Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal

Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal
© Getty

FILL 'ER UP: Oil giants gathered at the White House Friday, meeting with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE in the hopes of securing aid as crude prices have plummeted amid the coronavirus outbreak and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Oil prices have skydived under the twin threats, dropping to prices in the mid-twenties for a barrel of oil, down from more than $50 a barrel in February.

As stresses on the industry magnify, there have been growing calls from Republicans to assist oil producers.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We'll get our energy back," Trump said at the meeting. "I'm with you 1,000 percent. It's a great business, it's a very vital business and honestly, you've been very fair. You've kept energy prices reasonable for a long period of time."

The meeting appeared to renew administration efforts to fill the nation's oil reserves after the initial $3 billion request was left out of the coronavirus package.

"At these prices you'd think we'd want to fill up every cavity," Trump told the lawmakers and oil executives present at the meeting, a reference to the 77 million gallons of space in the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Among those in attendance at the meeting were representatives from Exxon, Phillips 66, Chevron, and oil tycoon Harold Hamm as well as Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The meeting marks a shift for the oil industry, with the American Petroleum Industry previously stressing that it would not seek direct assistance.

But the administration has continued to float other forms of assistance, with Trump announcing Thursday his hopes that Saudi Arabia and Russia may begin to scale back their production, a move that could dent the oversupply of oil on the market as the pandemic leads to dwindling demand.

Meanwhile the Department of Energy has looked for other ways to fill the petroleum reserve, offering to rent space to oil producers that are running out of storage space for their goods -- a service the government would be paid for in oil. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said Friday they would buy oil through an "alternative financing mechanism" but provided no additional details.

Lawmakers at the meeting echoed interest in filling the petroleum reserve, with Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged Iranian sanction violations MORE (R-Texas) calling it "inexcusable" that Democrats opposed the measure's inclusion in the coronavirus stimulus package.

"Now I think Congress needs to go back and address it," he said.

Trump likewise encouraged new legislation on the effort, saying, "I don't think anyone can reject it." 

Democrats have consistently resisted efforts to boost the oil industry, including through oil purchases. 

"Using federal assistance -- including low-interest loans, royalty relief, tax breaks, or strategic petroleum reserve purchases -- in order to prop up oil companies would be a wasteful misuse of government resources that would exacerbate the climate crisis," Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBipartisan senators call for investigation of TikTok's child privacy policies OVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 MORE (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Oregon GOP Senate nominee contradicts own campaign by saying she stands with QAnon MORE (D-Ore.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support The battle of two Cubas Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Ro Khanna MORE (I-Vt.) wrote a letter to Trump last month.

Read more on the meeting here

 

HAPPY FRIDAY!!!! 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.

 

A JUMP UP: Oil prices have begun to rebound after dipping to their lowest level in 18 years amid the coronavirus outbreak and a trade war.

Crude prices were up 12 percent Friday following an announcement from President Trump that Russia and Saudi Arabia may consider curbing their oil production by up to 15 million barrels, a move that would begin to dent the oversupply in the market.

Oil prices were at $27 a barrel as markets opened and have been steadily rising since hitting a low point of $21 on March 23 -- a more than 50 percent decline from the $50 a barrel prices seen in February.

OPEC leaders are set to meet Monday to discuss the deal Trump floated.

"Just spoke to my friend MBS (Crown Prince) of Saudi Arabia, who spoke with President Putin of Russia, & I expect & hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!" he tweeted Thursday, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

"Could be as high as 15 Million Barrels. Good (GREAT) news for everyone!" Trump added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, denied Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIn a new cold war with China, America may need to befriend Russia Here's why reporters are not asking the White House about 'Obamagate' Postponed Russian World War II victory parade now set for June MORE spoke with the Saudi prince. 

He told the Financial Times that "there was no conversation" between the two.

Read more about the rebound here.

 

NUCLEAR OPTION: Scientists and advocates are raising concerns about a proposed relaxation on regulations for disposing of nuclear waste, saying that the government should halt the proposal as the scientific community focuses on the coronavirus. 

ADVERTISEMENT

A March 6 Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposal would allow for the disposal of some nuclear waste in municipal landfills, rather than a licensed facility.

Advocates say the proposal could put public health at risk, pushing the NRC to give the public more time to weigh in.

"What they're trying to do is prop up a failing industry so that the cost of decommissioning these [nuclear] reactors is reduced so you don't have to send it to a place that is expensive because it's designed to safely handle it," said Dan Hirsch, the former director of the University of California, Santa Cruz's Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy. 

"I find it just astonishing that they would do that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic," he added. "How the NRC can look themselves in the mirror to propose massive deregulation and do it in the midst of the pandemic, I find it just ethically shocking."

NRC spokesman David McIntyre said, however, that exemptions in the proposal will be "not very" widespread. 

"It would just make it a little more efficient so that we or the state would not have to do a separate review for each case," he said. 

He also said that NRC had been planning to extend the proposal's comment period, which is currently slated to end on April 20, by 45 days and is considering a longer extension.

ADVERTISEMENT

To Hirsch, the 45 day extension isn't good enough. 

"If they're going to consider it at all, it should only be considered once the pandemic is behind us," he said. 

Currently, the nuclear waste in question is typically disposed of at licensed waste disposal facilities, which have adequate training and equipment to protect public health. 

In a statement on Thursday, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Pacific Director Jeff Ruch also criticized the proposal. 

"NRC's action could transform most municipal dumps into radioactive repositories, with essentially no safeguards for workers, nearby residents, or adjoining water tables," he said. 

Read more about the proposal here.

 

STAYING PUT: The Interior Department on Friday extended the appointment of William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management in an acting capacity until May 5.

Extending Pendley's tenure, which was slated to expire on Friday, was met with some pushback from conservationists because of statements he has made opposing federal land ownership.

"Americans deeply value our public lands and yet the administration has appointed a man to be in charge of them who does not believe public lands should exist," said a statement from Tracy Stone-Manning, the National Wildlife Federation's associate vice president for public lands.

Critics have argued that Interior's continued use of temporary appointments allows the department to keep controversial figures in place who would be unlikely to be confirmed by the Senate.

"The lack of leadership, cronyism and corruption pervasive in the Trump administration is glaringly obvious during this growing crisis, and it is exactly why the U.S. Constitution requires Senate confirmable officials in these critical positions," said a statement from Jayson O'Neill, the director of Western Values Project.

An Interior spokesperson has previously The Hill in an email that Pendley "brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Department and is committed to carrying out the Administration's priorities for the betterment of the American people."

Read more about the extension here.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK: Nothing but social distance.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Cleanup of US nuclear waste takes back seat as virus spreads, The Associated Press reports

Wisconsin state agriculture officials warn farmers that milk dumping could harm the environment and result in fish kills, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports

California uses climate cash to cut power bills during pandemic, Bloomberg reports


ICYMI:
News from Friday...

Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves

Interior extends tenure of controversial land management director

Advocates raise questions about proposal to allow some nuclear waste to be disposed in landfills

Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus

GOP lawmakers ask Trump to assist oil and gas producers

Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal