With help from Anthony Adragna, Ben Lefebvre, Annie Snider, Eric Wolff and Doug Palmer
WAS IT JUST A NIGHTMARE? After cutting it close to the wire, Congress passed a massive budget deal with various energy-related add-ons this morning. The Senate passed the bill earlier Friday morning, after Sen. Rand Paul refused to allow the measure to proceed Thursday without a standalone vote on an amendment related to the debt ceiling, forcing the government into shutdown mode for the second time in a matter of weeks, if only briefly. The package cleared the House a little after 5:30 a.m. and now heads to President Donald Trump, who has said he will sign it. The bill, H.R. 1892 (115), extends government funding through March 23 to give lawmakers time to write an omnibus appropriations bill for the rest of the year, and it sets top-line budget targets for the next two years. It also provides disaster relief funding and renews a number of tax extenders.
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ICYMI, here’s a reminder of what’s in the budget bill:
— Most notably, the bill would reinstate several energy tax extenders and modify credits for nuclear energy and carbon capture projects, Pro’s Nick Juliano reports.
— In a win for nuclear proponents — notably Georgia Power’s Vogtle plant — the bill that would eliminate a 2020 deadline to claim a tax credit for new nuclear power plants.
— The legislation includes the sale of up to $350 million of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to fund modernization efforts, as well requiring the sale of an additional 100 million barrels from the tapped reserve to help offset cost.
— Reinstates the 9-cent-per-barrel tax on oil to pay for spill cleanups. The tax, which goes to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, expired at the end of last year. It would go back into effect starting March 1.
THE FALLOUT: The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday the budget deal would cost nearly $320 billion over a decade and would reduce mandatory spending by nearly $47 billion over 10 years even as it balloons discretionary spending, Pro’s Sarah Ferris reports. (Read the CBO score here.) And the energy tax provisions that made their way into Congress’ budget deal would cost more than $11 billion over the next decade, according to estimates from the Joint Committee on Taxation. The biggest portion of that is the retroactive, one-year extension of a set of income and excise tax credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel. Read the further breakdown of the cost here.
IT’S UP TO YOU: Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden passed the buck when asked whether the tax extenders in the budget deal would be Congress’ last bite at the apple in that area. “You gotta ask [House Ways and Means] Chairman [Kevin] Brady. His chickens are coming home to roost,” he told reporters. Wyden’s referring to Brady’s promise the tax bill would do away with a host of tax breaks and exemptions for specific industries permanently, which didn’t come to pass in the final version.
WELCOME TO FRIDAY! I’m your host Kelsey Tamborrino, and Entergy’s Rob Hall was first to guess 16 nations participated in the first Winter Olympics. For today: In what year did the first official congressional override of a presidential veto occur? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter @kelseytam, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.
OPTIMISM OVER WHEELER: Senate EPW Chairman John Barrasso is exuding confidence EPA deputy nominee Andrew Wheeler will escape the fates of Kathleen Hartnett White and Michael Dourson by getting a floor vote in the near future. “I think we’ll get there, yes I do,” he told ME. “Sen. [Tom] Carper and I are working together to make sure it happens.” Remember Carper indicated he wanted some additional information from Pruitt before considering a time agreement to fast-track Wheeler’s floor consideration.
EPA CLOSES VEGAS RESEARCH FACILITIES: EPA’s research division will shutter all operations at its Las Vegas laboratory by the end of the fiscal year, Pro’s Alex Guillén reports via a Feb. 6 email from the head of EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory. “The drivers behind the decision are the continued pressure to reduce the amount of federally leased space by consolidating operations into federally owned space and to reduce our overall operational costs moving forward,” Tim Watkins wrote in the email.
EPA confirmed the closure: “EPA is consolidating services into EPA-owned buildings in Cincinnati, Ohio and Research Triangle Park, NC. This decision will save taxpayer dollars and streamline layers,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in a statement. The Las Vegas staff can relocate to another EPA facility this summer, she said. Read more.
CANADIANS FILE TO BLOCK SOLAR TARIFF: A trio of Canadian solar manufacturers this week challenged the Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs in the International Court of Trade. The companies say the tariff violates NAFTA, and the majority of the International Trade Commission found that Canadian solar manufacturers did not constitute a sufficient quantity of U.S. solar imports as to cause injury. They call on the court to enjoin the tariffs and for an expedited resolution of the case.
Why now? Customs and Border Protection began collecting the tariff on Wednesday, thus creating the injury that allows the Silfab Solar Inc., Heliene Inc. and Canada Solar Solutions Inc. to file their complaint.
AND THE EU WANTS A WORD, TOO: The European Union on Thursday became the fourth WTO member to formally ask the United States to discuss compensation for trade losses that result from President Donald Trump’s safeguard measures on solar equipment. It joined China, Taiwan and South Korea, which have already made a similar request. Article 8.1 of the WTO Agreement on Safeguards requires countries proposing to impose a safeguard measure, like Trump’s restrictions on solar and washing machine imports, to compensate other WTO members for trade losses. That could be in the form of reduced duties on products of interest to those countries.
If no agreement is reached on compensation within 30 days of their requests, the EU, China, Taiwan and South Korea could begin proceedings to impose retaliatory tariffs on the United States. But those tariffs could not be imposed unless the parties prove to a WTO dispute settlement panel that the United States applied the restrictions in a way that violated the safeguards agreement.
