Jeremy Dillon

California Wildfires Headed to Capitol Hill
Funding fire suppression a looming issue

Lawmakers thought they fixed the U.S. Forest Service’s “fire borrowing” problem earlier this year. But the breadth and intensity of fires scorching the West this year is likely to prompt the agency to raid other accounts one last time before budgetary changes go into effect in fiscal 2020.

The issue could come to a head once again on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks and months, as lawmakers and the administration weigh the need for another infusion of taxpayer dollars ahead of the midterm elections — and California’s devastating fires have already become a campaign issue.

Dems Rip Page From GOP Playbook to Fight Trump’s Pollution Rollback
Markey: ‘We’ll use every tool available to block the Trump administration’s U-turn on fuel efficiency’

Democrats opposed to the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards have limited options to fight back in the halls and floor of Congress, but the one option they do have comes straight from the GOP deregulatory playbook.

Once finalized, Democrats, led by top members on the Environment and Public Works Committee, plan to introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the Trump administration’s fuel efficiency strategy, Sen. Edward J. Markey told reporters on a phone conference in response to the administration’s proposal Thursday.

After High Hopes in Senate, a Pit Stop for Spending Package
A long list of amendments slows progress, pushing potential floor vote till next week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved Thursday to invoke cloture on the chamber’s four-bill fiscal 2019 spending package, setting up the potential for a floor vote next week.

While House members are already leaving town for August recess, the Senate plans to stick around for part of the month

Burr to Hold Up Water Bill, Slow Others, for Conservation Fund
North Carolina senator: ‘We’re going to vote on it on every vehicle leaving the United States Senate’

Sen. Richard M. Burr will not allow a vote on a key water infrastructure bill unless he receives a commitment for a vote on his legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, senators said.

The North Carolina Republican is also threatening to force senators to vote on his bill as a prelude to action on any other measure that reaches the Senate floor, potentially including the appropriations bill receiving floor consideration this week.

Most GOP Climate Caucus Members Back Anti-Carbon Tax Measure

Only six of the more than 40 Republicans in the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus voted against a GOP resolution opposing a carbon tax policy Thursday.

The climate-conscious Republicans who voted for the resolution (H Con Res 119) had a ready reason for what might appear to be an inconsistent vote: They don’t favor the generic carbon tax that the measure frames.

The Great Outdoors Threatened by a Funding Battle
Congress is divided on reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Sen. Richard M. Burr’s sinking of the $14 billion rescissions package last month was not about saving the Energy Department loan guarantee program or children’s health care contingency funding — which represented the vast majority of the money on the chopping block.

The North Carolina Republican voted against the package because it would rescind $16 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund — which represented approximately 0.1 percent of all the funding in the bill.

Pruitt’s Shadow May Linger Over EPA as Probes Continue
Carper: ‘It still blows my mind’

Scandal-plagued former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may no longer work at the agency, but at least some of the investigations into his alleged misdeeds will continue.

From the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation that has uncovered damaging allegations of Pruitt’s misuse of staff, to numerous open EPA inspector general audits of his travel spending, Pruitt’s cloud over the EPA is likely to linger as conclusions from the multiple probes trickle out through the rest of 2018.

Former Coal Lobbyist Would Face a Fight if Tapped to Head EPA
Wheeler served as deputy to Scott Pruitt

Fresh off a long fought victory to rid the EPA of the scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt, Democrats and environmental groups have already turned their attention to the next head of the agency that is charged with protecting the nation’s air and water.

And while Pruitt’s ethical lapses provided easy fodder for their effort to oppose the Trump administration’s environmental record, the new leadership at the EPA — for the time being, Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler — brings years of steady Washington experience to the position, making the upcoming battles more about policy than personality.

Funding for National Parks Gaining Momentum
GOP Senators with competing bills reach a compromise

Republican senators with competing bills to tackle the National Park Service’s $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, which has been identified as a top priority for the Trump administration, reached a compromise Friday on a single measure.

The bill from Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., takes pieces from each of the senators’ previous bills to create a new trust fund to pay for national park improvements with revenue from energy production on federal lands.

As Trump Doubles Down on Coal, West Virginia Lawmakers Are Eyeing Natural Gas
Massive storage and trading hub could be on state’s horizon if Manchin and Capito get their way

As President Donald Trump readies a strategy to bail out coal and nuclear power plants in part to help reinvigorate Appalachia’s struggling coal industry, West Virginia lawmakers are working to up the state’s participation in the natural gas business.

Their effort to clear a path for the federal government’s financial participation in a massive storage and trading hub for liquids extracted from natural gas could bring more than 100,000 jobs to the state, advocates say. Those liquids are used as feedstock for plastic manufacturing, so it could also turn the state into a major chemical and industrial center as manufacturers look for a steady supply of low-cost raw materials.

Energy Panel Advances Bills to Support New Nuclear Plants
Bills will help maintain nuclear in the domestic electricity mix, lawmakers say

A quartet of bills meant to ease the path to commercialization of new nuclear reactors moved out of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Thursday.

