Capitol Light/Climate Politics
Both the House and Senate managed to return from the August recess. They have less than three weeks to come to some agreement on funding the new federal fiscal year that begins on October 1st.
Can they do it? They can. Will they do it? That’s a tough one to answer at this stage. Ultimately, they’ll have to if they want to get paid—but between now and some final action a lot is going to happen—and not necessarily for the better.
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Senate appropriations committees have basically finished their work on the 12 appropriations bills that make-up the federal budget—although the bills have not been brought to the floor for a vote. The Senate’s legislation has bi-partisan support.
Hard-core, far-right House Republicans have vowed to vote against any final appropriation legislation or continuing resolution that doesn’t include provisions for a President Biden impeachment inquiry, major cuts in spending (below those agreed to earlier by the House and Senate as part of the debt-ceiling legislation, and other MAGA priorities.
As an example of how far Republican populists are willing to go to get their way, look to what Senator Tuberville (R-AL) is doing to the military. He has a hold on over 300 promotions—including the head of each service—demanding that the military stop paying for abortions. The senator seems unmoved by arguments that what he’s doing is jeopardizing US security.
In addition to the FY 2024 federal budget being on the line, is McCarthy’s future as the Speaker of the House. It took McCarthy 15 votes to finally secure the speakership. In the process he agreed to a provision that would allow a single House member to call for a vote of confidence. Should he lose the vote, he’d lose the speaker’s gavel. Threats from the far-right have become a routine part of their patter.
As Senate Minority Leader McCarthy told the folks back home in Kentucky—the situation is a “pretty big mess. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
On to today’s ten.
SNAFU, gesundheit. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, told an audience in his home state that “honestly, it’s a pretty big mess.” (The Hill)
Driving us crazy. A powerful federal appeals court will hear arguments this week in three challenges to the Biden administration’s efforts to curb the largest source of planet-warming pollution in the United States — and the battles have the potential to go all the way to the nation’s highest bench.
The cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit target both historic and contemporary efforts to clean up car and truck exhaust. They will test a 1960s-era waiver that allows California to impose stricter pollution controls than the federal government, and they’ll wield a new legal tool — used by the Supreme Court last year to constrain EPA control of power plant emissions — against a Biden administration initiative to reduce vehicle emissions.
One major player in the litigation is unlikely to participate in Thursday’s arguments. Paxton, the Republican stalwart who led the coalition of states suing over the EPA car rule, is in the middle of an unrelated impeachment trial in the Texas Legislature. (E&E News) (See here for analysis of Paxton impeachment trial.)
A taxing situation. The U.S. Treasury said it will provide guidance on additional clean energy tax incentives before the end of 2023, including a provision aimed at deterring companies from relying on Chinese supply chains.
along with guidance for the "45X" manufacturing production tax for clean energy products such as solar, wind, batteries and critical minerals components. (Reuters)
The auto industry is watching the rules for both credits as they make investment decisions on producing batteries for their transition to electric vehicles. The foreign entity of concern rules come into effect in 2024 for completed batteries and 2025 for critical minerals used to produce them.
A key decision in the guidance is whether Ford Motor Co's (F.N) deal to license the technology of Chinese battery manufacturer CATL (300750.SZ) for use in Ford-owned U.S. battery plants will meet the Treasury's standards to access the tax credits. The arrangement has raised concerns among U.S. lawmakers.
In the pursuit of sustainability. Leaders from the Group of 20 said they will “pursue and encourage efforts” to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, but could not agree on specific fossil fuel reduction commitments during a two-day summit in New Delhi. The latest G20 declaration reiterated the group’s commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by or around 2050, while recognizing the importance of accelerating efforts to phase down unabated coal power to help transition to low-emission energy systems. (Reuters)
Faster, faster. Carbon capture developers, lawmakers, and others frustrated with the slow pace of permitting for storage projects want the U.S. EPA to hand off authority to states.
In little more than a year, the list of permit applications from would-be project developers seeking to inject carbon dioxide into rock formations for permanent storage has ballooned from 14 to 119, driven by generous new federal tax incentives, the fear of future regulation and corporate climate commitments.
EPA itself has said the widespread use of carbon capture will be needed to meet the nation’s climate goals.
But the agency has only approved two permits that have led to projects — both at Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.’s Decatur, Ill., ethanol plant. Two draft permits have been issued for sites in Vigo County, Ind., but aren’t yet final.
The slow pace of permitting has frustrated project developers, lawmakers and carbon capture proponents. The way to clear the backlog, they argue, is for EPA to hand off its Safe Drinking Water Act permitting authority to a growing list of states that are willing to administer the permits themselves. Many have enacted state laws that they say would offer federal-like environmental protections as the carbon sequestration industry matures. (E&E News)
Yet, another taxing situation. Momentum is growing on Capitol Hill for a policy that would require the tallying of carbon emissions associated with industrial materials produced in the U.S. — the first step in building support for tariffs on carbon-intensive imports.
A bipartisan Senate proposal is gaining traction as two lawmakers prepare to introduce companion legislation in the House.
History is being made with impeachment trial of the Texas’ attorney general. Paxton should be familiar to almost every climate activist for his challenges to the climate and clean energy policies and programs of both the Obama and Biden administrations. (E&E News)
The sun shines on solar. The U.S. solar industry is expected to add a record 32 gigawatts of production capacity this year, up by 53% from last year, according to a new report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie.
The report estimated that solar capacity would grow from 153 GW to 375 GW by 2028, as supply chain issues that arose due to the coronavirus pandemic ease up. Investment incentives from the Inflation reduction Act also contributed to the growth of the industry.
Increased investment in domestic manufacturing could see the country’s solar module production skyrocket by 2026 – if all new factory plans materialize, Wood Mackenzie said. (Washington Examiner)
What a glue-me Gus. The U.S. Open semifinal match on Thursday night between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova was delayed by 49 minutes early in the second set by four environmental protesters in the upper levels of Arthur Ashe Stadium who were calling for an end to fossil fuels. One protester glued his bare feet to the ground.
The protest confused fans, television commentators and the players themselves, who were trying to understand what the group was protesting and why the match had been delayed so long. When play stopped, Gauff, the eventual winner, was leading, 6-4, 1-0. Both players left the court. Gauff went on to win the Open. (New York Times)
Can’t get around it, under it, or over it. The border wall championed by President Donald Trump harmed the environment and trampled on Native American cultural sites, according to a report released on Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.
The 450 miles of barrier constructed during Trump’s time in office — one of his highest-profile actions — proceeded by waiving or disregarding environmental and historic preservation laws. But it’s now clear the wall interfered with endangered species, diverted water sources and caused other environmental damage, the federal watchdog said. (POLITICO)
The rich get richer. The top 50 independent, U.S. oil and gas producers spent $58.8 billion on dividends and share buybacks last year, surpassing the $55.1 billion allocated for exploration and development for the first time, according to research from Ernst & Young. Last year, profits for the group, which include ConocoPhillips, Pioneer Natural Resources and Diamondback Energy, exceeded $333 billion. (Reuters)
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