With help from Zack Colman
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— Negotiators on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration say they have reached a bipartisan deal for a nearly $2 trillion emergency stimulus package.
— Small refiners appealed a 10th Circuit ruling that would restrict EPA’s authority to exempt them from federal biofuel blending requirements, but the Trump administration won’t be joining them.
— Climate activists are planning for a digital, three-day Earth Day mobilization during the coronavirus pandemic.
WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY! I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino. Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast — all the energy and environmental politics and policy news you need to start your day, in just five minutes. Listen and subscribe for free at politico.com/energy-podcast.
Andrew Fasoli of the American Chemistry Council gets the win for correctly naming the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab as the home of the world’s most powerful microscope. For today: How many current lawmakers in the House are physicians? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to [email protected].
IT’S A DEAL: Negotiators said they reached a final, bipartisan deal for an emergency coronavirus relief package that totals nearly $2 trillion. Full text of the package will be reached later today, but the overnight agreement caps five days of tense negotiations on Captiol Hill, POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio, Sarah Ferris and Melanie Zanona report. Senators will likely vote on the package today, although they had initially hoped to wrap things up by Tuesday evening.
No SPR Sales: The Trump administration and Republican senators have sought $3 billion for the Energy Department to fill up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve amid a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that has tangled oil markets and cut prices to historic lows. But that money did not make it into the final bill, according to a letter from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, which portrayed the proposal as a “big oil bailout.”
What else is missing? Also absent are any extension for clean energy tax credits that many Democrats — and certainly the wind and solar industries — had hoped to see. Pro’s Anthony Adragna, Zack Colman and Gavin Bade reported earlier this week that the clean energy provisions could be pushed to a later corporate rescue package. Democrats had also been pushing for a promise for airlines to cut carbon emissions as a condition of their federal aid, but they did not appear to win any major concessions on that front in the final deal.
The president and Republicans have railed against Democrats’ proposals to include environmental measures in the proposal. Speaking to Fox News this week, President Donald Trump said there was a previous iteration of a stimulus package that was “really a good, solid deal.” But added that, “all of a sudden, they start throwing all of the little Green New Deal stuff in, right? … ‘We want green energy, we want all this stuff, let’s stop drilling oil.’ They had things in there that were terrible.” But it seems unlikely aspects of the progressive deal will make the cut of this package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly said on a call with House Democrats on Tuesday that “there is no Green New Deal in our bill.”
MCKENNA’S EARLY EXIT: Longtime Republican energy lobbyist Mike McKenna made an early departure from his role on the White House legislative affairs team after a complaint lodged against him, he told ME. The substance, he said, “refers to a statement or statements I may have made while on the grounds,” but he questioned the “veracity and motive” as he was unsure who made it or what triggered it. McKenna said he had been on the job five months and was planning to stay another month. “All that being said, I sincerely regret any offense that I may have given to anyone while working at the White House, and I wish the whole team the very best,” he said. The White House declined to comment.
SMALL REFINERS APPEAL RULING, TRUMP REMAINS SILENT: Several small refiners on Tuesday appealed a federal court’s January ruling that would restrict EPA’s authority to exempt them from biofuel blending requirements, Pro’s Alex Guillén reports. HollyFrontier and Wynnewood Refining, the refiners directly affected by the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, went so far as to call the ruling a “death knell” in their Tuesday request for an en banc rehearing.
But, according to energy sector officials, Trump isn’t backing the appeal. They say the White House has shifted course again on the matter to ultimately decide against challenging the court and planned instead to seek other ways to hold down the costs for refiners to comply with the law. “The decision was made NOT to appeal and let the 10th Circuit apply nationwide,” an oil industry source said in an email. “The White House will look for other ways to provide financial relief for refiners.”
The president has previously waffled on how to handle the dispute — originally planning to accept the ruling and then, a few weeks ago, relenting to a pressure campaign from oil-state lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to fight it. The refiners can try to appeal the ruling on their own, but without a similar appeal from EPA, the court is less likely to agree to review it, Alex reports.
