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OIL INDUSTRY THREATENS TO SUE TRUMP OVER ETHANOL WAIVER: The oil industry on Monday threatened to the sue the Trump administration if it carries out the president’s announced plan to relax rules to allow higher ethanol blends to be sold year-round.
“We think it’s against the law,” said Frank Macchiarola, the American Petroleum Institute’s vice president of downstream and industry operations, on a call with reporters.“We are going to consider all of our legal options” to ensure “this policy is not enacted.”
President Trump has directed Environmental Protection Agency acting administrator Andrew Wheeler to issue new regulations to allow the sale of 15-percent ethanol fuel year-round. Currently, sales are limited to eight months of the year.
Against the law: President Trump’s decision “is contrary to the clear letter of the law,” Macchiarola continued.
The oil group argues that the EPA, under the Clean Air Act, cannot change the regulations by way of administrative action. Instead, the change must be enacted by Congress.
The large oil group also released the results of polling on Monday that showed a majority of voters disagree with the Trump administration’s decision. The poll is being released one week before the midterm elections.
The Harris poll showed that 79 percent of voters are concerned about expanded sales of 15-percent ethanol fuel because of the potential damage it could cause to car engines.
Eighty-three percent of voters are concerned that consumers could face higher fuel prices if gasoline stations are forced to invest in new pumps to provide the higher ethanol fuels.
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ETHANOL INDUSTRY WANTS A SEAT AT THE TABLE ON FUEL ECONOMY ROLLBACK: The ethanol industry wants the Trump administration to carve out a place for it as it rolls back the Obama administration’s strict fuel-economy rules for automakers.
The Renewable Fuels Association, representing ethanol producers, explained Monday morning in comments filed to the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that higher blends of the ethanol “would enable cost-effective gains in fuel economy and significant carbon dioxide reductions.”
The Trump replacement, called the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient vehicles rule, or SAFE, would freeze fuel-efficiency and emissions requirements for cars at just above current levels, instead of advancing a fleetwide average of 54 miles per gallon in the next decade.
The ethanol industry want the final rule to include a minimum octane standard for gasoline that would encourage the use of more ethanol, which it argues will help automakers achieve SAFE’s fuel-economy and emissions targets.
DC COUNCIL DEBATES 100 PERCENT RENEWABLE ENERGY LEGISLATION: Washington D.C. could adopt the nation’s first 100 percent renewable energy bill, in what supporters say would be the strongest legislation in the country to combat climate change.
A D.C. Council committee on Monday morning held a public hearing on the bill, which would move the district to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2032, compared to its current policy of obtaining 50 percent of its power from renewables by that year.
“This bill would be a leading piece of legislation for our country,” Mary Cheh, a Democrat on the D.C. Council who first introduced the bill in July, told Josh in the lead-up to the hearing held by the Committee on Business and Economic Development.
Washingtonians are “dismayed at what they seeing at the national level,” Cheh said.
What the bill would do: Cheh’s bill, which could be voted on by the end of the year, would also create energy efficiency standards for existing buildings, and allow the district to enact regional agreements with neighboring Virginia and Maryland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To help pay for the transition to renewables, the bill would impose a fee on electricity and natural gas consumption that the legislation’s authors say would add $2.10 to D.C. residents’ average monthly gas bills and less than $1 to their average monthly electricity bills.
About 20 percent of the money raised from those fees would be used to provide financial help to low-income D.C. ratepayers. The rest would go to local “sustainability” projects.
Hearing witnesses say the bill is too strict: More than 100 witnesses were scheduled to testify at Monday’s hearing, expected to last all day, including representatives from environmental groups, business leaders, and officials from D.C. utilities Pepco and Washington Gas.
Some witnesses said the legislation should allow for carbon-free “clean” energy sources that aren’t renewable to account for the 100 percent target. These include advanced nuclear reactors, or carbon, capture, and storage technologies that can collect carbon emissions from coal or natural gas plants and store it underground.
Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and former EPA deputy administrator in the Obama administration, noted that the district currently gets half of its electricity from non-emitting sources, a mix that includes nuclear, hydropower, and biomass, along with solar and wind.
Josh Freed, who leads the clean energy program at the center-left think tank Third Way, testified that D.C. could achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity within a year or two of the law’s passage -- a much faster timeline than the renewable-only target set in Cheh’s bill.
