Energy & Environment — AGs push Biden over California emissions standards

More than a dozen GOP-led states are suing the Biden administration because it reinstated California’s ability to set vehicle emissions standards. We’ll also look at Republican primaries that could shape the future of climate positioning on the right.

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. Subscribe here.

States sue EPA over California emissions regulations

Seventeen Republican state attorneys general on Friday announced a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing California to set its own vehicle emissions standards.  

The lawsuit alleges EPA Administrator Michael Regan violated the Constitution’s doctrine of equal sovereignty by allowing California an exemption from the Clean Air Act, which the Golden State used to impose more stringent emissions limits than the nationwide limit.  

“The Act simply leaves California with a slice of its sovereign authority that Congress withdraws from every other state,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said in a statement. “The EPA cannot selectively waive the Act’s preemption for California alone because that favoritism violates the states’ equal sovereignty.”  

Who’s on board? Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the attorneys general for Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.  

The story so far: In 2019 the Trump administration revoked a waiver previously granted to California in 2013, which allowed it to set stricter standards for vehicles than the national standard. This March, Regan announced the waiver would be restored.  

The EPA, which said as early as 2021 that it would reconsider the revocation, has called the Trump administration’s decision to revoke the waiver “inappropriate.” In its announcement, the agency said its predecessors’ decision was not based on any factual errors in the waiver. 

Read more about the lawsuit here. 

GOP primaries could shape climate push on the right

This summer’s GOP primaries could help shape the future of a long-shot conservative push that seeks to turn climate change from a marginal issue to a key selling point for conservative energy policies.

In a number of races, candidates backed by former President Trump are challenging incumbents who have been more open to talking about climate issues than others in the party, including Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

There is also a cohort of freshmen lawmakers from the Conservative Climate Caucus, which was formed just last year, fighting to keep their seats. 

Speed bumps: Tuesday’s defeat of Conservative Climate Caucus member Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) by Trump-endorsed Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) marks an early defeat for that effort, potentially weakening the Republican caucus that supports the so-called all of the above energy strategy for the coming Congress.  

While Republicans are expected to make gains in the November midterms and retake control of the House, the question of precisely what policies a potential Republican majority might support remains unsettled, said Heather Reams, head of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a conservative nonprofit group that lobbies Republican lawmakers on clean energy. 

Read more about the landscape here from The Hill’s Saul Elbein.

SENATE DEMS TARGET FUEL MARKET MANIPULATION 

Senate Democrats on Friday introduced a bill that would impose stiff penalties for anyone who seeks to manipulate oil markets, as the lawmakers try to push the blame for high prices onto companies.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) on Friday introduced a bill that would double the maximum penalty for manipulating wholesale oil markets to $2 million per day for each violation. 

The legislation would also create a “Transportation Fuel Monitoring and Enforcement Unit” at the Federal Trade Commission that would monitor crude oil, gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil markets to facilitate market practices.  

The unit would also advise the full commission on whether to go after those who participate in manipulation, false reporting or other unfair competition practices.  

“Americans are frustrated and bewildered by gasoline prices that keep going up even when oil prices drop and fossil fuel companies post obscene profits,” Cantwell said in a statement. “This legislation will put a full time policeman on the beat able to shine a bright light on the mysterious middle of gas markets and go after any bad actors that are exploiting consumers.”

Coming soon, to a House Floor near you: The introduction comes as the House is expected to vote next week on separate legislation that aims to outlaw “excessive” gasoline prices.  

However, market analysts say they haven’t seen evidence of price gouging, and described the Democrats’ efforts to blame companies, rather than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as strictly political.  

“That’s all posturing,” Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service, said of price gouging claims. Instead, he blamed the market for high prices.  

“It’s just people bidding the price of crude or bidding the price of diesel or bidding the price of gasoline higher,” he said.  

POWELL WINS OVER WHITEHOUSE DESPITE CLIMATE CONCERNS 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) voted Thursday to confirm Jerome Powell for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman after previously opposing his nomination over climate-related concerns.

In a November 2021 statement, Whitehouse and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) urged against Powell’s nomination for a second term, saying that “Jerome Powell refuses to recognize climate change as an urgent and systemic economic threat.” 

“During his tenure, Chair Powell first ignored climate change and then resisted calls for the Fed to use its tools to fight it, arguing that climate change ‘is really an issue that is assigned to lots of other government agencies, not so much the Fed,’” wrote Whitehouse and Merkley.  

However, Whitehouse ultimately voted to confirm Powell as chairman on Thursday, parting ways with Merkley, who voted against Powell’s confirmation. The two also differed in their votes on the Federal Reserve chief’s first nomination for the role in 2018, with Whitehouse voting yes and Merkley no.

The Thursday vote came after Whitehouse and Powell spoke over the phone in January, according to Powell’s public calendar. 

“In my conversation with Powell, he assured me that they will address my concerns,” Whitehouse said in a statement to The Hill. “So my ‘yes’ vote is a show of good faith to give him a chance to do right.  There are better avenues to influence the administration than voting no.” 

Read more here from The Hill’s Chloe Folmar.

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

Tuesday

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold hearings to examine ways to strengthen the energy and mineral partnership between the U.S. and Canada to address energy security and climate objectives.
  • The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the President’s proposed budget request for the EPA for fiscal year 2023. Often, administration officials testify at such budget hearings, but hearing witnesses were not listed on Friday afternoon.

   Wednesday

  • The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold hearings to examine the President’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2023 for the Fish and Wildlife Service. FWS director Martha Williams is expected to testify.
  • National Park Service Director Charles Sams III and NPS Comptroller Jessica Bowron will testify before the House Appropriations Committee on the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget request for the National Park Service.
  • The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing entitled “Climate Smart from Farm to Fork: Building an Affordable and Resilient Food Supply Chain.” 

   Thursday

  • Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the President’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2023 for the Department of the Interior.

   Friday

  • The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing entitled “Building a Workforce to Navigate the Electric Vehicle Future.”

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Zinke’s wife declaring primary residence in California as he runs in Montana (Politico
  • A pass for polluting? Environmental groups, employees say EPA enforcement efforts lacking (USA Today
  • California just ran on 100% renewable energy, but fossil fuels aren’t fading away yet (NPR
  • The dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants (The Washington Post)
  • First-of-its kind project in Colorado will bury 350,000 tons of planet-warming carbon that would have been released into the air (Colorado Public Radio

   And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Over the moon.  

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 Monday.  

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