Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Manchin, Tester voice opposition to carbon tax

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 some opposition to a carbon tax from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and John Tester (Mont.), Manchin's seeming desire to get to a deal soon and a relatively quiet hearing for nominees at the National Park Service, FERC and the Energy Department. 

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.


Manchin says carbon tax is 'not on the board'

Two Democratic senators on Tuesday expressed opposition to including a carbon tax in the massive social spending plan as Democrats scramble to make good on their pledge to combat climate change. 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday poured cold water on the renewed chatter of including a carbon tax.

What did Manchin have to say? Asked about a carbon tax, which would effectively place a fee on carbon dioxide and methane emissions, Manchin said the idea was not under discussion. 

"We're not - the carbon tax is not on the board at all right now," Manchin told reporters.  

Pressed if he could get behind a carbon tax, Manchin reiterated that it was "not on the board." 

And Tester? Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), another red-state Democrat, said he also wasn't supportive of a carbon tax.

"I'm not a big fan of the carbon tax. I just don't think it works the way it was explained to me," Tester said.

A carbon tax has strong supporters within the Senate Democratic Conference but Manchin has long been skeptical of the idea, telling reporters in September, when it was last floated, that "any type of a tax is going to be passed on to the people." 

So why are we talking about it? The idea  jumped back into the spotlight as Democrats seek alternatives amid Manchin's opposition to the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), which incentivizes companies toward clean energy sources.

But...some CEPP supporters say that alternatives are equally likely to face opposition. 

​​"The idea that we might have some other policy approach that would be just as effective on climate but would appease their fears - the only way that's true is if you assume that the opponents of this are too dumb to realize what you're doing," Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) told The Hill on Monday. "I don't think they're dumb."

Read more about the carbon tax comments from Manchin and Tester here and read more about Democrats' pitch for alternative policies amid CEPP uncertainty here.


Europe's ongoing energy crisis should make U.S. policymakers rethink pushing for a future where Americans' daily lives and the U.S. economy will be virtually dependent on intermittent energy sources. Read more.

Manchin, Sanders to seek Biden agenda deal

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key figure in the Democratic negotiations over a major spending package, told Democratic colleagues at lunch Tuesday that he will work with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reach a deal by week's end, according to sources familiar with the lunch.

Manchin said he thought a general agreement would be possible by Friday, sounding a more optimistic tone behind closed doors than he did when asked by reporters earlier in the week about meeting an Oct. 31 deadline for passing legislation.

"Universally there was a desire to get this done by the end of this week," said a Democratic senator who participated in the meeting.

Manchin told colleagues he would continue to talk with Sanders this week and that he would try to reach an agreement on a general framework for the bill that Democrats plan to pass on a party-line vote under budget reconciliation, two sources familiar with the meeting confirmed.

So what could this look like? A second person familiar with the meeting said the talks will take place between Manchin, Sanders and centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), with Schumer acting as an emissary between Sanders and his centrist colleagues.

The source described the negotiation as a "shuttle diplomacy" with Schumer coordinating the talks.

"There's broad consensus throughout the caucus about getting something by the end of the week," the source said, characterizing the discussion at the lunch about reaching a deal by Friday.

The source added that Senate Democrats "from left to right" voiced support for agreeing on a framework in the next few days.

Read more about the upcoming negotiations here.


Senate hears from Biden nominees

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday appeared poised to advance the nomination of the National Park Service's (NPS) first Native American director and the agency's first permanent director in four years.

What did he have to say? Charles Sams, President Biden's nominee for the position, emphasized the urgent need to address staffing shortfalls at NPS.

"The National Park Service cannot achieve its mission without a well-supported workforce, and I am committed to focusing on the caretakers of this mission. Staffing, housing, and other issues are impacting morale and deserve our active attention," Sams said.

Permanent employees at NPS declined about 6 percent over the last decade, according to data from the agency. In the meantime, however, attendance at national parks has spiked as pandemic restrictions are gradually lifted, particularly for outdoor activities.

Sams also said he would emphasize tribal outreach and "spirit of consultation" as director.

"In Indian Country, we expect an open discussion with the federal government prior to making a decision, not after the fact," he said. "If confirmed, I will bring this spirit of consultation to my service as Director.  I look forward to consulting with neighboring communities, stakeholders, local, state and Tribal governments, and Members of Congress, even when the conversations and topics are challenging."

The last permanent NPS director confirmed to the position was Jonathan Jarvis, who was sworn in in October 2009 and served for the remainder of the Obama presidency.

Who else? Also before the committee Tuesday were Brad Crabtree, who would lead the Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, and Willie Phillips, nominated to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The panel has not yet set a date for the vote on the nominees.

What Phillips had to say: Phillips, in his testimony, said he would seek "balance" between reliability, affordability and sustainability. 

"I believe that climate change is real. I believe that we have a moral and ethical obligation to address it," he said, adding "we have to have balance in our approach."

Meanwhile, Crabtree stressed the importance of carbon capture in climate action. Asked why the country should subsidize carbon capture technology amid failures, he said, "We cannot meet mid-century climate goals without economy-wide deployment of these technologies."

"That's clearly true in the industrial sector, but it's also true to a degree in the power sector," Crabtree said. 

It's chill: Overall, the hearing was relatively short on drama, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) remarked, "I'm struck that this is a pretty calm hearing, all things considered."

Read more about the hearing here. 



  • Radhika Fox, who leads the EPA's Office of Water, will testify at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the federal response to PFAS chemicals
  • Climate officials with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will testify at a  House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the country's strategy to combat climate change through international development
  • The House Climate Crisis Committee will hold a hearing on private sector perspectives on climate action
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Colorado River drought conditions and response



Europe's ongoing energy crisis should make U.S. policymakers rethink pushing for a future where Americans' daily lives and the U.S. economy will be virtually dependent on intermittent energy sources. Read more.


Russia allows methane leaks at planet's peril, The Washington Post reports

West Virginia's reliance on coal is getting more expensive, and Joe Manchin's constituents are footing the bill, CNN reports

What Willie Phillips' past says about how he would change FERC, E&E News reports

UN Environment Rights Bolster Case for Global Climate Litigation, Bloomberg Law report



And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: The answer to the zebras? More zebras!


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.