Overnight Energy: Senate energy bill stalled amid amendment fight | Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown | Green groups say Dem climate plan doesn't go far enough

Overnight Energy: Senate energy bill stalled amid amendment fight | Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown | Green groups say Dem climate plan doesn't go far enough
© Greg Nash

THAT'S A NO: A mammoth energy bill hit a roadblock in the Senate on Monday night, with a stalemate over amendments threatening to derail the legislation. 

Lawmakers voted against closing debate on an updated version of the bill that included a package of noncontroversial amendments forwarded by its sponsors, a sign lawmakers are still eager to push for some of the 191 amendments that have been proposed for the bill.

The path forward for the bill, which had been expected to pass as soon as Tuesday, is now unclear. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) did vote against the bill, a procedural tactic that could allow him to try to end debate for a second time if he's able to reach a deal. 


Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-S.D.) said negotiations had stalled on a path forward on amendments. 

"We'll probably end up having to pivot to something else, until we figure out if there's a way we can get this back on track," he told The Hill. 

The center of the fight: The American Energy Innovation Act would spur research and development into a number of types of energy, the first major package on the topic in over a decade.

Democrats have been fighting to add amendments that would adopt bipartisan measures to reduce the use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerators and air conditioners as well as another that could push to make new homes more energy efficient.

The White House and a few senators have expressed opposition to the HFC amendment, arguing that any federal standards should supersede any passed by the states.

But Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHow to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (D-N.Y.) threatened to filibuster the bill hours ahead of Monday night's votes, accusing McConnell of blocking an otherwise popular amendment from Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDC mayor admitted to Democratic governors group amid statehood fight Bottom line Overnight Energy: EPA takes major step to battle climate change MORE (D-Del.) that could help fight climate change.

"They're thousands of times more damaging to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Phasing out these HFC's is very important. And it will go a long way in fighting climate change and protecting the environment for future generations," he said, calling the energy bill "a real rare opportunity to make tangible progress."


Read more about the vote here


IT'S MONDAY! 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


CORONAVIRUS, MEET THE GLOBAL OIL MARKET: The twin threat of an expanding coronavirus outbreak and an oil price war hammered markets on Monday, raising the stakes of a global economic slowdown.

A burgeoning battle between Russia and Saudi Arabia to flood world markets with cheap oil sent shockwaves through financial markets and rattled investors already reeling from panic driven by the global spread of the coronavirus.

As prices for Brent crude fell 24 percent, all major stock indexes closed with heavy losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 2,014 points, or 7.8 percent, its worst day since 2008, while the S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite fell 7.6 and 7.3 percent respectively. U.S. Treasury bond yields also plunged to record lows.

The climbing number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. and a lockdown imposed in northern Italy have also fueled fears that efforts to mitigate the virus's spread could cause a global recession.

President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE sought to downplay the threat of the coronavirus and the impact of an oil glut on the U.S. economy, dismissing the fight between petroleum exporting nations and accusing the news media for drumming up unnecessary panic.

"Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!" Trump tweeted Monday morning.

"Saudi Arabia and Russia are arguing over the price and flow of oil. That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop!"

Why it's troubling news for markets: A flood of oil could mean cheaper gasoline prices for consumers, but it could also gut a crucial force behind global economic growth. American oil producers could be hit hard, and oil industry companies could find it harder to get financing through the credit and bond markets. Overall, the drop in prices could also signal a harder slide for the global economy.

"What I'm looking at here is the market preparing for a much larger shock to the economy and uncertainty for the rebound that will follow," said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at audit and tax firm RSM.

Antoine Halff with Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy told The Hill that he believes the drop will result in short-term job losses and could be disastrous for small companies but that large companies will probably come out stronger.


"In the longer term, what this will likely do is make U.S. production much more efficient and much more cost-competitive," Halff said.  "There will be casualties, but the survivors will come out stronger."

Russia declined last week to join the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries nations in agreeing to cut production in response to the slowdown in demand from the coronavirus, which has shuttered factories in Asia and Europe.

In response, Saudi Arabia announced that it would ramp up its oil production, resulting in the sharp decrease in price.

Read more on the turmoil with oil prices here


BLM MOVE COULD SPUR SUBPOENA: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) gave the Department of the Interior (DOI) a seven-day ultimatum to comply with his requests for documents, threatening to use his new subpoena power if the documents are not turned over.  

