He’s giving speeches, holding news conferences, tweeting and talking up the potential of U.S. natural gas exports.
Everything appears to be business as usual for Energy Secretary Rick Perry as he travels this week around Eastern Europe, even as Perry is becoming increasingly entangled in an impeachment inquiry focused on President Trump and the administration’s interactions with officials from one of the region’s biggest countries, Ukraine.
Perry isn't actually visiting Ukraine, the country at the center of a House impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump improperly pressured that country's president into opening an investigation into his political rivals. But last weekend he arrived in Lithuania for a meeting of his own initiative, the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation. And Perry convened, according to his schedule, a meeting between Poland and Ukranian authorities designed to enhance cooperation between the two countries.
Perry’s role is being increasingly scrutinized in the growing furor over Trump's actions. The energy secretary is not accused of wrongdoing and has not been directly subpoenaed by Congress.
But his activity is the subject of a number of requests for information from congressional Democrats. And while Perry said last week he will cooperate with Congress, the White House said it would not do so in a scathing eight-page letter Tuesday.
In Lithuania on Monday, Perry met with counterparts from Ukraine and Poland to underscore a memorandum of understanding signed last month between the three countries, meant to ease the way for U.S.-produced gas to be shipped to Poland and then piped into neighboring Ukraine.
The trilateral agreement along with other U.S. policies pushed under both the Trump and Obama administrations are designed to undermine the continent’s dependence on Russia for heating fuel and electricity.
“Greater energy security is a good thing for all the citizens of this region,” Perry said during a news conference afterward.
For Ukraine in particular, Perry suggested on Twitter that better gas infrastructure means that Ukraine may one day be able to export its own fuel, rather than relying on foreign suppliers for energy.
Opening greater access to Ukraine’s storage will allow increased commercial activity to leverage the increased supplies and seasonal spreads in European gas markets.— Rick Perry (@SecretaryPerry) October 7, 2019
Enhancing interconnectors could mean that one day Ukraine can supply its neighbors with new domestic production.
But once he started taking questions from reporters, Perry soon was peppered with questions about his conversations with Trump about Ukraine and his possible resignation.
Last week, Trump told House Republicans that he had made a July 25 call to Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, at Perry’s request to discuss a liquefied natural gas project. It was during that call that Trump repeatedly urged Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, according to a rough transcript of the call the White House released.
Perry acknowledged to reporters he “absolutely” asked Trump to call Zelensky — but only about energy issues.
“I asked the president multiple times — 'Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and the Ukraine's best interest, that you and the president of Ukraine have conversations, that you discuss the options that are there,' Perry said.
Perry also brushed off reports last week from The Washington Post and others that he is planning to step down as energy secretary by the end of the year.
“The answer’s no. I’m here. I’m serving,” Perry said. “They’ve been writing this story that I was leaving the Department of Energy for at least nine months now. One of these days they’ll probably get it right. But it’s not today. It’s not tomorrow. It’s not next month.”
A day later in Latvia, Perry was back on message about the virtues of the potential for U.S. gas to loosen Russia’s grip on Ukraine and the rest of the region.
“What we’re offering is freedom of choice,” Perry said during a keynote address at a Central and Eastern European gas conference in Latvia. He continued: "We can liberate our allies everywhere, including right here in Europe ... by offering it natural gas."
And with that, Perry was off on the last leg of his European tour, leaving for Iceland.
But by the time he arrived, he was facing yet more questions in the impeachment probe after CNN reported that Trump called on Perry and a pair of State Department officials to go through his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in discussions regarding Ukraine.
— Nobel Prize awarded for rechargeable batteries: The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists, John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, for their work in the development of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that today power everything from mobile phones to electric cars, The Post’s Ben Guarino reports. “We have gained access to a technical revolution” said Sara Snogerup Linse, a chemistry professor and member of the award committee.
- What each of them did: In the 1970s, Whittingham discovered titanium disulfide, a material that can house ions of lithium for a battery. “[Goodenough] improved the potential of these batteries in 1980 by switching the type of metal in the cathode end of the batteries,” Guarino adds. “Yoshino, of Japan, developed the first commercial lithium-ion battery five years later when he swapped reactive lithium in the anode for a carbon-based material, petroleum coke.”
— Planned power outage for hundreds of thousands in California: Pacific Gas & Electric said it planned to proactively shut off power for nearly 800,000 customers as part of a new method to alleviate wildfire risk. It said it would do so in stages starting early Wednesday, and some customers could be in the dark for days.
- Who is affected: “The intentional shut-off encompasses more than half of the state’s 58 counties and spans much of Northern California, where two of the deadliest fires in state history have occurred in the past two years,” The Post’s Scott Wilson reports. “It is the most extensive planned power outage ever employed in California and represents a fresh, expensive inconvenience to residents of a state confronting the sharpening consequences of a changing climate.”
— Trump vs. California: A group of nearly four dozen Democratic lawmakers from California wrote a letter to Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler opposing the “series of politically-motivated attacks” on the state “under the false pretense of protecting our air and water.” The letter, led by Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), follows the EPA’s notice accusing San Francisco of violating the Clean Water Act, ratcheting up a battle between the administration and the most populous state. “The actions of your agency do not match your rhetoric,” the letter continues. “To point the finger at the State of California while intentionally weakening environmental protections is outrageous and runs counter to the goal of ensuring clean air and water for all Americans.”
Meanwhile, GM investors want in on California's climate deal: Nearly two dozen large General Motors investors sent a letter to the company’s chief executive urging it to join an agreement with the state to increase fuel efficiency standards. "As long-term investors with $1.1 trillion in assets under management (AUM), we believe that the mitigation of climate change is essential to safeguarding our investments," the 22 investors wrote to Mary Barra, E&E News reports. "We urge you to join this compromise agreement, which is consistent with General Motors Company's (GM's) call for ... continuously improving fuel economy and its stated goal of moving toward zero emissions.” In July, four major automakers made a deal with California to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles in coming years, bucking the Trump administration on its aggressive rollback of Obama-era standards.
— The latest on BLM’s controversial relocation: The Bureau of Land Management’s acting director William Perry Pendley sent an email to staff suggesting the relocation of agency headquarters could begin within five months, according to an email obtained by The Energy 202. Pendley’s email said after relocation orders were issues in the coming weeks, employees would have 30 days to decide whether to relocate, and another 90 days to move if they decide to do so.
- What Pendley said: “Our desire is to retain the knowledge, skills, and abilities of our experienced staff, but we recognize that your personal desires or situations may not be compatible with our decisions,” the acting head wrote. “We hope this interval will give you time to consider your options and your next steps.”
CNN digs up Pendley speech denying ozone hole: A new report from CNN found that in a 1992 speech to the Heritage Foundation, Pendley falsely said there was no evidence of a hole in the ozone layer. “Environmentalism' is indeed the last refuge of the left, the last safe haven for those who trust, not the people, but big government, those who seek to place the power in the hands of federal bureaucrat,” he said in his remarks, adding: “Despite the total absence of credible scientific evidence, the media is convinced and is attempting to convince us that we have global warming, an Ozone hole and acid rain and that it is all man's fault.”
- Pendley’s response: In response to a question about whether this and other views remain the same, Pendley told CNN his views “were being taken out of context and were irrelevant to his role at BLM. “As someone in the public arena for nearly four decades, I've given countless statements and written scores of articles on a wide variety of topics. Cherrypicking a few of them out of context is neither useful nor connected to my current position,” he said.
— Warren wants to block gas exports: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) are planning to introduce a bill that would block the construction of infrastructure used to export natural gas. Warren added that such projects “increase our reliance on fossil fuels while ignoring the concerns of households and consumers who would be affected the most. There's also a local angle: A subsidiary of pipeline company Enbridge has proposed building a compressor station in Weymouth, Mass., that would facilitate moving gas to Canada.
— This songbird is being removed from the list of protected species: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Kirtland warbler, once nearly extinct, would no longer be listed as endangered after more than 50 years on the list. "The species was down to fewer than 200 pairs and now its population numbers in the 2,000 pairs," said Margaret Everson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service principal deputy director at a news conference, according to the Lansing State Journal. “Kirtland's warblers were listed as endangered in 1967 because shrinking habitat and pressure from the brown-headed cowbird, which lay eggs in other birds' nests, crowding out other species, caused their population to decline dramatically,” per the report. “Their numbers dropped from more than 1,000 in 1960 to about 400 in 1971, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.”
- The Smart Cities Connect Fall Conference and Expo continues.
- The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight holds a field hearing on addressing the lead crisis through innovation and technology on Oct. 15.
— A cold front full of butterflies, dragonflies and other insects passed through the Oklahoma City area over the weekend: