With help from Alex Guillén and Sam Mintz
Editor’s Note: Morning Energy is a free version of POLITICO Pro Energy’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.
— As early negotiations begin on the next coronavirus relief bill, lawmakers and lobbyists alike look to include infrastructure and clean energy tax credits in the package.
— A federal judge upheld the Trump administration’s repeal of an Obama-era fracking rule on public lands.
— President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the social distancing guidelines through the end of April.
WELCOME TO MONDAY! 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.
The Nature Conservancy’s Tom Cors gets the win for correctly identifying North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District as home to the most visited national park: the Great Smoky Mountains. Portions of the park are also found in Tennessee’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts. For today: Who was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to [email protected].
LOOKING FORWARD TO PHASE FOUR: Trump signed a sweeping $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, H.R. 748 (116), last week. But lawmakers are already eyeing the next installment as a vehicle for priorities including clean energy tax credits and some sort of infrastructure package.
The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that lawmakers, Trump administration officials, think tanks and lobbyists are already looking forward to the next package, with many expecting the debate to begin by late April. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed on CNN on Sunday that there’s plenty more to do in the next measure. “We have to pass another bill that goes to meeting the need more substantially than we have,” she said. Washington’s eagerness to aid the economy is also creating a potential boom for lobbyists, who have begun a blitz on everything from coronavirus testing kits to pushing EPA to haste its regulatory processing of disinfectants, The New York Times reports.
Infrastructure: Both the House and Senate have begun work on surface transportation bills ahead of a September deadline to act, but lawmakers haven’t been able to settle on how to pay for the legislation, Pro’s Sam Mintz reports. House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) wants to “double down on an infrastructure package that repairs the breach left by years of neglect.” As for the pay-for, an infrastructure lobbyist told Sam that given the record low gas prices, debate about the gas tax “could re-enter the equation.”
Clean energy: Renewable energy groups are also expected to push for green energy tax credits in the next package, as Pro’s Anthony Adragna, Zack Colman and Gavin Bade reported. The Coalition for Green Capital, a group advocating for a national infrastructure bank, put out new poll data today that found 71 percent of respondents said they’d support Congress including funding in a stimulus bill for the construction of clean energy and transportation infrastructure.
Fossil fuels: There could also be another push to include money for the Energy Department to buy oil to store in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, after the last relief package omitted the funds requested by the department and the president. “Expect both low-carbon and fossil energy interests to press their case for support in coming weeks,” according to analysts at BloombergNEF in a note Friday.
REMINDER: The Trump administration is expected to release its final plan to weaken vehicle fuel economy targets on Tuesday.
EPA RELAXES GAS SALE RULES: EPA said Friday it would push a May 1 deadline for fuel terminals to stop selling winter-grade gasoline to retailers until May 20 as a way to protect gasoline supply amid the coronavirus crisis, Pro’s Alex Guillén reports. The agency said it may extend the waiver even later “should conditions warrant.”
EPA also announced two actions to help small refiners under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The agency announced it would extend a March 31 deadline for small refiners to comply with the RFS for 2019 “to provide them with additional flexibility.” It also said it will not revisit small refiner exemptions granted in prior compliance years in the wake of January’s appellate court ruling restricting EPA’s authority to grant such waivers. The agency said it will “develop an appropriate implementation and enforcement response” once refiners’ appeal of that ruling is resolved, which could take months.
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper complained that EPA is taking advantage of the pandemic to delay acting on the 10th Circuit’s ruling. “What are they waiting for? There is no rationale for EPA to wait for the courts to respond to the refiners’ hollow request for a rehearing before moving forward with adoption of the decision,” he said Friday.
COAL GLAD TO BE CRITICAL: Updated guidance issued Saturday by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency added coal mining, processing and shipping to the list of essential critical infrastructure, drawing praise from the industry. “Our nation needs stability right now. We need a dependable supply chain for our manufacturing sector. And we need to know that our power sector is secure across the country,” National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan said. The designation comes shortly after the United Mine Workers of America asked the Mine Safety and Health Administration to protect miners, who work in close quarters, from the virus.
