Overnight Energy: Inslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution | Poll finds Biden top choice for climate-minded voters | Trump USDA reportedly buried climate warnings
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
DEMS SAY WHEELER GAVE 'DUBIOUS DEFENSE' OF ROLLBACK: Democrats are asking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler 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. (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tom Carper (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.
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.
HAPPY THURSDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.
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 Schatz (Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Martin Heinrich (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 Warren (D-Mass.) joined that chorus last week, following a similar request from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (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 Delaney 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 Bennet and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who announced a $5 trillion proposal.
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.
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