BY THE POWER VESTED IN PERRY: Energy Secretary Rick Perry is considering using his authority under Section 202 of the Federal Power Act to provide emergency compensation for FirstEnergy Solutions coal-fired power plants that are in danger of shutting, Bloomberg reports. After Perry’s plan to bail out coal plant in the name of grid resiliency failed to win the support of FERC, the Department is considering this option, people familiar with the option told the newswire. Agency spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes denied the report, saying “that is not correct information,” but declined to provide details. Coal magnate Bob Murray, whose company Murray Energy sells coal to some of the First Energy plants, has called on the administration to the power under Section 202 to order the power plants to operate. Read the story here.
WOTUS OPPONENTS PUT BACKUP PLAN IN PLACE: Critics of the Obama administration’s controversial water rule are mounting a double-pronged attack in a bid to keep the regulation from going into effect now that an appellate court stay freezing the rule could be lifted as soon as next week. While the Trump administration has moved to delay the 2015 rule administratively — a move that legal experts say could be on shaky ground — industry groups from the American Farm Bureau Federation to the American Petroleum Institute to the National Home Builders Association this week asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to issue a nationwide preliminary injunction for the rule. Pointing to the multiple steps the Trump administration is taking with respect to the rule and the many lawsuits expected over them, the groups argue that they are facing “paralyzing uncertainty” that could last for years and risk not only civil fines but also criminal charges for acting in the meantime.
While the Trump administration is apt to agree with the industry groups, there will be someone in court to oppose the injunction request: The Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Wildlife Federation have both intervened in the case.
DOC OF THE DAY: House Democrats unveiled their own infrastructure plan Thursday, ahead of the White House plan expected to arrive Monday with Trump’s budget plan. Read it here.
WHERE’S RYAN ZINKE? The Interior secretary will make a “major conservation announcement” today at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo in Salt Lake City.
— EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will meet with the president today at 3:30 p.m.
WEST COASTING: The California Coastal Commission joins the chorus of West Coast regulators telling the Interior Department to cool its jets on opening the Pacific to oil and gas drilling. The commission, which oversees the use of public coastal regions, approved a letter addressed to BOEM reminding that agency of the oil spill that occurred in the waters near Santa Barbara in 1969. It now joins California Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and others state lawmakers in pressuring Zinke to give it the same treatment he tried giving Florida and taking it out of the offshore drilling plan proposal. “If offshore drilling poses a rise to Florida’s economy, the risk to California’s is three times greater,” the commission’s chair tells Interior.
METHANE ANNOUNCEMENT ON TAP: An official announcement on Interior’s planned changes to the Obama-era methane rule could be released soon, Pro’s Ben Lefebvre reports. The agency’s proposed change cleared OMB on Thursday, according to the agency’s website. Interior has made clear it intends to roll back or significantly soften the BLM rule on methane emissions from wells and pipelines that was finalized in November 2016. Read more.
LAW AND ORDER: EPA: EPA published its enforcement report on Thursday for fiscal 2017, calling last year one of its best over the last decade on enforcement — though figures were bumped up by the Volkswagen emissions cheating case that started during the Obama administration, Pro’s Alex Guillén reports. EPA secured $20 billion from companies to fund pollution controls and remediation as part of enforcement agreements. Of that, nearly $16 billion was connected to the Volkswagen scandal. It was the second-highest relief level in a decade, behind only 2011.
The agency also assessed administrative or judicial penalties of $1.6 billion last year — again, the second-highest year in a decade, behind 2016 when the figures were boosted by a $5.7 billion penalty against BP over its Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Read the report here.
GOVERNORS CALL OUT REORG PLAN: A bipartisan group of Western state governors say Zinke did not consult them about his plans for reorganizing the agency, the Associated Press reports. In a letter dated Feb. 1 from the Western Governors Association, the group says they had asked Zinke in April 2017 to be consulted on any reorganization of the department and said the secretary had not sought out their views. A spokesman for the group told the AP they still haven’t received a response from Zinke as of Thursday. More from AP here and read the letter here.
BLOWING IN THE WIND: AT&T on Thursday said it would purchase 520 megawatts of wind power through two agreements with NextEra Energy Resources subsidiaries — 220 MW of power will come from the Minco V Wind Farm in Oklahoma and 300 MW from a wind farm in Webb and Duval Counties in Texas. The telecom company touted the deal as “one of the largest corporate renewable energy purchases in the U.S,” and comes as part of its goal “to develop and leverage technology solutions that enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by 2025.”
SKI PATROL: New analysis by the Climate Impact Lab finds the number of days at or below freezing in some of the most popular U.S. ski towns will decline by weeks — or even a month — within 20 years. Read the analysis here.
MAIL CALL: More than 100 people from communities suffering from PFCs in their water signed a letter Thursday to congressional appropriators demanding the protection of EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System program in the fiscal 2018 funding bill.
— New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Louise Slaughter launched a bipartisan effort Thursday to try to get the administration to exempt New York from the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan. The letter was joined by more than 20 members of the House and Senate. Read it here.
MOVER, SHAKER: Michelle DePass, who was assistant EPA administrator for international and tribal affairs during former President Barack Obama’s first term, has been named president and CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust in Oregon.
— How to read between the lines when Pruitt talks about climate science, The New York Times.
— Drilling foes, supporters say Florida still in play, News4Jax.
— PG&E’s federal tax break would go to customers under new bill, San Francisco Chronicle.
— Canada trims pipeline reviews as industry seeks more details, Bloomberg.
— Trump DOJ passes on perjury prosecution of ex-chairman, E&E News.
— Forest Service consents to mineral drilling near volcano, The Daily News.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!
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