Energy & Environment — Lawmakers weigh carbon import tariff 
The Hill, Greg Nash

Bipartisan lawmakers are weighing border carbon tariffs and permitting reform. And the government is also delaying the release of water from Lake Powell amid a serious drought. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 

Carbon border tax, permitting reform part of talks 

During a meeting on climate and energy issues, a bipartisan group of lawmakers discussed a tariff on imports from countries that contribute to climate change. They also examined environmental reviews that Republicans have long called too onerous.  

On Monday, the group of about a dozen lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum met to discuss the issues in what Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) described as “getting everyone together on some ideas … on how we can all work together.” 

“We want to make sure that we have the reliability that fossil has given us and can continue to give us and must continue to give us as we basically promote and invest in the new technologies and innovation that’s going to take us to the next level,” he said.  

According to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the ideas discussed included:

  • “Where we’re going to get our minerals”
  • “How we’re going to get them processed”
  • “The NEPA review process as you think about building renewable facilities”

NEPA refers to the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental reviews of major projects, including energy infrastructure, but also other construction such as highways.  

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said he promoted a carbon border adjustment, an import tariff on products from countries that may have less stringent climate regulations.  

“Right now the current system incentivizes countries like China and India and Vietnam to not pay attention to emissions because you can produce a good cheaper by not paying,” Cassidy said. “But if we had a border carbon adjustment, it would help our workers, help our industry, incentivize them to do it right.” 

“This is about national security. Right now, we’re losing jobs, we’re losing industry and China’s economy’s getting stronger,” he said. “A carbon border adjustment reverses that.” 

But, Cassidy specified that his proposal was “different than a carbon tax, absolutely. Period. End of story.” 

Democrats who attended the meeting:

  • Manchin
  • Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)
  • Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii)
  • Sen. Chris Coons (Del.)
  • Sen. Tom Carper (Del.)
  • Sen. Mark Kelly (Ariz.)
  • Sen. John Hickenlooper (Colo.)
  • Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.).  

Republicans who attended:

  • Cassidy
  • Romney
  • Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) 

The meeting came a week after a previous meeting that was attended by Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer (N.D.), who was not in Washington on Monday.  

On Tuesday, Cramer was back in town: He floated the idea of credits for “emerging technologies” like carbon capture — which seeks to prevent plant-warming emissions from going into the air when fossil fuels are burned — and hydrogen energy. He suggested a “fuel neutral” approach that would be tied to an emissions standard.  

The senator was skeptical when asked if the talks could be used to advance Democrats’ proposed tax credits. 

“If it becomes a vehicle for them then it becomes less attractive to us,” Cramer said.

“If we don’t keep it narrow, it’ll spin out of control.” 

A third meeting is expected to take place on Wednesday.  

Read more about Monday’s meeting here. 

Interior delays Lake Powell release amid drought 

The Interior Department announced Tuesday that it will delay a planned release of water from Lake Powell as a measure against a drought that has plunged the reservoir’s water to unprecedented levels.   

The department’s Bureau of Reclamation will hold back nearly 480,000 acre-feet of water in the Colorado River reservoir from release, according to the announcement.   

Lake Powell is currently at an all-time low surface elevation of 3,522 ft. The minimum level at which the Glen Canyon Dam can generate hydropower is 3,490 ft., according to the bureau.     

Ordinarily, the water would be released downstream to Lake Mead, the other major Colorado River reservoir. Interior projected that withholding the water will prop up the reservoir for an additional 12 months.   

In addition to withholding the release, Interior officials will also release about 500,000 acre-feet into the reservoir from the upstream Flaming Gorge reservoir.   

“Today’s decision reflects the truly unprecedented challenges facing the Colorado River Basin and will provide operational certainty for the next year. Everyone who relies on the Colorado River must continue to work together to reduce uses and think of additional proactive measures we can take in the months and years ahead to rebuild our reservoirs,” Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tanya Trujillo said in a statement. 

Read more about the move here.  

CHEMICALS MAY HARM MALE TEENS’ BONES 

Exposure to two classes of endocrine-disrupting compounds — “forever chemicals” and phthalates — may be associated with poor bone health in male teens, a new study has found. 

Some of these disrupters, which interfere with the way the body’s hormones work, could be responsible for reducing bone mineral density in adolescent boys, according to the study in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 

Because bone accrual mainly occurs during childhood and adolescence, the authors stressed the importance of identifying factors that negatively impact bone development during this period. 

So-called forever chemicals — also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — are most notorious for their presence in jet fuel firefighting foams and industrial discharge, but are also key ingredients in a variety of household products, like nonstick pans, waterproof apparel, cosmetics and food packaging. 

Not only are PFAS pervasive in consumer products, but they also tend to linger in both human tissue and in the environment. Exposure to PFAS is linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease and other illnesses. 

Phthalates, meanwhile, are often used in personal care products, children’s toys and food packaging and processing materials. They are associated with birth defects, infertility, learning disabilities and neurological disorders.  

“Adolescence is an important time when our bodies build up bone,” study co-author Abby Fleisch, of the Maine Medical Center Research Institute, said in a statement. 

“Almost all U.S. children and adolescents are exposed to PFAS and phthalates, but few studies have looked at how these chemicals could be impacting our bone health,” Fleisch added. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin. 

NUCLEAR NOMS

President Biden on Friday nominated Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates nuclear power plants.

If confirmed, Caputo and Crowell will fill two vacant seats to give the agency a full complement of five commissioners.  

Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) tweeted that he’d advance them “swiftly.” 

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider whether to advance ratification of the Kigali Amendment, an international agreement to cut down the use of planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons, which are extremely potent climate change contributors 
  • Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the department’s budget 
  • Forest Service Chief Randy Moore will testify before Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the agency’s budget 
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on matters including whether to advance the Water Resources Development Act 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • How phantom forests are used for greenwashing (BBC News
  • Known to be toxic for a century, lead still poisons thousands of Midwestern kids (NPR
  • As Gas Prices Soar, Nobody Knows How Much Methane Is Leaking (Bloomberg
  • ‘We are living in hell’: Pakistan and India suffer extreme spring heatwaves (The Guardian
  • Gas Giants Have Been Ghostwriting Letters Of Support From Elected Officials (HuffPost

And finally, something offbeat and off-beatBeware of the turkey! 

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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