Overnight Energy: Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan | Iowans push 2020 candidates on climate | Sanders offers bill on 'forever chemicals'

Overnight Energy: Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan | Iowans push 2020 candidates on climate | Sanders offers bill on 'forever chemicals'
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FOCUSED: Environmental provisions are a major focus of House Democrats' new infrastructure plan, which includes proposals relating to water, electric vehicles and rail investments. 

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said at a Wednesday press conference that the plan "has major initiatives that will really encourage clean energy and address climate change."

The 5-year, $760 billion framework includes plans to spend $50.5 billion on clean water and wastewater infrastructure, $25.4 billion on drinking water and $34.3 billion on clean energy.


The details: The plan aims to develop an electric vehicle charging network with the goal of transitioning to zero emissions vehicles across the country. It seeks to make available charging stations and alternative fueling options for vehicles. 

Further, it emphasizes public transit as a way to lower emissions. It proposes increased funding for transit agencies to encourage the use of public transit, investing in zero-emission buses to reduce carbon pollution and investing in the passenger rail network as a "low-carbon option."

In the area of air travel, the framework calls for incentivizing the development of sustainable aviation fuels and aircraft technology to reduce carbon pollution.

On water, Democrats are calling for a $40 billion investment to address local water quality issues, and establishing a new Environmental Protection Agency program to deal with chemicals including PFAS, commonly known as "forever chemicals." 

They also want to invest in making the electric grid able to better accommodate renewable energy. 

What everyone thinks: Green groups expressed optimism about the framework.

"This plan would help us address climate change by making long-overdue investments in transportation, safe drinking water and clean energy, including preparing for more frequent extreme weather events," Stephanie Gidigbi, director of policy and partnerships in the Healthy People & Thriving Communities program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. 


Republicans though balked at endorsing the principles in the Democratic plan, but said they were willing to work across the aisle on infrastructure, a priority for President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesOvernight Energy: Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan | Iowans push 2020 candidates on climate | Sanders offers bill on 'forever chemicals' Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan House Democrats unveil 0B infrastructure plan MORE (R-Mo.) said he doesn't agree with "all of the principles" in the framework.

"Any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well," he said in a statement. 

Read more about the framework's environmental aspects and about the plan in general.


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CLIMATE ISSUE AT PLAY IN IOWA CAUCUSES: A year of historic flooding and a farm demographic eager to protect crops from extreme weather have made climate change a major issue for Iowa voters in the 2020 presidential race.

While climate change has been given short shrift on the debate stages, it's been widely discussed as the state races toward its first-in-the-nation caucuses on Monday.

Record-setting flooding devastated nearly every corner of the state in 2019 as heavy rains swelled the Mississippi River at Iowa's eastern border and the Missouri River at its west.

More extreme weather kept farmers from planting and harvesting, costing an estimated $2 billion in damages and heightening nerves in a state dominated by agriculture.

The importance of climate as a campaign theme in Iowa signals how the issue is starting to become more prominent at a time when environmental groups are pressing lawmakers for strong action.

"I think that is a dramatic change from conversations that were happening in Iowa just four years ago," said Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, which has hosted events with a number of the Democratic candidates in the race.

Climate change was rated as the second most important issue in Iowa ahead of the caucuses, according to polling by the Des Moines Register, which showed 90 percent of respondents calling it "extremely important" or "important," second only to health care.

That marks a change, according to Lehman, who said candidates previously had been "much more reluctant to engage farmers on this for fear of a backlash."

What's changed is that farmers are increasingly identifying climate change as a threat to their livelihoods -- and seeking measures to address it.

What the candidates are up to: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Biden faces pesky enthusiasm challenge despite big primary numbers MORE (D-Mass.) released a plan to combat climate change through agriculture just a day before the release of a United Nations report that advocated rethinking land use, including transitioning farming toward no-till practices and planting cover crops, both of which can help sequester carbon.

"Climate change threatens every living thing on this planet. And the urgency of the moment cannot be overstated," Warren said during an event in January. "Farmers can be part of the climate solution."

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll The Memo: Political world grapples with long coronavirus shutdown The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE introduced a plan for rural America that focuses heavily on connecting agriculture to manufacturing.


"We're not bringing back old jobs. We're going to create entirely new bio-based manufacturing jobs that are going to deal farmers into the benefits of a new low-carbon economy," Biden said over the summer.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE (D) toured flood protection efforts along the Cedar River, which runs through downtown Cedar Rapids and has flooded the city repeatedly.

He used the visit as an opportunity to discuss his own efforts at fighting rising waters as mayor.

"Climate change has come to America from coast to coast. We're seeing it in Iowa," said Buttigieg.

"We've seen it in historic floods in my community. I had to activate our emergency operation center for a once-in-a-millennium flood. Then two years later I had to do the same thing," he added.

