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TRUMP TOUTS REGULATORY ROLL BACK, CALLS FOR ADDITIONAL 5 PERCENT BUDGET CUT: President Trump is promoting his deregulation agenda on Wednesday, holding a “cutting the red tape” event with workers at the White House.
Trump said after the event that he will be asking his entire cabinet for a “five-percent cut” from their respective budgets at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting that is occurring now.
Trump’s call for cuts follows the news this week from the Treasury that the deficit rose to $779 billion for the 2018 fiscal year, the most since 2012.
The red-tape event was meant to mark the release of his semi-annual regulation plan for the beginning of the 2019 fiscal year. The White House also showed off its achievements for cutting costs from regulations in fiscal 2018.
Trump is boasting about a lot of cost cuts: The Trump administration has slashed $23 billion in regulatory costs so far in 2018 and could quadruple that number in the next fiscal year if it repeals key environmental rules for cars and trucks, the administration said Tuesday night in previewing the new regulatory agenda.
“The president sent a very clear message at the outset that he wanted agencies to eliminate unnecessary rules and ineffective regulations," said a senior administration official on a call with reporters.
The official noted that generally administrations only add regulatory costs, whereas Trump oversaw a net reduction in 2018.
The context: Since the start of the administration, $33 billion in overall regulatory costs have been cut, the official explained, significantly increasing the cost savings from last year.
The official claimed that the Obama administration added $245 billion in its first 21 months.
Of course, critics say the administration is exaggerating its cost-cutting estimates by adding actions from the previous administration.
Last year’s record: The administration imposed only 14 significant new regulations in the last fiscal year, while it rolled back 176 large and small regulations, for a ratio of 12-to-1, meeting the president's directive of eliminating two existing regulations for every one new regulation, the official said.
There could be much more to come: The administration plans to cut $18 billion from regulatory costs next fiscal year, but could go well beyond that if a key Environmental Protection Agency rule for improving fuel economy in cars and trucks is finalized and rolled back, the official noted.
The Trump versions of the Transportation Department and EPA joint corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, rules are projected to save between $120 billion and $340 billion.
The list of rules to cut: Based on current schedules, the EPA is planning on finalizing nearly 30 deregulatory actions and implementing fewer than 10 regulatory actions, according to the new plan released Wednesday.
The EPA expects to take a final action on amendments to pesticide safety regulations in fiscal 2019, which EPA intends on proposing in 2018, the agenda reads.
EPA also looks to strengthen the dust-lead hazard standards on floors and window sills, which it intends on taking final action in June 2019.
The EPA is reviewing its Oil and Gas New Source Performance Standards, including rules for controlling the greenhouse gas methane. The agency is issuing a proposal for public review and comment in the fall of 2018.
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EPA DELAYS CONTROVERSIAL PROPOSAL LIMITING SCIENCE IT CAN USE: The EPA has delayed its controversial proposal that would block the agency from using scientific studies that do not make public the raw data used in research.
The EPA shifted the proposal to the “long-term actions” section of its deregulatory agenda and listed 2020 as its target timeframe for issuing a final rule.
Michael Abboud, an EPA spokesman, said the agency has not fully abandoned the proposed rule, noting that the change means the agency doesn’t expect to act within the next year but doesn’t preclude it from doing so.
The rule would stymie important research: Critics say the proposed rule to combat what the Trump administration calls “secret science” would restrict the research the EPA can use in drafting environmental regulations, because it would have less research to work with and could cherry-pick information that fits its goals.
Some scientific research uses personal health information from individuals who participate knowing the details are not to be made public but used to inform policymaking.
For example, a major 1993 study by Harvard University linking air pollution to premature deaths relied on non-public health information.
Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who introduced the proposal, said it would improve transparency and ensure science used in policymaking can be independently verified. EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has stood by the proposed rule he inherited.
The Pentagon was among the opponents: But the proposal generated an intense reaction, receiving nearly a quarter million comments during a public comment period, most of then negative, including from the Pentagon.
