With help from Annie Snider and Eric Wolff
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— The Trump administration today is expected to release its final plan to weaken vehicle fuel economy targets.
— President Donald Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday about the upheaval in the energy markets.
— House Democrats signal they want to include modernization of the nation’s drinking water systems in the next coronavirus relief package.
GOOD TUESDAY MORNING! 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.
Beacon Policy Advisors’ Stephen Myrow knew that former President Teddy Roosevelt was the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won for the role he played in the Treaty of Portsmouth that brought the Russo-Japanese War to an end. For today: How many American flags are there on the moon? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to [email protected].
HERE IT COMES: The Trump administration today is expected to release its final plan to weaken vehicle fuel economy targets ahead of an April 1 deadline, rolling back one of former President Barack Obama’s key achievements to thwart climate change in the highest-emitting sector the economy. As Pro’s Zack Colman reported last week, the final rule from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and EPA will direct automakers to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent per year through model year 2026. That is more stringent than a proposal that would have required zero improvement but still well below the 5 percent annual gains set by the Obama administration.
But the final rule is unlikely to provide any certainty to the auto industry that Trump promised to help, Pro’s Alex Guillén and Zack report this morning. Instead, the rule goes beyond what the auto industry had asked for and leaves them with little clarity about what specifications they’ll need to meet going forward given the rule will be tied up in courts for months. “They need continuity,” said Brett Smith, director of technology with the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit funded in part by the auto industry. “Our government is offering less continuity.”
TRUMP TALKS OIL WITH PUTIN: Trump discussed the coronavirus pandemic and the “importance of stability in global energy markets” during a call with Putin on Monday, according to the White House. The conversation comes as crude prices touched new 18-year lows and as some U.S. oil industry executives have called on the White House to take a more active role in mediating an oil market fight between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Still, as Pro’s Ben Lefebvre reports, there was no indication the White House planned to take any action to address the oversupply of oil.
See it: Pro DataPoint’s Patterson Clark takes a look at how the threshold for an oil industry shutdown varies by its origin.
PRODDING FOR A PRODUCTION CUT: Texas-based shale producers Pioneer Natural Resources and Parsley Energy want the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling, to hold a hearing on the prospects of cutting crude production for the first time since the 1970s, The Wall Street Journal reports. Ryan Sitton, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission, backed the call for a proration hearing on Monday. “Not surprising given the significance of global oil oversupply due to COVID-19 demand destruction and #oilpricewar,” Sitton tweeted. The commission “should hold this hearing ASAP. We can’t wait another 20 days,” he added.
PELOSI EYES DRINKING WATER, INFRASTRUCTURE IN PHASE FOUR RELIEF BILL: House Democrats are moving rapidly on ambitious plans for a fourth coronavirus relief package, POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris, Andrew Desiderio and Marianne LeVine report. Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday that Democrats are in the early stages of drafting another major bill that will not only shore up health systems but could include substantial investments in infrastructure and modernization of the nation’s drinking water systems as crucial components of the next package, adding that infrastructure is “probably the most bipartisan path,” Pro’s Anthony Adragna reports. “All this speaks very clearly to the fact that we need to make investments in our broadband, our [electric] grid, and the rest,” Pelosi said.
BIPARTISAN LAWMAKERS CALL FOR NRC TO HOLD FEE COLLECTION: EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), EPW ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use its authority to temporarily delay the collection of fees and charges from NRC licensees amid the coronavirus pandemic. In their letter to Chairman Kristine Svinicki, the lawmakers wrote that the deferral “will provide critical temporary relief and improve the ability of the NRC’s licensees to manage their finances in response to this crisis.”
BSEE ADDS NEW REGULATORY CHIEF: Jarvis Abbott is the new acting head of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s Offshore Regulatory Programs. BSEE, which has enforcement authority over U.S. offshore activities like oil drilling and wind power development, has no permanent head of the office, and acting officials can only serve 120 day terms, according to BSEE spokesman Sandy Day. The previous head, Stacey Noem, had served two 120-day terms. Abbot is a veteran of BSEE, Day said. E&E News first reported the news.
