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— Sen. Jon Ossoff is leaning into climate action despite his party’s razor-thin margins and his state’s large conservative constituency. But he’s confident he and his home state are in a good place to make major strides on climate.
— The White House unveiled its budget request for 2022 on Friday, which it used to emphasize its whole-of-government approach to tackling climate change.
— Biden’s last cabinet nominee was approved by the Senate on Friday following a swift vote.
WELCOME TO TUESDAY! I’m your host, Matthew Choi. Welcome to white pants season! Congrats to Bracewell’s Frank Maisano for knowing The New York Yankees were named for John Cheese. For today’s trivia: What kind of bag did Logan buy Rory in “Gilmore Girls”? Send your tips and trivia answers to [email protected]. Find me on Twitter @matthewchoi2018.
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. On today’s episode: New Mexico’s climate hawk.
CLIMATE’S HOT: Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) won his state by only 55,000 votes out of 4.48 million cast. But Ossoff’s slim win and red constituency isn’t making him shy away from aggressive climate action. If anything, the state’s unique landscape is making him all the more confident.
Ossoff spoke with Pro’s Anthony Adragna, where he expressed openness to measures like carbon pricing and a clean energy standard to curb emissions. And Ossoff says his state has great potential to make major headway in renewables, to the benefit of the state’s economy — particularly with the Hanwha Q Cells solar panel production facility in Dalton, Ga., which puts to work 650 employees, and the electric battery factory in Commerce, Ga., at the center of a recent dispute between SK Innovation and LG. Both have or will have major footprints in the renewable supply chain, and Ossoff said President Joe Biden called him after the Commerce factory dispute was resolved.
“We have to seize this moment to get it done because we may not get another shot,” Ossoff said. “It truly is a question of whether we’re going to assert American power and vision to ensure that human beings can prosper without destroying our habitat. Those are the stakes.”
Leading on climate issues isn’t the political gamble it once was. Polls show a comfortable majority of Georgians believe in climate change — on par with national levels — and climate remains a forefront concern among the liberal voters who pushed Ossoff to victory.
“He knows that leading on climate and clean energy and environmental justice is both the right thing and it’s good policy and good politics,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, told Anthony. “They knew voters expected to prioritize them on the campaign trail and absolutely expect them to stand up for their interests now that they’re in office.”
It’s a mood that contrasts with the cautious stance from other Democratic lawmakers representing largely conservative constituencies — most notably Senate Energy Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Read more from Anthony on Ossoff’s climate ambitions and how it fits into his political calculus.
THE BUDGET: Biden unveiled his $6 trillion budget proposal on Friday, casting it as a display of the administration’s values on uplifting the middle class and improving American competitiveness. The aggressive spending plan also lays out the big bucks for tackling climate change and helping the country transition to clean energy. Here are some of the biggest takeaways in the energy and environment realm:
DOE: The Energy Department would get a 10.4 percent increase in FY 2022, bringing its budget up to $46.2 billion. The biggest benefactor would be the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which provides the grant funding to support the administration’s efforts to reach net-zero emissions by 2035. The budget also singles out cybersecurity funding under the Office of Electricity (Pro’s Eric Geller goes more into the cybersecurity bits of the budget here) and requests $1 billion for the creation of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate. Eric Wolff and Kelsey Tamborrino break it down for Pros.
Climate: Biden used the budget as another conduit for his “whole of government” message on tackling climate change. The budget pushes for $36 billion in climate spending — a major increase from the $14 billion of FY 2021. That includes $2.1 billion to invest and prod along renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to bolster jobs, including employing workers for power grid upgrades, reclaiming abandoned oil and gas wells, and creating a 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps.
Renewable and alternative energy incentives clock in at about $3.7 billion, with another $1.1 billion for energy efficiency and electrification. And the budget bumps up clean energy research across all non-defense agencies up to $10 billion. Zack Colman breaks it down further for Pros, including the resistance the administration could face with such large digits on the climate front.
Interior: DOI would get a $2.5 billion increase to $17.4 billion for 2022. Much of that would go toward expanding renewable energy on public lands as well as increase the department’s workforce by 3,600 people. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and National Park Service would also get funding boosts. Ben Lefebvre and Annie Snider have more for Pros.
Oil and gas tax credits would take a hit, with the administration aiming to cut more than $100 billion in spending over the next decade — the bulk of which would come from reforms on taxing corporate incomes from overseas fossil fuel production. A dozen tax credits for the oil and gas industry are targeted by the budget. Ben breaks it down further for Pros.
