Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan | House GOP’s planned environmental bills drop Democratic priorities | Advocates optimistic Biden infrastructure plan is a step toward sustainability

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Today we’re looking at President Biden’s meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure, a forthcoming GOP climate package and ways in which advocates are hoping the infrastructure package contributes to sustainability.

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IT’S STILL INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK: Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan

President Biden on Monday intensified his effort to win broad congressional support for his massive infrastructure plan, huddling with eight lawmakers from both chambers in search of that rarest of things in today’s hyperpolarized Washington: bipartisanship. 

The gathering marked the first time the president has met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on infrastructure since he introduced his American Jobs Plan on March 31 in Pittsburgh. He previously hosted a small cadre of Republican and Democratic senators in the Oval Office in February. 

But the two parties remained far apart after the nearly two-hour meeting. 

What did Republicans say after the meeting? Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, called it a “good discussion,” one in which Biden did most of the talking. But Wicker said pieces of Biden’s proposal would be “non-starters” for Republicans, particularly his idea to pay for the package through big corporate tax increases.  

Wicker said it “would be an almost impossible sell for the president to come to a bipartisan agreement that included the undoing” of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts law. 

“I did tell him that,” Wicker told reporters after the meeting. “Whether we’ll be able to come to a bipartisan agreement that gets as expansive and as massive as he would like to, I don’t know.” 

“I certainly appreciated the words in the room, but obviously the follow-up actions are … most important,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told The Hill after the meeting.

What’s the plan, Stan? Democrats are leaning toward a plan to separate the package into two smaller proposals: one featuring the more conventional infrastructure projects, which party leaders believe have a better chance of winning Republican support; and the other focused on the family care provisions, which face stronger headwinds from the right.

And some of the challenges? Internally, Democrats are at odds over the size of the package, with liberals urging Biden to go bigger while moderates are more wary of deficit spending.

Across the aisle, the president is also facing heavy resistance from conservatives who say the package is too large, leans heavily on tax increases and covers too many issues outside the realm of traditional infrastructure.

“You can’t just make up words and add ‘infrastructure’ at the end,” Graves said in the phone interview, panning what Democrats are calling “social infrastructure.”

In the interview Graves, the top Climate Committee Republican,  also told The Hill that infrastructure *can* entail: Major waterways that go through multiple states, flood protection “in some cases” and broadband “in some cases.”

Read more about the meeting here. 

GREEN RIGHT: House GOP’s planned environmental bills drop Democratic priorities

Congressional Republicans are set to unveil environmental legislation in the coming weeks that eschews the Biden administration’s focus on energy and carbon emissions in favor of reducing U.S. dependence on so-called critical minerals and an initiative to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide. 

A spokesperson for Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee on Monday confirmed to The Hill that Republicans in the chamber will reintroduce the Trillion Trees Act in the weeks ahead.

What else does the package involve?: The spokesperson told The Hill on Monday that a separate bill will also seek to reduce American dependence on critical minerals obtained from China and African nations.

In February, President Biden signed an executive order requiring a 100-day review of critical product supply chains, including critical and rare-earth minerals.

Republicans plan to unveil the measures next week to coincide with Earth Day, ahead of a planned White House-hosted climate summit with other world leaders next Thursday.

The GOP measures are not expected to include mandatory greenhouse gas emissions caps or carbon pricing, according to Bloomberg. The latter, once ferociously opposed by the energy industry, has moved into the mainstream over the past decade, with the American Petroleum Association endorsing such a plan earlier this year.

Read more about the bills here:

RAILING TO GO: Advocates optimistic Biden infrastructure plan is a step toward sustainability

Environmental advocates are hopeful that parts of the White House’s multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure package’s sustainability measures can gain traction with lawmakers in Congress despite GOP claims that they fall outside the definition of infrastructure.

Advocates have long called expansion of rail infrastructure a major opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of transportation and improve its sustainability.

Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce told The Hill the organization is particularly pleased with the legislation’s provisions on rail transportation.

What does the package do for rail?: The $2.25 trillion plan includes $85 billion to modernize public transit, including updating and replacing rail cars, station repairs and railway expansion. Another $80 billion would address Amtrak’s repair backlog and increase the cities connected by Amtrak routes along the rail system’s northeastern corridor.

Biden is the “best salesman for building out a transportation infrastructure,” Pierce said. “Now might be that moment — now we might see bold investments in rail as an option and an option to take freight off the roads.”

Read more here: 

IT’S PERSONNEL: Nixed Interior nominee appointed to different department role 

An official who President Biden originally wanted to nominate to be the second-in-command at the Interior Department has found a new political position in the agency after reported opposition from swing-vote senators. 

Elizabeth Klein, who had been slated to be nominated as Interior’s deputy secretary, will now instead be senior counselor to the secretary. 

Read more about the appointment here. 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the United States will hold a hearing on H.R. 1884, the “Save Oak Flat Act.”

WHAT WE’RE READING:

A California county, despite the state’s climate goals, further embraces fossil fuels, The Washington Post reports

How a shocking environmental disaster was uncovered off the California coast after 70 years, CBS News reports

Early environmental activist John Topping dies at 77, The New York Times reports

Old documents fuel latest bid to halt Nevada lithium mine, according to The Associated Press

 Leaked calls show ALEC’s secret plan to fight Biden on climate, GRIST reports

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend…

House GOP’s planned environmental bills drop Democratic priorities

New Oregon laws aim to reduce whale deaths from crab fishing lines

Advocates optimistic Biden infrastructure plan is a step toward sustainability

Companies face pressure to promote sustainable products, avoid ‘green washing’

Iran launches advanced centrifuges at nuclear plant

Nixed Interior nominee appointed to different department role 

Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES: 

‘Suspicious’ blackout at Iranian nuclear site almost certain to prompt retaliation by Simon Henderson of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

And lastly: Hold me closer, tiny Prancer

Tags Garret Graves Gina McCarthy Jay Inslee Joe Biden Roger Wicker

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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