HAPPY WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.
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IT’S ELECTRIC: A new executive order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) seeks to phase out the use of gas-powered cars in the state by only allowing the sale of zero-emissions passenger cars and trucks by 2035.
The executive order also aims to require medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the state to be zero-emissions by 2045.
The executive order comes as the state deals with another terrible season of wildfires that have taken dozens of lives, destroyed property and left California with sickening air quality. Climate change is seen as a huge factor in the fires.
“When we are looking to achieve our audacious goals to get to a 100 percent carbon-free economy by 2045, we can’t get there unless we accelerate our efforts in the transportation sector,” Newsom told reporters on Wednesday.
“In the next 15 years we will eliminate in the state of California the sales of internal combustion engines. We will move forward to green and decarbonize our vehicle fleet … substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as oxide nitrogen, in so doing, we’ll improve air quality and improve the economic climate here in the state of California,” he added.
The governor argued that this would help the state’s economy, citing the fact that electric vehicles are some of the state’s largest exports and arguing that expanding this industry would create jobs.
He praised some automakers but said that others were not on board with California’s plans.
“I want to thank in particular a number of manufacturers, automobile, that get it and are starting to get it done,” he said, specifically praising Ford, Volvo, BMW and Honda. He added that others are “pushing back against California’s leadership” but did not name specific companies.
Newsom’s executive order also includes a provision to no longer issue new permits for oil and gas fracking by 2024.
“We will be directing and working…on a legislative strategy to begin the phaseout formally of fracking,” he said, saying that this would occur in the new legislative session beginning in January.
The fuel industry, however, said the move exceeds Newsom’s authority and would harm consumers.
“Governor Newsom lacks the authority to ban the internal combustion engine. Regardless, pursuing this goal would be among the most inefficient, unpopular, and regressive methods to reduce carbon emissions. Forced electrification would deprive consumers of choice for popular vehicles fueled by affordable, reliable, and readily available gasoline and diesel,” said a statement from American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers President Chet Thompson.
Read more on California’s plans here.
MOVIN’ OUT (ANDREW’S SONG): The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the first agency following through on President Trump’s pledge to withhold federal funds from “anarchist” jurisdictions, threatening to remove an agency office from Manhattan due to alleged safety concerns.
The Justice Department on Monday assigned that classification to New York, along with Portland, Ore., and Seattle as Trump has sought to politicize protests as part of his law and order image heading into the final weeks of the campaign.
In a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler characterized summer protests in the city as a danger to the agency’s Manhattan office.
“If you cannot demonstrate that EPA employees will be safe accessing our New York City offices, then I will begin the process of looking for a new location for our regional headquarters outside of New York City that can maintain order. I have an obligation to our employees, and if the city is unwilling or incapable of doing its job, I will do mine and move them to a location that can competently fulfill the basic mission of a local government,” Wheeler wrote in the letter first reported by the New York Post.
The letter said the EPA accused protestors of “unwarranted, violent activity at the facility, breaking windows and defacing/destroying government property.”
Those July demonstrations against police brutality earned criticism not just from the Trump administration, but from some New Yorkers, who accused the city of being too aggressive in cracking down on the protests.
According to reporting from The New York Times, the city’s one instance of significant property damage occurred in early June in response to the death of George Floyd.
“We know Administrator Wheeler doesn’t understand climate or the environment, just look at his record at the EPA so far, but we did think he could tell time. Why he is writing us a letter about events from two months ago defies comprehension, but then again, so does most of the Trump Administration’s actions. This is nothing more than the latest political stunt from the Trump Administration,” Julia Arredondo, deputy press secretary for the mayor said in an email to The Hill.
Cuomo’s office also dismissed the letter.
“Another day, another transparent political game from this federal government. The fact is the EPA has abandoned every state since 2017 and they should quit playing political flunky and actually do their job,” said Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to the governor.
Read more on the letter here.
AS WE HEAD TO A VOTE: Both Republicans and left-wing environmental groups criticized a sprawling House energy package billed as a response to climate change.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said the chamber would vote this week on the legislation.
The package would funnel money toward research and development of a number of types of energy while promoting energy efficiency for homes, schools and other buildings.
Republicans on Wednesday knocked the speed through which the 900-page bill, which has not had a legislative hearing, is moving through the House and said it would harm consumers.
Top Republicans on the chamber’s Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources and Science Space and Technology Committees slammed the legislation.
“Here we are in the middle of a global pandemic and Speaker Pelosi wants to spend more than $135 billion on a piece of legislation that will never become law,” said Greg Walden (Ore.), Rob Bishop (Utah), and Frank Lucas (Okla.). “If Democrats wanted to make real progress on clean energy, they wouldn’t have dropped a 900-page bill and called for a vote a week later, without any time for thoughtful consideration through regular order.”
“This bill is chock-full of government mandates that would raise what Americans pay for everything from the vehicles they drive to what they pay to heat, cool, and power their homes,” they said.
Environmentalists criticized the inclusion of funding for research into a mechanism known as carbon capture and sequestration, which removes carbon from the air. Carbon capture is unpopular with some environmentalists because it’s often used in fossil fuel production.
And a coalition of more than 100 environmental and progressive groups, including 350.org and the Center for Biological Diversity released a letter urging members of Congress to oppose the bill, citing its support for carbon capture.
“Any benefits from the critical steps to support environmental justice in the proposed legislation are undermined by provisions encouraging carbon capture sequestration (CCS) and other false climate solutions that perpetuate our dependence on fossil fuels,” they wrote.
Hoyer defended the legislation, telling The Hill in a statement that it “takes important steps in addressing the climate crisis by investing in clean energy jobs, and based on an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, will not cost taxpayers anything.”
Read more on the response here.
EMINENTLY QUOTABLE: Almost 40 Democratic senators wrote to the Commission on Presidential Debates on Wednesday urging questions focused on climate change to be included in the presidential debates.
“With the potential for tens of millions of people to once again tune in this September and October, it is critical that every debate includes questions that ask the candidates what they would do to address climate change and environmental injustice. Without these topics, any discussion on the economy, racial justice, public health, national security, democracy, or infrastructure would be incomplete,” they wrote in a letter.
ON TAP TOMORROW:
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and water management in Florida
- The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on moving toward a sustainable future
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Los Angeles hid a methane leak for a year. Activists want the power plant shut down, The Los Angeles Times reports
Whitmer signs executive order on climate change, aims for carbon-neutral state by 2050, The Detroit Free Press reports
California outpaced Trump’s Forest Service in wildfire prevention work, Reuters reports
ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday…
UN discovers new all-time cold reading for northern hemisphere set in 1991
California seeks to sell only electric cars by 2035
EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to ‘anarchist’ cities
House energy package sparks criticism from left and right
Nearly 40 Democratic senators urge climate change questions in debates
FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:
The conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, writes Christopher Barnard, the national policy director at the American Conservation Coalition.