Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Manchin seeks 'adjustments' to spending plan

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 continued Senate discussions over energy provisions in the reconciliation bill, DOE’s attempt to get communities to volunteer to store nuclear waste and pushback over the few climate mentions in the administration’s oil and gas report. 

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 eyes changes to reconciliation bill

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman J Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks during a  nomination hearing on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday he is working on “adjustments” to energy policies included in President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE’s climate and social spending bill as Senate Democrats haggle over the legislation.

Manchin, who is a key vote on the spending bill, met on Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.) to discuss the legislation, which Manchin hasn’t yet committed to supporting.

“The different energy stuff is what we mostly talked about. Just basically looking at different things that we agree [on] and adjustments that need to be made,” Manchin told reporters after the meeting.

Asked if he and Schumer are in agreement on what changes needed to be made, Manchin added, “We’re working on those.”

Manchin declined to say what specific policies he and Schumer discussed during the meeting, which lasted roughly 45 minutes.

Manchin has raised concerns about a plan to include a methane emission fee in the bill, as well as a plan to provide a larger tax credit to union made electric vehicles. Democrats already cut a problem meant to incentivize a transition to clean electricity because of Manchin’s opposition.

Asked if those two things were discussed, Manchin added that they talked about a “little bit of everything.”

 

SCHUMER FLOATS VOTE DATE

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to bring President Biden's social spending and climate bill to the floor as soon as the week of Dec. 13, a source familiar confirmed to The Hill.

Schumer's plan is to bring the bill, known as Build Back Better, to the Senate floor once Democrats finish their conversations with the parliamentarian, who provides guidance on what can be included in a bill passed through budget reconciliation.

"As soon as the necessary technical and procedural work with the Senate parliamentarian has been completed ... the Senate will take up this legislation," Schumer told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday. 

"Once that's complete, we're ready to move Build Back Better to the floor," Schumer added about the talks with the parliamentarian. 

The source said Schumer was privately telling people the bill could be brought to the floor as soon as the week of Dec. 13 under the presumption that talks with the parliamentarian eat up this week and next week. 

Read more about the potential timeline here.



A MESSAGE FROM EXXONMOBIL

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Feds seek areas to store nuclear waste

Nuclear waste barrels

The Department of Energy is looking for communities to volunteer to store nuclear waste.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff on Tuesday announced the U.S. would solicit information for potential locations for consent-based siting of waste depositories.

“We cannot continue to defer this challenge for future generations to figure out,” Huff said on a press call Tuesday, noting that spent nuclear fuel is currently stored at reactor sites, which did not agree to long-term storage.

Asked if the department was concerned about lack of willingness in communities to host such a site, Huff said that the process would attempt to engage as many communities as possible “to maximize our chances of finding a community that is willing to take on this responsibility.”

“Ultimately, we are very optimistic and hopeful,” she added, citing successful use of the consent-based process in other nations.

Background: Until 2010, nuclear waste was stored at Yucca Mountain, but the federal government has largely handled waste on a case-by-case basis since ending its use of the facility. In a September report, the Government Accountability Office called on Congress to address these issues by amending the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow the department to create a new siting process.

Read more about the new push here.

 


Drilling report draws scrutiny 

While a new report by the Interior Department recommends several changes to the federal oil and gas leasing program, it punts on one big question: how to account for climate change.  

The Biden administration has already indicated that it may seek to make drillers pay for the climate damage caused by fossil fuel extraction and is expected to increase the costs to drill based on climate harms, but the current report leaves questions about how and when such a policy would be announced. Rather, it says the department will keep examining the issue. 

That’s not sitting well with many climate activists. 

“That’s not a true comprehensive analysis. It’s a massive missed opportunity,” said Sara Cawley, a legislative representative with Earthjustice, referring to the report’s lack of climate change mentions.  

The report hinted at also considering climate costs in the future — but didn’t lay out explicit mechanisms. 

So what did it say, exactly? It said that the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement “will be continuing to study the most appropriate method for revising royalty rates and other fiscal terms to monetarily account for the costs of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.” 

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are three planet-warming gases that make up most of the country’s emissions. Fossil fuels are contributors to each type of emissions.  

The language surrounding this study is less firm than the recommendations issued in the report, which explicitly said that the BLM should “initiate a rulemaking” for the higher onshore royalties and increased rental rates. 

So why’s it a big deal to some advocates? Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program, said she believes factoring in climate costs could work to discourage oil and gas production — something she argued is lacking from the current recommendations.

“If the cost is truly reflective of the cost to society, then the effect would be to discourage production and that is where we could see some positive benefits: discouraging, actually, leases and production, because that’s what the climate demands,” she said.

And what does the department have to say? In an email to The Hill, Interior Department spokesperson Tyler Cherry said that “analyses of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions are ongoing and will be incorporated in the Department’s planning and reviews as it moves forward with leasing.” 

Read more about the situation here.



ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 
  • The EPW committee will also vote on Biden nominees Carlton Waterhouse, Amanda Howe, David Uhlmann  and Christopher Frey to lead the EPA’s offices of Land and Emergency Management of the Environmental Protection Agency,  Mission Support, Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and Research and Development respectively
  • The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on nominees including Jainey Kumar Bavishi to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere



A MESSAGE FROM EXXONMOBIL



WHAT WE’RE READING

  • “People should probably be worried”: Texas hasn’t done enough to prevent another winter blackout, experts say, The Texas Tribune and NBC News report
  • Defections, Morale Grip EPA Forensics Lab: ‘We Can’t Function,’ Bloomberg Law reports
  • Mexico seeks to overhaul Canada migrant farmworker program amid climate disasters, Reuters reports
  • What's the environmental impact each time we hit 'buy now,' and can we change course? NPR reports

 

ICYMI

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Everyone I know is sharing this reproducing robot story.

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 Wednesday.

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