With help from Alex Guillén, John Hendel, Eric Wolff, Anthony Adragna and Annie Snider
Editor’s Note: Morning Energy is a free version of POLITICO Pro Energy’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.
— It’s climate day at the White House. President Joe Biden will unveil executive orders today designed to make climate change a national security priority for years to come, while reshaping the U.S. oil and gas industry.
— Jennifer Granholm, the president’s pick to lead the Energy Department, will appear on Capitol Hill for her nomination hearing to join the president’s Cabinet.
— A federal appeals court ruling on Tuesday could open the door for the Biden administration to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline until a new review is completed.
WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY! I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino. Rachel Jones of the National Association of Manufacturers gets the trivia win for knowing “e” is the most commonly used letter in the English language. For today: “The Woodshed” refers to what room of the White House? Send your tips and trivia answers to [email protected].
Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast — all the energy and environmental politics and policy news you need to start your day, in just five minutes. Listen and subscribe for free at politico.com/energy-podcast. On today’s episode: Secretary Pete
CLIMATE ORDERS UP: In a stark reversal from the Trump days, President Joe Biden will unveil a slate of executive orders this afternoon to pause auctions of federal lands and waters to oil and gas companies for drilling, expand conservation protections and create a new civilian conservation corps, as well as commit to deliver economic help to coal-producing regions suffering from the industry’s decline, Pro’s Zack Colman and Ben Lefebvre report.
The new orders will also address “environmental justice” issues, including by establishing new commissions to address the concerns of so-called fenceline communities that are disproportionately people of color or low-income families that live near pollution sources. Biden will also call for meeting a campaign promise to place 30 percent of U.S. federal land under conservation protection by 2030.
Yet, the order that has generated the sharpest opposition from oil companies is one that promises to re-write the relationship between the industry and public lands. Biden will order an open-ended freeze on offering public land for oil and gas drilling and coal mining, pending reviews of whether such leases were in the public interest.
Under that review, the administration is expected to consider whether to add language to new government lease agreements to tighten standards on greenhouse gas emissions and increase the royalties that companies must pay for minerals they produce on public land, Zack and Ben report.
Keep in mind: It’s likely you’ll hear opponents of the order cite a recent Wyoming taxpayer-funded study that warned about the economic impact from Biden’s freeze on oil and gas development on federal land. Reporting by POLITICO and watchdog group Documented found neither Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon nor state lawmakers disclosed that an oil and gas industry group helped to finance the outreach campaign for the study, Zack also reports for Pros.
GRANHOLM IN THE HOT SEAT: Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the president’s pick for Energy secretary, appears this morning before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where she’ll likely be pressed on her plans for creating jobs as part of a transition to a clean energy economy.
What to expect: Granholm has repeatedly made the economic case for transitioning to clean energy. She’s touted her experience as governor dealing with the auto industry — potentially offering a look at how she sees the Biden administration’s rollout of electric vehicles and push toward a green economy. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who is poised to become the panel’s ranking member and has said Republicans would make Biden’s nominees “run the gauntlet” at their confirmations, will likely press Granholm on her commitment to all U.S. energy sources, including coal, oil and gas, and the jobs they support, ME is told. As for Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin, the panel’s next chair, backs Granholm for secretary.
Granholm “demonstrated in Michigan the vision and leadership that we need to tackle the challenges we now face at the national level — including tackling climate change while ensuring no worker is left behind and our energy security remains uncompromised,” Manchin will say during his opening remarks.
What we’re watching: ME will be on the lookout for whether Granholm has any plans for the $40 billion in unused DOE loan authority awarded under the 2009 stimulus and how the administration may view the biofuel blending mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
COMMERCE NOMINEE TALKS OFFSHORE WIND: Commerce Secretary nominee Gina Raimondo was vague Tuesday about how she would handle tariffs that former President Donald Trump imposed on imported solar panels from China, which domestic installers want removed, as Pro’s Gavin Bade reports. “I understand it is time-sensitive and challenging and many jobs are at stake,” she said at her confirmation hearing Tuesday, before adding that she looks forward to “learning more about” the issue. Raimondo, however, repeatedly voiced her support for offshore wind power. NOAA, housed under Commerce, oversees the review of how offshore wind facilities affect fisheries and other marine life. By streamlining that process, Raimondo said the agency could “help create thousands of jobs in offshore wind.”
MARKEY: LET’S PREP TELECOM NETWORKS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is readying legislation aimed at toughening U.S. telecom networks to deal with climate change’s intense weather and rising water levels, he revealed Tuesday. “We’re going to need programs” to help boost such efforts, he said during Raimondo’s hearing, and Raimondo said she’d be honored to help usher through such programs. Markey spokesperson Giselle Barry declined to give a timeline for introduction but shared one motivating detail: “Scientists have projected that sea-level rise will submerge more than 4,000 miles of fiber optic cables within the next 15 years.”
EMERGENCY ENTERS: White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not directly respond Tuesday — but also didn’t dismiss — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer‘s call for Biden to declare a national emergency on climate. But Pro’s Anthony Adragna reports the extent of those powers is untested, especially with statutes never envisioned to deal with a problem as broad as climate change.
Experts say Biden could invoke the 1976 National Emergencies Act to give himself the power to employ the Defense Production Act to manufacture clean energy technology, move DoD funds to deploy renewables on military bases, block exports of crude oil or even suspend offshore drilling. Doing so, however, would trigger a political firestorm and would rely on novel interpretations of the statutes around national emergencies.
PUSHBACK ON REVERSING BLM MOVE: A group of House Republicans wrote Biden on Tuesday asking him not to reverse Trump’s relocation of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo. “Any effort to move the Bureau back to D.C. would have significant costs and could negatively impact employees, many of whom recently uprooted their lives and excitedly moved West,” the letter, signed by three Colorado Republicans among others, reads. The state’s two Democratic senators — Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper — made a similar request in a letter last Friday.