EPA SCIENCE BOARD TO REVIEW LEAD AND COPPER RULE: EPA’s Science Advisory Board voted Monday to review the agency’s proposal for updating the decades-old Lead and Copper Rule (Reg. 2040-AF15) aimed at protecting drinking water from the potent neurotoxin, Pro’s Annie Snider reports. SAB Chairman Michael Honeycutt said it will have to be a “really fast review” to be ready in advance of the agency’s plans to finalize it in the coming months.
The board also voted Monday not to examine the agency’s rollback of methane emissions rules for new oil and gas wells because it does not have enough time to complete a review before the rule is expected to be finalized, Alex reports for Pros.
RISKY BUSINESS: EPA said in a draft risk evaluation on Monday that most of the new uses of asbestos present an unreasonable carcinogenic health risk to workers, Alex reports. The agency also put off a review of the asbestos insulation that is still sitting in many older buildings. A federal court last year ordered the agency to study the risks of such “legacy” uses, but the agency said Monday that it will have to wait for a follow-up process.
EPA DROPS SACKETT CASE: Nearly 12 years after EPA told an Idaho couple that they had to halt their work filling in streams and wetlands — a move that made it all the way to Supreme Court review and won individuals the right to challenge Clean Water Act compliance orders in court — the agency has dropped its action against Chantell and Michael Sackett. In a March 13 letter to the couple’s attorney, EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine said the agency was withdrawing its administrative compliance order, which it has not enforced in several years. “Given the passage of time and the fact that the EPA’s enforcement case is not active, the EPA is withdrawing the ACO,” Bodine wrote.
The move comes after an Idaho district court last year ruled that the wetlands at issue in the Sackett case were indeed protected under the Clean Water Act. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing the couple, has appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. EPA did not respond by press time as to whether the agency has deemed the Sacketts’ wetlands outside the scope of the Clean Water Act — a question that PLF attorney Tony Francois said he has also asked EPA. “Without clarification from EPA on whether they concede that the property is not subject to the Clean Water Act, the Sacketts would be stuck either guessing (possibly incorrectly) or going through the time and expense of getting an approved jurisdictional determination,” Francois said.
URANIUM MINERS CALL FOR SUPPLY CHAIN ASSISTANCE: Uranium miners cited the Trump administration’s plan to bolster the Strategic Petroleum Reserve amid the coronavirus crisis in asking the president to help the U.S. nuclear fuel supply chain. Executives from Energy Fuels Resources and Ur-Energy called on Trump in a letter Monday to establish a strategic uranium reserve — potentially by utilizing the Defense Production Act — and to finally release the Nuclear Fuel Working Group report with recommendations for immediate relief.
BARCLAYS ANNOUNCES SCOPE 3 TARGETS: Barclays announced Monday it would align its global financing with the Paris climate agreement, targeting net-zero emissions by 2050. As part of the announcement, the bank said it would aim to reach net zero across all its financing activity, or so-called Scope 3 emissions, in all sectors by 2050. It also said it plans to release “the full detail of the methodology we are building as an open source contribution to the challenge of tackling climate change.”
— Jed Dearborn is joining Cassidy & Associates as senior vice president. He was previously a senior counsel for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and before that worked for Barrasso. He plans to register as a lobbyist. (H/t POLITICO Influence)
— “How New York City will keep the lights on,” via POLITICO Pro New York.
— “Groups: More time needed to weigh New Mexico drilling plan,” via Associated Press.
— “Mashpee tribe’s reservation land ‘disestablished,’” via Cape Cod Times.
— “More U.S. coal mines idled as two Pa. mine workers test positive for COVID-19,” via S&P Global Market Intelligence.
— “11 [EPA] staffers test positive for coronavirus,” via E&E News.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!