It is supposed to yet again be Infrastructure Week. President Trump went down to southwest Louisiana to talk up his administration's effort to open U.S. natural gas to international markets.
But yet again, Trump went off script, using an official White House event at a natural gas export terminal in Hackberry, La. to overtly attack his political rivals all while the the administration's trade policies threaten the growth of the very natural gas export business Trump went to Louisiana to promote.
During the 50-minute speech, Trump was flanked by dozens of plant workers onstage as he touted his energy agenda and made the case that he was turbocharging the economy, Seung Min Kim and I reported Tuesday.
But the natural gas business Trump was there to support just got even more knotted up in Trump's trade war with China. Officials there announced the country is raising tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on U.S. liquefied natural gas.
That has some of those in the natural gas export business concerned. "The U.S. is largest natural gas producer in the world, so the two sides deadlocked in a trade dispute its not a great piece of news," Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, told the Houston Chronicle.
Only four cargos of natural gas have been delivered to China from the United States during the eight-month period since tariffs were first put on the fuel last September, according to a new report from the consultancy Wood Mackenzie. That compares 35 cargos during that prior September-April period.
But little of that tension was directly on display during Trump's speech in Louisiana, where energy executives heaped praise on Trump. “This administration and its forward-looking energy policies deserve a lot of credit,” Jeffrey Martin, chief executive of Sempra Energy, the majority owner of the Cameron LNG export facility, said before Trump’s speech.
Trump, for his part, was happy to take the credit, claiming “this was not going to happen with someone else in office.”
Trump mainly used the taxpayer-funded event to attack his political rivals. He drew out the pronunciation of Pete Buttigieg’s uncommon last name, saying: “We’ve got Boot-edge-edge.” Using a derisive nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the president mused: “Pocahontas, I think, is probably out.”
Trump also said former vice president Joe Biden “doesn’t look like the guy I knew” while taking aim at “crazy” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has a “lot more energy than Biden . . . but it’s energy to get rid of your jobs.”
And finally, Trump ridiculed former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) for a Vanity Fair interview in which O’Rourke claimed that he was “just born to be in” the presidential race.
“He was made to fall like a rock!” Trump said.
The president also mocked the Green New Deal, telling the crowd of plant workers that they would lose their jobs under the proposal advanced by some Democrats and saying: “That’s a hoax, like the hoax I just went through,” an apparent reference to the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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- EPA: The proposal includes a marked increase for the agency for the 2020 fiscal year, up to about $9.5 billion from the current $8.8 billion. That’s higher than the roughly $6 billion proposed by the White House, and if approved, would be the second-largest budget the agency has seen since it was established, Bloomberg News reports.
- Great Lakes: The legislation also calls for $305 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Just a day before, the president sent congressional leaders a letter to amend his 2020 budget request to include additional funding for Great Lakes restoration and for the Everglades. Trump’s initial budget proposal included a 90 percent cut to that initiative but during a Michigan rally in March, the president reversed his stance and vowed to fully fund the program.
- Superfund: Another bump would go to the toxic sites cleanup program, which would receive $1.21 billion, up $55 million from the current spending level and up $169 million from the White House proposal.
- PFAS: There's also $18 million included in the proposed EPA budget to research chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
- Clean energy: The proposed funding for energy and water programs includes an 11 percent increases for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and also boosts by about 16 percent or $59 million the budget for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
- Public lands: Finally, the House proposal included new funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a popular program that helps expand parks and other public areas. Congress permanently reauthorized the program in a bipartisan effort last year.
— The latest on the impasse over disaster funding: Congressional negotiators say they are close to a deal on a much-anticipated disaster aid bill to include mroe spending for Puerto Rico, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced a vote is set for next week. There’s still no final deal on the $17 billion package and also no green light from the White House, The Post’s Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. But they add the measure is expected to include about $300 million in additional community block grant funds for Puerto Rico in addition to $600 million for the U.S. territory’s food stamp program.
Some signal a light at the end of the funnel: “We’re going to vote next week. I tell you from my point of view, I’ve had it,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “I don’t mind helping Puerto Rico more, it’s got to be reasonable, but enough with the drama on disaster aid. I think you’re going to see a jailbreak here.”
But still more hurdles: “Concluding negotiations centered on some other issues, including whether a final deal would incorporate portions of the Trump administration’s recent $4.5 billion emergency spending request for the U.S.-Mexico border,” they write. “Democrats sounded open to including some elements of the border request, specifically those focused on humanitarian aid to address the high numbers of Central American families and minors seeking entry into the United States.”
