Overnight Energy: Klobuchar calls for changes to ethanol rules | Trump officials reportedly overruled experts on Foxconn site pollution | Biden under pressure on climate plan | Fight brews over chemicals in water
KLOBUCHAR CALLS FOR TOUGHER ETHANOL STANDARDS IN CORN COUNTRY: Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharMeghan McCain to Amy Klobuchar: Leave my father ‘out of presidential politics’ 2020 Democrats jockey over surging college costs Democratic senator says McCain listed off names of dictators during Trump inaugural MORE (D-Minn.), a 2020 presidential candidate, is proposing changes to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) biofuel regulations that could help her win over support in Iowa.
Speaking at a campaign stop over the weekend in Iowa, the country’s top corn producer, Klobuchar called for the EPA to give away fewer of its waivers that allow oil refineries to avoid mixing their fuel with ethanol, according to Reuters.
The waivers, aimed at helping small refineries meet fuel standards, exempt some refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires oil refiners to blend ethanol with their gasoline pool or purchase credits from refiners that do.
Smaller refineries with a capacity of less than 75,000 barrels per day can obtain a waiver after proving that complying with the rule could cause financial stress. But ethanol groups and politicians representing corn-producing states have long called for the EPA to reconsider how it grants the waivers.
What Klobuchar is proposing: Klobuchar called the EPA’s waivers “misguided” and said the biofuels trading market is manipulated by financial institutions, according to Reuters.
She called for new compliance standards and oversight, a stance likely to drum up support from ethanol groups and leaders in Iowa, a key battleground state in the 2020 race.
Read more about the ethanol waivers here.
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EPA QUESTIONED FOXCONN AS TRUMP PROMOTED PROJECT: Political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly convinced then-EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOn The Money: Conservative blocks disaster relief bill | Trade high on agenda as Trump heads to Japan | Boeing reportedly faces SEC probe over 737 Max | Study finds CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay Overnight Energy: Democrats push EPA to collect 4K in ‘excessive’ Pruitt travel expenses | Greens angered over new rules for rocket fuel chemical | Inslee to join youth climate strikers in Las Vegas Democrats push EPA to collect 4K from Pruitt for ‘excessive airfare expenses’ MORE to reverse course on declaring a Wisconsin county in violation of federal smog standards, a move that allowed Foxconn to build a facility in the area without new anti-pollution technologies.
Documents obtained by the Sierra Club and reported by the Star Tribune revealed that a top scientist at the agency questioned the basis for Pruitt’s guidance that reversed an earlier decision by officials to declare Racine County as “non-attainment,” meaning it would have to adopt new standards to battle air pollution to continue receiving federal funds.
“I do not see a sound technical basis for the area we are being directed to finalize in Wisconsin,” Jenny Liljegren, an EPA scientist focused on air quality, wrote in April 2018, according to the Star Tribune.
“I am still in disbelief,” added another who was not named.
A former acting air quality administrator with the EPA called the revelations in the emails “disturbing,” adding that it showed a preference for political influence over the agency’s actual scientific work.
“To see apparent direction from political leadership that the technical staff is objecting to is disturbing,” Janet McCabe, former head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, told the Star Tribune.
Read more on the Foxconn controversy here.
IS NUCLEAR NECESSARY? The declining use of nuclear power may increase reliance on fossil fuels, making it harder for countries to meet their goal of reducing carbon emissions, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
“Without an important contribution from nuclear power, the global energy transition will be that much harder,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said in a Tuesday statement on the study. “Alongside renewables, energy efficiency and other innovative technologies, nuclear can make a significant contribution to achieving sustainable energy goals and enhancing energy security. But unless the barriers it faces are overcome, its role will soon be on a steep decline worldwide, particularly in the United States, Europe and Japan.”
The issue: Aging nuclear power plants in the U.S. and elsewhere mean many of the plants are set to fall out of use before renewables like wind and solar are able to fill in the gaps. Some advocates worry that will lead to further reliance on fossil fuels as utilities work to meet growing demand for electricity.
Nuclear power supplies about 20 percent of U.S. electric generation. It also occupies a controversial role in the energy economy. Though it provides low-carbon energy, many environmentalists don’t consider nuclear a clean source of energy given that nuclear waste must be properly stored for decades.
