Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil

Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil
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LOSING JOBS: Nearly 600,000 clean energy jobs have been lost since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new analysis. 

Using Labor Department data, E2, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), E4TheFuture and BW Research Partnership found that 594,300 clean energy jobs have been lost since the start of the pandemic, a 17 percent drop in total clean energy employment.

Most of those jobs were lost in April, the analysis found. Groups behind the report issued statements calling on Congress to assist the clean energy industry.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic is delivering an unprecedented blow to renewable industry workers, whose job losses more than tripled over the past month,” said ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone. 

“Congress can help get these Americans back to work, and help get our economy back on track, with commonsense relief for time-sensitive tax credit deadlines and temporary refundability for renewable tax credits that are increasingly difficult to monetize,” he added.

Various parts of the clean energy sector have been hit amid the pandemic. The Wednesday report showed 310,188 energy efficiency jobs lost, 71,835 renewables jobs lost and 35,101 clean vehicles jobs lost in April.

Read more about the job losses here.

IT’S WEDNESDAY! 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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GONE WILD: The new coronavirus rescue package from House Democrats would dedicate funding to track diseases that spread to humans through wildlife, an effort to prevent any future pandemics similar to COVID-19.

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The coronavirus originated from a group of viruses carried by bats, but researchers have yet to pinpoint how it jumped to humans.

The Heroes Act, Democrats’ $3 trillion relief bill unveiled Tuesday, would dedicate $111 million to track species “that could pose a biohazard risk to human health,” blocking their import to the U.S. and increasing penalties for those who seek to trade them.

But some wildlife experts said those steps would fall well short of what could be a herculean task: Seventy-five percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans come from animals, the vast majority coming from wildlife.

Complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. is one of the top importers of animals, bringing in at least 200 million live animals each year.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the federal government likely doesn’t have the capacity to review the potential for dangerous disease across hundreds of thousands of animal species. He also doubts scientists will be able to detect which diseases pose a risk to human transmission before it’s too late.

“It presumes a level of knowledge of the natural world we don't have and never will have and that this current pandemic illustrated,” he said. “There's no way to know until after the fact when the horse has already left the barn that something was bad.”

Most of the prior focus on zoonotic disease – those that can spread from animals to humans – has been more geared toward farm animals or those carried through vectors like mosquitoes and ticks.

The wildlife portion of the coronavirus relief bill, written by Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee, puts more responsibility in the hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey, which would work with the CDC to block importation of dangerous animals while also tracking any potential outbreaks among wildlife populations in the U.S.

The legislation would allow the government to immediately block wildlife that might present a public danger, an expansion of the Lacey Act, a 1900 wildlife trafficking law that served as part of the basis for the charges against Joe Exotic, the Netflix documentary Tiger King star who is serving time in federal prison.

But the legislative language isn’t just geared toward animals from abroad. It also would prevent transporting those animals across state lines to prevent further disease transmission and would funnel money to states and tribes to conduct wildlife health surveys.

However, trying to track diseases in animals before they reach humans would be a big shift, and one that would prove challenging.

Read more about the provision here.

 

BARRELING AHEAD: The Department of Energy (DOE) is planning to buy 1 million barrels of oil from U.S. companies after funding to make a larger purchase failed to pass Congress.

A notice posted by the agency Wednesday calls the purchase “a test” for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a national stockpile President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE in mid-March said he would fill “right up to the top.”

The 1 million barrel purchase would be a far cry from the 77 million barrels of space within the reserve. Doing so would have required $3 billion in funds, which Congress did not appropriate as part of the CARES Act stimulus package.

The effort comes as oil prices have fallen to historic lows due to a lack of demand and a lack of storage space for an oversupply of oil.

Democrats have repeatedly spoken out against any effort to assist the oil and gas industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

“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. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee Trump campaign plays up Biden's skills ahead of Cleveland debate: 'He's actually quite good' Young voters backing Biden by 2:1 margin: poll MORE (I-Vt.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySchumer: 'Nothing is off the table' if GOP moves forward with Ginsburg replacement Democrats see fundraising spike following Ginsburg death Democratic senator calls for eliminating filibuster, expanding Supreme Court if GOP fills vacancy MORE (D-Mass.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response Oregon senator says Trump's blame on 'forest management' for wildfires is 'just a big and devastating lie' MORE (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter to the president when the idea was first floated.

In April, DOE announced it would instead rent 23 million barrels of storage space in the reserve, allowing companies to pay for the space in oil. 

The 1 million barrel purchase would be open to small and mid-sized oil and gas companies. The Federal Reserve Board also tweaked its Main Street Lending Program to be accessible to the same size oil companies.

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Read more about the plan here.

 

NEW EPA LAWSUIT: Nine states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a policy that halts penalizing companies that don’t monitor their pollution during the coronavirus outbreak.

