As he did nearly a year ago to win the presidency, Donald Trump has done the seemingly impossible and brought together disparate coalitions of unlikely interests. This week, it happened again when Trump managed to unite an unlikely band of fossil-fuel and renewable-energy advocates.
These 11 energy associations are working together. Together, that is, against the Trump administration's latest energy policy directive.
On Monday, a coalition of 11 energy lobbying groups asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to delay issuing and enforcing a new rule issued by the Energy Department. Energy Secretary Perry had asked for FERC to streamline the rulemaking process but the groups want time to weigh in during the traditional comment period.
The coalition attracted some strange bedfellows, including renewable-energy lobbyists such as the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association and oil and gas heavyweights such as the Natural Gas Supply Association and the American Petroleum Institute.
“This is the first time we've filed a motion in conjunction with API,” said Gil Jenkins, a spokesman for the American Council on Renewable Energy, one of the groups in the coalition.
“So, it's unprecedented,” Jenkins added. “Just as this very action taken by DOE.”
Here's the backrgound. On Friday, Perry, issued a sweeping proposal to redefine how coal and nuclear power plants are compensated for the electricity they provide to the power grid.
In a letter and proposed regulation, Perry asked FERC to consider issuing new rules to ensure that nuclear and coal-fired plants are compensated not only for the electricity they provide to homes and businesses, but for the reliability they add to the grid.
The concern among Perry and others in the administration is that growth in natural gas and renewables has undermined the economic viability of these so-called “baseload” coal and nuclear power plants.
If the grid becomes too dependent on cheap but intermittent solar and wind sources that generate electricity only under the right weather conditions, homes and businesses will soon be unable to rely on the grid for electricity at all hours of the day -- or so that line of thinking goes.
But the proposed change is happening too fast for a broad spectrum of energy providers. Those groups are concerned about the swifter timeline proposed by Perry -- 45 days for notice and comment after which the commission should “complete final action on the rule” in 15 days.
“I know that 45 days seems like a long time,” said Dena Wiggins, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association. “But for such a massive proposal, 45 days is a blink of the eye.”
She added she “was really shocked” by the decision more broadly that she believes will artificially prop up coal and nuclear plants from the former three-term governor of a state, Texas, rich in natural gas.
“Competing on the economics — we’re fine with that,” Wiggins said. “This seems to be putting the thumb on the scale against natural gas.”
What the groups have on their side: While technically housed under the Energy Department, FERC is an independent agency. In the case of Perry’s recommendations, the 5-member commission has the leeway to accept or reject them wholesale. By allowing no more than three commissioners to be from the same party, the commission is supposedly untethered from party influence.
What the groups have going against them: Or at least FERC was intended to be free of partisan politics. Two of FERC’s three commissioners, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, were both appointed by Trump. And two more Trump nominees, Richard Glick and Kevin McIntyre, are up for consideration in the Senate.
In an inauspicious sign for the coalition, the thinking of at least one of those new commissioners is in line with Perry’s.
Chatterjee, a former energy-policy staffer for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and current acting FERC chairman, has expressed support for giving extra compensation to baseload power producers.
“I believe baseload power should be recognized as an essential part of the fuel mix,” Chatterjee said in August. “I believe that generation, including our existing coal and nuclear fleet, need to be properly compensated to recognize the value they provide to the system.”
LATEST ON LAS VEGAS:
The toll is up to 59 people killed and more than 500 injured when a gunman opened fire from a perch at a high rise hotel down into a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday.
Police do not yet have a motive for what is the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, report The Post’s Lynh Bui, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Mark Berman. Stephen Paddock, the 64-year-old shooter, had smuggled 23 guns inside his 32nd floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. More firearms were found at his home.
Authorities say Paddock had no known previous run-ins with police and, despite a claim of responsibility from the Islamic state, no connection was found with terrorist groups. In the hours after the shooting, area blood donation centers were packed with lines stretching around blocks. Several vigils were held Monday night in Las Vegas, Reno, the Nellis Air Force Base and at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus in honor of the victims of the shooting. Here’s what we know about the lives lost in Las Vegas.
