Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Major oil companies could face billions in climate taxes under new Senate bill


Happy Wednesday! 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 new legislation from Senate Democrats to tax major oil companies, calls for President Biden to go “bold” on climate and the latest predictions for hurricane season.

SMOKE TAX: Senate Democrats to introduce measure taxing polluters

Senate Democrats are set to unveil legislation that would tax energy companies responsible for major greenhouse gas emissions to pay for the costs of climate disasters.

The Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act, sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), would require between 25 to 30 of the U.S. corporations responsible for the most greenhouse gas pollution to pay $300 billion into a fund over 10 years.

The legislation would require companies to pay into the fund if they were responsible for at least .05 percent of global carbon dioxide and methane emissions between 2000 and 2019 based on data from the Treasury Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

“What we’re proposing today is a simple but powerful idea, it’s the idea that polluters should pay for the messes they cause … and those that pollute the most should pay the most,” Van Hollen said on a Wednesday press call.

“None of us believe there is any one single policy tool that can help the ongoing threat of climate change and … pay for the damage and mitigate the harm, but what we are here saying is polluters should pay,” he added.

Who would be affected?: In a document shared with The Hill, Van Hollen’s office estimated major companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron would be taxed $5 billion to $6 billion annually under the bill.

The Democratic senator pointed to other policies that could accompany the measure, such as carbon pricing and a clean-energy standard.

The exact uses of the money in the fund have not yet been determined, Van Hollen said, adding there would be a public comment period. Possible uses include building more climate-resilient infrastructure, particularly in disadvantaged communities and communities of color.

The response: The companies themselves have so far remained relatively mum on the new legislation. The American Petroleum Institute, which has come out in favor of a tax on carbon emissions in recent months, said it supports “a market-based, economy-wide carbon price policy as the most impactful way to meet this challenge head on and achieve meaningful progress” but pushed back on going after specific companies.

“Targeting a handpicked group of companies with punitive new taxes would undermine the guiding principle of neutrality embedded in our nation’s tax code and would only serve to undermine the nation’s economic recovery,” American Petroleum Institute senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs Frank Macchiarola said in a statement to The Hill.

Read more about the proposal here.


NOT ENOUGH: Youth organizations call on Biden to ensure ‘bold’ climate investments

Nearly 40 youth-led groups are calling on President Biden to ensure “bold” climate investments in a letter released Wednesday. 

In the letter shared with The Hill, the 39 organizations praised Biden’s support for expanded electric charging and use, as well as his support for the creation of a climate jobs program called the Civilian Climate Corps. 

“We and millions of other young people across the nation supported you in November and now we are demanding that you follow through on the climate mandate we elected you on and deliver the boldest economic recovery and infrastructure plan for our generation,” the letter said. 

“Most important to us is making sure you and the Congress move swiftly to get the big and bold investments our climate and our communities need over the finish line this summer as a down payment on the long-term mobilization and investment we need to put the country on track toward a cleaner, more prosperous future,” they wrote.

What actions are they asking for?: They also said that Biden should “scale up” funding for the Civilian Climate Corps to at least $60 billion — Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for $10 billion toward the program.

The letter was signed by groups including the Sunrise Movement, the Sierra Student Coalition and NextGen America. 

It comes as the Senate hammers out details of two major infrastructure packages that are expected to provide funding for the policies laid out in the letter.

Read more about the letter here.


HERE COMES THE STORM: NOAA predicting ‘above normal’ hurricane season in 2021 update

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting an above-normal hurricane season in its mid-season update for the year.

NOAA scientists say there is a 65 percent chance the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through the end of November, will be above normal, according to a Wednesday press release from the agency.

“After a record-setting start, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season does not show any signs of relenting as it enters the peak months ahead,” Rick Spinrad, NOAA administrator, said.

“NOAA will continue to provide the science and services that are foundational to keeping communities prepared for any threatening storm,” Spinrad added.

By the numbers: The agency expects 15 to 21 named storms, seven to ten hurricanes and three to five hurricanes that are Category 3 or above.

“A mix of competing oceanic and atmospheric conditions generally favor above-average activity for the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season, including the potential return of La Nina in the months ahead,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Read more about the predictions here.


THIS DISTRICT IS MINE: Trump-backed coal lobbyist wins House primary in Ohio

On Tuesday night, a Trump-backed coal lobbyist won the crowded GOP primary race in a special House election in a deep-red Ohio district Tuesday.

Mike Carey led the pack with more than 37 percent of the vote, or just shy of 9,300 votes. 

Carey works for American Consolidated Natural Resources, which was previously known as Murray Energy and is the country’s largest privately-held coal company. 

He’s also the chairman of the Ohio Coal Association’s board of directors. 

Read more about Carey’s victory here.


QUOTE OF NOTE: Kerry calls gas ‘not…anything near a long-term solution’ while discussing Russia

While talking about Russia, climate envoy John Kerry described natural gas as “not…anything near a long-term solution” in a recent interview with The New Yorker. 

“Russia has an option of quickly closing coal plants that are more than forty years old, not working that effectively, and not needed, in favor of transitioning to gas for the moment,” Kerry said. 

“And I emphasize ‘for the moment’ because gas is still a fossil fuel, and gas is mostly methane, so it leaks and also produces CO2.  So, It’s not, in our judgment, anything near a long-term solution, unless somebody discovers one-hundred-percent abatement,” he added. 

Natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, but its emissions still contribute to climate change. 



  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold hearings to examine the role of and programs within the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
  • The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee will hold hearings to examine the nomination of Homer L. Wilkes to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment.



Leaked Audio Shows Pressure to Overrule Scientists in “Hair-on-Fire” Cases, The Intercept reports

This company claims to help the world’s biggest corporations recycle. Activists say it’s greenwashing, Vox reports

 ‘A lifetime of damage’ on a creosote plume in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Scalawag reports

Offshore wind to revive ‘hallowed ground’ for U.S. steel, E&E News reports

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday (and Tuesday night)…

NOAA predicting ‘above normal’ hurricane season in 2021 update

Wildfires threaten California communities on new financial front

Senate Democrats to introduce measure taxing major polluters

More of earth’s population at risk of flooding, research shows

Youth organizations call on Biden to ensure ‘bold’ climate investments


OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: Better late than never

Tags Chris Van Hollen Joe Biden John Kerry

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