Overnight Energy: Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks | Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by prayer breakfast | Dems hit agency for delaying energy efficiency funds

Overnight Energy: Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks | Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by prayer breakfast | Dems hit agency for delaying energy efficiency funds
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ENERGY NEWS IN SOTU: President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE's limited references to the environment in Tuesday's State of the Union address included a plan to combat climate change with trees and a claim that his "bold regulatory reduction campaign" had boosted the oil and gas industry.

Trump's speech was delivered to a crowd of Democrats donning climate-themed pins, with the transition of blue to red stripes representing not the parties but the increase in global temperatures. 

Trump's reference to his regulatory rollbacks includes at least 95 environmental rules that have been rolled back or are in the process of being rolled back, according to reporting from the New Year Times.


"The United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world, by far. With the tremendous progress we have made over the past three years, America is now energy independent, and energy jobs, like so many elements of our country, are at a record high," Trump said.

"We are doing numbers that no one would have thought possible just three years ago. Likewise, we are restoring our nation's manufacturing might, even though predictions were that this could never be done."

But Trump's claims don't totally withstand scrutiny.


What the numbers say...

While many of Trump's new regulations have been beneficial to the oil and gas industry, America has been the world's largest natural gas producer since 2009. While U.S oil production reached a high in 2018, oil production has been dramatically rising since 2011 due to the shale boom.

As for job growth in their areas, manufacturing job gains went from more than 260,000 at the end of 2018 to just 46,000 for the 12 months ending in December, according to an Associated Press review of Labor Department data.


Trump has averaged 162,000 manufacturing jobs during his first three years in office, compared to 111,000 on average during President Obama's last three years, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. 


Coming soon...

Trump also referenced a Republican effort to stem climate change through trees.

"To protect the environment, days ago, I announced that the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together Government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world," Trump said, referencing a commitment he made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Legislation from Rep. Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanCOVID-19 complicates California's record-setting wildfire season  Cheap, at-home coronavirus tests exist — why aren't we using them? US officially joins global trillion tree planting initiative MORE (R-Ark.) would help the U.S. reach their portion of the commitment by planting 3.3 billion trees each year.

"Trees are the lungs of the earth--they are the most efficient way on the planet to capture carbon. Republicans join @realdonaldtrump in this effort and are excited to get to work," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy's Democratic challenger to launch first TV ad highlighting Air Force service as single mother Trump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill MORE (R-Calif.) tweeted during the speech.

But climate scientists say the effort alone will not be enough to combat climate change.


Read more about the environmental aspects of the speech and check out the rest of The Hill's coverage of the event. 


HAPPY WEDNESDAY!  Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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DIVINE INTERVENTION: The House Natural Resources Committee's plans to approve a subpoena against the Department of the Interior on Thursday have been delayed after many Republican members said they could not attend the markup, due in part to a conflict with President Trump's National Prayer Breakfast.

"Members' schedules had conflicts, and that includes the prayer breakfast," said Austin Hacker, a spokesman for the committee's minority.

The annual prayer breakfast, which was started by evangelist Billy Graham, typically includes a number of politicians and religious leaders. 

On Tuesday, the committee announced that it would formally weigh a subpoena. The long-awaited vote will now be scheduled for Feb. 12.

Members on both sides of the aisle have complained about not getting a number of documents from Interior.

The vote would grant Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) subpoena power as well as outline the scope of what the committee would seek from Interior.



The two sides are clashing over the subpoena...

Republicans on Tuesday expressed discomfort with the scope of the resolution, which was written by Democrats.

"This is a change to our rules mid-process intended to wipe out input of minority members and take committee decision making behind closed doors," ranking member Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopLWCF modernization: Restoring the promise Trump signs major conservation bill into law Overnight Energy: House passes major conservation bill, sending to Trump | EPA finalizes rule to speed up review of industry permits MORE (R-Utah) had said in a statement.

"It's an unprecedented power grab that, if adopted, provides unchecked subpoena authority over private citizens and agencies."

Democrats on the committee argue a subpoena is necessary because they've received just a fraction of the documents they've requested from Interior.

"This is the same authority most other committees give their chairs at the beginning of each Congress as a matter of course. We're just bringing ourselves up to par with where many of our colleagues are already," Adam Sarvana, the majority spokesman, said earlier this week.

Read about it here



SHOW ME THE MONEY: Democrats on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee grilled Department of Energy (DOE) staff Wednesday on delays in releasing funds for energy efficiency research, a topic that has broad bipartisan support in Congress but not from the White House.

Members on both sides of the aisle have repeatedly listed energy efficiency measures as a must-have feature in any eventual climate legislation. But the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to ax numerous such programs in its budget.