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-- Add another investigation to the list: The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has launched an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke over “his use of taxpayer-funded charter and military planes to his mixing of official trips with political appearances,” reports The Post's Lisa Rein.
Spokeswoman Nancy K. DiPaolo explained that the investigation was a broad look at Zinke’s “travel in general.” “It’s not just one trip,” she added. “It’s seven months of travel.” She noted that the office had received numerous complaints from employees and from the public. The probe follows reports that Zinke and his aides took a more than $12,000 flight from Las Vegas to near Zinke's Montana home.
What to know: The inspector general is taking the flights more seriously than Zinke himself. On Friday, he called the flying fiasco “a little B.S."
But what really matters for the job security of Zinke and of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, after news surfaced of Pruitt taking chartered flights and trying to install a private soundproof phone booth in his office, is what their boss thinks.
So far, Trump has demurred from weighing in on the spending habits of anyone other than now-former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Consider this exchange on Wednesday between the president and the press during which Trump gave Price the kiss of death.
Q: Do you have concerns about how your aides are spending taxpayer money on this phone booth at the EPA?
THE PRESIDENT: We're talking about healthcare. We're talking about --
Q: What about -- Tom Price spent a lot of money on that charter plane. Is that cool?
THE PRESIDENT: I was looking into it, and I will look into it. And I will tell you, personally, Im not happy about it. I am not happy.
Q: What are you going to do about it, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Im going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.
Aerial views of the damaged Guajataca dam in Puerto Rico:
Puerto Rico's pain continues (and Trump visits the island today):
-- “There has to be a plan:” The Trump administration is ready to ask for another $10 billion in federal relief for the response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, reports The Post's Ed O’Keefe. “This is a disaster, this is something that calls for a plan. You can call it the Marshall Plan or the Trump Plan, but there has to be a plan,” Puerto Rico State Sen. Carmelo Ríos told Ed. “There has to be a plan to make sure that this kind of event doesn’t happen again.”
Here’s the latest from Puerto Rico, by the numbers:
37 percent of Puerto Ricans have regained cell service, per a Department of Defense press release issued Monday. 270 of 1,700 cellular antennas are up and running.
5 percent of the island has power, per ABC News.
47 percent of customers have drinkable water per ABC News.
More than 759 of 1,120 retail gas stations on the island have reopened.
65 percent of grocery and big-box stores have reopened.
All 10 of the airports have reopened.
10 hospitals are back on the electrical grid and others are running on generators
As of Monday, the Disaster Relief Fund had $9.4 billion of $15.25 billion Congress approved last month for relief efforts after hurricanes in Texas and Florida.
More than 100,000 island residents could relocate to the mainland if short-term aid does not come through quickly.
As of Wednesday, the Puerto Rican government said the latest death toll following Maria was at 16, but as Vox reports, that number may be much higher.
-- What the media is saying: The media coverage of Puerto Rico appears to have been markedly less than of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and Fox News avoided Puerto Rico more than any other network, Vox reports. Looking at analyses from FiveThirtyEight.com, Vox broke it down even further -- examining the pre and post-landfall coverage but also how outlets portrayed the recovery efforts. (Both FiveThirtyEight.com and Vox cited data from TV News Archive’s Third Eye).
Here are some takeaways from both sets of analysis:
TV news spoke “significantly fewer sentences about Hurricane Maria” than about Harvey and Irma, per FiveThirtyEight.com
Spikes in mentions of Puerto Rico as the hurricane hit were lower than increases for Texas and Florida when those states were hit by the Harvey and Irma, per FiveThirtyEight.com.
Of five political talk shows that aired the Sunday after Maria made landfall, a combined less than one minute of coverage was produced on Puerto Rico. Three of the five didn’t mention Puerto Rico at all, per FiveThirtyEight.com.
From Sept. 25 to Oct. 2, CNN had 14.3 hours of chyrons that included “Puerto Rico;” MSNBC had 7.4 hours; and Fox News had 2.2 hours, per Vox.
-- When (and how) will aid come? House Republicans are proposing to include an extra $1 billion in Medicaid funding for the island as part of a five-year plan to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to our colleague Paige Winfield Cunningham. (Read more in today's The Health 202 from my colleague Paige Winfield Cunninigham). Congress missed an Oct. 1 deadline to extend CHIP's funding.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Capitol, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, said he expects "there will be one combination package that will involve Harvey, Irma and Maria," according to Bloomberg News.
