Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies

 

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today we're looking at the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee vowing to push for action on fossil fuel subsidies, John Kerry's call for China to do more on climate and updated clean-air guidelines from the WHO.

For The Hill, we're Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Let's jump in.

Top finance Democrat says he'll push to address fossil tax breaks

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Wednesday that he's pushing for legislation to address fossil fuel tax breaks to be included in Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending bill. 

"President Biden, to his credit, in the campaign, said that there should not be special tax breaks - his words, not mine - for fossil fuels. Clean Energy for America meets that campaign pledge," he told reporters, referring to a bill that passed through the committee. 

"We're going to push for it in the reconciliation bill as well," he added during a press conference. 

His comments come as such provisions apparently were not included in the House's version of the bill - sparking some criticism from progressives. 

What's next? During the press conference, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) also said the Democratic bill "may well have" provisions like a carbon tax to drive the transition to clean energy. 

"Will any of these be in it? Well, we will see, but I wanted to mention that they are part of the conversation at this point," he added, also referring to a methane fee and a carbon border fee. 

But, the future of the entire reconciliation package remains uncertain amid doubts from moderates in the caucus, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), over the large price tag. Democrats can't lose any votes given the Senate's even split and the fact that no Republicans are expected to vote for the measure.

Read more about the push here.

Kerry: 'We can't get where we need to go' on climate if China isn't joining in 

John Kerry, the special presidential envoy for climate, says the world "can't get where we need to go" in the climate fight if China does not join the effort.

Kerry, during an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday, pointed to China's high percentage of emissions as a reason why their cooperation is needed to become net-zero by 2050.

"I'm confident President Xi, President Biden will meet at some point, I don't know when, but I'm going to be going back to China somewhere in the next weeks to follow up on the conversation that President Xi and President Biden had with hope that China, that produces 28 percent of all the world's emissions - we're at 11 percent, China's at 28 - we can't get where we need to go to be net-zero by 2050 if China isn't joining in that effort," Kerry said.

And not for the first time: Kerry sounded a similar note earlier this month, when he discussed the importance of U.S.-Chinese cooperation to address the global environment during a virtual meeting with Han Zheng, China's vice premier.

According to a statement from a State Department official, the two leaders discussed "the importance of U.S.-China cooperation in the global effort to reduce emissions and tackle the climate crisis."

Read more about Kerry's comments here.

A MESSAGE FROM THE LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS

We're calling on Congress to pass the climate test -- and only support a reconciliation package with real climate action that cuts climate pollution in half by 2030. Read LCV's letter now.

WHO toughens air quality guidelines

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday announced its first updated air quality standards in 15 years, saying health dangers associated with air pollution kick in at lower levels than previously thought.

The new, nonbinding guidelines include downward revisions for recommended levels of six pollutants: ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as two forms of particulate matter, PM 2.5 and PM 10. The latter two are particularly hazardous, according to the WHO, as both are small enough to travel deep into the lungs and PM 2.5 is small enough to enter the bloodstream.

The organization noted that some 7 million deaths a year are attributed to air pollution, and, according to a WHO analysis, nearly 80 percent of PM 2.5-related deaths alone could be averted. Wide disparities already exist between wealthier and developing countries on air-pollution-related health outcomes, and this gap is expected to widen as developing countries industrialize, increasing pollutants.

But the consequences aren't equal: More than 90 percent of people worldwide live in areas with higher PM 2.5 concentrations than the 2005 guidelines recommended as of 2019, according to the WHO. Those same disparities exist for people of color in the U.S., who are disproportionately exposed to PM 2.5, according to research published in April in the journal Science Advances. Black Americans are exposed to above-average PM 2.5 concentrations from sources contributing to 78 percent of exposures, compared to 87 percent of sources for Hispanic Americans and 73 percent of sources for Asian Americans, the study found.

Conversely, the research indicated white Americans had below-average exposure to the pollutant from sources accounting for 60 percent of exposure.

"Air pollution is a threat to health in all countries, but it hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement Wednesday. "WHO's new Air Quality Guidelines are an evidence-based and practical tool for improving the quality of the air on which all life depends. I urge all countries and all those fighting to protect our environment to put them to use to reduce suffering and save lives."

Read more about the new guidelines here.

CALIFORNIA DRYIN

Water usage in parts of Southern California increased in July but saw a minor reduction statewide as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) requested that residents cut back amid a historic drought, according to new state data released Tuesday. 

The State Water Resources Control Board data showed that water usage in California decreased by only 1.8 percent in July, which the Los Angeles Times noted was equal to the amount that was reduced at the same point last year. 

Water use increased by 0.7 percent in Los Angeles and by 1.3 percent in San Diego, according to the state data. 

The numbers indicate that California residents were unsuccessful in meeting Newsom's goal announced in early July to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 15 percent compared to 2020 levels.  

The board's chairman, Joaquin Esquivel, told The Sacramento Bee Tuesday, "On conservation, we're going to be needing to do more." 

However, the chair noted that compared to 2014 levels, during another drought, Californians are now using 15 percent per capita less water.

Read more here.

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on the benefits of electrifying U.S. homes and buildings

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on the nominations of Jeffrey Prieto to be the EPA's top lawyer, and Stephen Owens, Jennifer Sass and Sylvia Johnson to be members of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

  • The Senate EPW Committee will also hold a hearing titled "The Circular Economy as a Concept for Creating a More Sustainable Future"

 

A MESSAGE FROM THE LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS

We're calling on Congress to pass the climate test -- and only support a reconciliation package with real climate action that cuts climate pollution in half by 2030. Read LCV's letter now.

WHAT WE'RE READING

 

ICYMI

Solar companies warn tariffs on imported panels would be devastating

Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill

Foundations pledge $5 billion in record funding for biodiversity

EPA to propose cuts to biofuel blending requirement: report

AND FINALLY...SOME FUN STUFF

 

That's it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill's energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We'll see you tomorrow. 

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