Democrats’ Infrastructure reset – POLITICO


With help from Alex Guillén

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— The House will recalibrate its infrastructure plans after last week’s standoff between moderates and progressives, and President Joe Biden will need to huddle with Democrats to negotiate a new plan to get their massive climate and social policy priorities across the finish line.

— LNG veteran Charif Souki spoke with POLITICO about natural gas’ role in energy access, the hurdles for carbon sequestration and the problems with putting a carbon pedigree on gas exports.

— A massive oil spill threatened the Southern California coast following a pipeline leak near Huntington Beach, killing wildlife and soiling beaches with crude.

HAPPY MONDAY! I’m your host, Matthew Choi. Cheniere’s Khary Cauthen gets the trivia for knowing Molière’s birth name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. For today: What Led Zeppelin song was featured in the movie “School of Rock”? 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: A cold, dark winter.

INFRASTRUCTURE RESET: Democrats are going to back to the drawing board after their self-imposed deadline to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill expired last week with no deal. The House is out this week and Democrats will have find a new path to pass the bill that’s already gone through the Senate but drew sharp opposition from House progressives over the failure to move ahead with the multi-trillion climate and social spending bill.

Biden himself addressed the House Democratic caucus to say that the bipartisan bill “ain’t going to happen until we reach an agreement on the next piece of legislation,” a message that dismayed moderates who had been promised a vote on the measure. But progressives welcomed BIden’s words, and they insist the larger bill that they want to remain at $3.5 trillion is crucial to enacting the president’s own ambitious agenda.
Now the party will have time to work out disagreements to bring the centrists and the progressive together on the larger bill they are planning to pass via reconciliation. The White House and progressives alike insisted there was no set timeline or deadline holding them back on getting that ironed out first.

“The president is absolutely right,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s next week or three weeks from now. What matters is that we finally address the problems facing working families. That’s what matters.”

But moderates fumed that the president didn’t muster all his might to get done what they saw as an easy, major legislative win. “It was a shocking failure to meet the moment,” a Democratic moderate told POLITICO’s Congress team. House leadership was forced to move quickly to pass a short-term surface transportation authorization legislation over the weekend so that DOT employees who had been furloughed on Friday to return to work on Monday.

Republicans who had backed the bipartisan deal were likewise frustrated with the delay, with Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Shelley Moore Capito saying in a statement: “This week shows the fallacy of House Democrats holding a bipartisan infrastructure package hostage to try to force passage of the $3.5 trillion reckless tax and spending spree. While I supported the extension, these programs cannot operate effectively while jumping from stopgap to stopgap.”

The House is out for the next two weeks, and lawmakers will have to work out a fresh deal for the two packages. Biden is cognizant that Senate centrists will force the topline for reconciliation down, telling House Democrats Friday to expect something between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion — and progressives are taking up in earnest the challenge to find a workable number, report POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris, Nicholas Wu and Heather Caygle.

THE C SUITE: TELLURIAN’S SOUKI ON ENERGY POLICY: Charif Souki, who has been at the forefront of the U.S. LNG industry for decades as founder of Cheniere Energy and now as executive chairman of Tellurian, visited with Pro’s Ben Lefebvre to discuss the state of U.S. energy climate policy, and he’s not impressed.

“We have climate aspirations, but it’s not a policy. We’re a small piece of the global picture. So we can be U.S.-centric if you want, but it’s not going to make a difference from a climate standpoint because the issue is global…. A decent energy policy has to be global and a decent climate policy has to be global,” he said.

Souki called the bipartisan infrastructure bill a “good start,” though he added that “it’s so small if you look at the scale of what is needed.” And he thinks carbon capture and storage will need a lot more work to get off the ground. “At the moment I don’t see where it is commercially feasible, except in very, very small places.”

So what’s the solution? “It’s so simple,” he said. “A gasoline tax and a carbon tax would pay for everything. And if you phase them in intelligently, they could be done amid an increase in productivity.” Read their whole interview here.

OIL SPILL IN THE OC: Over 126,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast over the weekend, killing fish and birds and shuttering miles of some of the most famous beachfront in the country. Boaters noticed the oil smell and slick Friday night after a pipeline from the Elly oil platform about 5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach started leaking, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley tweeted. The oil rig is in waters controlled by the Interior Department, and its not yet clear what caused the pipeline breach.