Some environmental groups, however, back its use as an alternative to fossil fuel sources. In a report earlier this month the Union of Concerned Scientists found that retiring nuclear plants could lead to a spike in fossil fuel use.
The IEA advises that countries work to extend the life of aging nuclear facilities, despite the expense. Getting another 10 years out of a facility could range from $500 million to $1 billion.
But that dollar amount could be similar to the investments needed for new large-scale renewable projects and “can lead to a more secure, less disruptive energy transition,” the IEA wrote.
Fight over subsidies: States like New York and Illinois have chosen to subsidize nuclear power, spurring lawsuits from the Electric Power Supply Association, which represents power producers and marketers. Those cases were appealed to the Supreme Court, which did not take them up, leaving the subsidies in place.
New York has argued that the subsidies were necessary to avoid plant closures.
“If they close before enough new renewable resources are built, the gap will be filled with fossil-fuel generation and emissions will spike,” the state wrote in a legal brief.
Read more about the study here.
And two deep dives from the Memorial Day weekend. First up, Miranda looks at the pressure on former Vice President Biden over his coming climate plan.
BIDEN UNDER PRESSURE ON CLIMATE: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits Biden for 1994 crime bill support Will top 2020 Democrats make ending war in Afghanistan a defining issue or an afterthought? Nevada emerges as wild card in 2020 Democratic race MORE is expected to unveil his climate change plan any day now, and he’s under increasing pressure from environmentalists who want him to take a strong position against fossil fuels.
The former Delaware senator has touted his decades-long environmental record in Congress and the Obama White House, but progressives argue that his approach to climate change is outdated and his record is anything but spotless.
Biden’s position on climate could open him up to further attacks from the left wing of the party and create an obstacle to winning the party’s nomination, especially since the environment is the main concern for liberal voters.
The criticism: “Joe Biden or any presidential candidate who wants to win over voters living though climate disasters today has to give us more than something he did 30 years ago,” said Charlie Jiang, climate campaigner for Greenpeace.
According to media reports, his plan’s main goals will consist of keeping the U.S. in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and reversing the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era environmental rules.
But progressives and climate activists have criticized any approach that involves moderate or steady steps.
More on Biden’s challenge here.
And Rebecca looked at the growing fight over cancer-causing chemicals in the water supply.
FIGHT LOOMS OVER CHEMICALS IN WATER: An aggressive push by Congress to pass bipartisan legislation addressing cancer-causing chemicals that are leaching into the water supply is setting the stage for a fight with the Trump administration.
The chemicals, commonly abbreviated as PFAS, are used in items ranging from food wrappers and Teflon pans to raincoats and firefighting foam. But studies have found that as they break down and find their way into drinking water, they can cause a variety of negative health effects.
PFAS has been linked with kidney and thyroid cancer along with high cholesterol and other illnesses. Contamination has spread to 43 states, and a 2015 study found 98 percent of Americans tested now have the chemical in their blood.
The bipartisan push to tackle the problem is setting up a clash with agencies, in particular the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pentagon, that have been resistant to regulating the chemicals.
More on the controversy here.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
EPA fills southeast post, six months after prior chief indicted, Bloomberg reports.
Coal Ash Prevention Act moves forward to Illinois governor’s desk, KHQA reports.
As North Dakota oil soars, so does waste of natural gas, the Associated Press reports.
Bill banning sales of shark fins in Connecticut awaits Senate vote, the Associated Press reports.
Stories from Tuesday and over the weekend…
Biden under pressure from environmentalists on climate plan
Lawmakers, Trump agencies set for clash over chemicals in water
Trump administration proposes closing 9 Civilian Conservation Centers
Schwarzenegger blasts Trump for not attending climate change conference
Trump appointees overruled EPA experts on pollution requirements for Foxconn site: report
Klobuchar, in Iowa, calls for changes to EPA ethanol rules
Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino dies, dealing blow to critically endangered species
Scientist compares Trump’s climate stance to Soviet Union
Malaysia sending contaminated plastic waste back to US, other countries
Declining use of nuclear power may increase reliance on fossil fuels: study