Table Of Contents

    The first offshore wind farm in the United States has begun to generate electricity for the residents of Block Island, Rhode Island. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy via


    Congressional Stop-Gap Budget Ignores Trump’s Requested Cuts to Science and Energy Programs

    On May 4, Congress finalized a bipartisan deal to fund the federal government through September and avoid a government shutdown. The bill cleared both chambers and now awaits the President's signature. The stop-gap bill differs greatly from the budget outline issued by the Trump administration in March, particularly on funding for energy and environmental programs. The Trump administration’s “skinny budget” proposal called for a 30 percent reduction to EPA, but Congress’s budget would result in a one percent reduction for EPA, with some additional usage restrictions installed. The Department of Energy’s research offices were also targeted for steep reductions, yet these programs will see slight increases in funding under the Congressional proposal. However, the Trump administration is still proceeding with steps to diminish the capacity of regulatory agencies, including the removal of 3,200 of EPA’s 15,000 employees. In addition to ongoing executive actions to roll back U.S. climate policies, the Congressional budget contains zero funding for the Green Climate Fund and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    For more information see:

    Washington Post, Bloomberg, Inside Climate News


    Trump Administration Continues to Consider Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

    The consensus within the Trump administration is reportedly leaning towards backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which involves 195 nations. Top White House aides remain divided on the issue, with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calling for an exit, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson advocates for continued participation. Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed staying in, but suggested a “renegotiation” of U.S. obligations, though there is debate as to whether a reduction in emission goals may occur without violating the agreement. At the same time, the goals are national and non-binding. Even if the administration chooses to opt-out of the Paris Agreement, the process of formally withdrawing may take an additional three years. According to Paul Bledsoe at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy, “The Trump team seems oblivious to the fact that climate protection is now viewed by leading allies and nations around the world as a key measure of moral and diplomatic standing.” On May 3, General Denis Mercier, NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, told reporters, “If one nation, especially the biggest nation [does] not recognize a problem, then we will have trouble dealing with the causes [of climate change],” referring to the administration’s pending decision on Paris.

    For more information see:

    Bloomberg, Washington Post, Reuters


    Trump Expresses Openness to Raising Fuel Tax to Fund Infrastructure Projects, but Congress Stands in Way

    On May 1, President Trump expressed an openness to the idea of raising the national gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to pay for investments in highways and infrastructure. "It's something that I would certainly consider," said the President during an interview. The fuel tax has not been increased or adjusted for inflation since 1993 and currently sits at 18.4 cents and 24.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and diesel, respectively. The tax is a key funding source for the Highway Trust Fund. The shortfall has led to deferred maintenance on the nation's freeways, roads, and bridges, which can increase travel times, worsen safety, and amplify wear and tear on vehicles. The trucking industry, which bears roughly half the cost of the fuel tax today, would support a fuel tax hike if revenue went towards fixing roadways. Chris Spears, president of the American Trucking Association, said, "The cost of doing nothing is more expensive than a higher fuel tax." However, Republican leaders in Congress, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY), Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA) all remain opposed to a tax increase.

    For more information see:

    Associated Press, The Hill


    California’s State Senate Leader Unveils Pair of Ambitious Climate Change Bills

    On May 2, California’s Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn proposed legislation that would entirely phase out the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation in the state. The bill would also boost the state’s current plan to obtain 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 by an additional 10 percent. In 2015, around 20 percent of the state’s electricity came from renewable sources, while 44 percent was generated from natural gas. Natural gas industry representatives and environmental advocates each expressed concern with different aspects of the bill, but both raised queries about the degree to which consumers would have to pay for certain pieces of the infrastructure transition. A separate bill from Sen. de Leόn and Sen. Bob Wieckowski would swap out California’s current cap-and-trade program with an updated version. The replacement cap-and-trade program would run through the year 2030, or once the state reaches its 40 percent emissions reduction target, depending on which milestone occurs first. The updated program would also direct a portion of the revenue raised to the public through rebates, with the intention of benefitting low-income communities.

    For more information see:

    Los Angeles Times, Washington Post


    Severe Storms in the Philippines Bring Devastation and an Increase in Human Trafficking

    The chaotic and desperate conditions left in the wake of severe storms in vulnerable regions have allowed human traffickers to further exploit women and children. The Philippines is highly vulnerable to climate change and prone to extreme weather and natural disasters. Five of the 10 deadliest storms in the nation's history have hit since 2006. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan displaced over four million people and destroyed the city of Tacloban. Women and girls taking shelter in the Tacloban Astrodome were sold into sex work and forced labor in exchange for offers of food and other aid, creating a hidden humanitarian crisis beyond the storm's visible damage. Social workers with the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the city of Eastern Visayas reported a tripling in the number of trafficked persons there following Haiyan, but victims often go undocumented due to a fear of speaking up or an inability to escape. Individuals working to combat trafficking have observed a clear relationship between climate change impacts and the risk for violence against women. Romina Sta. Clara with the International Organization for Migration said, "We’re not just seeing this as a phenomenon in the Philippines. This is something that more and more countries in Asia and the Pacific will be affected by. That’s the reality of climate change."

    For more information see:



    Chinese Companies Are Facilitating the Expansion of Pakistan's Coal-Fired Electricity Infrastructure

    Chinese businesses are expected to invest $15 billion over the next 15 years to construct nearly a dozen coal-fired power plants across Pakistan. The development is part of the $54 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which features a mix of coal and renewable energy projects, transmission lines, and other supporting infrastructure. The Pakistani government says CPEC will lead to 16,000 additional megawatts (MW) of urgently needed generating capacity for the country, with three-quarters of that total coming from coal. Despite assurances that the new power plants would feature pollution and emission reduction technologies, environmental advocates and energy analysts have marked Pakistan's push for coal as a poor investment. Pakistan possesses some of the largest coal reserves in the world and is feeling pressure to improve connectivity and promote economic growth. Currently, only 67 percent of the country's population has access to electricity. The International Energy Agency predicts that Pakistan's average electricity demand will increase from today's level of 19,000 MW to 49,000 MW by 2025.