D.C. stands firm: Cheh, however, insisted that the more aggressive 100 percent renewable energy target is “not pie in the sky.”
COAL UTILITY ON PATH TO BECOMING LARGEST RENEWABLE ENERGY PRODUCER: North Carolina-based Duke Energy, one of the largest coal utilities in the country, said Monday that it is firmly on the path to becoming the largest renewable energy producer in the country.
In filing a new plan to become a certified solar lessor with the state’s energy commission, Duke Energy pointed out that its efforts to transition to renewable energy have made North Carolina second for solar energy in the nation (after California).
It aims to advance that goal with a plan before the state’s utility commission to begin leasing solar arrays to non-residential customers, from shopping centers to farms, to make it easier for them to absorb the upfront costs of transitioning to solar-based electricity.
The plans calls for the creation of a new non-regulated subsidiary, Duke Energy Clean Energy Resources, which will build, own and operate on-site solar facilities that will allow customers to access renewable energy without a large upfront investment, according to the company. The affiliate will be its own entity, without any financial support from the utility’s power generation side.
Rob Caldwell, Duke’s renewable energy division president, said customers “want more solar power for their operations, but the large upfront investment can be an obstacle." The new company aims to be a competitive means to provide customers a “turnkey solar solution to meet their renewable energy goals.” The company will also manage the solar power arrays once installed and provide maintenance.
The company will allow customers to choose to install up to 1 megawatt of solar energy at their business, which is nearly 100 times the size of a residential home system. The new Duke affiliate will also allow it to take advantage of Duke Energy’s $62 million solar rebate program.
CARBON EMISSIONS FROM US POWER SECTOR DOWN 28 PERCENT SINCE 2005, EIA SAYS: Carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector have fallen 28 percent since 2005, the Energy Information Administration said in a report Monday morning, mainly due to a transition away from coal to natural gas and renewables, and also slower electricity demand growth.
Most of the reductions in energy-related carbon emissions have been in the power sector, EIA said. Since 2005, carbon emissions from all other energy sectors fell by only 5 percent. U.S. electricity demand, meanwhile, has decreased in seven of the last 10 years.
While EIA notes natural gas becoming the largest source of power generation in 2016, the agency also highlights the growth of renewables.
In 2005, noncarbon sources accounted for 28 percent of the U.S. electricity mix. By 2017, that share had grown to 38 percent. Almost all of this growth was in renewables wind and solar.
POLLUTION KILLS 600,000 CHILDREN A YEAR, WHO WARNS: More than 600,000 children died from breathing polluted air in 2016, according to a World Health Organization report published Monday.
The agency estimated that 93 percent of children under the age of 15 across the world are breathing in dirty air that puts their health and development at risk.
SCIENTISTS DECLARE ANNUAL ‘DEAD ZONE’ SEASON OFF PACIFIC COAST: State ecologists on the West Coast say there is a new ‘season,’ akin to wildfire season: The time of year in which falling oxygen levels on the seafloor kill off commercial fishermen’s catches.
"We can now say that Oregon has a hypoxia season much like the wildfire season," Francis Chan, co-chair of a California task force tracking the growing problem known as hypoxia, told NPR on Sunday.
It’s become a regular danger: "Every summer we live on the knife's edge and during many years we cross the threshold into danger – including the past two years," Chan said. "When oxygen levels get low enough, many marine organisms who are place-bound, or cannot move away rapidly enough, die of oxygen starvation."
The presence of warmer water off the U.S. Pacific Coast, attributable to global warming, is causing oxygen levels on the seafloor to disappear, killing off the crabs and other sea creatures that commercial fishermen rely on.
Feds still plugging away on climate under Trump: The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is funding research to help policymakers understand the problem amid rising global temperatures, according to its website.
“Changes in both global and regional climates have the potential to make coastal and marine ecosystems even more vulnerable to hypoxic conditions,” says the agency. NOAA's coastal climate change program is conducting interdisciplinary research to understand the relationship between ecosystem function and climate change, it says.
DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE GAMBLES ON CLIMATE CHANGE IN GOP’S MOST VULNERABLE CALIFORNIA DISTRICT: Democrat Mike Levin has made his bid to win a House seat long occupied by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa all about climate change — and it looks like it’s working.
