Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate

FARMERS KNOCK TRUMP OVER ETHANOL PLAN: Iowa farmers and ethanol producers are livid over the latest iteration of the Trump administration's ethanol proposal, saying the president has reneged on a deal struck just 11 days before. 

President Trump's latest ethanol proposal, announced earlier this month, was designed to boost the product, promising a mechanism for ensuring large refineries add the gallons of the biofuel that smaller refineries were excused from adding to their fuel.

But farm and ethanol groups say the additional details released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were never part of the package they discussed with the White House.

The fine print: The formula proposed by the agency for determining how many gallons other refineries would have to blend into their fuels would be based on an average of government projections rather than the actual number of gallons small refineries received waivers for.

Reaction: "We're being told that we'll trust that the EPA will treat you better in the future when they're the very agency that has caused the crisis and the economic hardships we see today. I'm sorry, but we don't need to," said Monte Shaw with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. 

"We had a deal with the president. We stand by that deal with the president. And today we're calling on the president to step in and get the EPA back online. Don't let the EPA undermine your policy once again, Mr. President.

 "You don't have to be good at math. You don't have to be a [renewable fuel standard] policy expert ... doesn't it just make common sense that if you're going to try to account for something that you should, I don't know, base it on the real numbers?" Shaw said.

EPA push back: The EPA said their announcement did not depart from what was negotiated by the White House.

"This proposal, which EPA will be taking comment for 30 days following the public hearing slated for October 30, is the text of the agreement negotiated by President Trump, USDA and EPA that was announced on October 4," EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said to The Hill by email.

More on the criticism from farmers here.

 

And there are signs the proposal might already be losing political support...

 

DISAPPEARING ACT: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed positive quotes from Iowa's two senators from a release with the latest details on its plan to boost ethanol use -- a proposal that is now being opposed by Iowa corn growers and ethanol producers.

When the agency first announced the plan on Oct. 4, it lacked crucial details explaining how EPA would ensure ethanol was blended into the nation's fuel supply after some small refineries are granted exemptions from adding the ethanol.

In a supplemental proposal from the EPA Tuesday, the agency announced they would rely on projections to determine how many gallons other refineries must blend in, rather than actual totals that were exempted -- a move that has enraged Iowa's agriculture community, who said Wednesday the EPA is reneging on their deal.

When the EPA made its announcement Tuesday, it included past praise for the ethanol policy from when it was first announced in early October, a detail the agency noted. 

But the online version of that press release has since been changed to remove quotes from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). 

"That quote was for the announcement on Oct. 4," Michael Zona, a spokesman for Grassley through the Senate Finance Committee said by email before referring further questions to the EPA.

The EPA did not immediately respond to questions about why the quotes from Iowa's senators were removed from the latest announcement, nor did Ernst's office respond to request for comment.   

In early October, Grassley praised President Trump for delivering a good deal for farmers.

"These are promises made and promises kept by President Trump. President Trump has made clear that he is an ally of corn and soybean farmers as well as ethanol and biodiesel producers. He is fighting for the farmer. This announcement is great news for Iowa, the Midwest and the entire country," Grassley said on Oct. 4.

Grassley's team sent a new comment on the EPA's latest proposal Wednesday morning, saying the EPA would need to ensure biofuels actually get blended into traditional fuels if farmers are to be happy with any proposal

Read more here.

 

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. 

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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PERRY TO IGNORE SUBPOENA?: Energy Secretary Rick Perry was tight-lipped Wednesday about whether he'd cooperate with a House subpoena regarding his role in President Trump's phone call with Ukraine. The call has since led to an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. 

On Fox Business on Wednesday morning, Perry said, "The House has sent a subpoena over for the records that we have, and our general counsel and the White House counsel are going through the process right now."

"I'm going to follow the lead of my counsel on that," Perry added.

Then, later in the morning, Perry refused to answer an impeachment-related question on a press call. 

Perry's response isn't all that surprising, as the White House has repeatedly said it will not cooperate with the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. 

Politico reports that Perry became of interest to the House when the whistleblower report stated that Perry was the head of the U.S. delegation to Ukraine for President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration.

More on Perry here.

 

ABOUT LAST NIGHT'S DEBATE...

CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate: CNN faced a storm of criticism on social media Tuesday night after the network ended its Democratic primary debate with moderator Anderson Cooper asking about a controversy surrounding TV host Ellen DeGeneres.

The final question of the night focused on DeGeneres' recent social media controversy surrounding a photo taken of her laughing alongside former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game. DeGeneres was criticized by members of the LGBTQ community on social media over the picture due to Bush's views on gay marriage as well as the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Cooper, CNN and debate co-host The New York Times were widely mocked by debate watchers and current and former Democratic presidential contenders over the question, which many said had been given greater prominence than other issues that were not mentioned by debate moderators, such as climate change.

"2 hours and 20 minutes into tonight's #DemDebate and still not a single question on the climate crisis from @CNN @nytimes @DNC," tweeted the Sunrise Movement, an environmental activist group that supports the Green New Deal. "Just a livable future for our generation at stake. Guess there's no need to ask what the next President of the United States is gonna do about it."

"Three hours and no questions tonight about climate, housing, or immigration. Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border," tweeted former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who was onstage Tuesday night.

"But you know, Ellen," he added.

Read the whole thing.

 

John Kerry calls out lack of climate questions at debate: Former Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday blasted the lack of questions about climate issues at the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday in Westerville, Ohio.

"Twenty years from now, it won't wear well that in a THREE hour debate, there was time to ask about Ellen at a Cowboys game, but not climate change. Not once!" Kerry tweeted Wednesday.

Numerous figures criticized moderators for closing with a question about Ellen DeGeneres and former President George W. Bush's friendship as opposed to political issues, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D). Kerry quoted Inslee's tweet, which called climate change "the existential crisis of our time" and called the omission "completely inexcusable" Tuesday night.

More from Kerry here.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

On Thursday, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on green buildings.

Also that day, The House Natural Resources Committee will review ways to achieve net-zero emissions. 

In the Senate, a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee will hold a hearing on reducing emissions. 

And the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

Death toll from Typhoon Hagibis rises as flood waters recede, CBS reports.

Energy firm backed by Warren Buffett to build a $150 million wind farm in Canada, CNBC reports

Louisiana's 'Cancer Alley' residents launch march against pollution, The Guardian reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday...

-Rick Perry doesn't know if he'll comply with congressional subpoena

-Old landfill in Maryland transformed into state's first large-scale community solar farm

-John Kerry calls out lack of climate questions at debate

-Positive quotes from Iowa senators disappear from EPA's latest ethanol announcement

-Inspector general to review Pentagon's use of 'forever chemicals'

-CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate

-Steyer calls climate change 'most important international problem we're facing'

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