JUDGE UPHOLDS FRACKING RULE REPEAL: Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for Northern California on Friday rejected challenges brought by California and other states, as well as environmental groups, against the Trump administration’s repeal of an Obama-era rule that regulated hydraulic fracturing on public lands. Gilliam instead said the law set a lenient standard for the Trump administration’s defense, Alex reports for Pros.
The Trump administration argued the fracking rule unnecessarily duplicated state regulations and burdened the oil and gas industry with “unjustified” costs, and Gilliam wrote Friday that the Bureau of Land Management “met the requirement of providing a ‘reasoned explanation’ for why it is changing course after the nearly five-year long extensive rulemaking that resulted in the 2015 Rule.” The judge also rejected arguments that repealing the fracking rule violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.
TRUMP EXTENDS SOCIAL DISTANCING: The president on Sunday extended social distancing guidelines through April 30 amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Trump had previously said he could begin rolling back the guidelines as early as this week, but said on Sunday that the peak number of deaths is now likely to occur in two weeks, and that the country should be on the way to recovery by June 1. The announcement comes as federal agencies, like the National Park Service, Energy Department, EPA and Interior Department, have enacted their own social distancing guidelines in line with the administration.
INSIDE BIDEN’S PUSH TO COURT PROGRESSIVES: Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is mounting an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort to win support from a wary liberal base, particularly young voters, POLITICO’s Laura Barrón-López and Holly Otterbein report. Several progressives who’ve spoken with Biden’s campaign said they see room to mold the former vice president’s policies on issues including climate change.
“The dirty little secret is everyone’s talking to Biden’s campaign,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of the liberal think tank Data for Progress. “… I expect we’ll see Biden embracing key planks of the ambitious agenda progressives have outlined on issues like climate and pharmaceutical policy.”
GOP BILL WOULD PULL U.S. OUT OF SAUDI ARABIA: Republican Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) introduced legislation, S. 3572 (116), last week to remove U.S. armed forces from Saudi Arabia in a bid to pressure the nation to halt its price war with Russia. “Saudi Arabia has shown indifference, if not malintent, for American energy producers during its feud with Russia,” said Cramer. “These are not the actions of a supposed ally or friend, and they will not be tolerated.”
By the way: The other North Dakota senator, John Hoeven, said Friday he spoke with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, calling on him to press Saudi Arabia on the oil price war and on “ensuring a fair capacity value for coal.”
GREENS WARN OF ‘STEALTH’ FOSSIL FUEL BAILOUTS: Environmental activists want to make sure a corporate debt purchasing program overseen by BlackRock does not turn into “stealth fossil fuel company bailouts,” Pro’s Zack Colman reports. “The Federal Reserve should not prop up industry destroying the climate and creating further risk to the financial system,” wrote Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace and more than two dozen organizations in a letter Friday to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.
The green groups requested more details on how the Fed would ensure BlackRock does not use the Fed’s lending powers, backed by the Treasury Department, to purchase the debt of companies in which it already owns a stake to avoid conflicts of interest. The groups also called for oil and gas companies to be denied bailouts that would interfere with a transition away from fossil fuels.
— “Rosneft hands Venezuelan oil business to Russian state firm,” via Associated Press.
— “Pipelines ask U.S. oil drillers to curb output as tanks fill up,” via Bloomberg.
— “Top NPS officials support Grand Canyon’s closure, but haven’t ordered it,” via National Parks Traveler.
— “Trump pins coronavirus hope on a climate skeptic,” via E&E News.
— “Amid criticism and the coronavirus pandemic, Alaska investment board approves $35 million for Ambler Road,” via Anchorage Daily News.
— “No running water. No electricity. On Navajo Nation, coronavirus creates worry and confusion as cases surge,” via Los Angeles Times.
— “EPA’s relaxed enforcement amid virus draws mixed state reaction,” via Bloomberg Environment.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!