With help from Anthony Adragna, Alex Guillén, Gavin Bade and Daniel Lippman
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— Civilian Climate Corps gets wide support across Hill Democrats, with more than 80 members pressing party leadership for broad, “transformative” investments in the priority.
— Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s infrastructure deadline is fast approaching, and Republicans and several Democrats are deeply unsatisfied with how things are playing out.
— A carbon border fee mechanism is now in legislative text after Sen.
HAPPY TUESDAY! I’m your host, Matthew Choi. Congrats to Entergy’s Rob Hall for knowing Cynthia Nixon played Lorl, the spying maid, in “Amadeus.” Today’s trivia: What is the most populous province of Saudi Arabia? Send your tips and trivia answers to [email protected]. Find me on Twitter @matthewchoi2018.
Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast — all the energy and environmental politics and policy news you need to start your day, in just five minutes. Listen and subscribe for free at politico.com/energy-podcast. On today’s episode: Congress may fall short on Biden’s lead goals.
CORPS SUPPORT: More than 80 Democrats in both chambers are calling on their party leaders to back a Civilian Climate Corps, Pro’s Anthony Adragna scoops. The signatories of the new letter span the party’s ideological spectrum, from progressives like Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to more moderate members like Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).
A climate corps is one of progressives’ top climate priorities, and it has backing from the White House and a number of environmental groups. President Joe Biden called for $10 billion in the American Jobs Plan to go toward creating a climate corps and has asked for $86 million in his fiscal 2022 budget request.
“We have a historic opportunity to make bold investments in our public lands, clean energy, and climate resiliency, all while creating good-paying jobs, building a diverse workforce, and strengthening career pathways,” the lawmakers wrote. They are calling for a central entity within the White House to oversee the program that includes “ambitious labor standards” with health care and education benefits, and to direct half of investments into low-income and communities of color that have suffered from pollution.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, the top Republican on the full House Natural Resources Committee, plans to raise concerns on the vagueness of the administration’s plans for a Civilian Climate Corps. “This Committee is going to examine proposals to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to support initiatives that the private sector is already implementing at a time when the West is literally on fire,” he will say according to a draft of his remarks shared with ME.
Bonus fact: Westerman’s grandfather was in the original Civilian Conservation Corps.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING ON INFRASTRUCTURE: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is proceeding with his plan to hold a procedural vote on bipartisan infrastructure legislation on Wednesday, even though the $1 trillion agreement still hasn’t been released as legislative text. Republicans are expressing concerns about voting for something they haven’t read, and there are still unanswered questions on how the package would be financed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that Republicans “need to see the bill before voting to go to it. I think that’s pretty easily understood,” POLITICO’s Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine report.
The BIF doesn’t have guaranteed support among all Senate Democrats either. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) hinted to Pro’s Tanya Snyder that he wouldn’t vote for the package if additional rail funding isn’t included in Democrats’ budget reconciliation package, which Schumer also wants to advance on Wednesday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that it was high time for the infrastructure ball to get rolling, telling reporters “it has been about four weeks since the president and bipartisan members stood outside together and announced an agreement” and that “we believe it’s time to move forward with congressional action.” More from Tanya.
And Burgess and Marianne point out: “Though it’s controversial among Republicans, Schumer’s tactic is frequently used by majority leaders to corral dithering negotiators. During this Congress alone, the Senate previously advanced both a hate crimes bill and a competitiveness bill before the final products had been negotiated.”
Meanwhile in the House: Some Democrats are stewing with how the bipartisan negotiations are going in the Senate. House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio chided the measure in a call with other Democrats, saying the “whole thing falling apart is probably the best thing,” POLITICO’s Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu report.
CLIMATE BORDER PATROL: Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) unveiled legislation Monday to create a carbon border fee mechanism, putting into legislative text a system to tax carbon-heavy imports, like steel or aluminum, to protect U.S. companies that are likely to face stronger domestic climate regulations. Their hope is that the bill, the FAIR Transition and Competition Act, would be folded into Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget plan for some of their more partisan climate and social policies. Read the bill text here.
The fees could raise as much as $16 billion from imports from countries with less stringent climate measures, like China. The lawmakers intend to match the tariffs with the costs U.S.-based companies face to comply with state and federal climate regulations.
The bill’s backers call the mechanism a “fee,” and not a tariff, in an attempt to skirt compliance issues at the World Trade Organization. While the WTO rules would generally not allow for carbon tariffs, they may allow countries to adjust their internal carbon taxes for imports at the border. Zack Colman and Gavin Bade have more for Pros.
Meanwhile, the Senate Banking Committee is also touching on climate competition with China at a hearing today on climate change and resilience. Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) plans to push the need for more investments to fortify U.S. infrastructure, evoking China’s plans to spend heavily on more robust transportation, energy and IT infrastructure by 2025.