The proposal was swiftly condemned by the American Exploration and Production Council, whose CEO Anne Bradbury, called it “not only bad policy, but a dangerous precedent.
“Removing tax policies for oil and gas companies, many of which are utilized by business sectors across the economy, is short-sighted and counterproductive, and would not provide any savings to the American taxpayer. The Biden budget, if enacted, would stifle investment and cause a precipitous decline in US production of affordable, clean, and reliable energy,” she said in a statement, calling for Congress to “vote for a budget that avoids pitting one segment of industry against others.”
EPA: The White House already pushed a $2 billion increase for EPA as part of its April “skinny budget” proposal, bringing the agency’s funding up to $11.2 billion for 2022. The added funding would spark a hiring bonanza at the agency that saw a mass exodus of staffers under the previous administration — aiming for about 1,100 new employees.
EPA would also get more funding for clean water grants, state environmental programs, research and development in partnership with DOE’s to-be-created ARPA-C, the office of the inspector general and a new environmental justice initiative. Alex Guillén and Annie break it down further for Pros.
The Army Corps of Engineers: The White House laid out three “key objectives” for the agency, which issues critical wetlands permits and constructs major flood-protection measures: “increasing infrastructure and ecosystem resilience to climate change and decreasing climate risk for communities based on the best available science;” promoting environmental justice; and “not funding work that directly subsidizes fossil fuels including work that lowers the cost of production, lowers the cost of consumption, or raises the revenues retained by producers of fossil fuels.” Exactly how the agency accomplishes those objectives were less clear, Annie points out.
The budget also calls for a 13 percent spending cut for the agency — but Annie notes that’s in line with past Democratic and Republican administrations, who lowball their requests for the agency to offset spending increases in other areas. More from Annie.
A FULL SET: The Senate confirmed Biden’s last cabinet-level nominee on Friday, with Eric Lander now set to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It was a swift vote on the heels of a marathon session to consider Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s legislation on countering China’s influence.
The nomination wasn’t without its hiccups. Lawmakers raised concerns about Lander’s past interaction with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, though Lander said they were immaterial. Lawmakers also hoped for more diversity in overseeing the tech industry, with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) saying she “would have loved to see a woman here in this position,” though she ultimately backed Lander.
SNAPPY SOUNDBYTE: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Americans can’t wait for a “dorm room debate” over infrastructure as Republicans and the administration continue their back and forth on an infrastructure package. Speaking on “Fox New Sunday,” Buttigieg made the comment as the two sides still have lingering disagreements on payfors and the scope of the infrastructure package. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead GOP negotiator, plans on meeting with Biden this week to discuss a path forward.
Biden’s budget request Friday also opens the door for Democrats to use their simple majority to push through a package without bringing on any Republicans via reconciliation. The White House is aiming to move a bill by July. POLITICO’s Maya Parthasarathy has more on Buttigieg’s Sunday comments.
BRIDGE AND TUNNEL: New York and New Jersey can move forward on the Hudson Tunnel Project after the Biden administration approved its environmental impact statement. The $11.6 billion tunnel project has been stalled for years with the Trump administration holding off on approving the vital step. State and administration officials say the project is crucial for economic development in the region, with Buttigieg pledging to make headway on the project before the end of the second quarter.
“It’s probably the most important public works project in America. If those tunnels fail and can’t be used, 25 percent of our economy would be at risk from Boston to Washington,” Schumer told POLITICO’s Danielle Muoio.
ACROSS THE POND: The U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak urged his G7 counterparts to ensure global financial markets do their part in combating climate change. Speaking at a virtual meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors Friday, Sunak pushed for improved climate-related financial disclosures and the development of international sustainability-related financial reporting standards, according to a U.K. Treasury readout. The U.K. plans to make climate reporting mandatory across its economy by 2025. The U.K. will host an in-person G7 finance ministers summit in London on Friday and Saturday.
DEADLY HEAT: More than a third of heat-related death is tied to man-made climate change, according to a recent paper in Nature Climate Change. The paper says the effects of climate change are unevenly distributed around the world, as are the health risks associated with increased heat. Countries in Southern Europe, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and Central and South America have been particularly affected. Bloomberg Green has more.
— “A ski company built a power plant fueled by methane. It’s a success, but can it be replicated?” via The Washington Post.
— “U.S. monitoring Iranian warships that may be headed to Venezuela,” via POLITICO.
— “White House announces sanctions over Belarus’ passenger plane interception,” via POLITICO.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!