-- "An all-electric future:" General Motors signaled it could soon end the production of internal combustion engines and move toward an all-electric future, reports The Post’s Peter Holley. The top automaker will release two new electric models in 2018 and plan another 18 by 2023. The company did not explicitly say when it could stop producing gas and diesel vehicles altogether, but said a “zero emissions future” will require battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.
What's going on: GM and other car manufacturers with big U.S. footprints, including Ford, Volvo and Nissan, are also making an electric push. Meanwhile, Trump's EPA has indicated it intends to relax rules governing greenhouse gas emissions on new model cars.
So why are automakers doing it? Because the United Kingdom, France, India and, most importantly, China are all reviewing plans to phase out internal-combustion cars between 2030 and 2040. GM's announcement again demonstrates how even if the Trump administration avoids addressing global warming, climate policies in other countries can shape the behavior of U.S. companies that sell abroad.
-- Oil and gas back Trump's tax plan: So far, the Republican tax plan is short on details. But what the oil and gas industry does know about the proposal to overhaul the tax code doesn't have them too worried just yet. The Independent Petroleum Association of America called it a “positive step forward." API said the proposed changes would “strengthen the U.S. energy renaissance."
The lobbying groups say this even though, as Tim McDonnell writes in The Post, the GOP blueprint "limits some benefits that oil companies traditionally rely on, such as deductions for interest payments that make it easier to raise money for expensive infrastructure like pipelines."
So why is oil and gas happy? Because it could have been worse.
According to a 2015 Obama administration review, the U.S. oil and gas industry benefits from a bevy of specialized subsidies adding up to about $4.6 billion per year. Given how low oil prices are, many projects would be not make economic sense without the subsidies, some studies suggest. So for the U.S. oil and gas sector, anything close to the status quo is the way to go.
-- Count ‘em: Here's another record broken by the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. All told, Hurricanes Irma and Maria covered a total of 1,500 miles of territory as Category 5 storms, passing a record for the total distance traveled by a Category 5 storm in any Atlantic hurricane season. The Post’s Ian Livingston writes: “This season will be remembered as a standout among those rare years in which multiple Category 5 storms formed... it’s sort of hard to wrap your head around the fact that there is twice as much Category 5 track this year compared to 2005, a year widely considered the benchmark for the number and intensity of storms.”
This Atlantic hurricane season has been the third-most active on record, Bloomberg News notes. Only in 1933 and 1940 did the Atlantic basin produce more tropical cyclones.
There's still about two months left to go.
The International Trade Commission will hold a remedy hearing to address the injury to U.S. solar manufacturers from foreign imports.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on various bills.
The House Natural Resources Committee holds a legislative hearing.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on energy storage technologies.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on “Defining reliability in a transforming electricity industry.”
The Center for American Progress holds an event with former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate on preparation and recovery for extreme weather events.
The House Natural Resources Committee holds a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
The House Natural Resources Committee holds a markup on Wednesday.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on Wednesday on Michael Dourson, Matthew Leopold, David Ross, and William Wehrum to be assistant administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Jeffery Baran to be a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The 2017 Conservative Clean Energy Summit is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
The Environmental Law Institute holds an event on “How Agencies Reverse Policy” on Thursday.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on “Consumer-oriented perspectives on improving the nation’s electricity markets” on Thursday.
See how Washington reacted to the Las Vegas shooting:
Authorities report finding 42 firearms in the gunman's hotel room and house:
An emotional Jimmy Kimmel asks for gun control. He wasn't the only late-night host to do so:
Watch Stephen Colbert address the shooting in Las Vegas and call for "courage" from President Trump to pass gun control legislation:
Seth Meyers responds to the shooting and calls on lawmakers to do something:
Trevor Noah responds to the Vegas shooting: "I've lived in the U.S. and New York for two years now, and in that time there have been 20 mass shootings:"
On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Miley Cyrus and Adam Sandler open with a performance of "No Freedom" to honor the victims in Vegas:
Maren Morris dedicates a song to the victims in Vegas: