With help from Kelsey Tamborrino, Annie Snider, Alex Guillén, Ximena Bustillo and Daniel Lippman
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— President Joe Biden is shooting for the U.S. to notch a 50-52 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 as the country’s pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement. Biden will tout that goal at the opening of his two-day Climate Leaders Summit starting today.
— Republicans unveil their infrastructure counter proposal today, but it’s already getting panned by Democrats.
— Several hearings on the Hill today will focus on climate change, including testimony from Greta Thunberg.
WELCOME TO THURSDAY AND HAPPY EARTH DAY! I’m your host, Matthew Choi. Congrats to Stuart Ross of Clean Air Task Force for knowing Nick Parker and Liz James met aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. For today’s trivia: What was the second most populous city in SFR Yugoslavia? Send your tips and trivia answers to [email protected]. Find me on Twitter @matthewchoi2018.
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BIDEN LAYS DOWN HIS CLIMATE MARKER: The president released his long-awaited climate target this morning, pledging that the U.S. will slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 50-52 percent by 2030. The figure, which is at the top of range ME has been reporting lately, is an ambitious target that will require retooling the world’s largest economy — and it’s a goal the White House insists the U.S. can meet even if Congress rejects Biden’s calls for trillions of dollars in green infrastructure spending.
The global community will certainly be looking to see how the U.S. aims set the plan in stone, and administration officials told reporters in a Wednesday briefing that they saw multiple pathways to achieving the climate goal outside of the infrastructure package. But experts were skeptical.
“The answer to the question of whether the White House can achieve such a goal alone is almost certainly no,” said Mark Dyson, a principal with the carbon-free electricity practice at RMI. “It is very unlikely that this goal could be achieved without new federal legislation.” Zack Colman and Eric Wolff have the story.
The announcement comes as Biden kicks off the two-day Climate Leaders Summit, where 40 world leaders, including Chinese Premier Xi Jingping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will be touting their climate efforts. While no country is expected to steal the spotlight from the U.S. with major new initiatives, several countries, including Japan, South Korea and Canada are expected to tout some new measures.
Meanwhile, Putin called on Wednesday for his country to bring greenhouse gas emissions to below the European Union’s rates over the next 30 years during his State of the Nation address. He also used the speech to take a tough stance against the West, saying that any country that provokes Russia would meet an “asymmetric” response from the Kremlin. Reuters has more.
The remarks come shortly after the European Union policymakers agreed to codify far more ambitious reductions targets — 55 percent by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. If passed by the union’s council and parliament, that target would carry the weight of EU law. But environmentalists say it doesn’t go far enough and was rushed to portray Europe as a climate leader ahead of Biden’s summit. Kalina Oroschakoff breaks it down for Pros from Brussels.
THE GOP PROPOSAL: Senate Republicans are unveiling their counter proposal to Biden’s $2 trillion-plus package today. The GOP package will be closer to a $600 billion to $800 billion range, Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine report. EPW Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito discussed the cheaper alternative with her caucus Tuesday and with a bipartisan cohort Wednesday.
Democrats find such a scale down completely out of touch with the once-in-a-generation priorities they’re shooting for, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal dismissing it as an “insult.”
Capito is asking her peers to at least hear her out: “I understand disagreement, but I read that we’re trying to stall it out and not make it happen. Or being too cheap? We’re talking about a very robust package here. Could we cut the prejudging?” she said Wednesday. Burgess and Marianne have more.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING: The House Oversight environment subcommittee is holding its hearing on federal tax breaks for fossil fuels today, featuring testimony from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Chair Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) plans to highlight Biden’s campaign promise to eliminate the subsidies, saying it’s the “lowest bar” for achieving Democrats’ climate goals.
“Biden didn’t run on the Green New Deal, he ran on ending fossil fuel subsidies. We haven’t forgotten and hope he hasn’t either,” Khanna said in a statement with his talking points shared with ME.
The Senate Agriculture Committee is marking up the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which was introduced Tuesday. The bill would expand the Agriculture Department’s portfolio to help farmers switch over to “climate smart practices” and support private carbon markets. Ximena Bustillo and Helena Bottemiller Evich went into the legislation earlier this week.
Also up: The Senate Energy Committee is also meeting today for a hearing on developing and deploying carbon utilization technology, and the Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on shifting to a clean energy economy.
TAX CREDITS FOR CLEAN ENERGY: Sen. Ron Wyden introduced a sweeping clean energy tax bill that would consolidate a spate of tax credits into three buckets for electricity, conservation and transportation. The legislation would expand tax incentives to bolster clean energy development and was lauded by environmental groups.
“The Clean Energy for America Act ought to be the linchpin of our clean energy efforts as we consider President Biden’s proposal,” the Oregon Democrat said on a call unveiling the bill. “In the past … the incentives, particularly the tax incentives, were not big enough, they weren’t long enough and they weren’t bold enough.” Anthony Adragna has more for Pros.
COLLINS FOR CRA MANEUVER: Maine Sen. Susan Collins became the first Republican to sign onto a Democratic push to undo a Trump-era EPA rule on methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) revealed their intention to go after the rule via the Congressional Review Act last month — the first time the party has targeted a Trump rule using the legislative tool. Anthony Adragna has more for Pros.