"One of the sources of our unhappiness here is when we make a clear statement that we want something funded at a certain level, we expect that be executed in good faith [and] it's unclear to many of us there has been good faith," said Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William Foster81 Nobel laureates endorse Biden's White House bid Trump payroll tax deferral finds few takers among businesses Former Obama Ebola czar Ron Klain says White House's bad decisions have put US behind many other nations on COVID-19; Fears of virus reemergence intensify MORE (D-Ill.) to Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

The Trump budget for last year would have cut EERE's budget by 80 percent, a cut Congress ignored. But many of those funds have remained unspent in Energy coffers; EERE carried over $823 million into this year, more than a third of its budget. The office also canceled $46 million in grants for solar research and development before they could even be awarded. 

Simmons said the department has fallen short in some of its efforts, but has laid out plans to spend all of its funding.

"DOE fully intends to utilize its appropriated research funding to invest in new technologies and innovation consistent with both congressional guidance and administration priorities," he wrote in his opening statement to lawmakers. 

Some Republican members on the committee, however, praised the department for holding back funding, describing it as a blank check with little direction.

"We can't afford to recklessly spend federal funds," said Rep. Randy WeberRandall (Randy) Keith WeberOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Cheney asks DOJ to probe environmental groups | Kudlow: 'No sector worse hurt than energy' during pandemic | Trump pledges 'no politics' in Pebble Mine review Cheney asks DOJ to probe environmental groups  GOP's Gohmert introduces resolution that would ban the Democratic Party MORE (R-Texas). "Did I mention we have a huge federal debt and growing?"

Under the Trump administration DOE has rolled back energy efficiency regulations for lightbulbs pushed by the Obama administration and has proposed doing so for dishwashers, too.

Read about it here


In other congressional hearings...


CARBON CAPTURE: Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyFormer EPA chiefs endorse Biden, criticize agency direction under Trump OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy Department proposes showerhead standards rollback after Trump complaints | Interior memo scaling back bird protections is 'contrary to law,' court rules | Former EPA chiefs call for agency 'reset' Former EPA chiefs call for agency 'reset' MORE expressed doubts Wednesday over investing in carbon capture technology, saying that focus should instead be on limiting fossil fuel extraction. 

"There's a lot of new creative thinking about [carbon capture and storage], but the thing we're not looking at is the fact that you extract the fossil fuels itself is a decision point of emitting significant amounts of methane," McCarthy said.

"These are challenges for communities both from a health perspective and a climate perspective," she added. 

Members of both parties have argued that carbon capture technology, which helps remove greenhouse gasses from pollution, will be key to any eventual legislative solution to climate change.

McCarthy, appearing before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, was responding to a question from Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' COVID-19 complicates California's record-setting wildfire season  Congress should investigate OAS actions in Bolivia MORE (D-Calif.) who said the technology has thus far largely been used to promote more recovery of oil.

"When we capture carbon only to use it to develop more oil that's burned without capture, that's not exactly a closed loop," Huffman said. 

"That is the only financially viable way that anyone has come up with, so you're robbing Peter to pay Paul," responded McCarthy, who led the EPA from 2013 to 2017. 

Read more here.


TWEETABLE: Democratic senators pressed top Interior Department official Rob Wallace during a Wednesday Senate hearing on the Trump administration's easing of a law protecting migratory birds. 

Wallace, the assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, was questioned about migratory birds by Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Mid-Atlantic states sue EPA over Chesapeake Bay pollution MORE (D-Md.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Suburban moms are going to decide the 2020 election Jon Stewart urges Congress to help veterans exposed to burn pits MORE (D-N.Y.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium MORE (D-Del.) during an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. 

The administration's proposal would apply penalties under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) only to causing intentional harm to birds but not accidental harm. 

Van Hollen asked whether the new interpretation of the law would have prevented the U.S. from getting damages from BP for the deaths of birds after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

"It was the concern about that strict liability, that criminal statute is the only option [for] enforcement that that act provides," Wallace replied. 

Gillibrand asked Wallace what the service is doing to improve protections for migratory birds "and address the existential threat they face due to the impacts of climate change."

Wallace pointed to best practices working groups that he said team up with industries to minimize their impacts on migratory birds. 

Carper questioned Wallace about how the administration reconciles the changes to the MBTA with the administration's commitment to expand opportunities for sports hunters who hunt such birds. 

"We're not going away from this debate. We just could not criminalize such a broad activity," Wallace replied. 

Read more here.



The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled "A Threat to America's Children: The Trump Administration's Proposal to Undermine Protections from Mercury Air Toxics Standards."



Virginia lawmakers vote to block offshore drilling in rebuke to Trump plan, Reuters reports

Hawaii's push for renewable energy could stall over public opposition to facilities, the Honolulu Civil Beat reports

The world's oceans are speeding up -- another mega-scale consequence of climate change, The Washington Post reports


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

Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by Trump prayer breakfast

Democrats hit DOE for holding back energy efficiency funds

Democratic senators press Interior official over proposed changes to migratory bird protections

Obama EPA chief expresses skepticism on carbon capture

Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks