Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what's going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $1.00 an issue!
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS ENTER THE FIGHT: Environmental groups are throwing their weight behind the solar lobby this week as the fight over the Commerce Department’s anticircumvention investigation plays out before Congress.
Six groups, including Sierra Club, Evergreen Action, and Earthjustice, told Secretary Gina Raimondo yesterday they have “serious concern about the climate impact” of the investigation, which Commerce is carrying out to determine whether Chinese companies are dumping solar products into third countries in Asia before they’re shipped to the U.S. to avoid paying duties.
The groups, like the Solar Energy Industries Association and American Clean Power Association, as well as a cohort of Democrats in Congress, also lobbied Raimondo to ensure the department issues a determination quickly to give more certainty to the market.
Evergreen put out its own memo individually this morning to the same end: “Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo must exercise her authority to intervene against this damaging tariff petition and issue an expedited preliminary determination to stop the probe before it inflicts any further harm to the American economy, and President Biden’s clean energy agenda.”
The campaign illustrates the tensions between meeting the Biden administration’s climate change goals and giving what domestic manufacturers say they need to compete with foreign suppliers.
SEIA and its member companies have been campaigning strongly against the investigation, saying it has already upended the market by causing order cancellations and generating overall uncertainty about what the price of cell and module imports could be if new tariffs are imposed.
Raimondo, who was already needled about this by Nevada Democrat Jacky Rosen during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, was before Senate Appropriations on Wednesday when she said she had neither “discretion or ability to weigh in on their fact-finding process.”
The International Trade Administration is tasked with carrying out the investigation.
Duties call: The White House is especially concerned that the anticircumvention investigation is and will stunt solar’s growth, as the Washington Post reported last week.
Commerce answered some outstanding questions in a recent memo it circulated earlier this month.
The memo specified that “[silicon] wafers produced outside of China with polysilicon sourced from China are not subject to these circumvention inquiries,” effectively assuring that specific category of companies they are not within the investigation’s scope.
Raimondo also notably said on Wednesday it’s “exceedingly unlikely” that a finding favoring new duties would result in tariffs at a rate of 200% or more, as allowed by statute, which is a prospect SEIA and others have warned about.
A ‘told you so:’ Manufacturing interests backing the investigation, which was opened at the request of California-based module manufacturer Auxin Solar, have argued that the claims of market disruption by SEIA and others are overblown.
The Coalition for a Prosperous America said Raimondo’s downplaying the chances of triple-digit tariffs deflated solar groups’ “big lie” about the consequences of the probe.
Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers Jeremy Beaman (@jeremywbeaman) and Breanne Deppisch (@breanne_dep). Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.
DEMOCRATS BRING OUT PROMISED ANTI-GOUGING BILL: Democrats are squaring up against energy companies for making too much money off of “Putin’s price hike” with a new proposal intended to prevent price gouging.
Members introduced companion bills in the House and Senate yesterday, providing that it be illegal to sell any product “at an unconscionably excessive price during an exceptional market shock, regardless of the person’s position in a supply chain or distribution network.” The bill does not name specific commodities, such as oil or other petroleum products.
The proposal would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and penalize any entity determined to be in violation of that, and allow state attorneys general to bring civil action against accused gougers in federal court.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a press conference yesterday that exploitation of consumers by energy firms is “part of the business plan of these companies.”
The oil and gas industry has challenged Democrats’ gouging allegations in public statements and testimony before Congress, arguing they don’t set the price of oil but rather that the global market does.
Some other analysts have pointed to a shortage of refinery capacity coupled with rising demand ahead of summer for sending fuel prices up.
Gasoline and diesel prices have both hit new record highs in the last week, and consumers are now paying $125 million more on gasoline per day than a month ago, according to GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan.
TOP SAUDI OFFICIAL BLAMES REFINERY CLOSURES FOR COSTS: Speaking to Bloomberg in an interview this week, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said: “The bottleneck [in supplies] is now to do with refining,” which in turn have reduced capacity.
“I did warn this was coming back in October,” he added. “Many refineries in the world, especially in Europe and the U.S., have closed over the last few years. The world is running out of energy capacity at all levels.”
His remarks come as Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members have refused calls to increase oil exports, even as Russia’s war in Ukraine has upended the global energy market and touched off a scramble for supplies in the West.
Their refusal to increase output amid the war prompted Sens. Chuck Grassley and Amy Klobuchar last week to introduce a bill known as NOPEC, or the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, which if passed would enable the U.S. government to sue OPEC or OPEC+ members for violating antitrust law and trying to control oil production.
SHELDON WHITEHOUSE PROMISES CARBON ADJUSTMENT BILL IN DAYS: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the carbon border fee bill he plans to introduce in the coming weeks will include a border adjustment—a move that comes as Whitehouse seeks to shore up Republican support for the effort.