In addition, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, a panel of outside researchers and experts who review the quality of the science the agency relies on, said the rule was drafted without the consultation of the scientific community and outside the normal public engagement process.
EMISSIONS ARE FALLING DURING TRUMP ADMINISTRATION, EPA SAYS: The EPA touted data on Wednesday showing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell 2.7 percent across the power sector and large manufacturing facilities in 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, even as it has pursued a deregulatory agenda.
“Thanks to President Trump’s regulatory reform agenda, the economy is booming, energy production is surging, and we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources,” Wheeler said in a statement. “These achievements flow largely from technological breakthroughs in the private sector, not the heavy hand of government. The Trump Administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive CO2 reductions.”
The data covers 8,000 large facilities that reported 2017 emissions to EPA.
Trump actions cut against further reductions: Despite falling emissions, the EPA has proposed weakening Obama administration rules meant to achieve further progress by combating carbon emissions from coal, the largest emitting energy source.
A key justification the EPA provided in moving to gut President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan is the fact that the power market is already naturally becoming cleaner, making strict regulation unnecessary in its judgment.
The Clean Power Plan, which was never implemented because of a Supreme Court stay, required states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The U.S. has already achieved 28 percent of that goal, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, thanks to cheaper natural gas and renewables that are replacing coal
Transportation emissions are a big problem: But environmentalists and experts say Obama intended the Clean Power Plan to be just the first step in a broader policy to prevent the worst impacts of climate change that is also affected by emissions from other sources, such as transportation.
Last year, the transportation sector became the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The Trump administration has also proposed relaxing stringent fuel efficiency standards for vehicles set by Obama.
TRUMP FALSELY CLAIMS SCIENCE IS UNSETTLED ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Trump on Tuesday continued to falsely assert that the science is unsettled on climate change and its causes.
In a twist, Trump claimed a “natural instinct for science” because, he said, his uncle worked as a professor at MIT.
“I mean, you have scientists on both sides of it,” Trump told the Associated Press in an interview. “My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years. Dr. John Trump. And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture.”
Trump also repeated his claim that the warming of the planet happens in “cycles.”
Trump’s government says otherwise: These comments bely the findings of Trump’s own government.
A major climate change report released last year by the Trump administration said that it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming.
A new U.N. report released this month amplified the findings of that study, projecting faster and more severe consequences of global warming than previously thought.
TRUMP APPOINTEE TO OVERSEE PROBES INTO RYAN ZINKE: The Trump administration is transferring a political appointee to be the acting watchdog of the Interior Department, as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is facing multiple investigations.
Suzanne Israel Tufts, an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will become Interior Department inspector general, at least on a temporary basis, according to an announcement by HUD Secretary Ben Carson in an email to internal agency staff Friday reported by multiple news outlets.
Her resume is unusual for an inspector general: Tufts does not have experience in government investigations or environmental and public lands policy, and previously worked for the Trump campaign.
Critics said the arrangement is not appropriate since a political appointee would be charged with overseeing ongoing investigations of Zinke. The role is typically nonpartisan.
The inspector general’s office is investigating whether Zinke violated conflict-of-interest laws when the foundation he established brokered a real estate deal with developers linked to global oil services firm Halliburton. It is also investigating his wife’s travel habits.
RENEWABLE ADVOCATES TOUT WIND AND SOLAR RESILIENCE AFTER TRUMP SHELVES COAL BAILOUT: Opponents of Trump’s plan to subsidize uneconomic coal and nuclear plants are not breathing easy after reports this week that the White House is not ready to act.
“We may have prevailed in this latest skirmish, but it would be a mistake to declare victory on the issue,” Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said in a statement Tuesday.
ACORE, the renewables group, released a policy paper Tuesday outlining why it views solar and wind as bolstering the resiliency and security of the power grid -- not coal and nuclear, as the Trump administration argues.
