Energy & Environment — Dems push for climate deal, but Manchin skeptical


Congressional Democrats are pushing for a deal on climate spending before the August recess, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland defends the administration’s actions on leasing and Texans are asked to conserve energy — again.

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Inflation a hurdle as Dems target climate agreement

Democrats are scrambling to salvage an agreement on climate change through reconciliation, as Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) raises renewed concerns about their spending package broadly.

The Democrats push after a few weeks away from Washington comes as their time for a deal runs short. They said this week that they’re working to sell Manchin on a slate of clean energy tax credits and a fee on methane emissions.

But, a new report Wednesday on inflation throws their efforts into question.

For months, lawmakers have been negotiating a package that would seek to limit climate-warming emissions, lower prescription drug costs and raise taxes on high-income individuals.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) told reporters on Tuesday that he is still working with Manchin on a program aimed at cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

He said that the two sides had reached a “pretty good agreement” a few months ago, and added, “We’re looking at it now, tweaking it a little bit.”

Carper said Tuesday that he was feeling “encouraged” and believed that a deal could be reached.

  • Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported early Wednesday that the White House is considering another approach to secure Manchin’s support: approving fossil fuel projects.
  • The Post reported that the Biden administration is considering approving more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and a massive project in Alaska — as well as a pipeline that runs through West Virginia.

Inflation throws a wrench: After a new report showed that annual inflation hit 9.1 percent in June, Manchin pumped the brakes on the negotiations, saying that the bill “needs to be scrubbed much better”

Manchin told reporters Wednesday he’s not sure if he can agree to anything beyond the prescription drug reform component of the bill, which has already been sent to the Senatearian’s office and has the support of all 50 members of the Democratic caucus.

  • “We know what we can pass is basically the drug pricing, OK, on ​​Medicare,” he told reporters. “Is there any more we can do? I don’t know, but I am very, very cautious.”
  • “And I’m going to make sure that I have every input on scrubbing everything humanly possible that could be considered inflammatory,” he said.

Read more about the Democrats’ efforts here and more about Manchin’s comments here.

Haaland defends Interior, cites unused leases

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland defended the Biden administration’s progress on federal fossil fuel leasing at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Appropriations Committee, emphasizing the industry’s unused leases on federal lands.

Questioning Haaland, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) invoked the recent five-year leasing proposal issued by the Interior Department, asking about the likelihood that the administration would hold zero lease sales, which the plan identifies as an option.

Haaland did not offer an estimate, only saying the department would factor in public feedback received in the 90-day public comment period and pledging a “balanced approach.”

  • What about offshore drilling? Responding to a follow-up question from Hyde-Smith about offshore drilling, Haaland responded, “There are about 9,000 approved drilling permits across the country currently that are not being used, 10.4 million acres of offshore federal waters already under lease.”
  • “I know there’s a lot that goes into considerations with the price of fuel but I want to assure you that at the Department of Interior, we’re doing our jobs and following the law to move any of these issues forward,” she added.

In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order temporarily pausing new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

Today’s high gas prices are due to a number of factors, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and production that has struggled to keep pace with the demand, but the administration has frequently cited the number of unused leases as a counter to criticism of its energy policies .

Read more about the questioning here.

Texans get second power conservation request

The Lone Star State’s grid operator asked Texans to voluntarily conserve electricity Wednesday during a major heat wave, just two days after issuing a similar warning for Monday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued a “conservation appeal” asking customers to reduce their electricity use from 2 pm to 8 pm

Monday’s appeal cited “record high electric demand” and low wind to power turbines.

Wednesday’s appeal adds two new issues: cloud cover reducing solar power in West Texas and a number of forced thermal power outputs that “exceeds ERCOT forecasts.”

ERCOT said that Texans comply with Monday’s ask — by turning down thermostats and refraining from running major appliances — reduced energy use by 500 megawatts.

The state’s struggle with its power grid has been a pillar of Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke’s campaign against Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Read more from The Hill’s Julia Mueller.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Dangerous heatwaves engulf parts of China, US and Europe (The Guardian)
  • EU top court backs operator of shelved Nord Stream 2 pipeline (Reuters)
  • Republicans threaten Wall Street over climate positions (The Washington Post)
  • Meet EPA’s team behind the next power plant rule (E&E News)

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Good for her.

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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