Energy Update (October 13)
Biden Climate Czar
Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden and his transition team are considering appointing a climate and energy “czar” to help direct changes across federal agencies if he wins the election.
The appointment would elevate climate issues in a potential Biden administration, and ensure addressing climate change is among the “top priorities” at agencies such as the Departments of Energy, Interior, Commerce, and Defense.
According to the discussions, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former President Bill Clinton adviser John Podesta are among names being circulated for the position. The transition team has also been discussing whether to appoint someone to the White House National Security Council to focus solely on climate issues.
On Wednesday (Oct. 7), the vice-presidential debate was held in Salt Lake City, UT. Current Vice-President Mike Pence said a Biden White House would ban fracking, the oil and gas extraction method that has enabled a surge in U.S. energy production. He also said Biden’s energy plans would cost a large number of jobs in fossil fuels.
Democratic nominee for vice-president Kamala Harris responded that Joe Biden would not ban fracking. Harris did call for a nationwide ban during her primary campaign, however it is not a part of Biden’s platform. Biden’s plan does call for ending permitting for new oil and gas projects on federal lands.
Additionally, Pence looked to connect the Biden-Harris team to the Green New Deal, which Harris co-sponsored in the Senate, but Biden has promised not to implement. Harris said that a Biden administration would instead invest in renewables and create clean jobs as part of their broader infrastructure plan.
Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said on Wednesday (Oct. 7) that the Biden campaign is looking to act on an infrastructure package as soon as February, if he wins the election.
According to DeFazio, Biden’s team is interested in the $494 billion surface transportation bill he authored (H.R. 2, the INVEST in America Act). The legislation would create federal grant programs and has a heavy focus on combating climate change.
“I’ve already had conversations with the Biden folks. They like the bill,” DeFazio said.
The Biden campaign released a $1.3 trillion infrastructure proposal earlier this year.
COVID-19 Stimulus Package
On Tuesday (Oct. 6), President Trump tweeted that he wanted to postpone COVID-19 stimulus negotiations until after the election. However, he has since reversed course, and the White House is now pushing for a stimulus package.
Friday afternoon (Oct. 9), Trump said negotiations were moving along. Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow said the president has approved a “revised package” ahead of another planned discussion between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Sources said the new proposed package is about $1.8 trillion.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Friday (Oct. 9) that a COVID-19 stimulus deal is “unlikely in the next three weeks.”
Negotiations will likely continue throughout the weekend. It is unclear if or when a deal will be reached.
Supreme Court Vacancy
The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett will begin on Monday (Oct. 12). Senate Republicans will urge lawmakers to swiftly confirm Barrett before the election. Two Senate Judiciary Committee members, Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Mike Lee (R-UT), will appear remotely after testing positive for COVID-19. Democrats are opposed to pushing forward with the hearings and a vote this close to the general election.
California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order (EO) on Wednesday (Oct. 7) that set a goal of conserving 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030 in order to prevent species and habitat loss. The EO directs the state Natural Resources agency to form a “Biodiversity Collaborative” to develop strategies to meet the conservation targets.
The order aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms, forests, and other “working lands” through: keeping more carbon in soil, restoring wetlands, managing forests, and increasing green infrastructure in urban areas.
On Sunday (Oct. 4), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced that the state has had more than four million acres burned by wildfires so far this year. This is more than double the total destruction in all of 2018.
On Tuesday (Oct. 6), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed national standards that would change some requirements designed to stop pollution and reduce the spread of invasive species from water discharges from over 80,000 commercial vessels.
The new rule was mandated by Congress in 2018 and keeps many standards that have been in place in the past. It sets performance standards for 20 different waste streams, ranging from desalination and purification systems to exhaust gas emissions controls.
However, it would also alter the requirements for five waste streams – ballast tanks, exhaust gas emission control systems, greywater, hulls and associated niche areas, and seawater piping.
The EPA has until December 4, 2020, to finalize the rule. To view the new rule, click here.
This week, the EPA also approved a request from Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) to keep the state in control of environmental regulations on reservation land. The approval comes after the Supreme Court ruled that large portions of the state were under tribal jurisdiction, not the state government.
This included oversight of oil and gas wells, coal-fired power plants, refineries, and other industrial sites.
A provision tucked into the 2005 SAFETEA highway bill said if Oklahoma asks the EPA to let it administer environmental programs in Indian Country, then the agency must approve it.
Affordable Clean Energy Rule
On Thursday (Oct. 8), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the Trump administration’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act.
The case is similar to the litigation over Obama’s CPP, which had its first hearing before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals a month before the 2016 presidential election.
Various arguments that were used in that case are now playing out in reverse against Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. Currently, environmental groups are arguing the replacement ACE rule is unlawfully too narrow and weak to make a difference in curbing carbon dioxide emissions.
The judges heard nine hours of virtual arguments. Any ruling will likely take months to come out, and the results of the presidential election could play a role in the case’s future.
 Lefebvre, Ben. “Biden campaign mulls possible ‘climate czar’ position.” Politico Pro, 7 Oct. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/a152d3f9/tDFirx5FLEqnWuBeZuSbgg?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/10/biden-campaign-mulling-possible-climate-czar-position-2005973
 Mintz, Sam. “DeFazio: Biden team planning quick action infrastructure.” Politico Pro, 7 Oct. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/ae0b7c2d/z5OgIPyk1Uyo0TiGq9hh9w?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/10/defazio-biden-team-planning-quick-action-on-infrastructure-3984463
 Khan, Debra. “Newsom to sign executive order setting 30 percent conservation targets.” Politico Pro, 7 Oct. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/3d69005f/OFUD5E3TYEml8PAQ_V4Afw?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/10/newsom-to-sign-conservation-executive-order-addressing-soil-health-farm-emissions-3984478
 Snider, Annie. “EPA proposes easing standards for ballast water discharges.” Politico Pro, 6 Oct. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/0cb9c409/t-CVshdVckaNvD2TrFNtXg?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/10/epa-proposes-national-standards-for-vessel-discharges-3984442
 Tamborrino, Kelsey. “EPA grants Oklahoma Authority over reservation land.” Politico, 6 Oct. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/afe760d2/94qbmetxmkK2F5VJP5lUIQ?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/newsletter/2020/10/epa-grants-oklahoma-authority-over-reservation-land-790826
 Guillén, Alex. “Trump’s ACE power plant rule heads for courtroom showdown.” Politico Pro 7 Oct. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/76dfce97/oM4PoK1HKEajrCmqdYSmbg?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/10/trumps-ace-power-plant-rule-heads-for-courtroom-showdown-2005400