Read more here.



In other news involving a 2020 Democrat... 


SANDERS OFFERS BILL ON FOREVER CHEMICALS: A trio of senators led by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE (I-Vt.) introduced a bill Wednesday designed to stem the spread of a cancer-linked chemical that has leached into the water supply.

The Preventing Future American Sickness (PFAS) Act goes after a class of chemicals that uses the same abbreviation and is used in products ranging from raincoats to nonstick cookware.

PFAS has been called a "forever" chemical due to its persistence in the body and the environment, and cities are facing mounting bills as they seek to remove the substance from their water.

The legislation would designate PFAS as a hazardous substance, opening avenues to force PFAS manufacturers to foot the bill for clean-up efforts.

It would also allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to offer clean-up grants to entities looking to remove PFAS from drinking water.

The House has already passed broad PFAS legislation, but it is expected to face an uphill battle in the Senate given it's inclusion of a measure that would require the EPA to set a mandatory drinking water standard for PFAS--a feature that contributed to the demise of the defense negotiations.

Sanders's bill skirts that controversial territory, focusing much of its PFAS efforts on other avenues.

Read more about the bill. 


TALKING POINTS: A delegation led by former Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes unexpected step to stem coronavirus Top National Security Council aide moved to Energy Department role Overnight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative MORE to Ukraine last May planned to urge local leaders to make the right choices regarding "corruption," according to talking points and other documents released by the Energy Department on Tuesday.  

One talking point stated that the U.S. would work with Ukraine if the European nation made "the hard choices" on combatting corruption.

"The United States and the European Union stands ready to work with you to ensure that change and reform can be implemented. But you must be committed to make the hard choices on corruption and good governance reforms," the talking point stated.

That talking point was listed for both a reception and lunch for international delegates as well as for a meeting between Energy Department Chief of Staff Brian McCormack and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRemembering Tom Coburn's quiet persistence Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner GOP seeks up to 0 billion to maximize financial help to airlines, other impacted industries MORE (R-Wis.).

Perry's dealings with Ukraine have come into question following revelations that President Trump pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter served on its board.

The talking points repeatedly mention the topic of corruption, weaving back and forth between specific reforms requested of Ukraine's natural gas market, and those more broadly aimed at improving democracy. 

Another talking point listed for a meeting with the then-chief of the Ukrainian parliament said that it was "crucial" that an unbundling plan "does not increase avenues for corruption."

Talking points for a meeting with Ukraine's foreign minister say that a "transparent, rules-based, and competitive energy market is essential to Ukraine's sovereignty and energy security."

The Energy Department on Tuesday provided the documents in response to a request from watchdog group American Oversight.

Tuesday night's release precedes two other Energy Department releases to American Oversight that are expected during the coming months.

The story is here.


NOT MUCH PROGRESS: U.S. carbon emissions are expected to fall just 4 percent by 2050, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), falling far short of the changes scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change. 

Projections from the administration, released in its annual energy outlook, find carbon emissions are likely to decrease through the 2020s before picking up again in the 2030s.

The trend line leaves U.S. carbon emissions almost exactly where they are right now.

"Total U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions resume modest growth in the 2030s, driven largely by increases in energy demand in the transportation and industrial sectors; however, by 2050, they remain 4 percent lower than 2019 levels," the report says.

Many environmental groups have rallied around reports from the United Nations, as well as the U.S.'s Fourth National Climate Assessment, calling for the country to take dramatic action to reduce carbon emissions before 2030.

Though a number of states have set goals to have their electric sector be carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner, the report suggests those efforts could be derailed by growing transportation emissions, which are currently the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

"This projection of relentless climate pollution is nothing short of terrifying," the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. "With Trump officials crippling emissions rules, climate-friendly lawmakers must build support for truly bold policies that avert the bleak future predicted by the EIA. We need much stronger measures."

The story is here.



Investors urge drillers, miners not to take advantage of Trump environmental rollbacks, Reuters reports

Even short-term exposure to low levels of air pollution can increase risk of cardiac arrest, CNN reports

Temperatures at a Florida-size glacier in Antarctica alarm scientists, The New York Times reports


ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday (and Tuesday night)...

Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan

Perry delegation talking points stressed pushing Ukraine to deal with 'corruption'

Iowans push 2020 candidates to focus on climate change

Carbon emissions will fall just 4 percent by 2050, according to government projections

14 states sue EPA over chemical safety regulations rollback

Public lands agency takes heat over 'Mineral Mondays' tweet

Sanders introduces bill to clean up toxic 'forever chemicals'

The Guardian stops accepting ads from fossil fuel companies over climate change

Greta Thunberg seeks to trademark her name to protect against misuse