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TRUMP SIGNS BILL TO CLEAN UP THE SEAS AS PRESSURE MOUNTS ON CLIMATE: President Trump kicked off Thursday by signing the “Save Our Seas Act,” a bill meant to direct a domestic and international response to garbage -- from plastic bottles to radioactive solid waste -- thrown into the oceans.
Trump said it “is a very unfair situation” that “previous administrations did almost nothing to address” pollution from foreign countries.
“People don’t know about it, but we are being inundated all the time” with foreign seaborne trash, he said.
Why now? The bill was passed by the Senate over a year ago, but was signed Thursday at a time when Democrats are attempting to make climate change into a “referendum” issue during the midterm elections after the release of a new United Nations report that portrayed the climate situation as dire.
Trump did not immediately accept the report’s conclusions, and instead called the report into question. He raised the possibility that its authors -- U.N. scientists, some of whom are American -- might be compromised and in league with interest groups.
The report predicts more devastation from severe storms if Earth’s temperature is allowed to warm 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 20 years. The climate has already warmed by 1 degree, delivering major storms, heat waves, and more wildfires, the report says.
Back to the bill: Thursday’s sea clean-up bill was championed by Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, whose state has been hurt by radioactive waste from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island were also sponsors of the bill that passed the Senate in August of 2017. Incidentally, Trump has made criticizing Booker’s time as mayor of Newark, N.J., a regular part of his midterm campaign rallies.
How the bill works: The bill amends the 1952 Marine Debris Act by establishing an outreach program through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to brainstorm “strategies” with other federal agencies on how to tackle the problem of marine debris. The only exception is marine debris from vessels.
An international response: It will also seek to promote “international action” by working with the Department of State to mitigate seaborne solid waste.
NOAA will also be given authority to work with states to “assist in the cleanup and response” following a major solid-waste spill.
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DEMOCRATS SAY THE UN REPORT WILL LEAD TO A ‘REFERENDUM’ IN NOVEMBER: Democratic lawmakers said the U.N. report will lead to a “referendum” on the Trump administration’s environmental agenda in November, as voters look to Democrats to hold the administration accountable for going the wrong way on climate change.
Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Mark Udall of New Mexico led what they called an “emergency” call with reporters Thursday morning with environmental groups, calling for a campaign to take back Congress in 2018 by using the U.N. report to move voters to action in November.
Democratic hopes for blue wave: “When you put this type of information in the hands of the American voter, it will quickly turn into a supercharged pro-climate, political storm at the ballot box,” Markey said. “And that is what we are about to see this November.”
Markey added that voters should expect numerous investigations and probes into the Trump administration’s environmental agenda if the Democrats take back Capitol Hill.
Tapping the hurricane: “As Hurricane Michael slams into the Gulf, we’re living through a perfect storm of inaction on climate change from the Trump administration,” said Markey, who chairs the select committee on global warming. “He is turning a blind eye to the need to act.”
The Trump administration errors, in Markey’s recounting: Rolling back Environmental Protection Agency standards to reduce car emissions, withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, and replacing the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants with a “dirty, do-nothing” proposal.
Rhea Suh, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said on the call Thursday that if people think hurricanes are bad now? “Just wait.”
The U.N. report says a 1.5 degree increase by 2040 would cost $54 trillion, thanks to unprecedented drought, flooding, and crop failures.
She said the best thing to do is to focus on the “opportunities” before voters. “We have the technologies and ingenuity” to make the changes necessary to address the problem, said Suh.
OPEC SECRETARY GENERAL CRITICIZES ‘MISGUIDED’ UN REPORT: OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo on Thursday criticized the U.N. report.
He has a specific problem with the report’s claim that renewable energy must supply 70-85 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, compared to about 25 percent now, in order to hold warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“It is not about choosing one energy source against another, as it is being suggested by some of our colleagues in the scientific community. In some quarters we hear stories that suggest renewables are our only energy future. This, with all true respect to our friends, is clearly misguided,” Barkindo said at an Oil & Money conference in London, in comments reported by Reuters. The comments are unsurprising for the head of the oil cartel.
“Oil is not toxic at the end of the day, emissions are toxic,” Barkindo said.
TRUMP INCLUDES GEORGIA IN EMERGENCY RESPONSE TO MICHAEL: Trump has declared a state of emergency in Georgia from Hurricane Michael and ordered federal assistance due to the emergency conditions that began Oct. 9, the White House said on Thursday.
