OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump's push to use global aid for nuclear projects alarms development groups| Government to study environmental impacts of coronavirus pandemic

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump's push to use global aid for nuclear projects alarms development groups| Government to study environmental impacts of coronavirus pandemic
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JADED AID: A new effort by the Trump administration to bolster the nuclear industry is eyeing a surprising source of financing — a fund designed to fight poverty in developing countries.

In a list of official recommendations to President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE last month, the Nuclear Fuels Working Group argued the U.S. needs to sell nuclear power technology abroad and battle the influence of countries like China and Russia that have become dominant suppliers.

One way to do that, the group said, is to lift restrictions at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to let the agency fund nuclear projects alongside other development work.

But development groups worry that tapping the DFC to green light nuclear projects will do more to promote American interests than alleviate poverty.

“I struggle to see it as something they should be doing,” Conor Savoy, executive director of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

There's also a concern that the projects won't benefit the poorer countries the DFC is charged with helping. Setting up nuclear power systems requires a higher level of infrastructure, meaning overseas projects might be more likely to find a home in Eastern Europe than Sub-Saharan Africa.

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“The DFC was supposed to invest in those countries very sparingly,” Savoy said of wealthier nations.

To access DFC funds for an initiative of this kind, the agency would have to lift its prohibition on supporting nuclear projects, a move that only requires an internal policy change, without any congressional action.

The agency has signaled a willingness to make that change.

“DFC welcomes the recommendation in the administration’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group report to remove DFC’s prohibition on financing nuclear power projects in developing countries. Access to affordable and reliable power is essential for developing countries to advance their economies,” the agency said in a statement Monday.

“This change could help bring a zero-emission power source to the developing world while offering an alternative to the predatory financing of authoritarian regimes,” the agency added.

Those comments echo what the Nuclear Fuels Working Group said in its report last month.

“America’s broad strategy of energy dominance has a gaping vulnerability,” the group said. “This reality threatens American energy security, narrows or eliminates foreign policy options and erodes American international influence” in the nuclear market.

That would be a big change for an agency that has recently funded projects in food security and clean water...

The DFC was started in 2019, replacing its predecessor — the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — with double the funding and fewer restrictions on how to spend it.

But the $60 billion agency also has an expanded mission: elevating the world’s poorest countries while also advancing U.S. foreign policy.

Development experts, however, say there’s been an imbalance between those two goals in the agency’s short history.

“The underlying tension we’re seeing at DFC is doing investments that have development impact versus doing investments guided by whatever the national security priority of the moment is, and the two aren’t the same,” said Clemence Landers, a policy fellow with the Center for Global Development in Washington.

“What I'm seeing of the DFC is the national security component is very present.”

But some think the plan has potential...

Some development experts see the nuclear effort as one that could boost the economies of poorer countries while preventing China and Russia from having a stronghold over the nations whose power infrastructure they supply.

“There’s a strategic interest in not letting Russia or China lock up the global advanced nuclear market, in part because some of these deals come with very long fuel agreements,” said Todd Moss, executive director of Energy for Growth Hub.

Some of those agreements lock countries into buying their nuclear fuels from Russia for upward of 30 years after they install the reactor.

“If Russia or another country has meaningful control over another country’s power system, that's incredible diplomatic leverage. We’ve seen how Russia is behaving with natural gas in Europe — imagine how they would behave with U.S. allies and advanced nuclear.”

Read more on the Trump administration's plans for DFC funding here

NOAA WAY: The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday that it will begin to study the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on the environment. 

NOAA scientists are looking for changes in atmospheric composition, weather, climate and precipitation as well as investigating the effects of short-term decreases in pollution and of reduced underwater noise levels on marine life, according to an agency statement. 

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“This research is providing new insight into the drivers of change for our oceans, atmosphere, air quality, and weather,” Craig McLean, assistant NOAA administrator, said in the statement.

Some researchers have already found slight decreases in fine particulate pollution in the eastern and western U.S., according to NOAA. 

Separate studies have also linked the economic slowdown caused by the virus to positive environmental impacts. 

Read more here.

IT’S OUT: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday voted two major water infrastructure bills out of committee.

One bill, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) would aim to increase water storage, offer flooding protection and repair wastewater and irrigation systems among other measures. 

The other, the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 aims to help communities meet their drinking water needs.

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Together the $19.5 billion investment builds upon a 2018 package from the committee.

The legislation could become a vehicle for other infrastructure measures as lawmakers continue to grapple with how to address the nation’s aging roadways, airports, railways and other infrastructure. 

“Our country’s drinking water and wastewater systems, shipping channels and flood control structures are essential to our economy and to our way of life, but they remain in desperate need of improvements and investments,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump threatens coronavirus funds for states easing voting 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-Del.) said in an opening statement while donning a mask, calling the legislation “two bipartisan bills that will help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA continue to make more of the urgently needed improvements to key water infrastructure systems throughout our country.” 

Read more of our coverage of the bill here

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Top oil trader Vitol says virus might bring peak demand much quicker, Reuters reports

Deforestation of Amazon rainforest accelerates amid COVID-19 pandemic, ABC News reports

Despite skyrocketing unemployment, Tennessee Valley Authority plans to outsource hundreds of federal jobs to overseas companies, The Intercept reports

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday…

Trump's push to use global aid for nuclear projects alarms development groups

Progressive groups renew push to oust Larry Summers from Biden campaign citing environmental concerns

Government to study environmental impacts of coronavirus pandemic

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