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Analysis | Manchin’s bipartisan energy meeting yields a lot of ideas — and a lot of skepticism – The Washington Post

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Manchin’s bipartisan energy meeting yields a lot of ideas — and a lot of skepticism from climate advocates

The energy meeting on Monday night led by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) attracted seven Democrats and four Republicans, who discussed the possibility of crafting a bipartisan energy package that includes provisions to reform the permitting process, tax polluting imports, and spur more mining for critical minerals, according to attendees.

However, it’s unclear whether more senators will join the ongoing discussions from either side of the aisle. And climate advocates worry that time is slipping away to clinch a deal on President Biden’s stalled reconciliation bill, which contains much more ambitious provisions aimed at preventing catastrophic global warming.

The attendance list: Four Republicans showed up at the meeting — the second gathering in the past week — including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Bill Cassidy (La.) and Mitt Romney (Utah).

On the Democratic side, attendees included Sens. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), Christopher A. Coons (Del.), John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Mark R. Warner (Va.), as well as Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.).

In an interesting wrinkle, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) did not attend because he was in North Dakota to celebrate the final sale of a coal-fired power plant, his spokeswoman confirmed to The Climate 202. Cramer participated in the first bipartisan energy discussion a week ago.

Romney told reporters after Monday’s meeting that attendees discussed the importance of mining for critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries, as well as reforming the permitting process for large infrastructure projects under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“It was a very good meeting looking at a lot of ideas,” Romney said, adding, “Everybody’s open to hearing what everyone else has to say.”

Manchin told reporters that participants also discussed a carbon border adjustment, which would slap a tax on imported goods from countries that aren’t taking aggressive steps to cut planet-warming emissions.

“Everything’s on the table,” he said. “We’re talking about everything.”

Still, Manchin offered few other specifics on what the possible package would include. And while he insisted that more GOP senators may join the ongoing discussions — “you might have four one day and seven the next day,” he said — no additional Republicans or Democrats have signaled interest in the talks so far.

Republicans have increasingly voiced support for establishing a joint carbon border adjustment between the United States and the European Union. But there is little GOP appetite for a domestic carbon tax, which could complicate efforts to design U.S.-E.U. carbon border fees that comply with World Trade Organization rules. 

“This is different than a carbon tax,” Cassidy told reporters after the meeting. “Absolutely. Period.”

‘A monumental failure of leadership’

Some climate advocates doubt that Republicans will suddenly cut a bipartisan deal to tackle global warming. And with the midterm elections looming, they worry that Democrats only have a few weeks to strike an agreement on Biden’s stalled climate and social spending bill, which contains a $555 billion investment in combating climate change and boosting clean energy.

“We remain highly skeptical that there will be 10 Republicans who are willing to act on climate at the scale that environmental justice and the science require,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, told The Climate 202. “What the Senate needs to do is pass the $555 billion in climate, energy and environmental justice investments as soon as they possibly can.”

Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action, echoed that sentiment.

“These bipartisan negotiations are a sham,” Raad said in a statement to The Climate 202. “If we allow bad-faith Republican tactics to con the American people out of their last best chance to act on climate change, it will be a monumental failure of leadership that will be remembered for generations to come.”

Democratic participants in the meeting were tight-lipped afterward, brushing aside questions from reporters. But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who declined to participate, did not hold back in a recent interview with Politico

“What I worry about is doing something that is not significant, and people will say ‘We’ve dealt with climate,’” Sanders said. “My perception is that there are very few Republicans who are prepared to tackle that crisis in a way that’s appropriate.”

Agency alert

Agencies use flawed analysis of projects’ climate impact, report says

State and federal agencies rely on a seriously flawed framework for assessing the climate change impact of proposed fossil fuel projects, including pipelines and coal export terminals, according to a report released today by Earthjustice and the Stockholm Environment Institute.

For example, agencies typically fail to acknowledge that the construction of one crude oil pipeline will probably incentivize new “feeder” pipelines and new exploration or production for decades to come, the report says.

In addition, the Interior Department uses a model that assumes near-constant oil and gas demand in the United States for up to 70 years — an assumption that looks less plausible if the world meets the goals of the Paris agreement, the report’s authors write.

The report comes after a federal judge in January invalidated the biggest offshore oil and gas lease sale in U.S. history, ruling that Interior violated the law by citing a flawed assessment of the climate impact of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The findings demonstrate that the government is using “garbage analysis that makes major fossil fuel investments look benign,” Jan Hasselman, a senior attorney at Earthjustice and co-author of the report, told The Climate 202.

An Interior spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, which offers several recommendations for improving analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Energy Department rolls out $3 billion plan for electric vehicle batteries

The Energy Department on Monday announced $3.1 billion in funding for American companies that create and recycle lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, Matthew Daly reports for the Associated Press.  

The investments are funded by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law passed last year — separate from an executive order President Biden issued this spring invoking the Defense Production Act to increase production of critical minerals.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor, announced the investments during a visit to Detroit on Monday. She said the initiative will offer grants to companies that build new, retrofitted or expanded battery processing facilities or battery recycling programs. 

The program will help support Biden’s goal for electric cars to make up half of all vehicles sold in the country by 2030, Granholm added.

On the Hill

Senate Energy panel to mark up Colorado conservation bill

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday will mark up the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act for the first time.

The measure would establish new wilderness, recreation and conservation boundaries in the state while protecting more than 400,000 acres of public land. It has passed out of the House four times but never cleared the Senate, despite more than a decade of advocacy by Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) and conservation advocates.

Bennet, who tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, said on Monday that it should be an easy vote for the committee.

“There’s nothing partisan about it. It’s a Colorado bill written for Coloradans,” Bennet said during a virtual news conference with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.).

However, Bennet conceded that like many things in D.C., “just because it should be easy doesn’t mean it will be easy.” 

Hickenlooper, meanwhile, asserted that some Republicans have an “ideological” opposition to protecting additional public land.

More than 20 senators urge Biden administration to expedite solar tariff probe

A bipartisan group of 22 senators on Monday sent a letter to President Biden urging him to swiftly advance a probe from the Commerce Department into solar modules from four Southeast Asian nations, saying the investigation is having adverse effects on business. 

“Initiation of this investigation is already causing massive disruption in the solar industry, and it will severely harm American solar businesses and workers and increase costs for American families as long as it continues,” the senators wrote.

Led by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), the letter was also signed by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Pressure points

Pandemic, war, politics hamper global push for climate action

Nearly six months after world leaders convened in Scotland for the COP26 United Nations climate summit — vowing to “revisit and strengthen” their climate goals to limit catastrophic warming by the end of the century — no large nation has yet to come forward with a bolder climate plan, The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis reports.

Although new emissions pledges could emerge by the time leaders meet for the next U.N. climate summit in Egypt in November, other crises — such as the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and rising energy costs — have demanded the attention of world leaders and derailed much of the global action on climate change. 

Leaders in Europe and the United States, for example, have made short-term moves to lower fuel prices and boost oil and gas supplies that conflict with their ambitious, long-term climate targets.

In the atmosphere

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