Trump had issued a state of emergency for Florida on Tuesday before the storm hit in a rare pre-disaster order, which began mobilizing a federal response ahead of landfall.
HURRICANE MICHAEL SHUTTERS MORE THAN 40 PERCENT OF GULF OIL OUTPUT: Hurricane Michael cut off 42 percent of the daily production from the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, and nearly a third of natural gas output, according to the Interior Department.
Those are the largest one-day reductions of output from the Gulf this year. But the storm missed most offshore energy infrastructure in the Gulf, so production should be back online quickly.
AND KNOCKS OUT POWER FOR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS: The Energy Department said Thursday that Hurricane Michael has resulted in more than 820,000 power outages in five states.
There are 359,306 customers without power in Florida as a result of the hurricane as of 6 a.m. Thursday, state officials say.
Utility Georgia Power said more than 200,000 customers don’t have power in the state as of this morning.
Energy Department and utility industry lead hurricane response: A special utility CEO-led task force with the Energy Department is helping to coordinate the response to Hurricane Michael alongside FEMA.
Hundreds of thousands more without power: As of Wednesday night, 429,000 residents were without electric power after Hurricane Michael made landfall near Panama City, Florida, according to a statement by the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council.
“Michael remains a dangerous storm as it approaches Georgia and the Carolinas, with high winds and heavy rain,” the CEO-led council said.
An army of utility workers stand ready: All segments of the electric utility industry had already pre-positioned equipment, resources, and more than 30,000 workers from at least 24 states in advance of the storm to prepare for anticipated power outages and to minimize the time needed to begin damage assessment and recovery efforts, according to the coordinating council.
Damage could mean complete infrastructure rebuild: Preliminary assessments of the damage show that, in some cases, the devastation “will require that energy infrastructure be rebuilt in order to restore power,” according to the council.
MURKOWSKI GIVES THANKS TO UTILITIES RESTORING POWER AS SENATORS CONTEMPLATE BLACKOUT RECOVERY: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, offered appreciation for utilities and crews restoring power from the hurricane, as she led a hearing Thursday morning about the process of returning energy to the grid after a widespread blackout.
“As we speak, we have everyday heroes that are working very hard and diligently to keep the power on,” Murkowski said during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.
Murkowski, the chairwoman of the committee, noted that a system-wide blackout is “mostly the stuff of nightmares and Hollywood thrillers,” but said the U.S. must be prepared to respond to potential future events because of the increasing risk of cyber attacks.
“The United States has never seen a blackout of this kind, but the increasing risks presented by cyberattacks...make it more important that we be prepared,” she said. “The question we have to be able to answer is should all the grid go down, how will we restart our generating stations, repower the lines and safely deliver electricity to homes and businesses.”
The hearing focused on a process known as blackstart: The process for restoring energy to the grid after a system-wide blackout is called blackstart.
Units that can provide electricity after a blackout without needing to draw power from the grid are known as blackstart resources, and they are usually small resources that can energize quickly and operate infrequently, such as natural gas combustion turbines, and even strategically placed batteries.
David Ortiz, who leads the Office of Electric Reliability at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, highlighted at the hearing a recent study conducted by the commission and other federal regulators that found grid operators have sufficient blackstart generation capable of restarting without help from the grid.
CANTWELL DINGS TRUMP’S TRUST IN COAL TO PREVENT BLACKOUTS: Sen. Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the energy committee, used the occasion to poke Trump for claiming that coal and nuclear power are essential to prevent blackouts and keep the grid resilient.
Large coal and nuclear plants, which can store large amount of fuel on-site, are not considered blackstart resources, Cantwell and experts who testified at the Thursday morning hearing noted.
"Without blackstart capability, onsite fuel won’t matter," Cantwell said, chiding "my friends at the White House" who think only a "coal-based system" can be resilient. “Clean energy resources can provide resilience, including blackstart capabilities."
Andrew Ott, president and CEO of PJM, which operates the largest power market in America, echoed Cantwell’s comments.
“Discussion around ensuring adequate black start resources is a different discussion from the important focus we have had on recent announced retirements of nuclear and coal resources,” he said at the hearing.
PJM CEO WARNS TRUMP NOT TO ACT TO SAVE COAL AND NUCLEAR: Ott later cautioned Trump against using emergency power to stop coal and nuclear retirements, urging the president to leave analysis and solutions to the experts.
