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Democrats race to clinch deal on climate, energy with Manchin

The Climate 202

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Democrats race to clinch deal on climate, energy with Manchin

Democratic leaders are racing to finalize a revised proposal to tackle climate change and jump-start the nation’s transition to clean energy, part of a larger sprint to strike a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on their stalled spending bill this month, Maxine and our colleague Tony Romm report this morning.

The frenzied deliberations reflect weeks of private talks between Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Manchin, a centrist who scuttled negotiations over the party’s last attempt at a broader spending package in December.

While top Manchin aides say they are far from a deal, some Democrats are still hoping to finalize a retooled climate proposal as soon as next week, when lawmakers are set to return from recess, according to two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. 

Already, party leaders have held discussions with the senator from West Virginia on placing a fee on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, the people said.

  • Manchin has previously raised concerns about the fee, saying it would be duplicative of proposed regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Democrats are now working out with Manchin a potential solution that would exempt companies from the methane fee if they comply with the EPA regulations once the rules are finalized, the two people familiar with the matter said.

The individuals cautioned that lawmakers and their staff are still discussing the idea and that no final deal on methane — or the rest of the climate agenda — has been reached. Over the past year, Democrats have repeatedly thought they were close to accord with Manchin, only to see negotiations collapse at the last moment because of misunderstandings, miscommunication and lingering policy differences.

“Suggestions that a reconciliation deal is close are false,” Sam Runyon, a spokesman for Manchin, said in a statement. “Senator Manchin still has serious unresolved concerns and there is a lot of work to be done before it’s conceivable that a deal can be reached he can sign onto.”

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, said any mention of a final deal is “speculation,” adding: “We continue to have productive conversations.”

But Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), whose panel has jurisdiction over the methane fee, thinks the potential compromise would ensure that companies are reducing their methane emissions regardless of EPA regulations, those familiar with the matter said.

Finding a legislative solution to the issue has taken on added significance since the Supreme Court last week limited the EPA’s powers to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Haggling over the EV tax credit, direct pay

Meanwhile, Democrats are still wrangling with Manchin over a tax credit for Americans who purchase electric vehicles. 

  • The senator has voiced concern that the tax incentive could be a handout for wealthy Americans who buy expensive electric cars.
  • While the issue is unresolved, a potential compromise could involve “means testing,” in which the tax credit would be restricted to consumers who earn below certain income thresholds.

Another unresolved issue concerns the suite of tax credits for clean energy.

  • Manchin has indicated that he will not support a spending bill that includes what’s known as direct pay, in which payments are sent directly to companies that produce clean energy for consumers.
  • A potential compromise could involve restricting eligibility for direct pay to nonprofits, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Overall, the price tag of the climate and energy provisions in the spending bill could total $300 billion to $350 billion, though the amount will change as negotiations continue. That figure pales in comparison with the $555 billion climate package in the earlier version of the bill that passed the House last year.

Manchin has argued that such spending could add to the national debt and worsen inflation as prices are rising. But the smaller amount on environmental programs may be difficult to accept for some liberal House lawmakers, who view the measure as their last chance to pass robust climate legislation before the midterm elections this fall, when Republicans could take control of Congress.

On the Hill

Climate activists plan to disrupt Congressional Baseball Game

Climate activists are planning to disrupt the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park, scheduled for July 28, unless Democrats pass a climate bill via budget reconciliation, The Post's Hau Chu reports.

The organizers are being tight-lipped about the details of the action, dubbed “Now or Never.” But they say there will be a direct action component for activists willing to risk arrest.

“We refuse to watch a member of Congress play baseball while the world burns,” said Jamie DeMarco, federal policy director for Chesapeake Climate Action Network, noting that two of the sponsors of this year's game include oil companies BP and Chevron.

Disrupting the game, which the president usually attends for a few innings, is an ambitious undertaking, Katherine Tully-McManus reports for Politico's Huddle. Security has been tightened after a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in 2017, seriously injuring GOP Whip Steve Scalise (La.).

International climate

Boris Johnson resigns. Will new prime minister act on climate?

Boris Johnson resigned as British prime minister on Thursday after an avalanche of resignations paralyzed the British government, The Washington Post's Karla Adam and William Booth report.

Johnson agreed to step down as leader of the Conservative Party, but he hopes to stay in office until the fall. During that time, the party would pick a new prime minister to replace him.

Member of Parliament Steve Baker, who is considering running for prime minister, has said he would dismantle many of Johnson's environmental policies, Helena Horton reports for the Guardian. Baker once retweeted a report that claimed climate change is not happening.

Our Post colleague Adela Suliman has a look at Johnson's other potential successors.

Extreme events

Lightning sparks more Alaska wildfires in already extreme season

Unusually intense lightning and thunderstorms have ignited more than 50 wildfires in Alaska since Sunday, forcing evacuations and worsening air quality amid an already extreme fire season, Jacob Feuertsein and Joshua Partlow report for The Post. 

More than 2.4 million acres have burned across the state — one of the largest amounts of land burned so early in the year in at least eight decades. As of Wednesday, more than 200 fires were active.

The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center on Wednesday declared a Preparedness Level 5 — the highest level — for the seventh straight day. It is issued “when large fires that require incident management teams are occurring in several areas.”

Hot, dry conditions have contributed to this year's fire activity. Climate change has also lengthened the growing season in the state, increasing trees and other plants that act as fuel.

Great Salt Lake level drops to lowest on record for second time

As a climate-change-fueled megadrought worsens across the West, the Great Salt Lake hit its lowest level on record Sunday for the second time in less than a year, with Utah officials calling for “urgent action” to preserve the lake, Rachel Ramirez reports for CNN. 

The lake's surface water elevation dropped to 4,190 feet on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, below the previous record set in 2021. 

"It's clear the lake is in trouble," Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Joel Ferry said in a statement. "We recognize more action and resources are needed, and we are actively working with the many stakeholders who value the lake."

The dwindling lake has major implications for the local economy and nearby water usage. Scientists predict that with a warmer and drier climate, the lake will only face more water loss in the future.

Agency alert

Granholm, Robert Downey Jr. team up to boost clean energy jobs

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and actor Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced they will team up to recruit up to 1,000 new workers focused on climate change and renewable energy, Matthew Daly reports for the Associated Press. 

In an animated video released by the Energy Department, Granholm and Downey urge Americans to apply for the Clean Energy Corps, which is part of the $62 billion that the agency received from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Downey says in the video that viewers may know him from “Iron Man” or “Sherlock Holmes,” among other movies. “But now I’ve got this sweet new office over at the Department of Energy, and I’ve already been putting in some crazy hours," he says.

Granholm tells Downey that the Energy Department is “looking for folks to help us with pretty much everything," including scientists, IT specialists, civil engineers and electrical engineers. 

Haaland to tour Yellowstone after flooding

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will tour Yellowstone National Park on Friday, less than a month after historic floods forced the park to shut down, the Interior Department announced Wednesday.

Haaland will join Shannon Estenoz, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, and elected leaders, the agency said. The group will survey the damage caused by the floods and assess progress in restoring access to the park.

In the atmosphere

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