The Bureau of Safety, Environmental Enforcement said it’s supporting the Coast Guard in responding to the oil spill, and the pipeline’s operator said it was no longer spewing oil as of Sunday afternoon, the Associated Press reports. Area residents were told to stay off the beach, which could be closed for the next weeks or months.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) asked Biden Sunday to declare a major disaster for Orange County, which allow additional federal assistance to flow to state and local agencies and individuals impacted by the spill.

CLIMATE ON AGENDA: A number of environmental priorities will go under the microscope this week in committee, including response to climate change-connected natural disasters. The Senate Energy Water and Power Subcommittee will meet Wednesday to take a temperature check on drought management in the Western U.S. Senate Energy’s National Parks Subcommittee will also meet Wednesday to consider a host of public lands legislation. The whole Senate Energy Committee will have a hearing Tuesday on updating the Mining Law of 1872.

The House Oversight Committee will have a hearing on FEMA’s response to Hurricane Ida on Tuesday, while the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will have an oversight hearing on Wednesday on the Army Corps of Engineers’ response to the storm. The House Natural Resources Committee will have an oversight hearing to go into the privatization of the Puerto Rico’s grid, as well as its transition to renewable generation.

The House Transportation Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee will meet Wednesday to discuss the impact of forever-chemicals on public health and water quality, and ways to address contaminants under the Clean Water Act.

DIRECT PAY PLEASE: Sen. Cory Booker led a group of 25 Democrats urging for a direct pay option for the 25D tax credit for residential renewable energy as part of the reconciliation bill. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, the lawmakers pressed for the direct pay option as a way open the tax credits to lower and middle income households who may not owe enough in taxes to fully benefit from the credit. Expanding access to the tax credit is critical as natural disasters put grid reliability at risk, the senators write, with households with battery storage and hooked to renewable generation more easily able to regain power.

Environmental justice advocates have pushed for a direct pay option under 25D, and Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO, told ME last month that it would be crucial to expanding equity in the solar industry amid rising prices in the sector.

CLIMATE, EJ TOP NEW EPA STRATEGIC PLAN: EPA has reinstated climate change and environmental justice as its top goals in a new draft strategic plan, putting those issues back atop the agency agenda after the term “climate change” was completely scrubbed from Trump-era plans. The 118-page draft 2022-2026 plan, required by Congress to be updated every four years, lists seven goals to address: climate change and environmental justice; enforcement; clean air; clean water; land contamination and environmental emergencies, and chemical and pesticide safety. It also names four “cross-agency” strategies: scientific integrity, children’s health, advancing “organizational excellence and workforce equity,” and boosting state, tribal and local partnerships.

The plan doesn’t provide many specifics on EPA’s regulatory plans that aren’t already known. It steers clear of any details or timelines for regulating carbon dioxide from power plants, for example. Among the goals it does specify are to conduct 55 percent of compliance inspections at facilities that affect environmental justice communities, to reduce power plant nitrogen oxides emissions by 21 percent by 2026, to reduce the number of community water systems that don’t meet health-based standards from 3,500 to 600, and to complete eight chemical risk evaluations annually. EPA is taking public comment through Nov. 12 and expects to finalize the plan in February.

CHECK YOUR INSTA: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm plans to join civil rights and labor leader Dolores Huerta on Tuesday for an Instagram Live roundtable marking National Hispanic Heritage Month. It’ll be broadcast at 5 p.m. from Granholm’s account (@SecGranholm), and titled “Our Time is Now: Latinx Leaders on Climate Action.”

Steven Kooning joined the American Enterprise Institute as a nonresident senior fellow focusing on climate and energy policy studies. He was undersecretary for science at the Department of Energy and provost at Caltech.

“Europe turns to Russia for more coal as energy prices skyrocket,” Oilprice.com via Yahoo!Finance.

“Austria adopts carbon pricing in tax overhaul,” via Reuters.

“EPA reverses Trump-era memo that allowed pollution limit exemptions,” via POLITICO.

— “Oil-Dependent Russia Seeks to Protect Economy From Energy Transition,” via The Wall Street Journal.

“Terrestrial Energy Launches 390-MW Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Design,” via POWER magazine

“America’s green energy industry takes on the fossil-fuel lobby,” via The Economist

THAT’S ALL FOR ME!





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