With help from Anthony Adragna, Gavin Bade and Alex Guillén Editor’s Note: This edition of Morning Energy is published weekdays at 10 a.m. POLITICO Pro Energy subscribers hold exclusive early access to the newsletter each morning at 6 a.m. Learn more about POLITICO Pro’s comprehensive policy intelligence coverage, policy tools and services at politicopro.com.
— Oil and gas companies are preparing for a tropical storm barreling toward the Gulf of Mexico.— The Senate Energy panel will hold a hearing today examining the role of U.S. liquefied natural gas in the global market.— The Senate will vote on the nomination of Peter Wright to lead EPA’s Superfund office.
A message from Southern Company:
Southern Company is on a mission to make the future low- to no-carbon by 2050. We’re raising the bar while lowering emissions. And we’re using 100 years of experience to keep energy affordable and reliable in communities across America. From innovation to infrastructure, we’re building the future of energy today. southerncompany.com/future
WELCOME TO THURSDAY! I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino. The National Association of Manufacturers’ Rachel Jones is the trivia winner for correctly naming Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park as the highest continuous paved road in the United States at 12,183 feet. For today: Another parks question — which state is home to the first cave to ever be designated a national park? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to email@example.com.
GULF, OIL COMPANIES PREPARE FOR HURRICANE: Oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico are bracing for an incoming likely hurricane that is expected to bring devastating flooding and test the limits of the Mississippi River’s levees. Nearly one-third of oil production in the Gulf was shut down Wednesday in preparation for the storm, as Pro’s Ben Lefebvre reports. In all, 15 production platforms and four rigs have been evacuated as of noon yesterday, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement — marking 32 percent of oil production and 18 percent of gas production in the Gulf.The storm is expected to be dubbed Hurricane Barry and marks the first hurricane of the season. Experts tell NOLA.com the Mississippi River could rise to the top of the lowest levees in New Orleans.”The official flood stage in New Orleans is 17 feet, but a combination of recently elevated earthen levees and floodwalls on both sides of the river in the New Orleans area protect most locations to water heights of between 20 and 22 feet,” NOLA.com reports. “However, some levee segments along both the east and west banks could be as low as 18 feet. Thus, a 20-foot river height could cause overtopping at some of those locations, something that has never happened in the city’s modern history.”A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans told the Associated Press the agency was not expecting widespread overtopping of the levees, and said the agency is working with local officials to reinforce low-lying areas.
SENATE PANEL EXAMINES LNG: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will examine the role of American LNG exports in global markets at a hearing this morning where Assistant Energy Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg is set to testify. — Chairman Lisa Murkowski is poised to unveil a “strategic energy initiative” today. A white paper from the Alaska Republican cites LNG infrastructure and civil nuclear energy projects as case studies, while also calling for securing the United State’s position in the global energy system as a leading producer.”Memoranda of understanding can be important, but tangible deals with secured financing, offtake agreements, and delivered cargoes are what guarantee jobs for Americans,” the paper says. “Trade in raw commodities provides considerable economic benefit, and building terminals, processing plants, ports, and other infrastructure — domestically and internationally — offers innumerable cumulative gains.” Murkowski plans to release policy proposals related to the paper in the coming months, ME is told.WRIGHT ON QUEUE: The Senate today takes up the nomination of Peter Wright to run EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, which oversees the agency’s Superfund program. The chamber will vote at 11 a.m. on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination, with a confirmation vote to follow at 1:45 p.m.Ahead of the vote, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey decried the fact that EPA has not designated PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. Wright “must commit to designating PFAS as hazardous substances, fulfilling the EPA’s promise from over a year ago and beginning the process of requiring DoD and other responsible parties to pay for cleanup of contaminated sites,” Casey said in a statement.SPEAKING OF PFAS: As the House prepares to vote on a series of amendments to its defense bill pertaining to the chemicals, including one to designate all PFAS as hazardous under the Superfund law, Senate EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is voicing strong objections, Pro’s Annie Snider reports. “House Democrats are proposing to saddle local airports, farmers and ranchers, water utilities, and countless small businesses with billions of dollars in liability,” Barrasso said in a statement.And then there’s the veto threat: The White House’s threat to kill the bill over a pair of PFAS provisions, among other objections, sent tempers flaring. New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall (D) called it “one of the most outrageous veto threats” he’d seen in his years in Congress, while Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee (D) told ME: “The idea that the president suggests that he would block funding for the United States military because of the inconvenience that cleaning up chemical contamination causes is a bizarre set of values.”Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) signaled he wasn’t too concerned about the veto threat. “It doesn’t make any difference right now,” he told ME. “There is not a House bill that is going to be successful at passing as is right now the floor. Then again, if the objectionable parts of the bill pass the House, it would never get through conference anyway.”CRAMER’S PARIS REGRETS: Sen. Kevin Cramer told reporters he still believes the U.S. ought to remain in the Paris climate accord, as he advocated prior to President Donald Trump’s decision to leave. “I’ve always seen it as a broader forum for discussing innovation, American ideas and ideals that can be solutions,” said Cramer, who attended Trump’s remarks on the environment Monday. “Half the time I feel like we’re leaving ourselves out of an opportunity there.” The North Dakota Republican acknowledged domestic politics made it unlikely the administration would ever reconsider its decision, though. PUSH FOR ANWR, DRILLING VOTES: House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva told POLITICO he’s arguing for a floor vote on legislation, H.R. 1146 (116), that would again bar oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and several bills that would restrict offshore drilling around the country’s coasts. “That’s what we’re pushing for,” he said. “Because they’re done, ready to go, already passed the committee.” The ANWR legislation cleared committee several months ago, while the panel advanced bills in mid-June that would place a permanent moratorium on drilling in federal waters in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, H.R. 205 (116), and would block offshore drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, H.R. 1941 (116).