— Biden’s climate challenge: As the former vice president faces an early test of his policies, he is pushing back on criticism of his reported climate plan.
Hours before activists panned Biden's “middle-of-the road” policy at a rally hosted by youth climate activist group Sunrise Movement, Biden spoke to a group of reporters in New Hampshire, defending his record on the issue. He called the Reuters story outlining his climate policies “dead wrong,” as The Post’s John Wagner, David Weigel and Matt Viser report. “This is no time to turn back,” Biden said. “I’ve been saying for years that this is an existential threat that requires a green revolution. And it does. It does . . . There’s no one who’s been stronger and more effective, I would respectfully suggest to you, on climate and the environment than me. Nobody.”
Biden has played up his feats as VP: “During his remarks in New Hampshire, Biden, as he has on several issues during his first few weeks as a candidate, pointed to the accomplishments during the Obama administration,” Wagner, Weigel and Viser write. “He cited investments made in clean energy as part of economic stimulus legislation, as well as an increase in the fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles.”
— House reups flood insurance program ahead of hurricane season: The House passed by voice vote an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program before it was set to expire at the end of the month. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the House Financial Services Committee who co-authored the extension, said lawmakers have passed short-term extensions of the program 10 time since 2017, The Hill reports. The bill passed Tuesday would extend the program through Sept. 30. In a statement, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said it was critical to extend the program ahead of the next hurricane season and said he would work with lawmakers on a long-term reauthorization plan.
— Deal could come soon on steel tariffs: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he believes U.S. and Canadian officials are working toward an agreement to end the steel and aluminum import tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. “That’s my understanding. And [there’s] even the possibility of some face-to-face talks very soon. And maybe in 48 hours I’ll have a more definitive answer for you,” Politico reports.
— A formal FEMA nod: The White House has officially sent the nomination to the Senate of Jeffrey Byard to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency, AL.com reports. Byard is the agency’s associate administrator for response and recovery and previously worked for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. The role of FEMA administrator has been vacant for three months, following the resignation of Brock Long in February.
— Man, it’s a hot one: Over the weekend, the temperature near the Arctic Ocean spiked to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, a reading that was posted in Arkhangelsk, Russia. “This particular heat wave, while a manifestation of the arrangement of weather systems and fluctuations in the jet stream, fits into what has been an unusually warm year across the Arctic and most of the mid-latitudes,” The Post’s Jason Samenow reports. He adds the incidences of the temperature surge near the Arctic Ocean at the same time the atmosphere’s concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history “blend into the unmistakable portrait of human-induced climate change.”
— Trash in the Mariana Trench: Explorer and retired naval officer Victor Vescovo said he discovered plastic waste littering the ocean floor during his record dive – 6.8 miles down to a point in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, Reuters reports. His dive was 52 feet lower than the previous deepest dive, which occurred in 1960. "It was very disappointing to see obvious human contamination of the deepest point in the ocean," Vescovo said. “It's not a big garbage collection pool, even though it's treated as such.”
— Electric future: Volkswagen announced it plans to build two plants in China that will produce up to 330,000 cars each year and will aim to produce a total of 600,000 electric vehicles, Bloomberg News reports. Such plans could put Volkswagen ahead of Tesla, which has said it plans to start production of 250,000 vehicles a year at a Shanghai plant at the end of the year. “VW has little time to lose after Tesla resolved manufacturing snafus in Fremont and its battery factory near Reno, Nevada, which may start also building Model Y crossovers,” per the report.
- The House Science Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on advancing the next generation of solar and wind energy technologies.
- The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the Interior Budget and Policy Priorities for Fiscal Year 2020.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands holds a hearing on climate change impacts on public lands recreation.
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on oversight of the Council on Environmental Quality.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power holds a hearing on challenges at the Power Marketing Administrations.
- The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on climate change on Thursday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds an oversight hearing on Oil and Gas Development: Impacts of Water Pollution Above and Below Ground on Thursday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife holds an oversight hearing on the fiscal year 2020 budget proposal for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey on Thursday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee holds a hearing to examine the Energy Department’s carbon capture, utilization, and storage programs and to receive testimony on legislation on Thursday.
- The Bipartisan Policy Center holds an event on EPA’s role in building critical infrastructure with EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday.
— “One more chapter in the story of the moon”: For 50 years, NASA has waited for the right scientists and the right circumstances to release three new samples from the nearly 850 pounds of moon rocks that make up the Apollo program's greatest scientific legacy, as The Post’s Sarah Kaplan writes. “With Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this year and renewed interest in the moon ahead of a proposed return mission … the right time is now.”