DOOR OPENS ON DAPL CLOSURE: The Trump administration failed to conduct a key environmental review for the Dakota Access pipeline, the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday. The ruling, Pro’s Ben Lefebvre reports, could open the door for the Biden administration to shut down the controversial pipeline until a new review is completed.
Tuesday’s ruling upheld a lower court decision that found the Army Corps of Engineers allowed an easement necessary for the construction of the pipeline without first conducting a required environmental review. But while the lower court ordered operator Energy Transfer to shut off deliveries until a new review was completed, the appeals court said that decision would be left to the Corps.
LAWSUIT TARGETS EPA ASBESTOS STUDY: The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and other groups sued EPA over its asbestos risk evaluation, arguing that the agency wrongly narrowed its work. While they support the instances where EPA did identify dangers, the groups allege the agency ignored risks for fibers other than chrysotile, as well as certain conditions of use, health effects and exposure pathways. “We look forward to working with the Biden EPA and Congress to achieve the full protection Americans deserve from this deadly carcinogen,” said ADAO President Linda Reinstein.
The Trump EPA didn’t have a great judicial track record on asbestos. A federal court in 2019 said the agency had wrongly ignored “legacy” exposure pathways such as asbestos insulation present in many older U.S. buildings, prompting EPA to launch a second asbestos risk review that it said will take until 2024, with potential regulations then coming later. And in December a judge ordered EPA to close several loopholes in its asbestos reporting rules that he concluded hindered regulatory work.
— Several groups sued separately over EPA’s study of 1,4-dioxane, which EPA flagged in some uses like laboratory chemicals and adhesives but said is safe in antifreeze, detergents, dyes, lacquers and foams. EPA’s study wrongly excluded exposure pathways through drinking water and the air, the groups argue.
CHATTERJEE: CYBER WARFARE RISK PUTS PRIVATE COMPANIES ON THE FRONT: FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee on Tuesday characterized cybersecurity as the kind of threat that not many Americans fully understand and, perhaps more unusually, one that turns private companies into combatants. “No one can compare to the United States military,” he said on a virtual panel hosted by the law firm of K&L Gates. “But 20 hackers can do a lot of damage. The 21st century has evolved to a place that private sector companies find themselves on the front lines.”
FERC has been seeking ways to push the North American Electric Reliability Corp., which manages technical standards for FERC, to make its cybersecurity requirements tougher, though the agency itself, along with DOE and others, was hacked last month and the damage from that event is still unknown. Trump issued an EO in 2019 that required a review of grid equipment produced or designed by Chinese companies, but Biden suspended that order for 90 days along with a host of other energy initiatives on Jan. 20.
MISSION POSSIBLE: More than 400 companies are being brought together under the Mission Possible Partnership to accelerate the decarbonization of heavy industry and transport. The coalition, announced this morning at the Davos Agenda, is planning to showcase net-zero agreement “breakthroughs” later this year across the shipping, aviation, trucking, chemical, steel, aluminum and cement sectors, which account for 30 percent of global emissions. The coalition has received initial funding from the Bezos Earth Fund and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy, and is being run by the Energy Transitions Commission, Rocky Mountain Institute, the We Mean Business coalition and the World Economic Forum.
VW ASKS SUPREME COURT TO BLOCK ‘STAGGERING LIABILITY‘: Volkswagen asked the Supreme Court to save it from what a lower court called “staggering liability” related to its diesel emissions cheating scandal. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last year ruled that Volkswagen could, in fact, face penalties under state and local laws for tampering with vehicles’ pollution control systems, despite having settled federal civil and criminal cases with EPA for north of $20 billion. This is a big case for Volkswagen, which due to steep state anti-tampering penalties could have to pay tens of billions of dollars just in the two Florida and Utah counties directly involved in this case — and it’s anyone’s guess how high that bill might go if other states get dollar signs in their eyes.
ME thinks: There’s a solid chance SCOTUS will ask the Biden administration to weigh in on this matter (the Trump administration declined to get involved in the lower courts). That likely would delay the high court’s decision on whether to hear the case until this fall.
KEEP UP THE PACE: The city of Newark, N.J., agreed to continue its speedy replacement of lead service lines and to keep providing residents with free drinking water testing and filters as part of a settlement agreement filed in federal court Tuesday. The settlement comes in response to the dangerously high lead levels found at multiple city schools in 2016 and was reached as part of litigation brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the group Newark Education Workers.
— The Climate Leadership Council added Tiffany Adams as executive vice president. Adams previously worked at the National Association of Manufacturers and most recently at consulting firm Forbes Tate Partners.
— Spencer Nelson has rejoined ClearPath as senior research director. Nelson previously was a senior professional staff member on the Senate Energy Committee.
— Chrissy Harbin recently joined the International Conservation Caucus Foundation to run its Capitol Hill program. Most recently, she was acting senior vice president of external engagement at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
— David Martin Connelly joined Balch and Bingham’s Washington, D.C., office as partner in the energy practice.
— Environmental Defense Fund added Amy Todd Middleton as its first chief marketing officer. She previously was head of external affairs at Standard Industries and global director of strategic marketing at Sotheby’s Auction House.
— “Coronavirus debt crisis undermines climate change finance,” via POLITICO Europe.
— “Corporate clean-energy buying grew 18 percent in 2020,” via Houston Chronicle.
— “FirstEnergy, Duke challenge Sierra Club claims of ‘greenwashing’ on climate goals,” via Utility Dive.
— “The rivers run through it, and Jon Tester wants them protected for Montana,” via The Washington Post.
— “Big Oil credit ratings vulnerable to climate risk, S&P says,” via Bloomberg.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!