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House lawmakers mark up bills related to offshore drilling

POLITICO Pro's comprehensive policy intelligence coverage

· Politics,Offshore Drilling,Oil and Gas,Legislation

House lawmakers mark up bills related to offshore drilling today as Interior deals with the fallout of a court ruling that blocked the president's executive order to open up drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic.

Cabinet officials and one 2020 Democratic presidential contender are on the Hill today, in what's shaping up to be a jam-packed day spanning the president's budget request to how states are tackling climate change.

The Senate failed to advance test votes Monday on two competing packages to deliver billions in disaster aid to communities hit by hurricanes, wildfires and catastrophic flooding.


OFFSHORE, ON TOPIC: The Trump administration might have to rework its still-unreleased five-year offshore leasing plan after Friday's decision that upheld an Obama-era ban on drilling in some Arctic and Atlantic Ocean areas. While the administration is expected to appeal the decision, the issue is unlikely to be settled unless Congress steps in or until it reaches the Supreme Court, which could take years — a timetable that effectively takes the Arctic waters off the oil industry's radar, Pro's Ben Lefebvre reports.

Interior's offshore plan could still include analysis of the costs and benefits of offering those areas for oil and gas production, said Randall Luthi, president of National Ocean Industries Association, but the industry is certainly not expecting congressional Democrats to step in and place the Alaska and Atlantic regions back into consideration.

Case in point:The House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will markup three bills this morning aimed at protecting coastal communities against offshore drilling. One of the bills, H.R. 1941 (116), from South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham (D) would permanently bar drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Another bill, H.R. 205 (116), from Florida Rep. Francis Rooney (R) would amend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 to permanently extend the moratorium on leasing in certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

Senate Energy Chairman Lisa Murkowski told POLITICO she will seek answers from Interior about when it plans to release the five-year offshore drilling plan, after acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said last week the department was in "the very beginning" stages of preparation. "I'm curious to know what the schedule is now," Murkowski said of Interior's leasing plans, especially in light of last week's court decision.

But she said her questions would not delay the committee's vote on Bernhardt's nomination to lead Interior, which is scheduled for this Thursday, Pro's Anthony Adragna reports.


BUDGET BONANZA: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will make the pitchfor President Donald Trump's steep budget cuts for EPA in fiscal 2020 this morning before the House Appropriations Interior-Environment Subcommittee. Trump's budget request calls for a 31 percent cut to EPA's budget over current enacted funding levels.

He's not alone: Energy Secretary Rick Perry will testify on his own department's budget in the Senate today. Trump seeks to cut the DOE budget by 11 percent, and calls for eliminating ARPA-E and shrinking the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, which will likely receive some bipartisan pushback.

Murkowski, who questioned Perry last week during an appropriations hearing, highlighted both of those issues, as well as the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, which the panel will likely discuss today.

Related: The Carbon Capture Coalition called on House and Senate appropriators in letters sent Monday to boost funding for the DOE Office of Fossil Energy's carbon capture and carbon storage programs at a $10 million increase over the 2019 enacted level.

DISASTER AID HITS SENATE SNAG: Senators failed to advance a disaster aid package Monday that would deliver at least $13 billion in disaster aid to communities across the U.S., after Trump jumped into the discussion to say too much federal cash was flowing to Puerto Rico.

Senators voted 44-49, rejecting a Republican proposal, and 46-48, shooting down a Democrat-led version of a bill the House passed in January, POLITICO's Jennifer Scholtes and Marianne LeVine report. The failure of both proposals came just a few hours after the president demanded on Twitter that Senate Democrats support the GOP plan crafted by Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue.

What next? It's not clear what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will decide to do now with the stalled bill, but negotiations are expected to continue behind the scenes as lawmakers work to strike a compromise that would send billions of dollars in relief to many of their states.

INSLEE TO CONGRESS: TIME TO ACT ON CLIMATE: Democratic presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will urge Congress to take action on climate in testimony today before an Energy and Commerce Committee panel. Inslee has put climate change at the forefront of his campaign, and the state he runs is among the most aggressive in trying to cut its emissions.

In his testimony, Inslee praises his state's investments in wind energy and bills working their way through the state legislature that will squeeze more carbon out of its economy. But he will save his toughest words for the administration. "Unfortunately, at the federal level, this administration isn't just failing to act — they are lighting the match and setting the fire," his prepared remarks say. The Environment and Climate Change subcommittee will also hear from the mayors of Columbia, S.C., Salt Lake City, Utah, Carmel, Ind., Beaver County, Pa., and Midland, Texas.

STANDARD PRACTICE: New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall is working on an updated national renewable electricity standard bill that he believes could garner Republican support, Anthony reports. "It's going to be updated based on everything everybody's been looking at and how things have changed over time," Udall told reporters.

The senator in 2015 introduced legislation, S. 1264 (114), that would have required power producers to get 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Udall is aiming for May to introduce the bill, an aide told ME.

DEMS CALL FOR NRC-FUKUSHIMA DOCS: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Democrats Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Kristine Svinicki on Monday requesting documents related to the NRC's January move to hold off on new requirements for flooding and seismic hazards after studying the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

"We are concerned that changes from the proposal, issued in 2015, unnecessarily backtracks from critical safety requirements to protect our nuclear reactors against the flooding and seismic hazards that they face today and in the future," the senators wrote, ahead of an EPW oversight hearing today, where Svinicki and other NRC commissioners will testify.

FOR YOUR RADAR: The E&C Committee on Wednesday will mark up H.R. 9 (116), House Democrats' bill to bring the U.S. back into the Paris climate agreement. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Chairwoman Kathy Castor last week called the legislation the party's "first order of business." The full committee markup is set for 9:30 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn.

ON THE MOVE: The president officially sent Daniel Jorjani's nomination to become solicitor of the Interior Department to the Senate, the White House said Monday. Jorjani has been the acting solicitor since May 2017, and previously worked at Interior in several roles during most of the George W. Bush administration.


PG&E COULD SAVE BY REJECTING RENEWABLES CONTACTS: Pacific Gas & Electric could save $1.4 billion by rejecting its above-market electricity contracts, according to analysis published Monday by Moody's Investors Service. The utility is currently in bankruptcy protection, while clean-energy generators, supported by federal regulators, are fighting to keep their power purchase agreements intact, Pro California's Colby Bermel reports.

Moody's senior analyst Clifford Kim wrote that the above-market PPA rejections could create $1.4 billion in headroom that PG&E could instead spend on wildfire claims, prevention measures and other future expenses.

HERE'S THE BEEF: In case you missed it, POLITICO Magazine's Michael Grunwald looked at how the U.S. meat industry is handling the global warming debate amid discussions of a Green New Deal. "Meat producers don't want their products to be viewed like fossil fuels — useful but dirty," Michael writes. "And beef producers don't want to follow the path of coal, which is hemorrhaging market share because it’s the dirtiest fossil fuel." Read more.


— The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis added Aaron Huertas as its communications director, it announced Monday. Huertas most recently served as the strategic communications director for grass-roots Democratic group Swing Left, and previously worked for the Union of Concerned Scientists.


— "Rockefeller to wind down biggest private climate resilience push," Bloomberg.

— "Dem to offer bill to expand electric vehicle tax credit," The Hill.

— "Hickenlooper defends his disapproval of Green New Deal by touting record on climate change," CNN.

— "Shell new energies director on investing in clean energy: 'It's about survival,'" GreenTech Media.

— "Saudi Aramco is world's most profitable company, beating Apple by far," The New York Times.


The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced a series of changes in its safety rules