By Anthony Adragna | 05/18/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Nick Juliano and Darius Dixon
YOU'RE UP, BERNHARDT: Expect Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to pepper President Donald Trump's selection for the number two position at Interior, Dave Bernhardt, with questions about how he'll juggle conflicts of interests stemming from his work as an energy and water policy lobbyist when his confirmation hearing gavels in today, Pro's Ben Lefebvre and Esther Whieldon report. "He's spent most of his time representing oil companies and folks who have everything but the environment as a priority," Sen. Tammy Duckworth said. Bernhardt is also expected to face scrutiny over a series of scandals at Interior during his previous stint as its chief of staff and solicitor during the George W. Bush administration. It's worth noting that despite Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" of industry influence and money, Bernhardt, whose lobbying clients included Freeport LNG and the Westlands Water District, is the latest to come right from K Street.
Republicans and energy groups are thrilled with the pick. "David is an excellent choice," said Kathleen Sgamma, spokeswoman for trade association Western Energy Alliance. "His range of experience makes him very well suited for the job." And though they acknowledge Bernhardt's previous work at Interior is likely to prompt fierce questioning from Democrats today, backers aren't worried about anything ultimately derailing his nomination. "They won't find any 'there' there," an industry source who worked closely with Bernhardt said.
If you're going: The hearing kicks off at 10:15 a.m. in Dirksen 366. Sen. Cory Gardner will introduce Bernhardt.
CR-ISTMAS SEASON COMES EARLY: House Appropriations Energy and Water Chairman Mike Simpson thinks Congress is heading toward a yearlong stopgap spending bill for fiscal 2018, thanks to the Trump administration's proposal to make deep cuts to the federal government and the slow deliberation on spending levels for next year. "It's gonna be a very difficult year. And that's why I think - and the rest of the appropriators, and the chairman will probably kill me - we're into a CR for 2018," Simpson said.
Trump's "skinny" budget from March proposed eliminating several Energy Department programs, such as ARPA-E and the loan office, while suggesting big cuts to large divisions devoted to renewable energy and nuclear research. Anything similar in the fuller version expected out next week likely isn't going anywhere in the House, Simpson said. "If they're going to try to deal with the numbers - as the Trump budget dictates - we can't pass those," he told reporters, pointing to steep cuts to DOE science and energy programs. Pro Budget & Appropriations Brief's Sarah Ferris has more on the forthcoming spending fight here.
WELCOME TO THURSDAY! I'm your host Anthony Adragna, and DOE's Diane Meck correctly picked Hawaii and Arizona as the two states that don't follow daylight savings time. For today: What U.S. city is home to the only McDonald's arches painted turquoise? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to email@example.com, or follow us on Twitter @AnthonyAdragna, @Morning_Energy, and @POLITICOPro.
CARPER PUSHES PRUITT AFTER NONRESPONSIVE LETTER: Top Senate EPW Democrat Tom Carper renewed his push for information from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on how he'd dismantle the Clean Power Plan and implement a replacement after receiving inadequate responses. "Because your letter does not respond to our requests for information and documents, I ask you again to respond in full so that Congress can perform its oversight responsibilities," he wrote in the Wednesday letter. That came after Pruitt's initial response to the April letter from nearly two dozen Senate Democrats included little more than copies of two press releases and a publicly available letter. More from your ME host on that first EPA response here.
CANCELED: Pruitt's speech this evening at The Hoover Institution, which was to focus on "his vision for the EPA, Congress and federalism."
ME FIRST - SENATE REPUBLICANS FOR ENERGY RESEARCH: Six Senate Republicans - Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski and Mike Rounds - are sending a letter to Trump this morning urging him to continue to fund energy research programs at DOE. "Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year," they write.
ENERGY TALK ON 'PUTIN PAYS' CALL: House Republican leaders were discussing Russian interference in Ukrainian energy markets, among other topics, in the moments before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy aired his theory - in jest, he now says - that Trump was on Vladimir Putin's payroll. That's according to a partial transcript of the June 15, 2016 conversation behind Wednesday's Washington Post scoop.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was recounting a meeting earlier that day with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. Ryan said the prime minster listed "messing with our oil and gas energy" among the many ills Russia had inflicted on Ukraine and would spread elsewhere. As the discussion continued, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers noted the sophistication of Russian propaganda. "Not just in Ukraine," said McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking GOP leader. "They were once funding the NGOs in Europe. They attacked fracking."
BISHOP WORRIED ABOUT TRUMP CRISES: House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop told reporters Wednesday the flurry of allegations about Trump leaking classified information to the Russians and asking the FBI to drop its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn could impede his ability to move his agenda. "That has the potential of sucking the air out," he said.