“In providing preferential treatment for aging coal and nuclear facilities that are no longer economically competitive, such interventions would discourage investment in the grid and reduce the use of renewable energy, even as renewable generation has proven more reliable and resilient in the face of extreme weather events and other sources of grid stress,” the paper says.
The paper outlines a few key reasons for this: Renewables do not rely on fuel supply chains and global marketplaces that can be disrupted by outside events and price spikes. Wind and solar generators are widely dispersed and decentralized, limiting their exposure to a single cyber or terrorist attack.
And when blackouts occur, renewable power can be combined with energy storage to form self-sustaining microgrids that operate independently of the main grid, which can be used quickly to restore electricity to critical facilities such as hospitals.
JUDGE APPROVES SETTLEMENT BETWEEN SEC AND TESLA FOUNDER ELON MUSK: A judge on Tuesday approved a settlement between the federal government and Tesla over claims that founder Elon Musk exaggerated when he claimed to have secured funding to take the electric carmaker private, prompting a run-up in the company's stock.
The agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission will require Musk to relinquish his role as chairman of the Tesla board, and he and the company will have to pay separate $20 million fines.
Under the agreement, Tesla will be required to appoint two new independent directors to its board and put safeguards in place to monitor Musk's communication on online social platforms.
TESLA SECURES LAND TO BUILD FIRST CHINESE FACTORY: Tesla said Wednesday morning that it secured land to build a electric car factory in Shanghai, China, which would be its first plant outside the U.S., according to the Associated Press.
That is “an important milestone for what will be our next advanced, sustainably developed manufacturing site,” Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales, Robin Ren, said in a statement. Tesla expects the factory to eventually produce 500,000 electric vehicles per year.
Tesla’s entrance into China comes after the Chinese government said it would end restrictions on foreign ownership of electric car manufacturers, as a way to speed development to meet its EV mandate.
China is already the world’s largest market for EVs.
TO AVOID TRUMP’S WRATH, OPEC TELLS MEMBERS TO STOP TALKING OIL PRICES: OPEC has instructed its members to stop mentioning oil prices when discussing production policy as way to avoid liability from potential U.S. legal action claiming the oil carter is manipulating the oil market.
The decision to refrain from discussing a preferred oil price is a break from OPEC’s past protocols, Reuters reported Wednesday morning.
Oil experts have speculated that rising prices could encourage Trump to to build support for legislation in Congress that would allow the U.S. government to sue OPEC for manipulating the oil market. The House Judiciary Committee has already passed the so-called “NOPEC” bill that would open up the cartel to antitrust lawsuits, potentially leaving it vulnerable to paying billions of dollars in repatriations. The Obama and Bush administrations have both stopped similar previous legislation from moving forward.
SAUDIS UP ENERGY RESTORATION EFFORTS IN YEMEN AMID KHASHOGGI CRISIS: The Saudi government said Wednesday that it will begin sending fuel to Yemen at the end of the month to support electricity restoration and water treatment facilities.
Mohammed bin Saeed Al Jaber, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen made the announcement, according to the government-run Saudi Press Agency.
Al Jaber said during a humanitarian relief meeting that Saudi support for Yemen with oil derivatives will start, at the end of this month to the capital Aden to support power and water plants.
The announcement came as a crisis between the U.S. and Saudi over the the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues to fester, and U.S. lawmakers clamor for sanctions against the regime.
Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign has been a source of international criticism. New reports from aid groups said recently that Yemen is on the brink of famine because of the war.
Bloomberg Devastating storms may spur action on disaster preparation
The Hill Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda
Washington Post Intense fight over Colorado oil and gas setbacks could end with national precedent
New York Times Utilities cut power to prevent wildfires. But who wins when the lights go out?
Reuters Chinese electric car makers, nurtured by state, now look for way out of glut
WEDNESDAY | October 17
11 a.m., Webinar. The National Academy of Sciences holds a webinar on "Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Seventh Biennial Review, 2018."
THURSDAY | October 18
10:45 a.m., 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW. EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler holds signing ceremony with Israeli ambassador to United States