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 WheelerEPA to resume contract negotiations with employee union Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits Latest EPA guidance weakens air protections in favor of industry, critics say 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 PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLobbying World Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder 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 SchatzThere's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide Key Senate Democrats unveil sweeping online privacy bill MORE (Hawaii), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats rip Barr over IG statement: 'Mouthpiece' for Trump Trump brings pardoned soldiers on stage at Florida fundraiser: report Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE (R.I.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenators want FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill 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 Ann WarrenTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE (D-Mass.) joined that chorus last week, following a similar request from Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeFight against flavored e-cigarettes goes local Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate 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 Kevin DelaneyThe great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates 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 BennetTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Schumer to colleagues running for White House: Impeachment comes first Sanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate MORE and former Texas Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeButtigieg picks up third congressional endorsement from New York lawmaker Klobuchar hires staff in Nevada Deval Patrick enters 2020 race 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