Levin, a former environmental lawyer, kicked off his campaign nearly two years ago — before Issa, a leading antagonist of President Barack Obama’s administration, announced his retirement — by sending the nine-term congressman a book titled Climate Change for Beginners. He’s kept the focus on climate change since.
How Levin is different, even for California: It’s unusual to see a candidate put the climate issue front and center. Last cycle, the Democrat who came within 1 percentage point of Issa talked about climate change as one of the leading threats to the U.S., but it was low down on the list of issues raised. Often, Democrats will have a line on their campaign websites, committing to support renewable energy and proposals to limit carbon emissions, but typically don’t bring it up much until asked at campaign events.
Levin has run his race differently. At a recent meet-and-greet in an affluent Encinitas enclave, climate change was the first policy issue Levin mentioned in his stump speech.
Dire UN report gets a shoutout: “Who here saw the IPCC report on climate change?” Levin asked the crowd, referring to the October report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “What it said in a nutshell — I’ll save you some time — we’ve got about 15 years to take action,” said Levin. “We’ve got to have a Congress that leads again on climate change, leads again on sustainability, and while we do it, we’re going to create the great jobs of the future in clean energy.”
Read the rest of this report by the Washington Examiner’s Laura-Barron-Lopez.
TRUMP DECLARES FIRST NATIONAL MONUMENT: Trump on Friday exercised executive power to designate his first national monument on Friday, making use of a law that he has accused Democrats of abusing.
He established the Camp Nelson National Monument, a 380-acre site in Kentucky, to honor African Americans’ role as soldiers during the Civil War.
What Trump is protecting: During the Civil War, Camp Nelson served as a recruitment center for African American soldiers, as well as an emancipation site and refugee camp for soldiers and their families. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited the site Saturday, celebrating the announcement at an event with Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., who wrote legislation enshrining the monument into law. Barr is facing a tough re-election race.
Trump takes aim at the law he is using: Trump was sued by tribal groups and environmentalists last year for shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
Trump framed those decisions as a sharp rebuke of former Democratic presidents’ use of executive authority to set aside public land for protection.
The Trump administration and congressional Republicans say previous presidents abused their authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to unilaterally declare national monuments, setting aside larger and larger swaths of public land, limiting development opportunities and stifling local control.
KHASHOGGI FALLOUT: MULVANEY CANCELS APPEARANCE AT SAUDI-RELATED EVENT: The Trump administration is backing out of another Saudi-related conference, but this time it’s one being held in D.C. not Riyadh, John has learned.
White House Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney has canceled his keynote address that he was scheduled to give before the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ policymakers summit, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, the White House told John on Friday.
“Unfortunately, Director Mulvaney is no longer able to attend,” said Meghan Burris, spokeswoman for Mulvaney, providing no further explanation.
The Council’s board of advisers is co-chaired by Saudi billionaire Prince Abdulaziz Bin Talal, one of richest men in the world. The advisers also include the former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal, who is expected to address the summit later this week.
Read the full story here.
New York Times Driven by Trump policy changes, fracking booms on public lands
Bloomberg California has a posse in tug-of-war With Trump over electric cars
Reuters Trump’s Iran sanctions resolve faces test from oil-thirsty China, India
Texas Tribune Army Corps, Texas officials propose sweeping hurricane protection plan
Wall Street Journal A new target in the war against plastic: paper cups
WEDNESDAY | October 31
9:30 a.m., 500 Fifth Street NW. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Board on Earth Sciences and Resources holds a meeting on "Minerals, Water and Energy: The science that drives their interdependencies, feedbacks and tradeoffs."
11:59 p.m., Deadline for comments on EPA’s proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan with revised emissions guidelines called the Affordable Clean Energy rule.
THURSDAY | November 1
3:30 p.m., 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The United States Energy Association holds a technology briefing on "What Does 'Resilience' of the Electric Power Sector Mean Today?"
TUESDAY | November 6
THURSDAY | November 15
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a full committee hearing on the nominations of Rita Baranwal to be an assistant Energy secretary for nuclear energy; Bernard L. McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Raymond David Vela to be director of the National Park Service.