    For more information see:



    As Senate Considers Loosening Methane Capture Rules for Oil and Gas Wells, Residents on the Ground Urge Restraint

    Senate Republicans are facing a fast-approaching deadline to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal a rule directing the Bureau of Land Management to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production facilities on public lands. Away from Washington, individuals who have to deal directly with these rogue emissions are hoping the effort fails. Dan Schreiber's ranch in New Mexico is surrounded by 122 active wells and describes the persistent smell of methane emissions as the scent of "wasted money." In Colorado, former oil and gas industry worker Wayne Warmack points to cross-border methane emissions from New Mexico as motivation for a nation-wide regulation, noting even if one state has a strong regulation, the surrounding states may "not make for good neighbors." According to the Department of the Interior, enough natural gas to power 6.2 million homes was allowed to escape from facilities on public lands between 2009 and 2015. The Government Accountability Office calculated up to $23 million in potential natural gas royalty revenues are lost each year due to these leaks.

    For more information see:



    Nebraska Permitting Process Is Next Focal Point for Ongoing Keystone Pipeline Resistance

    The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline is shifting to the town of York, Nebraska, as the state convenes its first public meeting about the project since its authorization by the Trump administration. Over 100 landowners and environmental activists were expected to show up for the May 3 event. The pipeline's route will cross through Nebraska, as well as Montana and South Dakota where permits have already been granted. Nebraska represents one of the final regulatory obstacles to the pipeline's construction. The state's public service commission is ultimately in charge of the decision and is expected to issue a ruling later in 2017. Meanwhile, an estimated nine percent of the necessary Nebraska landowners have not yet reached a settlement with TransCanada to allow the pipeline to cross their land. Dozens of landowners in Montana and South Dakota were reportedly pressured into signing easements with TransCanada under threat of eminent domain. Opponents of the project cite the risk of leaks contaminating the bodies of water the pipeline would cross, including the Ogallala aquifer, a major groundwater source.

    For more information see:



    First Offshore Wind Farm in United States Yields Early Returns for Block Island Residents

    The first U.S. offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island stands to displace the use of diesel fuel to generate electricity in the community of Block Island, while reducing overall energy costs for residents. Millions of gallons of diesel fuel was shipped to Block Island annually to power four aging generators. The 1,000 residents of the tourism-oriented community currently pay the highest electricity rates in the country, at five times the national average (50 cents per kWh during the summer peak). Despite the high cost of offshore wind energy relative to mainland electricity rates, the initial cost of 24 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from the new wind farm will save Block Island residents $25-30 a month. Offshore wind may be novel in America, but Europe's large-scale industry has seen prices drop 46 percent over the last five years to an average of 13 cents/kWh (Europe's coal-fired electricity costs 9 cents/kWh). To cut costs, experts say the United States needs to develop its own offshore industry infrastructure and workforce.

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News


    Scientists Improve Techniques to Study Connections between Weather and Climate Change

    A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores ways to identify connections between day-to-day weather events and long-term anthropogenic global warming using rapid attribution techniques. Rapid attribution compares observed meteorological data with data generated from climate models. The study found that in its regions of focus, the days and months of the year typically expected to be the hottest are getting even hotter due to climate change. According to Heidi Cullen, the chief scientist at Climate Central, "[The study is] the first time that this has been done at this large scale. It helps us understand at this 50,000-foot level the way that climate change is already having an impact on temperature and precipitation." Rapid attribution techniques are still undergoing refinement and can encounter challenges when assessing highly complex extreme weather events (such as a wide-spread drought). However, the emerging methodology has the potential to help scientists better understand the relationship between climate change and weather patterns.

    For more information see:

    The Atlantic



    Letter to Trump Defending the Energy Star Program Signed by 57 House Members and Over 1,000 Organizations and Businesses

    Congressional Stop-Gap Budget Would Classify Forest Biomass as "Carbon Neutral," Drawing Criticism

    Bipartisan Congressional Bill Would Create a National Climate Solutions Commission

    Twelve State Governors Sign Letter Urging Trump to Stay in Paris Climate Agreement

    Atlanta Becomes 27th U.S. City to Set a Goal of Generating Its Electricity from 100 Percent Clean Energy

    Coalition of Environmental Groups Sues Trump Administration Over Offshore Drilling Policies


    Events and Briefings

    Energy Emergency Preparedness: A Critical Federal-State-Private Sector Partnership

    Monday, May 15, 2017

    12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

    Lunch will be served

    Room 334 Cannon House Office Building

    Independence Avenue SE and 1st Street, SE

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) invite you to a briefing about the key role played by the 56 governor-designated State and Territory Energy Officials, other state agencies, the private sector, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in mitigating the impacts of and responding to energy supply disruptions (of electricity, natural gas, and petroleum products). Such emergencies, often caused by extreme weather, can pose a threat to public health and safety and can cause lasting economic harm. According to the Congressional Research Service, weather-related outages cost the nation between $25 and $70 billion annually.

    The speakers for this forum are: David Terry, Executive Director at the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO); Kylah McNabb, Energy Policy Advisor with the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment; and Kelley Smith Burk, Director of the Office of Energy at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

    This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP.

    A live webcast will be streamed at 12:30 PM EDT at (wireless connection permitting)


    Writer and Editor: Brian La Shier