Overnight Energy: Trump allows use of ethanol gas in summer | Move to benefit farmers | Britain goes two weeks without using coal | EPA watchdog hands Pruitt probe findings to Congress

Overnight Energy: Trump allows use of ethanol gas in summer | Move to benefit farmers | Britain goes two weeks without using coal | EPA watchdog hands Pruitt probe findings to Congress
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TRUMP LOVES ETHANOL: The Trump administration has finalized a plan that will allow higher ethanol gasoline to be sold in summer months, a decision that is likely to draw concern from environmentalists who say the fuel is harmful in warm temperatures.

The decision announced by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials Friday also signals a move President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE is taking to appease corn farmers, many of whom have been hit hard by recent Chinese trade tariffs.

Through the finalized plan, refineries will be able to mix gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, or E15, year-round, or buy an equal amount of fuel credits called renewable identification numbers (RINs).

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Previously, E15 was restricted under air pollution requirements between June 1 and Sept. 15, as science shows burning ethanol in warmer temperatures leads to heightened ground-level ozone pollution and smog. The new plan will effectively lift those sales barriers by removing a regulatory barrier on fuel evaporation that EPA officials say should not extend to E15.

A Trump promise: Trump has long hinted at his plans to expand the ethanol market, a promise he first made during his presidential campaign. Last July, he said he was "very close" to allowing higher ethanol content in gasoline.

The president is expected to visit Iowa in June to attend a Republican Party fundraiser along with Iowa members of Congress Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act Tensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' MORE (R), Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Congressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (R) and Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingWhy the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy MSNBC's Donny Deutsch: 'Pathetic' Republicans who stormed closed hearing are 'boring, nerdy-looking white guys' Overnight Defense: Trump lifts sanctions on Turkey | 'Small number' of troops to remain by Syrian oil fields | Defense official's impeachment testimony delayed five hours after Republicans storm secure room MORE (R) -- all lawmakers who have championed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and called for an increase to E15. The state is key for 2020 candidates, as Iowa is the first to hold its presidential primary nominating contest.

Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator​ for the Office of Air and Radiation at EPA, said Friday's decision was in line with Trump's wishes.

"We're doing this because it's a very important presidential priority. Trump has embraced the RFS. He has taken a lot of personal time talking to us and other parties. He is personally convinced that the measures rolled out today will help all around," Wehrum told reporters on a call.

The EPA first announced the proposed E15 rule in March. The White House last October directed the agency to initiate rulemaking to expand waivers for E15 and change the way RINs were traded on the market.

Greens criticize move: Environmentalist groups view year-round use of E15 as a major health concern and a breach of the Clean Air Act. Many groups have vowed to sue.

"Allowing the year-round sale of E15 gasoline is both illegal under the Clean Air Act and will accelerate the destruction of wildlife habitat and pollution of our air, and drinking water," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation

"Instead of undermining public health protections, the White House should focus on using the EPA's upcoming rewrite of the ethanol mandate to promote cleaner, more sustainable fuels that support the rural economy while also protecting our air, drinking water, and wildlife habitat."

Read more on the rule here.

 

Happy last day of May! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. We'll be picking up the newsletter again on Tuesday.

Please send tips and comments to Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com and Rebecca Beitsch, rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @mirandacgreen, @rebeccabeitsch and @thehill.

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BRITAIN'S LIGHTS BURN BRIGHT WITHOUT COAL: Britain goes two weeks without burning coal for first time since Industrial Revolution

For the first time in more than 100 years, Britain has gone two full weeks without coal-powered energy.

The country's power grid operator, the National Grid Electricity System Operator, confirmed the news in an announcement shared Friday on Twitter.

"We can now confirm that Great Britain's electricity system will pass the fortnight mark for no coal generation this afternoon!" the network wrote.

"The last coal generator came off the system at 3.12pm on 17th May -- meaning we will achieve #coalfreefortnight at 3:12pm today!!" it added.

The achievement arrives more than a century after the world's first public power station fueled by coal was built in London in the 1880s.

The record also comes several weeks after the country sparked headlines for going seven days without coal-powered energy for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

Coal-free runs are expected to become a regular occurrence for the nation as the country continues its push to reduce carbon emissions, with the aim of being able to operate completely free of coal-powered energy by 2025.

"Just a few years ago we were told Britain couldn't possibly keep the lights on without burning coal," Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace, said earlier this month.

Read more here.

 

CASE CLOSED ON PRUITT: Investigators have closed the case on former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittIs Big Oil feeling the heat? Overnight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging EPA delays advisers' review of 'secret science' rules MORE after House Democrats requested a probe on a 2017 meeting with the National Mining Association.

In a Thursday report from EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency said only that the results of its fact finding were handed over to Congress.

Pruitt met with the mining group in April 2017 and reportedly urged association members to tell President Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal.

Critics of the meeting, including Democrats and liberal groups, said a request like that from a Cabinet member violates anti-lobbying laws for government officials.

Neither House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats, who originally requested the probe, nor OIG, would share the results with The Hill.

Questions about messaging apps: The OIG report also highlights an investigation into supposed widespread use of encrypted messaging apps on EPA employee phones.

A complaint alleged that EPA employees used these applications to leak damaging information regarding top EPA officials and that using the apps to conduct business could defy open records laws.

OIG found that 58 EPA employees had downloaded such apps but found no intentional misconduct or evidence to support the allegation that employees were leaking sensitive information or conducting official business using the apps.

And another report... Finally, in a separate report issued Friday, OIG found that EPA needed to improve its process for reviewing how its grant money is spent.

An EPA review found $310,000 in improper payments to grantees, but an OIG review found that nearly $2 million in funds shouldn't have been paid out, either because it was an improper expense or lacked proper documentation.

The EPA agreed to OIG's recommendations for how to change the system going forward.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

Congress will return to a busy schedule Monday after a week-long recess from the Capitol.

Expect a week filled with nomination hearings, congressional hearings and new bills.

Hearings of note include the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology looking into the causes of biodiversity loss, which follows a May UN report that found species are facing extinct at higher rates due to climate change.

The Senate on Tuesday will also hold a hearing before its Energy and Natural Resources Committee to discuss opportunities for the expanded deployment of grid-scale energy storage in the U.S.

Also Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will examine the nomination of Robert Wallace to be assistant secretary of the Interior for fish and wildlife.

Wallace, who spent 17 years as manager of government relations for GE Energy, is pushback for his nomination from environmentalists.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

A proposal from Utah Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTrump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy MORE (R) could allow mountain biking in wilderness areas, KSL reports.

California approves power outages to prevent more wildfires, the Associated Press reports

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Friday...

-Britain goes two weeks without burning coal for first time since Industrial Revolution

-Trump to allow use of ethanol gas in move to benefit farmers