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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senators urge White House to keep ethanol requirement | Warren opposes oil industry 'bailout' | New group launched to monitor major electric company

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senators urge White House to keep ethanol requirement | Warren opposes oil industry 'bailout' | New group launched to monitor major electric company
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HAPPY THURSDAY! 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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YOU’VE GOT MAIL: Nearly a quarter of the Senate signed a letter sent to the White House Thursday asking the president to rebuff requests to lift requirements that oil companies add ethanol to their products.

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The bipartisan letter, signed by a mix of senators from blue states as well as those from the corn belt, comes as five governors from oil-heavy states have pressured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lift its ethanol requirement.

“Waiving the RFS [Renewable Fuel Standard] would cause further harm to the U.S. economy, especially our most vulnerable rural communities. It would also exacerbate the effects experienced by the biofuel sector as a result of COVID-19, causing far-reaching detrimental impacts on employment, farmers, food security, fuel prices and the environment,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats lead in 3 of 4 Iowa House races: poll The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama to hit the campaign trail l Biden's eye-popping cash advantage l New battleground polls favor Biden Poll finds Ernst with 1-point lead in Iowa MORE (R-Iowa) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithTina Smith and Jason Lewis tied in Minnesota Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Minn.).

In a letter sent to the EPA earlier in April, the governors from oil-producing states said their refineries should be off the hook from ethanol requirements, arguing the oil industry is in too dire of financial straits to do so. 

“The macroeconomic impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in suppressed international demand for refined products, like motor fuels and diesel,” wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

The White House has repeatedly been caught between ethanol farmers and the oil industry, both of which he considers part of his base.

Read more about the letter here.

 

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Meanwhile...Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWhat do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit Biden defends his health plan from Trump attacks MORE (D-Mass.) is fighting against an oil industry 'bailout'

Warren is pressuring the Treasury Department to nix consideration of any aid to the oil and gas industry as lawmakers set aside funds to battle the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“These companies have contributed to the deterioration of the environment through their emissions, and their lobbying and political expenditure efforts have undermined efforts to identify and address the risks of the climate crisis,” Warren wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day Hillicon Valley: Treasury sanctions Russian group accused of targeting critical facilities | Appeals court rules Uber, Lyft must comply with labor laws | Biden: Countries that target US elections will 'pay a price' Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE.

“The fossil fuel industry already receives billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies annually. These companies do not deserve special access to taxpayer-financed bailout funds at a time when millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet,” she added.

Warren’s letter comes as the Federal Reserve Board expanded the Main Street Lending Program to open the funding to smaller oil companies shortly after receiving requests for such actions from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments Quinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas MORE (R-Texas) and an industry group for small and mid-sized oil producers. 

Warren is just the latest in a string of Democrats who have pressured the department to keep coronavirus stimulus funds from oil companies.

“Giving that money to the fossil fuel industry will do nothing to stop the spread of the deadly virus or provide relief to those in need. It will only artificially inflate the fossil fuel industry’s balance sheets,” lawmakers wrote in an April letter spearheaded by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOcasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and signed by more than 40 others. 

The department has been under tremendous pressure from the president and Republicans to do more to save the industry after an uptick in production before global stay-at-home orders sent prices plummeting. What that assistance might be remains unclear.

Read more about her letter here.

 

Ten states and D.C. also want a moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure approvals…

Ten states and Washington, D.C., are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to postpone its approvals of any new fossil fuel infrastructure including natural gas pipelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a letter to FERC Chairman Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Environmentalists sound alarm over Barrett's climate change comments |  Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets| Methane emissions up in 2020 amid turbulent year for oil and gas Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Climate change a factor in most of the 7,000 natural disasters over last 20 years: UN report | Contentious pipeline can resume construction, regulators decide | California investigators seize PG&E equipment MORE on Thursday, attorneys general from the states and district argued that waiting to approve new and pending infrastructure is necessary to preserve the due process rights of those who might be affected. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed even greater burdens on communities attempting to organize their interests and participate in Commission proceedings,” they wrote.  

“The Commission should account for the unprecedented hardships the pandemic has imposed on citizens and postpone any approvals of permanent gas infrastructure until those affected by its decisions can once again focus on these matters,” they added. 

Chatterjee said in a statement to The Hill that “we will be responding in due course” to the correspondence. 

It follows a similar ask last month from nearly 30 House Democrats, who argued that a pause was necessary “to protect the public health, our environment, and the American people’s confidence in the integrity of governmental administrative and legal proceedings.”

In a statement at the time, Chatterjee said that the country’s infrastructure should try to be prepared for a return to normalcy.

Read more about the correspondence here.

 

SPOOKED BY DUKE? A group devoted to monitoring major electric company Duke Energy has been launched following a recent announcement that the company plans to shift away from using some fossil fuels.

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The new group, called the Duke Energy Accountability Coalition, says it will fact-check documents released by the company and highlight customer concerns. 

“The coalition will work to improve Duke Energy’s greenhouse gas emission reductions, transition from fossil fuels to renewables, ratepayer affordability and equity, coal ash cleanup and health impacts, influence spending and more,” the coalition said in a statement.

The organization is comprised of green groups including the Environmental Working Group and Friends of the Earth. 

“For too long, Duke Energy has been able to call the shots that lock consumers into rates that are too high and energy sources that are too dirty,” Donna Chavis, a senior fossil fuels campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. 

Duke Energy is the electric provider for 7.7 million customers in six states. It criticized the group’s formation in a statement to The Hill. 

“The more progress we make, the more extreme the activist community becomes,” the company said. “The people and organizations who fund these groups should ask themselves if they want to be associated with this kind of cynical stunt.”

Late last month, the company laid out plans detailing its goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The goal includes shifting away from usage of some fossil fuels, particularly coal and increasing its use of renewables. 

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Read more about the new group here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

ProPublica examines How Climate Change Is Contributing to Skyrocketing Rates of Infectious Disease

Supercharged by climate change, ‘megadrought’ points to drier future in the West, The Arizona Republic reports

In oil shock Texas banks face test, The Houston Chronicle reports

Coronavirus Makes Cooling Centers Risky, Just as Scorching Weather Hits, The New York Times reports

Wildfires burning Florida’s Panhandle, and Miami, Broward and Keys all under warning, the Miami Herald reports

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday…

10 states ask energy regulators to postpone pipeline approvals amid pandemic

Warren says oil industry should not receive coronavirus 'bailout’

Senators urge White House to keep ethanol requirements as oil industry struggles

New group positions itself as watchdog over major electric company