Overnight Energy: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations

Overnight Energy: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations
© Greg Nash

STALLED IN THE SENATE: Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools MORE (R-Alaska) is fuming after a surprise vote in the Senate killed momentum for a long-awaited energy bill.

Murkowski lashed out at GOP colleagues following an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday morning, a day after many of her fellow Republicans crossed the aisle to hit the brakes on the bipartisan legislation.

"You have a few individuals who feel that their priority needs to trump everything else that we're doing around here," she told reporters.

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Her remarks were in response to a 15-73 vote Monday night that failed to end debate on a measure she introduced with Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Energy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline MORE (D-W.Va.). The American Energy Innovation Act would spur research and development for different types of energy, addressing the topic for the first time in more than a decade.

They also voted down ending debate on a package of amendments from Murkowski that did not include an amendment to phase down the use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

The HFCs amendment has been the main hold up on the bill, with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.) threatening a filibuster if it wasn't considered. Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases MORE (D-Del.) -- the main sponsors of the amendment -- have been pushing for a vote, but they've faced fierce opposition from Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears MORE (R-Wyo.) and even the White House.

Barrasso argues that the amendment pertains more to his committee, Environment and Public Works (EPW), and that the measure should contain preemption language blocking states from setting any standards that might be stricter than those of the federal government.

Though the White House has also expressed concern over the HFCs amendment, citing the lack of a preemption provision, Murkowski said that's not what derailed the underlying bill.

Murkowski directed her frustration at both Kennedy -- wondering if other legislation would get held up in a quest for a vote on the HFCs amendment -- and Barrasso, who refused to give the HFCs bill a hearing in his committee.

"I'm a co-sponsor of that HFC bill. It's not that I oppose it -- I didn't block that -- but the chairman of the committee decided that they weren't ready for whatever reason, and so there was no deal," Murkowski said, referring to Barrasso.

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"But again, as the chairman of the Energy Committee, I can't fix EPW's problems," she added.

Senate GOP leaders said disagreement over the amendment has likely pushed the bill off the legislative calendar until after next week's recess.

"It's not dead, but it's going to have to be revived. Right now, it's certainty stalled," Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate MORE (R-S.D.) told reporters Tuesday.

Murkowski, who burst into Tuesday's hearing growling like a bear and mimicking claws with her hands, sounded more pessimistic.

"Maybe John Thune is wrong. Maybe it's not coming back at all. Because right now, I don't know who I'm going to work with," she told reporters. "I don't know whether your recorders are picking up my anger, but this process is not right."

 

HAPPY TUESDAY! 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.

 

WHITE HOUSE, BLACK OIL: The White House is considering federal assistance for the oil and gas industry, which has been hit by sinking oil prices due to both the coronavirus and international trade disputes, according to an administration official. 

The official stressed to The Hill in an email on Tuesday that the White House is monitoring the situation, and that the assistance should not be considered a bailout. 

The Washington Post first reported that the White House was considering assistance for oil and gas producers. Three people told the newspaper that the aid would probably be in the form of low-interest government loans to the shale companies. 

Russia declined last week to join nations in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in agreeing to cut production in response to the slowdown in demand from the coronavirus.

In response, Saudi Arabia announced that it would increase its oil production, flooding the market and causing a sharp decrease in price.

On Monday, prices for Brent crude fell 24 percent. 

Industry players including the American Petroleum Institute (API) have denied seeking White House assistance as oil prices plunge. 

"We are not in discussions with anyone at the administration at this time on any kind of program for the industry," API President and CEO Mike Sommers told reporters on a press call on Monday."We shouldn't be reacting to one day of market downturn."

And what about on Capitol Hill?

Separately, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, expressed openness about possible federal aid to oil companies. 

"I think that there are some things, some actions that could be taken. I don't know if they are specifically being considered right now," Murkowski told reporters on Tuesday. 

Democrats and environmentalists, however, slammed the idea of giving assistance to the industry.

"Why is the administration bailing out oil and gas companies instead of dealing with some of the other worker related things... that are pressing on the American people right now during this crisis related to the virus?" asked Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) during a House hearing. 

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Read more about what the White House is weighing here

 

PRESSING QUESTIONS: Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) on Tuesday pressed Trump official Steve Angelle over whether Angelle pushed for a rollback of safety regulations despite objections from career officials.

His questions follow a Wall Street Journal report which said that staff engineers had called for no changes to a two-week testing requirement for devices used to prevent oil well blowouts. 

The report said that Angelle, who leads the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), instead adopted an industry-preferred three-week testing requirement. 

"Did the career staff at your agency send you a decision memo recommending that the testing frequency stay at two weeks?" Levin asked at a Tuesday House Natural Resources Committee hearing. 

"What I believe I received, sir, was a variety of options that were not ready and ripe for presentation," Angelle responded. 

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"Did you call one of the engineers working on that memo and tell them to move that recommendation for two weeks from the memo?" Levin followed up.

"I have no recollection of instructing anybody to remove a recommendation. I do have a recollection of saying that the recommendation was not ripe because the team had received an assignment and they had not yet fulfilled that assignment," Angelle replied. 

 "So you had the staff edit a memo that was going to you so it would not look like they were recommending what you didn't want them to recommend," Levin later said. 

"Incorrect," Angelle said. "The public policy rulemaking requires a robust discussion and to have recommendations that are not yet fully developed seems to be premature."

The rule in question was put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 people and left millions of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesOvernight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Overnight Energy: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations MORE (R-La.) said Tuesday that he was "offended" by Levin's line of questioning. 

"To allege that he would threaten the lives and safety of people that are his relatives, his friends and neighbors, is just wrong," Graves said. 

Read more about the exchange here.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW: 

On Wednesday Bernhardt will return to Capitol Hill for a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the administration's proposed budget request for his department.

A House Appropriations panel will also look into the impact of PFAS exposure on servicemembers, while another will examine Trump's budget request for the Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy (ARPA-E), which the president has proposed eliminating.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will look at Trump's nomination of Douglas Benevento to be deputy administrator of the EPA, as well as two nominees for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will look at Trump's proposed budget for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Oil prices score a modest rebound after biggest drop since 1991, MarketWatch reports

Where Trump border wall rises, these ranchers see defeat, The Washington Post reports

Washington state legislature passes legislation requiring automakers to sell more electric vehicles, The Seattle Times reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill

White House weighs assistance for oil and gas industry

Saudi Arabia pushes oil production to record high

Democrat presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations despite alleged staff objections