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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: 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
© Stefani Reynolds

DEMS SAY WHEELER GAVE 'DUBIOUS DEFENSE' OF ROLLBACK: Democrats are asking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds EPA allows use of radioactive material in some road construction MORE to turn over documents tied to the agency's proposal to roll back emissions standards for vehicles, suggesting he made misleading statements on the topic.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities | Montana asks court to throw out major public lands decisions after ousting BLM director | It's unknown if fee reductions given to oil producers prevented shutdowns Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities Energy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the request was "in light of numerous comments from Administrator Wheeler, including statements made to Congress, that plainly contradict data presented to him by EPA's own experts."

"Despite the fact that you were briefed on these concerns before the rule was proposed, you have continued to make assertions about the proposal that you must know do not reflect the views of EPA's expert staff," the lawmakers wrote.

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What's at stake: The EPA's controversial proposal would freeze emissions standards set by the Obama administration in 2020 rather than have them tighten into 2026. Vehicle manufacturers oppose the plan, and the proposal has sparked a lawsuit with California, with the state threatening to enact other tough measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA's response: An EPA spokesperson told The Hill when asked to comment on the letter that the agency "will respond through the proper channels."

The big issue: In a letter to the agency, the Democrats homed in on one particular comment Wheeler made to Congress in April.

"I have been told by my staff that the CO2 reductions, the impact of the CO2 reductions are pretty similar to what the Obama administration proposal would have received under their -- would have gotten under their proposal. Because the Obama proposal had a number of exemptions and off-ramps. And the car, automobile manufacturers aren't complying with the Obama standards today," Wheeler told the House Energy and Commerce Committee then.

The legislators said that was demonstrably false.

"These and other statements like it are remarkable since analysis in the proposed rule clearly demonstrates that carbon pollution will increase by 8 billion tons during this century if the Trump Administration proposal is finalized," they wrote in the letter.

The Democrats argued that the only discernible purpose for the proposed rollback is to increase the profits of the oil industry and said the request for documents was to shed light on how outside groups may have influenced the agency.

Read more about the letter here.

 

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AN ACTUAL CLIMATE DEBATE? Three Senate Democrats are calling on NBC News to have its first presidential debate focus exclusively on climate change.

Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel Schatz Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize MORE (Hawaii), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSupreme Court battle turns into 2020 proxy war Joe Biden and Democrats are wallowing in dark money — and hypocrisy Senators dial down rhetoric at Barrett hearing after 2018 Kavanaugh brawl MORE (R.I.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Senate Democrats seek removal of controversial public lands head after nomination withdrawal Five takeaways from final Senate Intel Russia report MORE (N.M.) said in a letter to NBC's top brass that the 2016 debates improperly shortchanged a topic of high interest to Democratic voters.

"There are many ways to address the climate crisis, and voters want to know what policies each candidate supports," the trio wrote in a letter to NBC News Chairman Andy Lack. "Voters deserve a vigorous debate with an informed moderator that can press candidates for detailed answers and hold them accountable."

Environmental groups and several 2020 candidates have also called for a climate-centric debate. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA MORE (D-Mass.) joined that chorus last week, following a similar request from Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden would face hurdles undoing Trump environmental rollbacks | Biden team weighs climate 'czar': report | Donald Trump Jr. urges hunters to vote for his father Biden would face hurdles undoing Trump environmental rollbacks Barr asked prosecutors to explore charging Seattle mayor over protest zone: report MORE (D).

The senators said in Thursday's letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, that the 2016 debates devoted just five minutes to climate change, while recent polling shows the topic is of increasing concern to party voters.

"Democratic voters across the country have accepted the facts about climate change, are seeing its impacts, and are having real debates on solutions. In this consequential election year, it's time for our candidates to do the same," they wrote.

What the polls say: An April poll from CNN found that 82 percent of registered voters who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents listed climate change as a "very important" top priority they would like to see as the focus of a presidential candidate.

The first 2020 Democratic primary debates are slated for the end of June.

 

LATEST 2020 CLIMATE PROPOSAL COMES FROM DELANEY: John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE is adding his name to a growing list of Democratic presidential hopefuls rolling out climate action plans, with a $4 trillion proposal announced on Thursday.

The former Maryland congressman's plan focuses on six key areas to tackle the "climate crisis," including an introduction of a carbon tax, renewable energy investments and funding carbon capture technology.

"We have to act on climate and we have to act now," Delaney said in a statement. "We need a real plan to hit our goals and we have to listen to actual scientists. This is a real plan that all Americans can support. It is full of new ideas and massive investments in innovation that will both deal with climate change and create jobs in the heartland and all across our country."

He said the plan outlines initiatives he would achieve within the first 100 days of taking the presidency.

Delaney's campaign called his commitment to a carbon tax, or fee, the largest component of his climate plan. He proposes starting the fee on carbon pollution at $15 per metric ton of Co2 and increasing the cost by $10 every year. The issue was an important one for Delaney while he was in Congress. He introduced the first bipartisan carbon fee and dividend bill in over 10 years, according to his campaign.

He said his plan would reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2050.

Climate plans piling up: Delaney is the fourth Democratic presidential candidate to release a comprehensive climate action plan, following Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Colorado Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats sense momentum for expanding child tax credit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency MORE and former Texas Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeTexas Dems highlight health care in fight to flip state House Union leader vows 'infrequent' minority voters will help deliver Biden victory Jimmy Carter says his son smoked pot with Willie Nelson on White House roof MORE, who announced a $5 trillion proposal.

Read more on Delaney's plan here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Maryland bill mandating 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 to become law, but without Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's signature, The Baltimore Sun reports.

Report: National park visits contribute $40 billion to US economy, KOB4 reports.

Environmental groups sue over Louisiana law allowing felony arrests for pipeline protesters, The Advocate reports.

Plastic straws, stirrers and Q-tips to be banned in England starting April 2020, we report.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Thursday...

2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils $4T climate plan

Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change

Weather forecasters predict up to 15 major storms this hurricane season

Democrats suggest EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions rollback

Environmental group files lawsuit to force Trump to add eight species to endangered list