Speaking at an event this week with the sustainability group Ceres, Whitehouse told reporters he plans to introduce the legislation “within the next 10 days or so.”
“There has been very good bipartisan discussion about carbon border adjustment, and I think it's an avenue to make a big step forward,” Whitehouse said of the proposal.
He added that the tariff proposal might also help appease Sen. Joe Manchin, who single-handedly blocked Bidens’ climate spending bill last fall.
Manchin “may feel comfortable about voting for a reconciliation package with a carbon border adjustment in it if he’s had robust conversation with a lot of Republican colleagues about how that should be structured, and that it reflects that there is a sense that it’s a good idea," Whitehouse said
NEW DISBURSEMENT FROM INFRASTRUCTURE BILL FOR BROWNFIELD SITES: The Biden administration announced a $254 million grant program to clean up contaminated “brownfields sites” across the U.S. EPA said the project, funded in large part by the bipartisan infrastructure law, will provide grants to some 265 U.S. communities that have been affected by the contaminated materials or pollutants.
“With today’s announcement, we’re turning blight into might for communities across America,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. “EPA’s Brownfields Program breathes new life into communities by helping to turn contaminated and potentially dangerous sites into productive economic contributors.”
The contaminated brownfields sites are difficult to reuse or redevelop due to the presence of so-called “forever chemicals” and other hazardous pollutions, EPA said. Projects funded under the grant can range from cleaning up asbestos-filled buildings to assessing and redeveloping abandoned properties that once managed harmful “forever chemicals” or pollutants.
GREEN GROUP PROBES HOCHSTEIN’S INDUSTRY BACKGROUND: Friends of the Earth is asking the State Department for the lowdown on Amos Hochstein, who has corporate background in the gas industry and is now helping lead the Biden administration’s energy diplomacy.
Hochstein, a former senior vice president for marketing for Tellurian, has been a point of contact between the U.S. and other governments and companies in recent months as the administration has worked to find Europe additional gas supplies.
FOE filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department yesterday asking for ethics documents, disclosures, and communications to determine whether he is a “diplomat or fossil fuel lobbyist,” as the group said in its announcement.
FOE is objecting in particular to his role in the joint U.S.-EU Task for For Energy Security, whose stated mission is to get Europe hundreds of billions of cubic meters of gas in coming years, something that will require more gas infrastructure to be built.
The group, along with other environmentalist outfits, have criticized the task force and the administration for looking to fossil fuels for relief, saying it will put greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals out of reach.
“The fossil fuel industry’s lobbying efforts could persuade [the State Department] that it is in the public interest to act quickly to promote public and private investment in the expansion of natural gas exports, clearing the way for the construction of infrastructure that will have little impact on short-term energy prices even as they deepen the peril the world faces due to climate change," Friends of the Earth said in its FOIA request.
Hochstein spoke at length in some public appearances in October opposing a buildout of new gas infrastructure, which he said would become “stranded assets” as the economy more widely adopts green energy.
POWELL CONFIRMED TO LEAD THE FED: The Senate confirmed Jerome Powell as head of the Fed yesterday for his second term in a bipartisan vote of 80-19.
“No” votes were also bipartisan. Both Democratic and Republican members have criticized Powell for his approach to financial regulation and climate change, although for different reasons.
Powell said in January the Fed’s “role on climate changes is a limited one, but it's an important one,” which is “to ensure that the banking institutions that we regulate understand their risks and can manage them.”
Sen. Ed Markey, one of the 19 “no” votes, called Powell’s philosophy on climate change and regulation a “halfhearted [pledge] to do the bare minimum” earlier this year.
On the other side, Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska said he opposed Powell’s confirmation for violating the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate on inflation and employment. He said financial regulators are attempting “to choke off capital to energy producers in Alaska and other states by shoehorning climate policies” where they don’t belong.
DOE TO CONDUCT ‘MAJOR’ RADIOLOGICAL INCIDENT EXERCISE: The Department of Energy announced it will conduct a major “radiological incident” exercise in Austin, Texas, next week. The sprawling effort will be led by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and will bring together more than 30 local, state, and federal agencies to help simulate a radiological attack and ensure response preparedness against radiological threats.
The week-long exercise, dubbed “Cobalt Magnet 22,” will take place at various locations throughout the city. In a statement announcing the effort, DOE warned that Austin residents should be prepared to see field teams donning protective clothing and using radiological detection equipment, as well as first responder sites and low-flying aircraft, which will be conducting simulated “missions” across the city.
Washington Post The dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants
Associated Press Russian pipeline sanctions raise fears of gas interruption
E&E News Cancer-causing gas emission spikes continue at refineries
Axios 21 federal agencies monitoring Ukraine war's environmental toll
TUESDAY | MAY 17
12:00 p.m. The Environmental Law Institute will host a remote webinar event where experts will break down the SEC’s climate-related risk disclosure rule.