Overnight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils $4T climate plan
Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run
TRUMP ENDS CAR EMISSIONS TALKS WITH CALIFORNIA: The Trump administration says it has cut off negotiations with California officials over the future of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency rules for cars.
In a joint statement, the White House, Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the talks with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had not been fruitful, adding that the Trump administration will move forward with its plan to roll back the pollution standards.
"Despite the administration's best efforts to reach a common-sense solution, it is time to acknowledge that CARB has failed to put forward a productive alternative since the SAFE Vehicles Rule was proposed," the administration officials said, referring to the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Rule, the proposal last year to repeal plans to make efficiency and emissions standards tougher for newly built vehicles.
"Accordingly, the administration is moving forward to finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles," the officials said.
Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler told Bloomberg Television this month that the parties were "far apart" in negotiations.
"We certainly hope to have a 50-state solution but at the end of the day we have to move forward with regulation," he said. "California is an important player -- an important part of this -- but this is not a two-sided negotiation for a national standard."
What the proposal would do: Last year's proposal would freeze vehicle standards next year, canceling plans to make them more stringent through 2026. Those standards envisioned new cars getting an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2026.
The auto industry has endorsed the attempts by the EPA and DOT to weaken standards set by the Obama administration, saying that they are not achievable at an affordable cost.
But automakers also object to completely freezing the standards, saying that they should continue to get stronger, just not at the previously set rate.
Why California is special: California has the authority to set its own greenhouse gas rules for cars under the Clean Air Act and a waiver granted by the Obama administration. Thirteen states follow California's standards for cars sold in their borders, representing about 40 percent of the nation's vehicle market.
California is aligned with the current federal rules, thanks to regulators' previous negotiations.
But last year's proposal to roll back the standards would have ended California's waiver, under the argument that it is illegal.
State officials have threatened to sue if the proposal was finalized. Meanwhile, they and the Trump administration have been negotiating for months toward a middle ground that would avoid California attempting to set its own stricter standards or a lawsuit from the Golden State that could take years to resolve. Those are both outcomes that the auto industry wants to avoid.
Happy Thursday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.
DEMS FACE TOUGH VOTE ON GREEN NEW DEAL: Democrats are facing a defining Senate vote as early as next week on the "Green New Deal" climate change plan -- which Republicans hope will bolster their argument that the party is too far left for the country.
It's unclear how many Democrats will ultimately back the progressive-pushed resolution, which aims to get the U.S. running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, but it's certain to divide the party.
Senate Dems balk: Asked if he'd vote for the resolution, a chuckling Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told The Hill before the Presidents Day recess: "Probably not."
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another centrist in the Democratic caucus, characterized the plan in an interview with CNN last week as a "dream," suggesting he'd vote against it.
"I'll vote on the motion to proceed and then we'll see after that," Manchin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Natural Resources Committee, told The Hill.
While Manchin and Tester are both centrists from states President Trump won in 2016, even some liberal Democrats are admitting they're having a hard time getting behind the Green New Deal.
Senate Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, called the plan a "resolution aspiration," during an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday.
"He said he wasn't sure how he'd vote, adding that he had asked Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the resolution in the Senate, "What in the heck is this?"
What's in the deal: The far-reaching climate plan was largely conceptualized by progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who introduced the resolution in the House in early February.
The plan's main goals include a push toward renewable energy that supporters say would jump-start thousands of new jobs.
Criticism: Some of its aims though, have generated criticism for being too far-reaching and not focused enough on issues directly tied to reducing carbon emissions. For example, measures in the resolution include goals to expand family farming and the availability of clean water. The resolution received the most notoriety after drafts were circulated of a Q&A for the plan, written by Ocasio-Cortez's office, that included talking points on getting rid of "emissions from cows" and all airplane travel.
GOP sees political gold: In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is now fast-tracking a vote on the resolution in hopes that it will divide Democrats and unite his own party. A vote can happen as early as next week.
"I'm looking forward to voting against the Green New Deal because it's just so bad for the economy and we'll have an opportunity for the Democrats to see if they want to rubber stamp this lurch to the left, this hard left turn that their party seems to be taking right now," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
By pushing the vote through, Republicans are also aiming to lock down the positions of Democrats running for president in 2020.
"[It's important] to get people on record as to how much they really want to take this country in a hard left direction," Barrasso said.
Where 2020 Dems stand: Democratic hopefuls Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have voiced their support for the Green New Deal and co-sponsored the resolution.
Others have remained on the fence, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a potential candidate who hasn't officially joined the presidential race. He resisted calls to endorse Ocasio-Cortez's specific plan, saying he instead supports "a green new deal."
NEW CLIMATE PAC WILL BACK JAY INSLEE FOR PRESIDENT: A new super PAC launching on Thursday will back Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's (D) potential run for president.
The group, Act Now On Climate, said it would back Inslee, who has made climate change a cornerstone of his two terms as governor.
"Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time and the most critical issue the next president will have to address," said Corey Platt, a senior adviser to the new PAC. "It's not simply an environmental issue, but also the nexus to jobs and national security."
Inslee has not formally said he will run for president, but he has said repeatedly that his platform would be based on combating climate change, casting it as an economic and job-creating engine for a new economy, if he launches a bid.
The governor has strongly hinted that he will announce his decision in a matter of weeks.
"We'll make the decision at the right time. We are actively considering it, and that has been going well," Inslee told The Hill in a December interview.
He formed a political action committee of his own, Vision PAC, to raise money to fund his travels around the country. The PAC has three longtime Inslee aides on staff, forming what could become the nucleus of a future campaign.
Inslee recently ended his run as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, where Platt served as political director. The super PAC has also hired veteran Democratic strategist Christy Setzer, a former top communications aide to Al Gore, Howard Dean and several prominent unions.
"We're hopeful that Gov. Inslee will continue his climate leadership with a bid for president -- one that we would be proud to support," Platt said in a statement announcing the super PAC, which filed papers with federal election officials on Thursday. "Gov. Inslee could capably carry the mantle for the millions of us who believe this has to be the number one priority of the next president."
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Rare snowfall hits southern California towns, the Los Angeles Times reports
Alabama Power cites environmental laws in reason for shuttering coal plant, the Birmingham news reports.
FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:
Subsidizing a Green New Deal doesn't guarantee lowered carbon emissions, writes Frank A. Wolak, a professor of economics and director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University.
The Green New Deal already flopped as an idea in Germany, argues Liz Peek, a former partner of Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Thursday's stories ...
-Agencies reduce grazing fees for federal land
-Las Vegas sees snow twice in one week after decade without accumulation
-Park ranger who was furloughed in NY during shutdown wins lottery
-Over 1 million tons of dredged sludge to be dumped in Great Barrier Reef Park
-Archives investigation finds no 'secret' Pruitt calendars existed
-New climate PAC will back Inslee for president
-Trump administration ends talks with California over car emissions rule
-Australia declares climate change-threatened rodent officially extinct
-Oregon considering statewide ban of single-use plastic bags
-Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal