Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy:  Automakers withdraw from litigation over California vehicle emissions standard |Senate confirms Buttigieg as Transportation secretary | Republicans introduce long shot bill to circumvent Biden on Keystone XL

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PUTTING THE CARS IN REVERSE: A group representing several automakers including Toyota, Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler is withdrawing from a legal fight over whether California can set its own vehicle emissions standards, the group said Tuesday. 

The Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation (CSAR), which had sided with the Trump administration in its battle against California, reiterated its support for having just one nationwide emissions standard, but said it was leaving the litigation “in a gesture of good faith.”

“In a gesture of good faith and to find a constructive path forward, the CSAR has decided to withdraw from this lawsuit in order to unify the auto industry behind a single national program, with ambitious, achievable standards,” the CSAR said in a statement.

CSAR’s move follows the lead of General Motors, which was also initially on the side of the Trump administration but exited in November following Biden’s election victory. 

Other automakers represented by CSAR include Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru, according to its website. 

And it comes following the Biden administration’s decision ask a court to pause the litigation, after it identified the former Trump administration’s rule as one it would seek to review and potentially reverse course on. 

“Abeyance will further the Court’s interests in avoiding unnecessary adjudication, support the integrity of the administrative process, and ensure due respect for the prerogative of the executive branch to reconsider the policy decisions of a prior Administration,” the administration said in court. 

It is also seeking to hit pause on other rules including the prior administration’s methane regulations. 

Read more about the automakers’ decision here and read more about the requests to pause the cases here. 

AND THE NOMINEES ARE…

Becoming confirmed, in the case of Pete Buttigieg: The Senate voted 86-13 to approve Buttigieg’s nomination to lead the Transportation Department. He is the 19th Transportation secretary and the fifth member of President Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed by the Senate. He is also the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member in U.S. history.    

He is the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a Navy veteran. He ran against Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary before dropping out of the race and throwing his support behind the now-president.

Senators who voted against Buttigieg’s nomination were Republicans Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Bill Cassidy (La.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), and James Lankford (Okla.).

He is set to take over an agency overseeing an industry devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Biden has also emphasized the need for a bold infrastructure package, which Buttigieg has highlighted.

The former mayor defended Biden’s executive order to revoke a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline when questioned earlier this month. He also walked back comments that left the door open to raising the gas tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund; a spokesperson said after the hearing that increasing the gas tax is not an option.

Read more about his confirmation here. 

And moving on up, in the case of Tom Vilsack: Agriculture secretary nominee Tom Vilsack received bipartisan praise from senators during his confirmation hearing Tuesday, with a Senate panel voting unanimously to advance his nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) again.

“It’s not lost on me ironically that this is Groundhog Day and I’m back again,” Vilsack, 70, quipped in his opening remarks before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Vilsack, who is president of the dairy lobby group the U.S. Dairy Export Council, served for eight years as head of the USDA under former President Obama. Before that, he was the governor of Iowa.

Sen. John Boozman (Ark.), the top Republican on the Senate panel, remarked about Vilsack’s “excellent reputation” in welcoming him to the hearing Tuesday.

Vilsack also received across-the-aisle support from GOP Sen. Charles Grassley, a senator from his home state of Iowa. The senator introduced him, saying he “can’t think of a single quarrel that I’ve had with Secretary Vilsack.”

Grassley added that Vilsack knows agriculture well and that Vilsack also knows the importance of maintaining the institution of the family farm.

Vilsack’s nomination was advanced later in the day by a voice vote. It now heads to the full Senate, where it requires a simple majority.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the incoming chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement that she looks forward to his quick confirmation by the full Senate.

During his confirmation hearing, Vilsack fielded questions on trade, saying that he will work collaboratively with the rest of the administration on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and provide advice and counsel on additional free trade agreements.

“I think it’s fair to say that we have work to do to make sure that we have a competitive opportunity,” Vilsack said.

Read more about the hearing here. 

SHOOTING THEIR SHOT: Republicans in both chambers of Congress are taking on a long shot bid to reinvigorate the Keystone XL pipeline after President Biden canceled a key permit for the oil pipeline project last month.

Lawmakers, led by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), introduced a bill that would give permission for the controversial pipeline to be constructed and operate across the U.S.-Canada border.

The bill specifies that the pipeline would not need a permit from the president.

“We must reverse Biden’s disastrous decision and send a clear message that supporting American workers is more important than supporting Saudi Arabia and allowing radical environmentalists to cash in on campaign promises,” Daines said in a statement.

The legislation, which is backed by 86 House members and 15 senators, would face an uphill battle in both chambers.

Biden said in his executive order revoking the permit for the pipeline that the project “disserves” U.S. national interest and that “leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”

Lawmakers had previously said they would introduce legislation seeking to circumvent the move. 

The GOP bill comes amid tensions between Republicans and the White House over energy issues following the Keystone XL decision as well as a move to pause new oil and gas leasing on public lands.

Read more about the tensions here. 

YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME: Both ExxonMobil and BP announced Tuesday that they had sustained major losses in 2020 amid low demand for oil due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Exxon posted $22.4 billion in losses for 2020, posting a loss of $20.1 billion for the fourth quarter. 

According to Reuters, this was Exxon’s first annual loss. 

BP reported $20 billion in losses for 2020, including nearly $1.4 billion in the fourth quarter. 

Chevron, meanwhile, announced last month that it had lost $5.5 billion in 2020, including $665 million in the fourth quarter. 

Read more here. 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

  • EPA Administrator nominee Michael Regan will have a confirmation hearing at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on whether to advance Jennifer Granholm’s Energy Secretary nomination 
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine data on global climate trends from energy related sectors, focusing on progress in addressing climate change

WHAT WE’RE READING:

Young Michael Regan: ‘Determined to do something important,’ E&E News reports

Natural gas pipeline leak spurs landowners to assail Colorado’s “subterranean toxic spaghetti,” The Denver Post reports 

A Consensus Builder for E.P.A. When Some Want a Fighter, The New York Times reports

Masks Are Finally Required In National Park Facilities, HuffPost reports

Why Kerry’s claim on solar and wind jobs misses the mark, The Washington Examiner reports

ICYMIStories from Tuesday (and Monday night)…

Exxon, BP announce billions in losses for 2020

Republicans introduce long shot bill to circumvent Biden on Keystone XL

US cities undercount their emissions by 18 percent: study

Senate panel advances Vilsack nomination to head Agriculture Dept.

Fish and Wildlife Service defends gray wolf delisting from endangered list

Automakers withdraw from litigation over California vehicle emissions standard

Biden administration asks court to halt litigation on California emissions waiver, methane rollback

Tags Bill Cassidy Charles Grassley Debbie Stabenow James Lankford Jennifer Granholm John Boozman Josh Hawley kelly armstrong Marco Rubio Marsha Blackburn Michael Regan Pete Buttigieg Richard Shelby Roger Marshall Steve Daines Ted Cruz Tim Scott Tom Cotton Tom Vilsack

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