"Based on DOI's ongoing and unjustified obstruction and bad faith, the Committee is prepared to issue a subpoena if the deadline enumerated is not met," Grijalva wrote in a letter, setting a March 16 deadline.


The Natural Resources panel voted last month to give Grijalva the subpoena power amid committee's ongoing battle to obtain several documents from the Interior Department. 

"This stonewalling needs to end," the lawmaker said at the time, adding that Interior had treated the committee's oversight authority with a "cavalier attitude."

Republicans opposed the decision, arguing that approving a subpoena would make the chairman too powerful and could hurt the rights of the minority party. 

Grijalva's Monday letter specifically referenced documents relevant to the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management's headquarters from Washington D.C. to Colorado. 

Internal numbers obtained by The Hill showed that the 87 DOI employees who either left the agency rather than accept the new assignment out West or left after the plans were announced but before they could be reassigned outnumber the 80 who agreed to move.

Read more about the deadline here



NOT AGGRESSIVE ENOUGH: A coalition of left-wing environmental groups is criticizing an environmental plan from House Democrats, arguing it is not ambitious enough to combat climate change with needed speed. 

In a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Rural Democrats urge protections from tax increases for family farms Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (D-Calif.), the organizations blasted Democrats' CLEAN Future Act as a "staggering failure of ambition and leadership."

"The CLEAN Future Act completely ignores that warning, and instead pretends that an amorphously defined 'net zero' goal of 2050 is adequate. It is not," the letter said. "For the sake of the American people, the planet and future generations, we call upon you to set a much higher standard now."

The draft legislation would push the U.S. to become carbon neutral by 2050, including requiring 100 percent clean electricity and reducing emissions from the transportation sector by the same deadline. 

Under the proposal, power suppliers would have to obtain a specific amount of "clean energy credits," which can also be purchased or traded. It would also require buildings and industry to use materials from more environmentally friendly sources and meet tighter building codes.

The coalition, however, knocked portions of the plan that dealt with credits, arguing that they "will concentrate pollution in our most vulnerable communities."

The groups also said that the 2050 standard is not good enough, calling for global emissions to be cut by least 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. 

Read more about the letter here


'THEY ACTUALLY MADE IT WORSE': The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) latest rewrite of its science transparency rule may be even more restrictive than the last one, scientists say, expanding the reach of a rule that limits consideration of studies that don't make their underlying data public.

Spearheaded under former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittCourt sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues Scientific integrity, or more hot air? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden proposes billions for electric vehicles, building retrofitting| EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels | Kerry to travel to UAE, India to discuss climate change MORE as an effort to battle "secret science," critics said the effort would instead block the agency from considering landmark public health studies where researchers would be unable to share the confidential information of participants.

A new version of the rule released late Tuesday walks back the original proposal, instead stating the agency will give preference to studies with public data rather than exclude those that don't.

But scientists said the way the new proposal broadens the type of research that would be impacted by the rule as well as how EPA relies on research make the new version even more dangerous for public health than its predecessor.

"My first reading of it as it came up was they actually made it worse," said Bernard Goldstein, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Pittsburgh.

The first version of the rule sparked major pushback--the 600,000 comments it sparked made it one of EPA's most-commented on regulations ever. Its merits were even questioned by the agency's independent science board. The new proposal is open for comment for 30 days, and EPA says it expects to issue its final rule later this year.

An EPA spokesperson told The Hill this week the agency needs to "ensure that the data and models underlying scientific studies that are pivotal to [a] regulatory action are available for review and reanalysis."

But critics argue the transparency measures the Trump administration says are needed are just a red herring used to justify limiting scientific research for political purposes. 

Read more about the new proposal here



On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the spending priorities and missions of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management

The panel will also hold an oversight hearing later that day on the policies and priorities of the 

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and examine President Trump's budget request for fiscal year 2021. 



Florida Senate approves water measure aimed at easing algae blooms, The Tallahassee Democrat reports

Deer, Bear and Everywhere: Animals Move Into the City, Stateline reports

UBS bank won't finance new offshore Arctic oil and gas projects, The Anchorage Daily News reports


ICYMI: Stories from Monday and over the weekend...

Experts warn EPA making 'secret science' rule more restrictive

Oil prices plummet on OPEC tangle, coronavirus fears

Natural Resources chair threatens to subpoena Interior Department

Leftist green groups criticize Democratic plan to make US carbon neutral by 2050

Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown



The effort to fight emerging infectious diseases must be holistic, writes Amanda D. Rodewald, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's senior director of conservation science