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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance
© Aaron Schwartz

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TOUGH QUESTIONS: Democrats on Tuesday scrutinized President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE’s pick to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) over actions she has taken on chemical issues during her work in the Trump administration. 

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Several Democratic senators questioned and criticized Nancy Beck, who has served in a top role at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, on decisions she made at the agency and during a subsequent White House detail. 

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' | Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling | Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects  Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' LWCF modernization: Restoring the promise MORE (D-N.M.) focused on the agency’s regulation of methylene chloride, a chemical used in areas such as paint stripping and pharmaceutical manufacturing that has been linked to cancer. 

Udall questioned why senators should trust Beck, and referenced the story of a woman named Wendy Hartley, whose 21-year-old son died after using the chemical. 

“Wendy’s son Kevin lost his life using a dangerous chemical in paint strippers, methylene chloride, while you stalled the effort to remove this chemical from store shelves,” he said.

Beck said her “heart goes out” to the families and noted that there is currently a ban on consumer sales of the substance, saying she is “confident” the ban will prevent “acute fatalities.”

“It is unacceptable that it took two years and a lawsuit for you to finalize this regulation and you still managed to put out a less protective rule which allows the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers for commercial use by workers,” Udall said, later adding, “had you and the EPA not delayed banning methylene chloride, Kevin would still be alive today.” 

“Your entire career has been less like a toxicologist conducting rigorous, unbiased science and more like a defense attorney zealously defending guilty chemical clients,” the senator added. 

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Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns MORE (D-Wash.) asked Beck whether she was involved in a White House decision to direct the EPA to remove information about cardiac birth defects from risks listed for a chemical called TCE, which has been used as a grease remover. 

Beck responded that the lead agency, in this case the EPA, “[had] the pen,” meaning it made the ultimate decision. She declined to answer Cantwell’s question about her involvement or whether she advocated for removing the information about the birth defects. 

“What you’re asking for is deliberative information,” Beck said, giving that as her reason for not responding to the questions.  

Cantwell and other senators, including Republican Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBill to expand support for community addiction treatment passes House Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G MORE (W.Va.) also questioned Beck on her role in regulating a class of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS, which can be found in a variety of household products as well as firefighting foam. 

Beck has a background in the chemical industry, having worked at the American Chemistry Council, which represents many chemical companies, before joining the Trump administration in 2017. 

Read more about her nomination hearing here

ENERGIZED ABOUT ENERGY: Lawmakers in both chambers are looking for ways to assist the energy industry as the economic fallout hits fossil fuels and renewables alike.

Oil demand has plunged amid stay-at-home orders and concerns over travel. The renewable energy industry has lost about 600,000 jobs as the economy falters.

A suite of high-ranking officials and major industry groups appeared before committees in both the House and Senate Tuesday to discuss the issue.

“Put simply, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the biggest shock to global energy systems since at least World War II,” David Turk, acting deputy executive director at the International Energy Agency (IEA), told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

IEA estimates global energy demand will fall 6 percent this year — the equivalent of losing all of the demand from India. In the U.S. the organization predicts a 9 percent drop in energy demand.

That drop is being felt different across the industry. Oil demand is expected to drop 8 percent globally while electricity demand is forecast to fall 5 percent.

“Renewables have been the most resilient of all the fuels so far, and the only energy source that we expect to grow in 2020. Although I should say at much lower levels than we forecast before the crisis,” Turk said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are looking to future stimulus bills as a way to boost the industry, even though earlier efforts for measures preferred by each party were not included.

Democrats failed to get tax credits for renewables included in any of the bills, and Republicans didn't secure funding requested by President Trump to buy oil to fill the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

But as future packages consider a broader array of impacts of the virus, more specific assistance for industries could fare better.

Industry groups and officials have conflicting ideas, however, about how to move forward.

“The energy sector has stuffed acutely and uniquely,” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiClimate change — Trump's golden opportunity The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump combative, Biden earnest during distanced TV duel Romney says he'll vote to put Barrett on Supreme Court MORE (R-Alaska), adding that her energy bill, which would spur investment in research and development across the sector, was “ready made for action.”

