Crafting Clinton's climate message
With help from Esther Whieldon and Eric Wolff
HOW CLINTON WORLD REACTS: WikiLeaks continued dribbling out excerpts from John Podesta’s hacked inbox over the weekend, including new emails showing the back-and-forth within Hillary Clinton’s campaign over how to craft its message in real time.
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When a federal appeals court denied a stay request for the Clean Power Plan back in January, Clinton’s campaign debated whether the candidate herself should tweet out something to celebrate the stay. Trevor Houser, an adviser on energy policy, argued it would be a “[g]ood moment to put focus on the real CPP fight rather than Bernie’s fantasy carbon tax fight.” But Ian Sams, a member of the campaign’s rapid response team, responded he was concerned about “jumping in” on climate change when “that’s what [Bernie Sanders] wants to talk about.” They ultimately decided to have Podesta, the campaign chairman, send out a tweet about the news with Pete Ogden, another energy aide, saying “that would at least give our enviro stakeholders something here.” (Perhaps a future batch of emails will show whether Clinton’s aides were as stunned as top EPA officials when the Supreme Court granted a stay request a few weeks later.)
Similar debate broke out after former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley published an op-ed in June 2015 calling for an end to fossil fuel use by 2050. Spokesman Josh Schwerin flagged the op-ed in an email noting “Tom Steyer has praised it as well as some other environmental types.” Schwerin said the campaign was “considering asking friends to pitch a smart enviro reporter or columnist on a story about how this may be well-intentioned but its [sic] not a serious proposal.” But Podesta pushed back, noting the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 “implies close to a zero carbon energy sector.” In a later note, he agreed O’Malley’s plan may not be feasible but advised staying out of the debate. “Hard to get all the oil out but wouldn’t want to fight with him about that.”
An aside: You think you get roped into weird meetings at work? Well, Podesta was asked to consider a meeting with Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell to discuss “top secret papers discussing extraterrestrial incidents on Earth over many years” as well as “zero point energy.” It doesn’t look like Podesta took the meeting, though he has long called for the government to release more information on UFOs. Snopes has a thorough rundown on the backstory here.
Meanwhile, Clinton camp touts Flint focus: Clinton’s campaign, which is not commenting on the veracity of the alleged Podesta emails aside from accusing WikiLeaks of aiding a Russian plot meant to help elect Donald Trump, on Friday released a video focusing on the ongoing crisis in Flint, Mich. It features a young mom still faced with lead-tainted water urging support for the Democratic nominee. “I know Hillary cares for people like us,” the woman says. “It’s just very important for everyone that can vote to get out and vote. We need someone like Hillary in office.”
WELCOME TO MONDAY! I’m your host Anthony Adragna, and congrats to Doug MacGillivray with the American Energy Alliance for being the first to correctly identify Vatican City as the world’s smallest country. Today’s trivia: What was the closest election in U.S. Senate history (ultimately forcing a re-vote)? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter @AnthonyAdragna, @Morning_Energy, and @POLITICOPro.
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COUNTRIES AGREE TO REDUCE COOLANTS TO REDUCE WARMING: More than 150 nations agreed over the weekend at talks in Kigali, Rwanda, to a plan to halt growth in the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a coolant that exacerbates global warming. It took an all-night push from high-level ministers, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of State John Kerry, but at 6:55 a.m. Rwanda time (12:55 a.m. ET) on Saturday morning, negotiators were ready to announce an agreement that would amend the Montreal Protocol to regulate HFCs. “These steps show that, while diplomacy is never easy, we can work together to leave our children a planet that is safer, more prosperous, more secure, and more free than the one that was left for us,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
A three track system: Negotiators finalized a deal that would create three different phase-down timelines for different groups of countries. Developed nations, including the U.S. and the EU, will start stepping down HFCs in 2019. Most developing nations, including China and Brazil, will freeze HFCs in 2024, and a smaller group, led by India, will freeze HFC use in 2028. The entire agreement will avoid just less than half a degree Celsius of global warming by 2100, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is the biggest step to protect against catastrophic climate change that countries have taken in the year since the landmark Paris agreement,” David Doniger, NRDC’s climate and clean air program director, wrote in the post.
Like Paris, but with teeth: The Montreal Protocol amendment marks the third major climate agreement struck over the last 12 months, including a deal to limit aviation emissions and the Paris climate agreement. But unlike the Paris deal, which largely depends on voluntary measures and did not require Senate approval, the Montreal Protocol amendment comes with strict monitoring and targeted trade sanctions should parties fail to comply because it updates the 1987 treaty, which the Senate has already ratified.
Industry on board: Rich nations use the vast majority of HFCs, but most of the growth in HFC use is expected in the developing world. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, which represents manufacturers of commercial freezers, refrigerators, and air conditioners, welcomed the deal. “While the freeze dates and step down levels are ambitious, the … industry is confident we can meet them,” AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek, who attended the Kigali meeting, said in a statement.
SEC WON’T COUGH UP DOCS: The Securities and Exchange Commission is refusing to comply with a request for documents related to its investigation of Exxon Mobil from House Science panel chairman Lamar Smith. “The Commission generally does not acknowledge the existence or non-existence of an investigation unless and until charges are filed,” Mary Jo White, chair of the SEC, wrote in a letter provided to ME. Back in September, Smith asked for a broad array of documents related to the SEC’s probe into the oil giant’s accounting practices.
PORTMAN’S BIGGEST MISTAKE: At a debate with Democratic challenger Ted Strickland on Friday, Sen. Rob Portman named helping to confirm Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz one of his greatest mistakes in the Senate. The Ohio Republican, reliably leading in the polls, said Moniz promised to help get the uranium enrichment project in Piketon, Ohio back on track but hasn’t delivered on that pledge. “He’s done just the opposite. I’ve been very disappointed in the Obama administration,” Portman said.
