Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs
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Welcome to Wednesday’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 a preview of tomorrow’s Big Oil hearings, what to watch at COP26 and three Democratic senators taking issue with a provision in the climate deal.

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.

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Let’s jump in.

Democrats hope to hold Big Oil accountable during congressional hearing 

 

Democrats are gearing up for what could be a showdown with Big Oil during a House hearing Thursday.

Executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell — as well as two major industry groups — will testify before the Oversight and Reform Committee in a hearing on what Democrats have dubbed a “disinformation campaign” to prevent climate action. 

It comes after a long-term effort from lawmakers to get major energy firms to testify on Capitol Hill. Expected to testify are ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, BP America chairman David Lawler, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, Shell Oil Company president Gretchen Watkins, American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers and Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne Clark. 

Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyFormer Washington Football Team cheerleaders, employees to protest outside stadium Oversight panel eyes excessive bail, jail overcrowding in New York City Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (D-N.Y.) told The Hill in a Wednesday interview that she’s hoping to get “accountability” from the witnesses. 

“It was only when climate change became undeniable that the fossil fuel industry began an organized, concerted, billion-dollar campaign to greenwash their role in the crisis,” Maloney said. 

“We intend to hold them accountable and hope that they’ll be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem,” she added.

The chair also described a continuing investigation, saying the event would be “the first of several hearings that we’re planning.” 

The hearing comes amid some tension between the witnesses and the committee, as the hearing’s advisory said that the execs “failed to adequately comply” with requests for documents. 

Maloney elaborated on the accusation Wednesday, telling The Hill that “a lot of the documents that they gave us are already out there available to the public.”

“We asked specifically for internal communications of key executives, including CEOs, which we have not received, and we also asked specific questions about how much money they’re paying to front groups and the PR firms they hired to peddle...misinformation.”

The witnesses have said they are providing documents to the committee, although they did not provide specifics when presented with Maloney’s comments. 

A spokesperson for Exxon said it has “been in communication with committee staff for months and have cooperated with the request for documents.” 

A MESSAGE FROM AMERICAN CLEAN POWER

Clean energy sources like wind, solar and energy storage power American jobs and economic opportunity across the U.S. Clean energy is powering the future, and together, we are the future of power. Read more.



Three big issues to watch at climate summit

Global leaders attending the United Nations climate summit beginning Sunday face a number of key issues as they seek ways to preserve the planet’s future.

At the conference in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, they’ll work on the next steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

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These three key issue areas are expected to be on the agenda:

Financing climate mitigation

Climate finance is likely to be a contentious issue as developed nations are falling short of their pledge to send $100 billion per year to poorer countries to help them prepare for climate change. Experts say that while rich countries have been historically responsible for most of the world’s pollution, developing countries are bearing the brunt of its impacts.

Methane

In recent months, the international community has shown momentum on reducing its emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. 

Finishing the Paris rulebook

In 2015, the world’s countries agreed to the landmark Paris agreement — seeking to limit warming by 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels, with a further goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees. 

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Read more about all three issues here.

Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal 

Sen. <span class=Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.) is seen during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing to discuss oversight of the CARES Act within the Federal Reserve and Department of Treasury on Tuesday, September 28, 2021." width="645" height="363" data-delta="15" /> 

A trio of Democratic senators are sounding an alarm over what they say is an effort to add language to the budget reconciliation bill that would create new incentives for hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, which they fear would undercut the broader goals of climate legislation. 

“As policymakers, we must be attentive to the reality that not all hydrogen is clean and reject efforts to further subsidize dirty hydrogen in the Build Back Better Act,” Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ed Markey (Mass.) wrote in a letter to Democratic leaders released Wednesday afternoon.

So what’s the issue? They argued that while hydrogen has been touted as a “zero-emission” alternative energy source, “recent peer reviewed science has found that fossil fuel-based hydrogen might have greater greenhouse gas impacts than traditional fossil fuels.”

They argued that while hydrogen has been touted as a “zero-emission” alternative energy source, “recent peer reviewed science has found that fossil fuel-based hydrogen might have greater greenhouse gas impacts than traditional fossil fuels.”

The lawmakers acknowledged that hydrogen might someday be an important source of clean energy but asserted the technology isn’t ready yet.

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“There’s just one problem: Current hydrogen production is not at all ‘clean.’ In fact, 94 percent of hydrogen produced in the [United States] comes from fossil fuels,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

A group of House progressives also signed the letter, including Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).

Read more about the objections here.

DO YOU LIKE EVENTS?

This week, The Hill is putting on an event titled “Securing Energy Networks from Cyber Threats.” It will take place on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 2:00PM ET/11:00AM PT

As part of The Hill's A More Perfect Union festival, lawmakers, security experts and energy leaders explore how to proactively safeguard water, power, gas, and other systems from next-generation digital threats and prevent disruptions to everyday life. 

Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLiberty University professor charged with alleged sexual battery and abduction of student Five Senate Democrats reportedly opposed to Biden banking nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay MORE (D-Va.), FERC Commissioner Allison Clements and CSIS's Suzanne Spaulding join The Hill's Steve Clemons. RSVP today.

A MESSAGE FROM AMERICAN CLEAN POWER

              

 

Clean energy sources like wind, solar and energy storage power American jobs and economic opportunity across the U.S. Clean energy is powering the future, and together, we are the future of power. Read more.

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing titled “Fueling the Climate Crisis: Exposing Big Oil’s Disinformation Campaign to Prevent Climate Action.” Executives from major oil companies and trade groups are expected to testify. 

  • The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing entitled “International Climate Challenges and Opportunities”

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

At McKinsey, Widespread Furor Over Work With Planet’s Biggest Polluters, The New York Times reports

California is banking on forests to reduce emissions. What happens when they go up in smoke? Grist reports

Shapiro breaks with Pennsylvania gov. Wolf over strategy on climate change, The Associated Press reports

Stone-Manning sworn in as BLM director, E&E News reports

ICYMI:

Almost 500K without power in Massachusetts as nor'easter batters East Coast

OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: Get in, snoozer.

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.