A March 26 memo issued by the EPA informs companies the agency won’t take legal action against those that fail to track emissions, so long as the company documents when they stopped their pollution monitoring and why coronavirus was the cause.

“The Trump Administration is trying to use the current public health crisis to sweep environmental violations under the rug,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump casts doubt on climate change science during briefing on wildfires | Biden attacks Trump's climate record amid Western wildfires, lays out his plan | 20 states sue EPA over methane emissions standards rollback 20 states sue EPA over methane emissions standards rollback Investigation underway after bags of mail found dumped in Los Angeles-area parking lot MORE (D) said in a release announcing the suit.

“What’s worse, the Administration is doing so even as evidence grows that communities exposed to air pollution are at increased risk from coronavirus.

The suit from the states argues the EPA failed to demonstrate the need for the sweeping change nor did it back the need to bypass the notice and comment period required for new rules. The agency has also exceeded its authorities under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act which require companies to both monitor and report their emissions to the EPA.

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The suit, filed by California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia, follows a similar one filed by environmental groups in April.

The EPA would not comment on the litigation, but said the environmental agencies in each of the states that filed the lawsuit have also adopted enforcement discretion policies related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

"The EPA temporary policy is a lawful and proper exercise of the Agency’s authority under extraordinary circumstances," the agency said in a statement to The Hill. "This is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules." 

Read more about the lawsuit here.

 

MOVERS AND SHAKERS:

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU: The Biden campaign on Wednesday announced a group of Biden-Sanders “unity task forces” on a series of issues including climate change.

The task forces, with the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), mark an overture to progressives, some of whom have expressed reticence about supporting the Biden campaign following Sanders’s exit from the race.

Key progressive leaders, however, are part of the groups, including the climate task force’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Dems face balancing act on SCOTUS fight Ocasio-Cortez hits back at Marjorie Taylor Greene over 'dumb blonde' joke on Twitter Ocasio-Cortez to voters: Tell McConnell 'he is playing with fire' with Ginsburg's seat MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Parkash. Other members of the eight-person climate group include former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Warning signs flash for Trump on debates Divided country, divided church TV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month MORE and House Climate Committee Chairwoman Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium Trump courts Florida voters with moratorium on offshore drilling Lawmakers, public bid farewell to John Lewis MORE (D-Fla.). 

Read more about the task forces here and read The Hill’s past coverage of climate progressives and the Biden campaign here.

POWER POINT: A coalition of left-wing and  environmental groups have launched a campaign called Climate Power 2020 that aims to elevate climate politics in this year’s election.

The independently-run campaign was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club. It will focus on the key states of  Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

It aims to “put the Trump administration on defense every single day for ignoring experts, refusing to believe in science, putting big oil executives in charge of our government, and gutting public health protections.” Its advisory board includes former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidOn The Trail: Battle over Ginsburg replacement threatens to break Senate Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year MORE (D-Nev.), former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and former presidential candidate Tom SteyerTom SteyerTV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month Inslee calls Biden climate plan 'perfect for the moment' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling | California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump | Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment MORE.

 

EMINENTLY QUOTABLE: “An independent Federal Reserve should guard itself against the intense lobbying and political pressure, even that brought by the President,” more than 45 lawmakers wrote in a letter to board Chair Jerome Powell spearheaded by Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibGeorge Conway: 'Trump is like a practical joke that got out of hand' Pelosi endorses Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate primary challenge The Democratic Party platform represents our big tent MORE (D-Mich.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). 

The letter comes the day after Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said he and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinShutdown clash looms after Democrats unveil spending bill Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE were directed by the president to help open the Main Street Lending Program to oil companies.

“Doing so would deploy limited CARES Act funding to gamble on risky bets designed to save oil and gas companies and bail out their investors,” and starve other worthy businesses of the funds. 

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

States, tribe seek to suspend coal sales on US lands, The Associated Press reports

The World’s Most Controversial Gas Pipeline Is Nearing Its Endgame, Bloomberg News reports

Farmers are coming around on climate change, Roll Call reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday…

Energy regulator declines states' request for moratorium on pipeline approvals

Yellowstone National Park to reopen next week

Deforestation of Amazon rainforest accelerates during pandemic: report

Trump administration to buy 1 million barrels of oil for national stockpile

9 states sue EPA for suspending pollution monitoring requirements during coronavirus

Almost 600K clean energy jobs lost since pandemic start: analysis

Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife in $3T coronavirus bill

 

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:

Competitive power markets can help the economy recover from the COVID-19 debacle, writes Bernard L. Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute and adjunct professor of business economics at Southern Methodist University.

Clean energy can become Big Oil's best investment, opines  Paul Bledsoe, who has served as staff member in the U.S. House, Senate Finance Committee, Interior Department and on President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonGOP brushes back charges of hypocrisy in Supreme Court fight Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates MORE’s White House Climate Change Task Force.