GOING NUCLEAR? The Energy Department has suspended shipments of nuclear waste from its Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee to the Nevada National Security Site after discovering numerous instances in which improperly classified radioactive material was sent there over the last six years, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports. Department leaders learned of the errant shipments on July 3, when they notified the governor and other Nevada officials immediately, a spokesperson said Wednesday. EPA SCIENTIST PROTESTS LABOR CONTRACT AT CEREMONY: An EPA labor dispute took center stage Wednesday when agency scientist Loreen Targos protested a newly imposed contract during an awards ceremony at EPA’s Washington headquarters with Administrator Andrew Wheeler. After accepting a medal for her work on Great Lakes remediation, Targos unfurled a banner and spoke as he observed. “Administrator Wheeler, I’d like to ask you to please support a fair contract for EPA workers,” she said to applause from the room, according to a video posted by AFGE Local 704. Targos then left the stage.Long-simmering tensions between EPA and the union have bubbled over after the agency implemented a new contract Monday whose terms the union has criticized heavily. But EPA on Wednesday said the union is to blame for the breakdown of talks. “This collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired 12 years ago, the Trump EPA has worked with AFGE for the past two and a half years to reach a new CBA and EPA is not the party refusing to come to the negotiating table,” an EPA spokesman said in a statement following the protest. (GovExec reported more details on the dispute last month.)
A message from Southern Company:
Southern Company is on a mission to make the future low- to no-carbon by 2050. We’re raising the bar while lowering emissions. And we’re using over 100 years of experience to keep energy affordable and reliable for 9 million customers in communities across America. From innovations in fuel cells and microgrids to natural gas, wind, solar and nuclear, we’ve already reduced emissions by 35 percent. And we’re investing billions of dollars in building a smarter, cleaner and more resilient infrastructure. No one is doing more to build the future of energy today – and we’re just getting started. southerncompany.com/future
INSLEE LINES UP AGAINST LINE 5: Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee reemphasized his opposition to fossil fuel projects, announcing he is against the rebuild of the Line 5 oil pipelines beneath the Great Lakes in Michigan. Environmentalists have targeted the dual pipelines, commissioned in 1953, for closure because of the risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac. Owner Enbridge says the lines are in good condition, but struck a deal in 2018 with then-Gov. Rick Snyder to construct a replacement line in an underground tunnel next to the original project.Inslee said in a statement that isn’t enough, calling the aging lines and the replacement plan a “clear and present danger” to the climate and water quality in the Great Lakes. He sought to thrust the regional issue onto the national stage, saying the pipeline should be a “major topic” when the Democratic candidates convene for their next round of debates, July 30-31 in Detroit.
— “State Department analyst resigns after White House blocked climate change testimony,’ via The Wall Street Journal.— “Pentagon pushed to put price tag on climate vulnerability,” via Bloomberg Environment.— “Ambitious climate plans might need a radical legislative one: Ending the filibuster,” via The New York Times.— “PG&E knew for years its lines could spark wildfires, and didn’t fix them,” via The Wall Street Journal.— “Pennsylvania governor says state won’t use tax dollars to restart refinery,” via Reuters.THAT’S ALL FOR ME!