PLASTICS GO AFTER BAG BANS: Plastic bag proponents see an opportunity in the coronavirus pandemic to push single-use plastics, POLITICO’s Samantha Maldonado and Marie J. French report. In a letter obtained by POLITICO and sent to the Department of Health and Human Services last week, the Plastics Industry Association requests a public statement from the department endorsing the idea that single-use plastics are the safest choice amid the pandemic. In New York, New Jersey and other states, the plastics industry and some GOP lawmakers are calling for rollbacks or easing of prohibitions on single-use plastic bags, arguing that often-unwashed reusable bags are hotbeds for the coronavirus.
REPORT: EPA TO WAIVE COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS: EPA is expected to waive compliance requirements and deadlines for several industries amid the coronavirus pandemic, including oil refiners, water utilities and sewage plants, The Wall Street Journal reports. The most notable change will likely be to waive upcoming deadlines to switch to cleaner-burning summer-grade gasoline, the WSJ reports, citing administration officials and a business lobbyist.
3 BIG-NAME PARKS CLOSE: Several of the nation’s most well-known national parks closed its doors to the public Tuesday, even after the Interior Department said it would waive entrance fees. On Tuesday, Yellowstone and Grand Teton announced they’d close to visitors until further notice and the Great Smoky Mountains said it would close until April 6. “The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail in a statement.
EARTH DAY DETAILS: Climate activist groups including 350.org and the Sunrise Movement announced changes to next month’s 50th anniversary Earth Day celebration because of the coronavirus crisis. Rather than in-person events, the groups plan to hold a three-day “Earth Day Live” consecutive livestream that will include virtual panel discussions, teach-ins, a “digital march” and efforts to spur voter turnout, drawing some inspiration from the Live Aid concert from 1985.
The April 22-24 event will include training and performances featuring celebrities, politicians and musicians. “Our goal is to recreate the feeling of attending an in-person mass mobilization, but in the virtual world,” said Naina Agrawal-Hardin, an organizer at Sunrise Movement. Each day of the event will center on a particular theme: “strike,” to hear from leaders across the climate movement; “divest” to urge an end to the financing of fossil fuels by putting pressure on financial institutions; and “vote,” marking a nationwide political action and youth voter registration day.
Related: Read more from POLITICO’s Zack Colman on how climate activists are retooling their strategy for an online existence during the coronavirus pandemic.
DEMS CALL FOR ‘PEOPLE’S BAILOUT’: Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) during a Wednesday livestream event will call for a “People’s Bailout” to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Those lawmakers, as well as Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), are joining more than 600 groups, including the Blue Green Alliance, Sunrise Movement and Sierra Club, to call for a green stimulus to make “a down payment on a regenerative economy, while preventing future crises,” they wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Despite the raft of cancellations on and off Capitol Hill, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will still hold a form of its scheduled hearing today on hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas. Instead of meeting in-person on legislation, S. 2754 (116), phasing down the use of HFCs, the committee will accept prepared testimony from any interested party and senators can ask questions in writing beginning today through April 8.
Recall: The hearing had been seen as a step toward breaking an impasse over HFCs, which earlier this month derailed a Senate energy bill, S. 2657 (116).
CALL OF THE WILDLIFE: More than 100 environmental groups called on Congress to include wildlife trade and habitat destruction provisions in any additional stimulus package. The groups sent a letter Tuesday to congressional leaders saying that wildlife trade and habitat destruction are root causes of emerging zoonotic diseases like Covid-19, noting that 60 percent of known infectious diseases can be transmitted from animals and 75 percent of emerging zoonotic infectious diseases originate in wildlife. The letter requests that 1 percent of total funds in future stimulus packages address habitat loss, legal and illegal wildlife trade, and the protection of biological diversity.
— Molly Block has been detailed to the office of the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary of preparedness and response to help with communications during coronavirus response. She previously was assistant deputy associate EPA administrator for policy. (H/t Playbook)
— “Occidental Petroleum cuts pay for staff, executives,” via The Wall Street Journal.
— “A utility vowed to stop shutoffs. Advocates say hundreds may still lack electricity,” via The Huffington Post.
— “Greta Thunberg says it’s ‘extremely likely’ that she had coronavirus,” via The New York Times.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!