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Energy & Environment — Democrats set for showdown with oil execs

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House lawmakers will get a chance to press oil executives at a hearing Wednesday. We’ll also look at a proposed asbestos limit from EPA and the EU’s move to sanction Russian coal

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 


Lawmakers to question Big Oil on gasoline prices 

Democratic lawmakers are set for a showdown with energy executives over high gasoline prices on Wednesday.  

Executives with BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell — as well as Devon Energy Corporation and Pioneer Natural Resources Company — will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

The hearing marks the second time that executives with the four oil majors are coming before Congress. In October, they appeared before the House Oversight and Reform Committee as part of Democrats’ investigation into whether they ran a climate disinformation campaign.  

Wednesday’s event will instead focus on high gasoline prices, as Democrats have accused companies of price gouging after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up oil prices.  

However, many analysts have cast doubt on accusations of irregularities, citing the so-called “rocket and feather phenomenon” where gasoline prices shoot up when oil prices are high but take longer to fall amid price dips.  

The White House has pushed back on that idea, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying last month that “if gas retailers’ costs are going down, they need to immediately pass those savings on to consumers.” 

Check TheHill.com on Wednesday for more


EPA proposes ban on common type of asbestos 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday proposed a major step to limit exposure to asbestos, a carcinogen that kills 40,000 Americans each year.  

The EPA proposed to ban imports, manufacturing, processing and distribution of a type of asbestos called chrysotile asbestos. 

Chrysotile asbestos, the most commonly used type of asbestos, is found in car brakes and linings, gaskets and other products.  

Partisan differences? The move differs from a Trump-era rule on asbestos that sought to require federal approval for any manufacture or import of certain products that use asbestos.  

The Trump rule received significant criticism from environmental and health advocates for stopping short of a ban.  

Asbestos has been associated with respiratory issues including lung cancer; mesothelioma, a cancer that is found in the lining of the lungs and abdomen; and asbestosis, a lung disease. 

The use of asbestos has been falling over several decades, and most consumer products that had previously used it have been discontinued. 

According to the EPA, chrysotile is the only type of asbestos that is currently imported, processed or distributed in the U.S. 

The agency also said in a statement that while its current proposal does not address past uses of asbestos, it is “evaluating” legacy uses and disposals. 

Read more about the proposed ban here. 


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EU BANS RUSSIAN COAL IMPORTS 

The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it would be imposing a ban on imports of coal from Russia as part of its latest package of sanctions against Moscow. 

The ban, worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) annually, “will cut another important revenue source for Russia,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. As of 2020, the European Union relied on Russia for 19 percent of its coal, according to the European Commission’s Eurostat site. 

Oil could be next: Earlier media reports on Tuesday had suggested that the new package might include a ban on oil, the president only stated that the commission is “working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.” 

Noting that the four sanctions packages the E.U. has issued thus far “have hit hard and limited the Kremlin’s political and economic options,” von der Leyen stressed the need “to increase our pressure further.” 

“Today, we are proposing to take our sanctions a step further,” she said. “We will make them broader and sharper, so that they cut even deeper in the Russian economy.” 

Read more here from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin. 


SAUDIS SET TO HIKE PRICES 

Saudi Arabia’s state oil producer is set to hike prices across regions as the kingdom’s advantage in the market grows amid the Ukraine crisis, blowing past an April record.  

Saudi Aramco on Monday hiked prices on shipments to Asia for May to $9.35 above the benchmark. The increase is $4.40 above the April level, itself a record. 

The move came the week after OPEC+ decided to raise oil output gradually despite calls from the U.S. to step up output. U.S. prices, meanwhile, are set to increase $2.20 a barrel while they are set to increase by $3.00 a barrel in northern Europe.  

While the increase is likely to have major geopolitical implications, it did not come out of nowhere, according to Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity analyst at UBS Group AG. 

The official selling price (OSP) is set by a number of factors ranging from local market conditions to refinery yields, he said, so a major increase had been expected already.  

“Another factor which might have also influenced the OSP price setting was the decision of the U.S. administration to tap its strategic oil reserves,” Staunovo told The Hill in an email. 

Read more here. 


ON TAP TOMORROW

  • EPA Administrator Michael Regan will testify before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on the agency’s budget 
  • The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing featuring testimony from executives of Exxon, BP, Chevron and Shell, among others, entitled “Gouged at the Gas Station: Big Oil and America’s Pain at the Pump”  
  • The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee’s Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety will hold hearings to examine the nominations of Beth Pritchard Geer, Robert P. Klein, and L. Michelle Moore, to be members of the Board of Directors, and Benny R. Wagner to be Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority. 


    WHAT WE’RE READING
  • Scientists sound alarm at US regulator’s new ‘forever chemicals’ definition (The Guardian
  • Joe Manchin’s Advice for Testifying Oil Execs: Fly Commercial to DC (Bloomberg
  • Surging electric bills threaten Calif. climate goals (E&E News
  • Exxon signals record quarterly profit from oil and gas prices (Reuters)


    ICYMI


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

Tags Jen Psaki Ursula von der Leyen

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