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Washington Week: Trump, Democrats to talk infrastructure, CEOs lobby on climate

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Washington Week: Trump, Democrats to talk infrastructure, CEOs lobby on climate

President Donald Trump is set to meet with Democratic leaders in the coming days for a second round of talks on a potential infrastructure package that could involve the energy sector.

Trump will welcome congressional Democrats to the White House on May 22 "to continue the discussion on rebuilding our nation's crumbling infrastructure," White House spokesman Judd Deere said. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are tentatively scheduled to attend the meeting, a Senate aide said.

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House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., leave the White House after an April 30 meeting with President Donald Trump about infrastructure.

Source: Associated Press

On April 30, Trump and Democratic leaders agreed to work toward developing a $2 trillion infrastructure package, although key details — including how to pay for it — have yet to be resolved. The president and lawmakers agreed to reconvene about three weeks after the meeting to discuss funding.

Schumer said Democrats and Trump agreed that the infrastructure plan would, among other things, focus on the U.S. power grid "to bring clean energy from one end of the country to the other." But paying for the agreement will be difficult, with Democrats more in favor of hefty direct federal spending than Republicans, who have previously advocated reliance on public-private partnerships along with increased federal, state and local spending.

Despite those hurdles, members of Congress are already offering ways the energy sector could benefit from infrastructure legislation. On May 15, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce released an infrastructure bill that contains $33 billion in proposed clean energy spending, including $4 billion to upgrade the U.S. electric grid. The committee will hold a May 22 markup of the bill, entitled the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow's America Act, or LIFT America Act.

CEOs to lobby for climate legislation

CEOs and representatives from more than 75 companies will gather on Capitol Hill this week to push for climate legislation, including to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions. The executives will meet with lawmakers on May 22 "to make the business case for a strong and effective price on carbon," according to nonprofit advocacy group Ceres, which is organizing the lobbying day.

Participating companies will include Microsoft Corp., NIKE Inc., Tesla Inc. and electric generator Exelon Corp.

Democrats' recent takeover of the House has raised attention in Congress on climate change, but partisan divides remain over how to address the issue. Many Democrats support a price on carbon, but GOP lawmakers are resistant to such measures, lowering the chance that such legislation would pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Trump lifts tariffs on Canada, Mexico

On May 17, the Trump administration announced that it will lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. At the same time, the U.S. is reducing import duties on steel and aluminum from Turkey to 25% from 50%, Reuters reported.

The decisions remove or ease tariffs the U.S. put in place in March 2018 due to national security concerns. The duties were set at 25% for steel imports and 10% on aluminum from most countries, with Canada, Mexico and the EU receiving temporary exemptions that were later eliminated.

The tariffs have bedeviled some energy producers reliant on steel and aluminum imports. In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce denied Kinder Morgan Inc.'s request for a tariff waiver to buy steel from Turkey for its 2-Bcf/d Gulf Coast Express gas pipeline in Texas, saying Kinder Morgan could find the needed materials domestically.

Lawmakers including Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, praised Trump's decision to lift the tariffs on Canada and Mexico, saying the duties were the biggest hurdle to Congress ratifying a revised North American free trade agreement.

US-China trade spat threatens LNG exports

In other tariff developments, the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China could dim export prospects for U.S. LNG shippers.

On May 13, China announced it will raise tariffs to 25% from the current 10% on $60 billion worth of U.S. products, including LNG exports to China. The rate hike, which will take effect June 1, is China's response to Trump's decision to hike tariffs on $200 billion in annual imports from China.

The rising trade tensions have alarmed U.S. energy producers, which are urging the two countries to eliminate the tariffs.

"Studies show that the U.S.-China trade dispute is hurting U.S. economy and consumers," the American Petroleum Institute said. "We urge both negotiating parties to quickly implement a comprehensive trade deal that would eliminate these damaging tariffs, so that American businesses and families can stop paying for this trade war."

Hearings set on renewables, mercury rule

Several energy-related hearings are scheduled to take place this week on Capitol Hill. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a May 21 hearing on U.S. renewable power and energy efficiency. Witnesses will include Daniel Simmons, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

On the same day, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight subcommittee will probe the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to rescind the Obama administration's finding that its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule was appropriate and necessary after considering the regulation's costs. The December 2018 proposal would undo the EPA's legal justification for the MATS rule, which the power sector has already invested billions of dollars for compliance.

Also on May 21, the House Committee on Appropriations will mark up its fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill for energy and water development. The legislation would provide $37.1 billion for the DOE, a $1.4 billion increase from fiscal year 2019 and $5.6 billion more than Trump requested.

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US Congress
May 21

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to examine renewable energy and energy efficiency in the U.S.

May 21

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will consider the nominations of Daniel Jorjani to be solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Mark Lee Greenblatt to be inspector general of Interior.

May 21

The House Committee on Appropriations will hold a markup of its fiscal year 2020 energy and water appropriations bill.

May 21

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on the EPA's proposal to find that its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are not "appropriate and necessary."

May 22

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing on H.R. 2741, the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow's America Act.

May 22

The Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on Interior's fiscal year 2020 budget request.

May 23

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on "Creating a Climate Resilient America."

Industry events
May 20-23

The American Wind Energy Association will host its WINDPOWER Conference in Houston.

May 21-23

The American Gas Association will hold its financial forum in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

May 21

The Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center will release a new report, "U.S. Nuclear Energy Leadership: Innovation and the Strategic Global Challenge," at the U.S. Senate Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.

May 23

The U.S. Energy Association will hold its annual public policy forum in Washington, D.C., with speakers including Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Notable stories from last week

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S&P issues sector-specific environment, social risk scores

Debate underway in New York over feasibility of Cuomo's Green New Deal

Dominion fined $14M for manipulating PJM's energy markets

Carbon capture advocates appeal to Senate for support to aid commercialization

FERC approves 4th train at Freeport LNG export terminal