OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House passes $760B package, hoping to sway infrastructure debate | Exxon lobbyist says it pushed trade groups to 'be out front' on PFAS | Wildfire expert prescribes controlled burns as preventive care

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House passes $760B package, hoping to sway infrastructure debate | Exxon lobbyist says it pushed trade groups to 'be out front' on PFAS | Wildfire expert prescribes controlled burns as preventive care
© Julia Nikhinson

HAPPY THURSDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day’s energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin. Reach Zack Budryk at zbudryk@thehill.com or follow him at @BudrykZack.

Today we’re looking at the House’s passage of its own infrastructure bill, more comments from an Exxon lobbyist that were recorded by undercover activists and what a wildfire expert has to say about controlled burns. 

INFRASTRUCTURE IS IN THE HOUSE: House passes $760B package, hoping to sway infrastructure debate


The House on Thursday passed a roughly $760 billion proposal to fund transportation and water projects that’s meant to shape parts of the broader infrastructure package — a top priority of President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE — currently under discussion in the Senate and White House.

Lawmakers passed the legislation largely along party lines in a 221-201 vote with just two Republicans voting for the package.

Democrats hailed it as a monumental shift toward more sustainable infrastructure projects, with Republicans warning of lost jobs and a skyrocketing federal debt.

The bill "not only builds the infrastructure of America, but helps to rebuild the middle class," said Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Of partisan fights and follies, or why Democrats should follow Manchin, not Sanders MORE (D-Calif.). "It does so in a transformative way." 

So what does this thing actually do? The measure would reauthorize surface transportation programs that are set to expire on Sept. 30, as well as invest in liberal priorities like promoting electric vehicles, strengthening drinking water standards and making utilities more durable against the impact of climate change.

Thursday’s vote came as Biden is fighting to keep GOP senators on board with a bipartisan infrastructure framework while assuring progressives that a larger, Democratic-only package — expected to include elements of his economic agenda like subsidized higher education and paid family leave — is still on the way.

And speaking of the House, infrastructure and climate...The majority of House Democrats also signed onto a letter on Thursday urging President Biden to ensure a bipartisan infrastructure package includes climate provisions. 


Read more about the House bill here and the letter here.  

SOME EXXTRA COMMENTS: Exxon lobbyist says it pushed trade groups to 'be out front' on forever chemicals 

A lobbyist for ExxonMobil said that it pushed trade groups to be at the forefront on an issue dealing with a class of toxic chemicals, saying in recordings taken by undercover activists that he didn’t want the company tied to those chemicals. 

“We manufacture PFAS, the chemical, we use it in our firefighting equipment, so we have pushed our associations to be out front on that,” said Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy in audio that was recorded by the group Unearthed and later reviewed by The Hill. 

McCoy added in the recording that he doesn’t think Exxon’s brand is “good” for PFAS. 

“We think if word got out that ExxonMobil manufactured those chemicals, that ExxonMobil uses those chemicals, it’s a talking point,” McCoy said. “It becomes the ExxonMobil chemical.”

An Exxon spokesperson denied that the company manufactures PFAS and said McCoy’s comments don’t reflect the company’s position. 

“ExxonMobil does not manufacture PFAS. Any statements to the contrary are simply false,” spokesperson Casey Norton said via email. “Products the company manufactures are disclosed with government authorities and are publicly available.”

And speaking of chemicals…

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will reassess findings under the former Trump administration about the safety and use of several chemicals. 

In a statement released Wednesday, the EPA said it would make changes to the risk evaluation for the chemical 1,4-dioxane and may also add new information to evaluations for six others. 

These risk evaluations are used to decide whether chemicals present unreasonable risks so the agency can decide how to manage those risks.

Read more about the Exxon comments here and the EPA’s decision here.

BURN BABY BURN: Top wildfire expert prescribes controlled burns as preventive care


From the perspective of Mark Finney, one of the nation’s top fire experts, the U.S. is too focused on fighting wildfires instead of trying to prevent them in the first place.

Finney runs the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana, the country’s only public institution dedicated solely to the study of wildfires, and he’s critical of the recent response to blazes ravaging western states.

Scientists testified before Congress on Tuesday to request funding for new software that predicts the behavior of ever bigger fires — to compute, for example, how a wildfire would move through a residential neighborhood. The next day, President Biden promised to provide more resources, including higher pay for federal firefighters and making those positions year-round instead of seasonal.

Those kinds of steps may help fight fire, but they do little to change the underlying dynamics that are making that fire so destructive and deadly, Finney said. 

What is lacking, he argued, is as obvious as it is politically difficult: far more planned fires on the landscape, set by professionals and burning year-round to eat up the fuel that otherwise adds bulk, speed, and unpredictability to monster fires. 

Read The Hill’s Q&A with Finney here



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Top wildfire expert prescribes controlled burns as preventive care

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Exxon lobbyist says it pushed trade groups to 'be out front' on forever chemicals in activist recording

TODAY’S LIGHTER (BUT ON-BEAT) CLICK: Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyInterior announces expansion of hunting and fishing rights across 2.1 million acres Time to rethink Biden's anti-American energy policies Solar could provide 40 percent of US power generation by 2035, Biden administration says MORE and Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmBiden administration launches new effort to help communities with energy transition Biden expresses confidence on climate in renewable energy visit Overnight Energy & Environment — Spotlight on solar MORE go “on the road again.