Praise for Zinke's trip: Bishop lauded Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for going "above the call of duty" in visiting the site of the contentious Bears Ears National Monument last week in Utah. "All he was required by the executive order was just to review the process," he said. "He actually went there and talked to local officials for the first time." (The only downside of the visit, Bishop said, was a bag carrying his hiking equipment never made it, so he had to hike in dress shoes.) There are no current plans to have Zinke testify on the administration's review of dozens of Antiquities Act designations.
Still anxious over vacancies: Bishop expressed relief some Interior vacancies were finally being filled, but said Zinke indicated the White House ethics office was responsible for the slow pace. "He wants to have more people done quickly and I think he's frustrated with the slow pace as well. I don't blame him. I would be as well," he said.
NO GREEN GROUP MEETINGS FOR ZINKE: Over his first several months in office, Zinke met with the fossil fuel industry, water and sportsman groups and tribal leaders, but did not break bread with environmental groups, Pro's Esther Whieldon and Annie Snider report. Among the most notable meetings was one April 4 discussing the BLM's methane venting and flaring rule with more than a dozen CEOs and others from the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, including Continental Resource's Harold Hamm. Other energy executives Zinke met with include Exxon Mobil's Darren Woods and Dominion Energy's Thomas Farrell.
MAIL CALL! COMPANY RESPONDS TO ROVER SPILL! Energy Transfer Partners sent its own letter to FERC outlining its response to the inadvertent release of drilling mud from the Rover Pipeline, affirming it did not take the incident lightly and pledging to work with local officials to "enhance and use best management practices to try and prevent future inadvertent returns from occurring" as the pipeline is finished. The spill of some two million gallons of drilling fluid into an Ohio wetland prompted FERC to halt some drilling activities along the route, though the company said all impacted areas were isolated and contained within hours of the release.
GRASSLEY CRIES FOUL OVER DOE GRID STUDY: Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to know whether Energy Secretary Rick Perry's ongoing grid study is predisposed to undermine wind power, Pro's Eric Wolff reports. "I'm concerned that a hastily developed study, which appears to pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability, will not be viewed as credible, relevant or worthy of valuable taxpayer resources," he wrote in a letter sent Wednesday.
SENATORS URGE STRONG LWCF FUNDING: A bipartisan group of 48 senators sent a letter Wednesday to appropriators urging strong funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund as fiscal 2018 negotiations begin. "The programs funded by the LWCF, including Forest Legacy, the state-side program, endangered species grants, and battlefield protection, provide a diverse array of conservation tools to address national, state, local and regionally driven priorities across the country," they wrote.
DEEPWATER VETS OPPOSE DRILLING ORDER: The leaders of a federal panel formed to find ways to improve offshore drilling policies in the wake of the BP oil spill are warning against Trump's executive order seeking to open up Atlantic and Arctic offshore drilling. "After extensive research and analysis of offshore oil and gas drilling operations in offshore waters, we hold the unanimous view that weakening safety rules, developing an overly aggressive leasing schedule, and putting vulnerable, ecologically rich and economically important frontier areas at risk is unwise," write former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly and former Sen. Bob Graham in a letter to Zinke released Wednesday by Oil Spill Commission Action. Graham and Reilly were co-chairs of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which then-President Barack Obama established in 2010.
CHAMBER ENTERS RACE FOR ZINKE'S SEAT: Amid the ongoing White House turmoil, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pouring $200,000 into a last-minute ad blitz backing Republican candidate Greg Gianforte in the race for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's seat, POLITICO Alex Isenstadt reports. The ads hit Montana airwaves today and run through the election on May 25.
REPORT: PUSHING THE CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY: Congressional Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee are out with the first in a series of reports this morning arguing the clean energy sector can generate millions more jobs and pushing for Congress "to ensure that American companies and workers are the ones producing and exporting the technology and products that meet this demand."
QUOTABLE: Trump during his remarks at the Coast Guard Academy commencement speech: "I've loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn't do anything - that jobs were going down. We were losing business. We're loosening it up."
TOP FRENCH ENVIRONMENTAL POST FILLED: Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron named environmentalist Nicolas Hulot energy and environment minister Wednesday, POLITICO Europe's Marion Solletty reports. That move sent shares in EDF, the country's nuclear utility, down nearly 6.5 percent as Hulot called a nuclear phase-out "a priority" in the aftermath of Japan's Fukushima disaster. Macron supports a policy of cutting France's share of electricity produced by nuclear power to 50 percent.
- Kansas Researchers Say Climate Change Will Deteriorate Midwest Water Quality. HPPR.
- Resolution Passes in Kalamazoo to Shut Down Pipeline. AP.
- U.S. industry seeks faster permits, simpler rules in Trump regulation reset. Reuters.
- Why Coal Still Has Clout in the Commonwealth. WVTF.
- Fracking is encroaching on US nuclear missile sites, general says. Washington Examiner.
- U.S. prepares to sue Fiat Chrysler over excess diesel emissions. Automotive News.
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