OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves $1.5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves $1.5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated
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IT MIGHT REALLY BE INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK: House Democrats on Wednesday passed a $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan that would surge funding to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges while setting aside funds for broadband, schools and hospitals.


The legislation was approved in a largely party-line 233 to 188 vote after the White House issued a veto threat. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE criticized the bill as “full of wasteful ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (R-Ky.) has called it dead on arrival in the Senate. 

“Naturally this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate,” the GOP leader said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Much of the $500 billion in transportation funding in the Moving Forward Act is tied to green measures that require states to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and make other climate conscious efforts.

“We are going to deal with the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States of America here and now, today, this week. We're starting,” House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats ask GAO to study COVID-19 air travel risks Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? On the Trail: Five House results illustrate a politically divided America MORE (D-Ore.) said, noting that the legislation comes as the country faces a severe economic recession.

“We're going to need millions of good-paying jobs, and these aren't just construction jobs. They’re design, they’re engineering, they’re small business, they're manufacturing. There's a host of people — everybody will be touched by this bill — and the investments will provide returns, many, many times over.”

The bill’s focus on carbon reduction efforts marks a significant shift in transportation funding. In addition to highway funding, it gears more money toward public transit, rewarding systems with more frequent service — a key metric for recruiting riders — rather than low operating costs.


It includes a large suite of tax breaks for renewables and other clean energy efforts and offers grant funding for zero-emissions buses, electrifying the postal service fleet, and retrofitting schools and other large buildings while offering up weatherizing assistance for homeowners.

Republicans have largely bristled over all the green measures and the total expense of the package.

“The majority believes it's acceptable to put together a massive bill that's going to turn our transportation system upside down and add $1.5 trillion dollars in debt,” said House Transportation Committee ranking member Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesLawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states Hillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked MORE (R-Mo.). 

“It's not really an infrastructure bill at all. It's a climate bill that doesn't even attempt to include consensus solutions to these issues, but instead bludgeons our transportation system, industries and workers into submission.” 

Democrats have said that the country should take advantage of low interest rates to pay for the legislation, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (D-Calif.) arguing at the bill’s unveiling that “there's never been a better time for us to go big.”

While the green measures included in the transportation section have sparked the most debate, the bill sets aside considerable amounts of funding across nearly every sector — including $25 billion for drinking water, $100 billion for broadband, $70 billion for clean energy projects, $100 billion for low income schools, $30 billion to upgrade hospitals, $100 billion in funding for public housing and $25 billion for the postal service. An amendment added to the bill sets aside $4.5 billion to replace lead pipes leading into homes. 

“There have been seven infrastructure weeks, under the Trump administration,” DeFazio said. “This is the beginning of the real infrastructure week.”

Read more on the legislation here and McConnell’s distaste for it here

OFFSHORE NEVER MORE? Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate to vote next week on blocking Trump's UAE arms sale GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight Pressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal MORE (R-Fla.) is turning to a must-pass defense bill as a way to block offshore drilling off the coast of Florida, but fellow drilling opponents worry his amendment opens the door for the Department of Defense to speed extraction in the sensitive area. 

Rubio is making multiple efforts to block any drilling off the state’s Gulf Coast, home to multiple military installments that use the waters for training. 

One amendment to this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would extend the current moratorium on offshore drilling in the area through 2032. The other would require the secretary of Defense to sign off on all future lease sales in Florida’s Gulf to assure the drilling wouldn't interfere with military operations.

Though the military has long resisted drilling in the area, some worry the amendment would give a presidential appointee the power to greenlight drilling with little oversight from Congress.

“This signs over control of when and where drilling can happen to the secretary of Defense. The secretary of Defense works for the president, and this president has made his case very clear that he wants offshore drilling,” Diane Hoskins, a campaign director with Oceana, told The Hill.

“It’s essentially a huge loophole for drilling. So it’s way too risky, it's a bad approach [and] it does not extend the moratorium," she added. "The bottom line is Florida doesn't want drilling to get an inch closer and any deal that risks that is a raw deal for Florida.”


Rubio response?

The amendments from Rubio mark the latest of many attempts to block drilling off Florida’s coast. A spokesman for the senator said his amendment would not create a loophole but is instead a multipronged effort to limit drilling. 

“Our No. 1 goal is to extend the moratorium. But if we aren't able to do that for whatever reason, or let's say that the moratorium did lapse for some reason, then this would be a failsafe,” the spokesman told The Hill. 

“There's no way for the military, for the secretary of Defense, to certify that offshore drilling in that area would not impact national security,” he added, citing a lengthy history of military documentation citing the need to restrict drilling in the area. “If they're offshore drilling in the area, that would directly impact the ability for them to carry out the functions that they use for military readiness and testing.”

Read more on the amendments here

COMES AT A COST: Democratic lawmakers, many from the capital region, are looking to halt relocation of major government agencies to areas outside the Beltway, pushing legislation that would require the administration to justify the costs of doing so.

The Trump administration has moved several agencies out of D.C., each time losing as much as 70 percent of career staffers in the process.


“The Trump administration’s hollowing out of our federal agencies and attacks on our civil service have left us with an alarming void of expertise that will undermine the work of our government scientists and researchers for years to come,” Rep. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonVirginia voter registration website back up after outage on last day to register House advances bill aimed at imports tied to Uighur forced labor This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda MORE (D-Va.) said in a release.

The legislation would require the administration to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to back the move — an element lacking as the Trump administration moved research agencies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to new locations.

Wexton said the bill “prevents partisan efforts to undermine the mission of our federal agencies.”

The BLM move would leave just 61 employees in Washington while establishing a small headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo., and scattering other employees across the West.

A cost-benefit analysis for the BLM move obtained by The Hill in January was just two pages — a sharp departure from analysis expected to fill a binder — and did little to back the agency’s reasoning that the move will save taxpayers millions.

“This is a highly incomplete basis for informing a policy decision,” said Craig Thornton, an economist and president of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis, who reviewed the documents at the request of The Hill.

Read more on the bill here



U.N. backs changes to aviation emissions scheme in boost for airlines, Reuters reports

Gold mining is hurting the Amazon's ability to store carbon, Earther reports

Michigan, EPA to start new groundwater cleanup at ‘green ooze’ site, The Daily Tribune reports

Houston's Hilcorp completes purchase of BP's oil, gas operations in Alaska, The Houston Chronicle reports