CORN STATE SENATORS PRESS EPA ON RVOS: Twelve Midwest senators are calling on EPA Administrator Michael Regan to reject any requests from refiners to waive or reduce their ethanol blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“Restoring the integrity of the RFS and expanding market opportunities for renewable fuels should remain a core part of our plans to assist in the economic recovery of rural America and further reduce emissions from the transportation sector,” wrote the bipartisan senators, led by Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer.
FEDERAL LEASING STAYS HALTED: The Interior Department is keeping its freeze on new gas and oil leases on public lands through the end of June, the department announced Wednesday. It’s a move that surely won’t calm nerves in the GOP, which fears the suspension portends a permanent ban or a far more arduous leasing process. Ben Lefebvre has more for Pros.
The Senate Energy Committee will have a hearing on Interior’s leasing program on Tuesday. Ranking Member John Barrasso invited Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon to testify and is expected to talk about the impacts the pause has had on the industry coming out of the pandemic-induced economic slump.
GETTING TO WORK ON DROUGHT: With a dire drought shaping up across the western states, National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy on Wednesday tasked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland with leading an interagency working group “to address the needs of drought impacted communities” and to “explore opportunities to improve our nation’s resilience to droughts and other severe climate,” according to a White House read out of the National Climate Change Task Force meeting.
The Klamath River Basin, straddling the Oregon-California border, is currently facing lake levels lower than they were during the Dust Bowl, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday separately declared a drought emergency in the Russian River watershed.
DOE UNDOES CHINA BAN: The Energy Department plans to do away with a wide-reaching ban on Chinese-associated grid equipment that was part of the Trump administration’s efforts to bolster cybersecurity on the grid. The ban was criticized as being too broad, possibly barring a large swath of equipment. Power companies generally have long timelines for capital investments, and the Trump-era ban doesn’t seem to have had enough time to make a large impact. Pro’s Eric Wolff has more.
The department revealed earlier this week that it’s launching a 100-day plan to bolster cybersecurity on the grid, which Pro’s Eric Geller covered.
PFAS TETE-A-TETE: Regan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet “soon” to discuss efforts to deal with widespread PFAS contamination linked with the military’s decades-long use of military firefighting foam, Regan told House appropriators during a budget hearing Wednesday. DoD, which estimates it has more than 650 sites with known or suspected PFAS contamination, has long posed a hurdle to more aggressive regulation of the toxic chemicals, successfully beating back efforts and weakening cleanup guidelines under the Trump administration.
EARLY AND OFTEN: The Biden administration official overseeing the Army Corps of Engineers revoked a Trump-era policy that blocked the agency from consulting with tribes when evaluating which streams and wetlands at a given site are subject to federal Clean Water Act protections. That policy was issued in connection with the proposed Rosemont copper mine in Arizona, which environmental groups and tribes have fiercely opposed, and which the Corps determined in March would impact no federally protected streams under the Trump administration’s definition of federal jurisdiction.
In a memo signed Tuesday, acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham said one of his “first priorities” will be to review the corps’ existing tribal consultation policy to “ensure it is consistent with, and fulfills” the Biden administration’s commitments to tribes.
FINANCE GOES GREEN: The world’s top finance firms are agreeing to stop emitting and funding harmful emissions by 2050 as part of a new initiative dubbed the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. The firms control a total $70 trillion assets and plan to strategize together in transitioning the economy to net-zero emissions. The initiative was headed by officials from the U.S., including Kerry and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, as well as the United Kingdom and United Nations. Mark Carney, who serves as climate finance adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will chair the group. Matei Rosca has more for Pros.
The group includes the Net Zero Banking Alliance, which also was announced Wednesday, and some of the largest U.S. banks were noticeably absent among its ranks. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo all declined to sign on to the banking initiative, even though they joined the rest of the six largest U.S. banks in issuing climate change commitments. Zack Colman goes into their absence for Pros.
DAPL IN COURT: The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes trying to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline said on Wednesday they will file their reply to the company’s estimated economic consequences of draining the line on April 26, setting the stage for a federal judge to rule soon. The judge earlier this month said he would decide on the shutdown request after the Biden administration irked the tribes by not shutting down the line itself via an enforcement action.
DAPL issued dire warnings about a shutdown this week in a court filing: Pipeline revenue losses up to $4.3 million per day; up to $5.4 billion losses for oil producers this year; as many as 24,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in tax revenue in North Dakota. DAPL also said the shutdown would harm the Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation via oil revenue losses of $160 million per year since it ships 60 percent of its oil through DAPL. The economic consequences — and the challenging tribes’ response — are a key part of the formula the judge will use to determine whether to drain DAPL.
— “Inside the Chamber of (Climate) Commerce,” via E&E News.
— “After half a century in public life, Kerry gets one more shot,” via The Washington Post.
— “Energy giants ditch oil and coal projects. smaller rivals want them,” via The Wall Street Journal.
— “Cities are our best hope for surviving climate change,” via Bloomberg.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!