JOURNALIST HEADS TO COURT OVER DAKOTA ACCESS COVERAGE: Journalist Amy Goodman is in court today where she faces up to 45 years in prison for allegedly participating in a riot, according to Democracy Now! “I wasn’t trespassing, I wasn’t engaging in a riot, I was doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters,” she said in a statement. The dispute even got the attention of Edward Snowden, who wrote on Twitter, “This reporter is being prosecuted for covering the North Dakota oil protests. For reference, I face a mere 30 years.”
BIG QUARTER FOR LABOR-ENVIRO PAC: The For Our Future PAC received about $29.2 million in contributions for the third quarter of 2016, most of which came from organized labor, Pro Labor’s Marianne LeVine reports. The group, which was created by labor unions and the billionaire Tom Steyer, received $5 million from the billionaire environmentalist’s NextGen Climate Action Committee. Most of the group’s cash will go toward person-to-person voter contact, according to a spokesperson.
TRUMP ADVISER TARGETS REGULATIONS IN GOP ADDRESS: Rep. Kevin Cramer, one of Donald Trump’s top energy advisers, touted on Saturday the House GOP’s plan to require congressional approval of all major regulations and cap the total costs of regulations that can be imposed annually. “Unelected bureaucrats should not have the final say—the people and their representatives should,” Cramer said in the weekly Republican address. “Over the last eight years, President Obama has led a regulatory onslaught the likes of which we have never seen.”
ENERGY CAMPAIGN AD ROUNDUP: An ad released Friday targets Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander for being the “same as Nancy Pelosi on imposing a national energy tax.” Meanwhile, the League of Conservation Voters said Friday it will spend almost $150,000 on an ad hitting Rep. Scott Tipton for trying to “offer up our public lands to out of state corporate interests.”
LOOKING TO MAKE NUCLEAR MAINSTREAM: Maria Korsnick, the incoming chief of the Nuclear Energy Institute, says she’d like to make the industry look more “politically correct” in order to draw greater support from the public and Washington policymakers, Pro’s Darius Dixon reports. Other major priorities for the group will be persuading FERC to approve financial lifelines to struggling reactors, convincing states to draw up nuclear-friendly energy plans, and trying to get Congress to tackle nuclear waste after years of stalemate. NEI estimates that 15 to 20 nuclear reactors are in danger of shutting down before their licenses expire, chiefly because they have become uneconomic in the energy markets amid a surge of cheap natural gas.
SPEAKER PELOSI?: It’s still a long-shot, but the potential for Nancy Pelosi to reclaim the Speaker’s gavel next year is by no means impossible, especially if Donald Trump continues to drag Republicans down with him, reports POLITICO’s Heather Caygle. “Democrats are salivating over the kind of progressive agenda they’d pursue with a Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and President Hillary Clinton. Several Democratic sources told POLITICO the wish list would likely include billions of dollars for infrastructure spending, potentially an overhaul of immigration laws, and bipartisan fixes to Obamacare.”
Pelosi gets a life: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended Hillary Clinton’s private comments that far-left environmentalists pressing her to renounce fossil fuels should “get a life” during a Sunday interview on CNN’s State of the Union: “I’m never good enough for the far left. And so, you know, I understand that. But that is their role. They are advocates. And they must be relentless, persistent and dissatisfied…As leaders, we have to make decisions hopefully that are sustainable with the boldest common denominator, not the least, but the boldest common denominator,” Pelosi said.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER: That’s the approach international trade ministers will be taking when they meet this week to tackle the thorniest remaining issues in the Environmental Goods Agreement, reports Pro Trade’s Megan Cassella. Negotiators from 17 World Trade Organization members gathering for the 17th round of talks this week will split up to discuss the most sensitive issues in small groups, a move aimed at spotlighting points of controversy with the goal of reaching a compromise by the end of the year. “With the political rhetoric on trade agreements growing more negative … trade watchers say the Environmental Goods Agreement is the one deal most likely to be completed before President Barack Obama leaves office.” It “aims to promote fossil fuel-free technologies like wind turbines and solar panels,” but a deal “will most likely come down to political tussles over household products like refrigerators and bicycles,” Megan reports.
BIG OIL — STIRRED, NOT SHAKEN: Thought big oil producing regimes like Russia, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members were buckling after more than two years of low oil prices? Think again. As POLITICO Europe’s Sara Stefanini reports, the message at last week’s World Energy Congress in Istanbul was defiant — yes, times are tough; yes, the world is going green; but no, that doesn’t spell an end for oil.
INTERIOR STILL WEIGHING RENEWABLE LEASING RULE: Interior’s Bureau of Land Management expects to issue its final rule at the end of this month or early November that will create a competitive leasing process and new rental rates for wind and solar projects on public lands. While environmental groups generally have supported the proposal, developers worry BLM could be creating a costly and complex process that will undercut the administration’s lofty goals of greatly expanding renewable on public lands.
MORE SEXUAL MISCONDUCT AT NATIONAL PARKS: A law enforcement supervisor at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area inappropriately touched two colleagues and made them feel uncomfortable, according to a report released Friday by the Interior Department’s inspector general. The case, the latest in a series of sexual misconduct incidents within the National Park Service, was then not properly investigated by a supervisor, according to the report.
— Elon Musk’s Wild Ride. Bloomberg.
— Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 Million BC-2016). Outside.
— How the Chemical Industry Joined the Fight Against Climate Change. The New York Times.
— NC Environmental Department says minimal coal ash release from Goldsboro power plant leak. WNCT.
— Ohio judge rules pipeline builder lacks rights to property. AP.
— BP to decide on first green energy investment for five years. The Financial Times.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!