“Every time business grinds to a halt because an American factory wasn’t built to withstand extreme heat, or because a road is blocked by landslides, or because a power grid is shut down, that’s another opportunity for China and other foreign competitors to get ahead,” he plans to say, according to talking points shared with ME.
Meanwhile, Ranking Member Pat Toomey plans to push against “unelected, unaccountable financial regulators imposing new global warming requirements” during the hearing, according to talking points shared with ME.
STONE-MANNING GETS MANCHIN: Tracy Stone-Manning’s nomination to head the Bureau of Land Management got a big boost on Tuesday when Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) spokesperson said the Senate Energy committee chair would vote for her, Anthony Adragna reports here.
Manchin’s decision is a major boost for the nominee whom Republicans have derided as an “eco-terrorist” for her connection to radical environmentalists in the 1980s. Manchin’s nod means the vote on her that is set for Thursday is likely to deadlock, since all 10 Republicans wrote a letter last week urging Biden to abandon the pick over her role in a tree spiking incident carried out by members of the group Earth First! that was intended to stop logging in Montana’s forests.
DOE CYBER BILL PASSES HOUSE: The House approved by voice vote bipartisan legislation Monday to create a new assistant secretary post at the Department of Energy to deal with emergency and cybersecurity functions. Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) reintroduced the legislation, the Energy Emergency Leadership Act, H.R. 3119 (117), in May after the Colonial Pipeline hack, which paralyzed vital fuel lines in the Eastern United States. The bill would make emergency response and cybersecurity core functions of the department, Rush said in a statement, which “is necessary given recent attacks, including on Colonial Pipeline, as well as ongoing threats to our energy infrastructure that we will no doubt continue to face.”
SANCTIONS ON THE TABLE FOR IRAN: The Biden administration is considering further sanctioning Iranian oil sales to China to twist the Islamic Republic’s arm amid the stalling nuclear negotiations, The Wall Street Journal reports. One proposal would create new sanctions on the shipping networks between the two countries, which provide critical revenue to Iran, according to the Journal. The measures would only be taken if the nuclear negotiations based in Vienna fall apart.
U.S. sanctions on Iran are already a major impasse in negotiations, with Iran insisting on their full removal before agreeing to a deal. And with hardline President-elect Ebrahim Raisi coming to power, that position doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. “There is not much left to sanction in Iran’s economy,” a U.S. official told the Journal. “Iran’s oil sales to China is the prize.”
A DEAL FOR NORD STREAM 2?: The U.S. and Germany are planning to announce a deal soon on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would stave off the resumption of U.S. sanctions on the operator and its leadership, Reuters reports. The deal would include investments in Ukrainian energy, since the new Russian pipeline would cut the transit fees the country receives from current shipments of gas. The pipeline has been a major point of contention between the U.S. and Germany, but both sides have vowed not to let Russia use the pipeline as a coercive tool against Europe.
OKLAHOMA SUES INTERIOR OVER AUTHORITY: The battle over mining regulatory authority between Oklahoma and the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has blossomed into full-on litigation. The state and Biden administration have been fighting for months over whether the Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt ruling also means Oklahoma no longer can regulate mining and reclamation on those lands. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt additionally complained in the lawsuit that Interior has cut off federal funding for mining oversight work plus more than $650,000 in grants for abandoned mine clean-ups, leaving state agencies in the lurch.
NEW BLOOD AT EXXON: Kathryn Mikells will join Exxon Mobil next month as CFO, becoming the first ever outsider to directly join the company CEO’s inner circle, Bloomberg reports. Mikells, who is CFO at beverage company Diageo Plc. and previously held executive roles at Xerox, ADT and United Airlines, will also be the first woman to penetrate the group of senior VPs who work closely with CEO Darren Woods. She would be the highest ranking executive to have come without a background in fossil fuels or chemicals. More from Bloomberg.
— The law firm Wiley has hired senior EPA career official Charlotte Bertrand as a senior policy adviser in its environment practice. Bertrand most recently was deputy administrator for programs, and very briefly served as acting administrator for a few hours on Jan. 20 until the Biden administration replaced her with Jane Nishida.
— Claire Mullican has been hired as political mobilization manager at the American Chemistry Council. She most recently was scheduler for Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.).
— “Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg says Oslo remains committed to oil and gas,” via The Financial Times.
— ”The $20 Billion Winner of the American EV Startup Boom: Saudi Arabia,” via The Wall Street Journal.
— “What you need to know about West Coast offshore wind power,” via POLITICO.
— “Inside a legal doctrine that could silence enviros in court,” via E&E News.
— “Dixie Fire may have been sparked by PG&E equipment, company says,” via The San Francisco Chronicle.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!