In the absence of a federal bill, agencies have taken their own measures to offer relief to industries, most notably an Environmental Protection Agency memo lifting mandates for businesses to monitor their pollution and a move from the Federal Reserve Board changing its requirements to open financing to the oil and gas industry. 

Some have called for Congress to pursue additional similar efforts.

“I think more temporary relief, both regulatory and royalty relief, for energy producers is needed,” Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesClimate change — Trump's golden opportunity Steve Bullock raises .8 million in third quarter for Montana Senate bid Overnight Defense: National Guard says no federal requests for election security help | Dems accuse VA head of misusing resources | Army official links COVID-19 to troop suicides MORE (R-Mont.) said, suggesting cutting government rates companies pay to extract oil on public lands.

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Democrats, however, have pitched a bigger-picture remake of the industry, gearing more towards renewables.

“We will need millions of new jobs in order to climb out of the COVID-19-induced economic hole and most likely additional, extraordinary actions by the federal government,” former Obama administration Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE told lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  

“Given the demonstrated track record of the energy sector in having considerable leverage for job creation, major investments now in the clean energy transition, and any further stimulus and appropriations, should have a high priority,” Moniz said.

Read more about what the lawmakers want to do here. 

YOU’VE GOT MAIL:

Keeping Clean... A group of 180 Democratic lawmakers penned a letter to House leadership asking for congressional action to help the “decimated” clean energy sector, which has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

A vast majority of the chamber’s Democratic delegation wrote to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus MORE (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTop Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Md.) asking specifically for tax credits to be received as direct payments and a delay to a phase-down of renewable energy tax incentives.

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“The current crisis has decimated the clean energy industry,” they wrote, citing analysis from last month that found nearly 600,000 clean energy jobs had been lost since the pandemic began. “Clean energy jobs are being lost at a rate faster than the national average, revealing COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on this vulnerable industry.”

“Investments in clean energy pay back dividends because of the breadth and geography that are impacted – either job losses will devastate the communities we represent, or economic relief for this sector will help them weather this crisis,” continued the letter, which was led by Reps. Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerRestaurants brace for long COVID-19 winter Ahead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans Trump threatens to double down on Portland in other major cities MORE (D-Ore.), and Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats break fundraising records in Senate races Races heat up for House leadership posts Trump Jr. seeks to elect 'new blood' to Republican Party MORE (D-Pa.). 

The letter follows the House passage last month of a coronavirus stimulus package that did not include specific assistance for the sector, something that was criticized by environmentalists. 

Read more about the letter here. 

Virtual anger... Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee are again accusing their Democratic counterparts of misusing committee resources to stage forums that exclude the minority.

The coronavirus pandemic has limited the formal hearing schedule for the committee, but Democrats have held a dozen virtual events since April listed as “NRDems Forum” on the committee page.

Committee Republicans are asking Chairman Raúl Grijavla (D-Ariz.) to cease the forums immediately, calling them “deliberately misleading.”

“The ongoing use and operation of the committee’s broadcast systems is neither fair, nor bipartisan,” they wrote in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanCOVID-19 complicates California's record-setting wildfire season  Cheap, at-home coronavirus tests exist — why aren't we using them? US officially joins global trillion tree planting initiative MORE (R-Ark.).

“These meetings, which have taken place without Minority involvement, are strictly partisan in nature. With titles such as 'Behind the Curtain: The Trump Administration's Fossil Fuel Agenda During the Pandemic,' Minority members and staff have not been given the opportunity to participate in the planning or execution of these meetings, much less offer a witness or prepare members,” the letter continued.

Grijalva’s office said he would respond to Westerman via letter. 

Read more about the letter here. 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on challenges in recycling 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Miners' union suing US officials to push for COVID-19 protections, S&P Global reports

NJ to Build the First Purpose-Built Offshore Wind Port in the US, New Jersey Business reports

PG&E to plead guilty on 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter ahead of bankruptcy court decision, Utility Dive reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday…

Clean energy industry sheds 27,000 jobs in May

Court upholds cancellation of last remaining oil and gas leases near Glacier National Park

Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry

180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance

GOP fighting 'misleading' Democratic forums on House Natural Resources Committee

Democrats scrutinize Trump consumer safety nominee over chemical issues