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

HAPPY TUESDAY!  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.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

TOUGH QUESTIONS: Democrats on Tuesday scrutinized President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellCongress must act now to pass a bipartisan federal privacy law Democrats introduce equal pay legislation for US national team athletes Heat wave sparks historically unseasonable wildfires in West 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 CapitoOfficials warn of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in water systems Graham, Hawley call on Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on US-Mexico border GOP senators urge Biden to keep Trump-era border restrictions 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 MurkowskiWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor 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 DainesSenate committee advances bipartisan energy infrastructure bill  Hillicon Valley: Lina Khan faces major FTC test | Amazon calls for her recusal | Warren taps commodities watchdog to probe Google Senators propose bill to help private sector defend against hackers MORE (R-Mont.) said, suggesting cutting government rates companies pay to extract oil on public lands.

ADVERTISEMENT

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: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Moniz: Texas blackouts show need to protect infrastructure against climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran 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 PelosiSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe House Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' MORE (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats warn leadership against excluding House from infrastructure talks Ethics panel upholds 0 mask fines against Greene, other GOP lawmakers 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 BlumenauerLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection On The Money: Schumer pressured from all sides on spending strategy | GOP hammers HUD chief over sluggish rental aid | Democrat proposes taxes on commercial space flights Hillicon Valley: Biden to appoint Big Tech critic to DOJ antitrust role | House passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks | Bezos returns from flight to space MORE (D-Ore.), and Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightHouse Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection Garland emphasizes national security, civil rights in budget hearing House Democrats call for paid legal representation in immigration court 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 WestermanPush for Civilian Climate Corps highlights underlying obstacles to restoring public lands Honoring America's real VIPs House passes bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol 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