The bills are intended to speed up Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing for so-called advanced reactors, including smaller units, and to spur a domestic fuel supply. Lawmakers have proposed the bills as a way to help nuclear retain its place in a domestic electricity mix increasingly powered by natural gas and cheap renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

House GOP Targets Natural Resources Defense Council
Committee probe latest example of going after group with opposing views

House Natural Resource Republicans say they are launching a probe into the relationship between China and the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the country’s leading environmental groups.

The investigation marks the latest probe by the committee into private groups or non-government organizations that oppose the GOP and Trump administration environmental and public land agenda.

Pruitt Aide Sought Apartment, Old Trump Hotel Mattress for Boss
EPA Administrator allegedly talked to hotel about purchasing old mattress

A top EPA aide to Administrator Scott Pruitt detailed a litany of personal tasks she performed on Pruitt’s behalf over the past year, including an exhaustive Washington apartment search and an effort to procure an “old mattress” from the Trump hotel, according to excerpts of an interview released by leading House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Democrats Monday.

In the letter the Democrats ask the Republican chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, to issue a subpoena for the EPA to submit all pertinent documents to the panel for review in the latest congressional response to Pruitt’s security, spending and housing issues that have dominated headlines.

Senate Energy-Water Bill Advanced Amid Nuclear Weapons Debate
Concerns raised about funding low-yield nuclear weapon

The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced 30-1 Thursday a $43.8 billion draft Energy-Water fiscal 2019 spending measure before entering into a lengthy consideration of how to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium and the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons.

The bill would boost spending for the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers and related programs by $566 million compared to fiscal 2018 enacted appropriations and is $7.2 billion more than the Trump administration requested. The House version would fund the same agencies at $44.7 billion.

Senate Energy-Water Rejects Research Cuts Sought by White House
‘We started with an unrealistic budget proposal by the administration’

The Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee advanced by voice vote Tuesday a $43.8 billion draft fiscal 2019 spending measure that, like the House’s bill, does not include drastic reductions in applied research programs proposed by the Trump administration.

The draft legislation, parts of which were made public Tuesday in the committee majority’s summary, represents a $566 million increase from fiscal 2018 enacted appropriations and a $7.2 billion increase from the Trump administration request. The House version would fund the same agencies at $44.7 billion.

Growth in Domestic Oil and Natural Gas Poses New Policy Issues
Republicans want to make overseas shipment of liquefied natural gas easier

When it comes to U.S. energy supplies, Congress’ default setting for decades had been worry: worry that America did not have enough energy to meet its needs and worry that OPEC would hold the U.S. hostage by jacking up the price of — or withholding — its oil.

That setting has changed. With the U.S. flush with supplies of oil and natural gas over the past few years, Congress has permitted the export of domestic oil and raided the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to reduce the budget deficit and offset costs of unrelated legislation. And now Republicans want to make it easier for producers to ship liquefied natural gas overseas.

Florida Delegation Playing Hardball to Extend Offshore Drilling Moratorium
Sunshine State Democrats and Republicans may target NDAA

Emboldened by a Defense Department report that expressed worries about unfettered offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s House delegation is preparing to throw its weight around to win a multiyear extension of a moratorium off its coasts.

The bipartisan commitment from the third largest congressional delegation, reached last week, may affect the $708.1 billion defense authorization bill that is being considered by the Rules Committee Monday and Tuesday ahead of a vote as soon as Wednesday.

Yucca Mountain’s Lone Ranger Finally Corrals House Attention
Nuclear waste bill passes easily in House, faces roadblocks in Senate

Visiting Nevada’s Yucca Mountain in 2011 was like walking through a ghost town, Rep. John Shimkus recalled in an interview this week.

It was the year after the Obama administration surrendered to fervent local opposition and halted work by the Department of Energy to prepare the site to store the nation’s commercial nuclear waste, even though Congress designated it for that purpose in the 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Bipartisan Support for Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Bill — Except in Nevada
State’s congressional delegation prepared a series of amendments, but hardly any reached the floor

The House will take up legislation this week that would help restart the stalled process for making Nevada’s Yucca Mountain a central repository for commercial nuclear waste. After years of false starts and misses, the bill is moving with bipartisan support.

In Nevada, however, there is bipartisan opposition to the Yucca project, and the state’s congressional delegation prepared a series of amendments meant to ensure that the House would consider key safety provisions for the project, which is located about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas and adjacent to the land where the government tested nuclear weapons.

Grid Cybersecurity Bills Advanced by House Energy Subcommittee
Bipartisanship crumbles for export bill

Bipartisan bills that aim to improve the government’s response to cybersecurity attacks on the electric grid advanced out of a House Energy and Commerce panel Wednesday. The action was the latest sign of heightened awareness on Capitol Hill that malicious hackers might be able to turn out the lights.

Four pieces of legislation — all focused on putting into statute coordination within the Department of Energy to prevent cyber attacks on the grid and other energy infrastructure — were advanced by the Energy Subcommittee by voice votes. The votes showed unusual unity on the often-partisan panel.