Overnight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air

Overnight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air
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A TAXING DISPUTE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpFauci says his meetings with Trump have 'dramatically decreased' McEnany criticizes DC mayor for not imposing earlier curfew amid protests Stopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest MORE is floating the possibility of tariffs on oil imports, ramping up pressure on Russia and Saudi Arabia to reach a deal amid the current production standoff. 

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia were slated to meet on Monday, however, reports indicated that the meeting was pushed to Thursday.

Trump though is weighing in on the fight between the two oil giants.

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"I am a big believer in our great energy business, and we're going to take care of our energy business," Trump said during a Saturday press briefing. 

"If I have to do tariffs on oil coming from outside, or if I have to do something to protect -- or thousands and tens of thousands of energy workers, and our great companies that produce all these jobs -- I'll do whatever I have to do," he added. 

On Sunday, he appeared to reiterate the sentiment, saying: "If they don't get along, I would do that -- yeah, I would do tariffs, very substantial tariffs."

"If I did the tariffs, we essentially would be saying we don't want foreign oil, we don't want any foreign oil, we're just going to use our oil and that would help to save an industry," he said. 

He added, however, that he didn't think he'd have to use tariffs. 

Background: His comments come in response to a surplus of oil in the international market amid a dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

The comments mark a departure from the president's previous comments about tariffs. Trump said during a Friday press briefing that he was not considering tariffs. 

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"Am I thinking about imposing it as of this moment? No," Trump said.  "But if we're not treated fairly, it's certainly a tool in the toolbox."

Read more about the possibility of tariffs 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.

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THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT METHANE: The average level of methane in the atmosphere increased last year by the highest amount in five years, according to preliminary data released Sunday. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the average level of methane in the atmosphere increased by 11.54 parts per billion (ppb) in 2019 over the level of methane in the atmosphere in 2018. 

This is the largest increase since 2014, when the average level of atmospheric methane increased by 12.72 ppb. 

Drew Shindell, an earth science professor at Duke University, called the 2019 increase "alarmingly high." 

"What we had been really hoping of course, was that emissions of all of the powerful greenhouse gases would be well on their way down by now and instead to see record highs in their growth rate is very alarming," Shindell said in an interview with The Hill. 

Methane is a greenhouse gas whose sources include leaks from natural gas systems and raising livestock, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2017, it accounted for 10.2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Shindell said that because methane doesn't remain in the atmosphere for as long as carbon dioxide, bringing down its level should be one of the easier ways to combat climate change. 

"If you do something about methane, you see benefits in the first decade of action," he said. 

NOAA's data also showed that in December 2019, the last month for which data was available, the level of methane in the atmosphere was about 1,874.7 ppb. 

The data in NOAA's report is preliminary, and the agency said that it is "likely to change significantly." A final value is expected this fall. 

Read more about the increase here.

 

YOU'VE GOT MAIL: Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJudd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP Biden should name a 'team of colleagues' MORE and 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 are slamming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance that eased environmental compliance standards amid the coronavirus pandemic, joining a chorus of other Democrats and environmentalists who oppose the action. 

"It is disturbing that the administration would use this global public health crisis as cover to weaken regulations that protect our nation's air, water, lands, climate, and public health," wrote Markey and Warren in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: States, green groups sue Trump over rollback of Obama fuel efficiency regulations | Oil lobby says low prices still hurting industry | Conservative group wants Trump to go further in rolling back key environmental law States, green groups sue Trump over rollback of Obama fuel efficiency regulations OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency's response to California water issues MORE.

"In the midst of a respiratory disease outbreak, rolling back environmental safeguards, particularly those that protect clean air and reduce lung disease and asthma is highly dangerous and irresponsible," they added. 

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The Democratic senators also questioned the authority, rationale and process behind the decision. 

Their letter comes after the EPA announced late last month that it would suspend enforcement actions against companies who don't monitor for pollution during the coronavirus outbreak.

The policy is temporary, but does not have an end date.

An EPA spokesperson on Monday said in an email to The Hill that the guidance "is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules."

"The policy does not say that the COVID-19 pandemic will excuse exceedances of pollutant limitations in permits, regulations, and statutes. EPA expects regulated entities to comply with all obligations and if they do not, the policy says that EPA will consider the pandemic, on a case-by-case basis, when determining an appropriate response," the spokesperson said. 

Read more about the letter here.

 

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More letters from lawmakers...

 

A group of 16 House Democrats wrote to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Monday, urging him to resist Republican calls to reduce royalties for companies that drill on public lands. 

"A national emergency is not an opportunity to do favors for the oil and gas industry,

especially favors that have no legal basis, policy rationale, or societal benefit. It is your job to protect the interests of the American people as a whole. Your responsibility in that regard is clear– you should reject Republican lawmakers' and fossil fuel corporations' pleas for a handout at taxpayer expense," they wrote. 

Their letter comes after President Trump met with several oil producers last week. Before that meeting, more than 40 House Republicans wrote a letter to Trump saying his administration should lessen such royalties.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Montana governor OKs Keystone XL construction despite coronavirus threat, The Montana Free Press reports

EPA orders Hawaii to reexamine plastic pollution in state waters, Bloomberg Law reports

Allstate to return $600 million in auto premiums to customers as pandemic cuts driving

 

ICYMI: News from Monday...

2019 atmospheric methane increase greatest in five years: preliminary data

Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute

Warren, Markey knock EPA over 'highly dangerous and irresponsible' rollback amid pandemic

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGES:

Trump is considering a cameo role in the Saudi-Russia oil price drama, writes Simon Henderson, the director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.