.

S&P Global Market Intelligence found last week that the rate of coal-plant closures doubled this year over last.

The coal decline comes despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony MORE's outspoken promises to save the coal industry and end what he called former President Obama's "war on coal." Trump declared in August that "the coal industry is back."

Read more here.

 

Happy Tuesday! 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.

 

GREENS SUE EPA FOR RECORDS OF WHEELER'S MEETINGS WITH ENERGY LOBBYISTS: Two environmental groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for records of any meetings that new Administrator Andrew Wheeler may have held with his former employer and several other energy groups.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth (FOE) brought the lawsuit on Tuesday, arguing the EPA should release records of any meetings that Wheeler may have had with the communications and lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Wheeler worked for nearly a decade at Faegre Baker Daniels, where he lobbied for fossil fuel groups, before joining the EPA.

"Wheeler is crippling environmental protections that inconvenience his old clients," said Bill Snape, the Center for Biological Diversity's senior counsel. "The public needs to know what happened between Wheeler's former employer and the environmental agency he's now running into the ground."

Wheeler's history advocating for energy companies was highlighted in his Senate confirmation hearing for deputy administrator last April. He promised senators at the time that he would avoid conflicts of interests with his former clients.

In the lawsuit, the environmental groups claimed that EPA was in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for failing to release the sought-after documents in an appropriate period of time.

Read more here.

 

ZINKE'S FIGHT WITH TOP DEM LAWMAKER: Rep. Raúl Grijalva is prepared to work with Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump attends Army-Navy game Trump is no fan of trophy hunting — will he let giraffes go extinct? Trump admin floats reduced protections for imperiled sage grouse MORE, who on Friday tweeted that it is "hard" for the Arizona Democrat "to think straight from the bottom of the bottle."

Zinke's public insult of the likely incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee was both a sign of the times in President Trump's Washington, and the kind of deeply personal jab that managed to turn heads.

An oil industry lobbyist who's been supportive of Zinke's policies said the tweet didn't benefit anyone, and he said it's stirring more speculation that Zinke, who is under federal investigation for a number of alleged ethical breaches, may be planning to leave office soon.

Zinke's personal attack could have lasting impacts.

"I think it erases any hope that he would cooperate in any good faith with the committee, and escalates the rhetoric at a really inopportune time for him," said Kate Kelly, director of public lands at the left-wing Center for American Progress.

"Even if he does leave soon, I think that this action will damage the relationship between the Interior Department and the committee for future secretaries," she said.

Adam Sarvana, a spokesman for Grijalva, said the congressman won't hold a grudge against Zinke.

"My boss' oversight and legislative strategy very much won't change because of Zinke's tweet," he said.

Sarvana said that Grijalva is also unlikely to drag Zinke before the committee sooner because of the tweet -- a power that he will have when he wields the gavel.

The incoming chairman had planned for Zinke's first hearing to be on the Trump administration's budget once it is released early next year, and that plan hasn't changed, Sarvana said.

"The American people know who I'm here to serve, and they know in whose interests I'm acting. They don't know the same about Secretary Zinke," Grijalva said in a statement after the tweet.

Read more here.

 

WHITE HOUSE JUMPS INTO ENERGY FIGHT:

President Trump's chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow has put the administration on record opposing tax credits for electric cars and renewable energy.

The statement drew the White House into a long-running and contentious fight over the role of government in promoting environmentally friendly cars and energy.

What he said: "As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies," Kudlow said Monday, according to Reuters. "And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it's for renewables and so forth." 

Kudlow appeared to be referring to federal tax credits for electric cars and wind and solar energy.

The catch: Support for the tax incentives generally falls along party lines, with Democrats united in backing them and most Republicans in opposition.

But observers say the White House's call to end the credits is likely to fall on deaf ears in Congress and that there is little appetite among lawmakers to roll them back.

Read more here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Website for Alaska governor's climate change task force disappears

Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryThe Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC Overnight Energy: Coal consumption on track for four-decade low | Greens sue for records of EPA chief's meetings | Zinke picks fight with key Dem at odd time | White House jumps into energy subsidies fight Perry to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar MORE: Appalachia will seize major share of global petrochemical market

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatens to close Strait of Hormuz if US blocks oil exports

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-Teen activist at UN climate conference accuses world leaders of 'behaving like children'

-Perry to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar

-Coal consumption on track for four-decade low

-Study: Trump plan to shrink national monuments could lead to rare bee species' extinction

-GOP senator: Saudi crown prince 'really was the original El Chapo'

-Green groups sue EPA for records of Wheeler meetings

-Naval Academy to raise seawall to counter rising sea level

-Zinke picks fight with key Dem at an odd time

-Ocasio-Cortez: Fighting climate change will be 'the civil rights movement of our generation'