"Instead of the federal government stepping in, allow us to complete our analysis,” he said, referring to a grid resilience study PJM is conducting, set for release on Nov. 1.
He added that coal and nuclear retirements in the 13-state region he covers that are scheduled for 2021 and 2022 can happen without causing a problem to the grid.
Ott was responding to a question from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., who supports Trump taking action because of his state’s reliance on coal, and uses every opportunity he can to blow the horn for it.
“If these retirements accelerate, I continue to believe [it] will jeopardize the security of our nation,” Manchin said.
TRUMP'S COAL EXPORT BID RUNS INTO HEADWINDS NEXT YEAR, SAY FEDS: Trump's much-touted coal exports are going to feel a pinch in 2019, according to the Energy Department.
The Energy Information Administration's latest monthly energy projections released Wednesday showed coal exports falling a substantial 7 percent next year as coal demand slumps.
It’s a reversal from last year: The 7 percent drop anticipated in the October projections would offset the 12 percent increase in coal exports in 2018.
Trump touted coal exports during a midterm campaign rally at the end of September in West Virginia, referring to the increase in exports as part of his promise to put miners back to work.
The Trump administration has made coal exports part of its "energy dominance" agenda, in which oil, natural gas, and coal exports are central to success.
Overall, however, coal consumption will fall 2 percent by the end of the year, despite the 12 percent increase in coal exports, according to the new report.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG FUNDS CHALLENGES TO TRUMP ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES: Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg funds a program at New York University School of Law that places lawyers in Democratic state attorneys general offices to specifically prosecute Trump administration policies on energy and the environment.
The 14 current fellows in the State Energy & Environment Impact Center program are spread across nine states and the District of Columbia. Although they report to the state attorneys general, they are paid through Bloomberg’s funding of the NYU program, RealClearInvestigations reported Wednesday.
The State Energy & Environment Impact Center was opened last August with a grant of almost $6 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is controlled by the former mayor.
EPA’S WHEELER APPOINTS NEW MEMBERS TO CLEAN AIR ADVISORY COMMITTEE:
EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler appointed five new members to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee on Wednesday, which advises him on national air quality standards.
The new members are: Mark Frampton, of the University of Rochester Medical Center; Sabine Lange, from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Timothy Lewis, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Corey Masuca, of the Jefferson County Department of Health in Alabama; and Utah Department of Environmental Quality's Steven Packham.
TRUMP EPA DELETES TOXIC WASTE SITES AHEAD OF HURRICANE: EPA announced it had removed a record number of toxic clean-up sites from its list of priorities ahead of Hurricane Michael making landfall on the Florida panhandle.
The EPA on Wednesday marked a 13-year record for removing toxic waste sites from the agency's national priority list. Twenty-two sites were removed in the last year, with some of the final ones located in the hurricane strike zone.
Number 22 itself includes the Whitehouse Oil Pits site in Jacksonville, Fla., about 170 miles east from where the storm made landfall.
After the announcement, EPA said it "stands ready to assist" states and will monitor all Superfund sites for damage and flooding that could leak hazardous pollution into the environment.
The Trump administration has made it a priority to remove these waste sites from its Superfund program's national clean-up list, rather than adding new sites.
Wall Street Journal Chemical-safety board is cutting back under Trump
Bloomberg Trump is rerouting the world’s oil tankers
New York Times Why ‘green’ Germany remains addicted to coal
Axios Obama energy secretary suspends role in Saudi megaproject over journalist’s disappearance
SPONSOR MESSAGE: Interested in learning more about pipelines and the important role they play in the energy industry? Check out this clip on the remediation process and monitoring during pipeline operation.
THURSDAY | October 11
All day, 500 Fifth Street NW. The National Academy of Sciences holds a meeting of the Polar Research Board, where climate change is changing the ice pack.
FRIDAY | October 12
Noon, 2322 Rayburn. Securing America’s Future Energy holds a lunchtime briefing on the Hill to discuss the importance of fuel economy standards and the steps the EPA and NHTSA can take to modernize the rules in a way that will save lives, reduce oil consumption, and strengthen American energy security.
SUNDAY | October 14
All day, New Delhi. One of largest energy conference in the U.S., CERAWeek, is holding its second annual energy forum in India, October 14-16. Featured speakers will include: Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih, OPEC ministers, and U.S. Energy Undersecretary Mark Menezes.