Energy & Environment — Administration seeks meeting with oil companies

The Biden administration is working on a meeting with oil companies amid high gasoline prices, and Speaker Pelosi says a climate and social spending package is still possible. 

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. 

Officials work to set meeting with oil companies

The Biden administration is working to finalize a meeting between Energy Department officials and oil companies that is likely to take place in the “next couple of days,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday.   

“We’re finalizing details and we’ll be sure to pass that along as soon as we can,” Jean-Pierre told reporters, adding that President Biden is seeking to “create a forum so that the oil companies are able to put forth ideas” on how to lower fuel prices.   

  • Biden wrote in a letter to seven oil company executives earlier this week that said he was directing Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to convene an emergency meeting on gas prices in order to engage with industry leaders.
  • Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that she wasn’t sure if Biden would join the meeting. She reiterated that Biden is willing to use his authority in any “reasonable” way to help boost refinery capacity and wanted to hear other ideas from oil companies about what the federal government can do.   

“Maybe there is a way that we can help them meet that capacity,” she said. 

The Energy Department did not immediately respond to requests for information on the meeting plans.   

Meanwhile, Wednesday Jean-Pierre floated the idea of using the Defense Production Act as a possible solution to high gasoline prices during a prior press briefing.  

“He is open to all reasonable uses of [the] federal government’s tools to increase output and lower costs at the pump, including emergency authorities like the Defense Production Act,” she she told reporters, but declined to give specifics on what it would be used on.  

Read more about the work on the meeting here, from The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant.

Pelosi: Climate, social spending package is ‘alive’ 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that negotiations on a massive social spending and climate package remain active despite the opposition from Senate centrists that stopped the legislation in its tracks last year. 

  • The Speaker emphasized that House Democrats, who passed a roughly $2 trillion reconciliation package in November, are essentially sidelined as Senate leaders seek to continue the delicate talks with the centrist holdouts. 
  • But a day after meeting with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the White House to discuss the economy, Pelosi said there’s still a chance of enacting some slimmed-down version of the House legislation this year. 

“Reconciliation is a Senate matter. We passed our bill, we made our views known. And that is a closely held negotiation on the Senate side,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.  

“Suffice to say that we expressed our interest in the timing, when it would happen. But we did not get into the details.” 

“It’s alive,” she added. “I would say that.” 

Pelosi declined to reveal any details about the White House talks, but expressed some hope that whatever proposal might emerge will extend enhanced premium subsidies for millions of patients under ObamaCare.  

Meanwhile…In a new letter announced on Thursday, 175 Democrats wrote to President Biden asking him to “reach a deal and sign into law as swiftly as possible a revised reconciliation package that includes the climate investments” passed by the House.  

The sprawling group of House Democrats warned that “the window to achieve a deal is rapidly closing, and so time is of the essence.” 

Read more about Pelosi’s comments here from The Hill’s Mike Lillis. 

VOTE WATCH

The Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would expand benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances, while the House passed a bill aimed at boosting biofuels.  

FUEL BILL

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed an omnibus appropriations bill aimed at addressing spiraling fuel costs by further expanding the availability of higher-ethanol fuel blends.  

  • The Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act contains a number of separate agriculture provisions aimed at addressing food costs and supply chain issues.
  • On the energy side, it would remove summertime restrictions on the sale of a type of gasoline that’s made with 15 percent ethanol. The policy is similar to provisions included in an executive order signed by President Biden earlier this month. It would also appropriate $200 million to expand biofuel infrastructure and equipment. 

The measure passed the chamber 221-204 in a largely party-line vote, with five Democrats voting against it and seven Republicans in favor. 

Read more about the fuel bill here.  


VETS BILL

The Senate on Thursday voted 84-14 to pass legislation expanding benefits for veterans suffering health effects from toxic exposures during their military service. 

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, among other things, expands the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care eligibility to veterans who served after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

  • The measure now heads back to the House, where it passed by a vote of
    256-174 in March, with 34 Republicans joining Democrats to advance the measure. Thursday’s legislation includes several changes from the House version.
  • Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) — the top members on the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee — unveiled the bipartisan legislation in mid-May after a year of negotiations. 

Servicemembers have been exposed to toxins throughout history, though Thursday’s legislation is largely aimed at helping veterans who were exposed to burn pits in the post-9/11 era. 

Burn pits were open areas of land used for combustion of trash and other waste like chemicals, human waste, munitions and food waste. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Jordan Williams.

ADMIN CLAIMS CLIMATE WIN DESPITE NO EMISSIONS CUT

The Biden administration is touting airline standards it is proposing to adopt as a climate win, even though its technical documents say that the rule isn’t expected to cut planet-warming emissions.  

  • The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Wednesday that it would propose to implement airline climate standards put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration. 
  • In a statement on Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that the proposal to adopt the airline standards is “an important step forward in reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released by our nation’s airplanes.”
  • However, the agency’s technical documents indicate that the rule won’t actually cut emissions.  

“The EPA estimated that there would not be reductions in fuel burn and CO2 emissions beyond the business as usual baseline,” said the rule’s regulatory impact analysis, citing a Trump-era finding.  

What did they have to say? Asked about the apparent discrepancy between its statement and the technical documents, the Federal Aviation Administration argued that setting the standards in the first place is a win, since it expects to tighten the standards in the future.  

“Setting the first-ever standard for more efficient aircraft is an important step toward reducing CO2. We anticipate tightening that standard over time,” the agency said in a statement to The Hill. 

Read more here. 

ON TAP TOMORROW

President Biden will host a virtual meeting of the leaders of major economic powers known as the Major Economies Forum to discuss energy and climate issues. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • White House Weighs Fuel-Export Limits as Pump Prices Surge (Bloomberg
  • The cruelest summer yet? California is facing drought, heat, blackouts and fires — all at once (The San Francisco Chronicle
  • Why investors suddenly care about saving the environment (Vox
  • In a place with little sea ice, polar bears have found another way to hunt (NPR
  • These five people could make or break the Colorado River (The Los Angeles Times

ICYMI

And finally, something offbeat and off-beatAaww!  

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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