Overnight Energy: Zinke, Perry nominations advance | Expect drama over EPA pick Wednesday

Source: BY TIMOTHY CAMA AND DEVIN HENRY, The Hill • Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ZINKE, PERRY EASILY CLEAR COMMITTEE: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday approved two of President Trump’s energy and environment nominees on bipartisan votes.

Senators approved Rep. Ryan Zinke’s (R-Mont) nomination to be secretary of Interior and Rick Perry’s nomination to lead the Department of Energy. A handful of Democratic senators voted for both, and no Republican objected to either, indicating Zinke and Perry should have little problem winning confirmation when they go to the floor.

Zinke is seen as having more moderate views on public land policy than many Western conservatives. But he also supports energy development on federal land — including mining and drilling, something most Democrats oppose — and Dems appear to worry he will be President Trump’s point person for overhauling conservation laws to make that happen.

“The Trump administration has made it clear it wants to pursue an aggressive energy development agenda undoing reasonable protections on environmentally sensitive lands and waters,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said.

Perry, meanwhile, has backtracked from his 2011 promise to abolish the Energy Department, instead telling senators he’s ready to lead the research-heavy agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear complex.

Democrats insist that Perry should work against potential Trump administration cuts to the department, proposals that came to light the day of his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

Even so, Zinke and Perry both passed through committee easily, and quickly: senators voted without debate and within 10 minutes of the opening gavel on Tuesday morning so members could go to hearings for more controversial nominees.

The bipartisan vote — and the underlying Democratic furor over other Trump nominations — indicates both Perry and Zinke are likely to win confirmation when they go to the floor.

Read more about Zinke here, and Perry here.

WHEN WILL THEY GET A SENATE VOTE? Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), said she hopes the two nominees will move to the floor quickly, especially given Democratic anger over other Trump picks.

But she had no inside information about when that will happen.

“I wish that I could tell you that we’re at the front of the line, but I don’t know that,” she told reporters after the hearing.

“I think that the good, bipartisan vote that we had in committee will be attractive. I would think that leadership would want to get these nominees that are perhaps attracting less controversy moved through the process, but I can’t tell you that.”

EPA DRAMA TOMORROW: Wednesday’s Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to vote on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to go less smoothly.

Democrats have lambasted Pruitt’s nomination, questioning his acceptance of climate science and noting his work suing the EPA during his tenure as Oklahoma’s Attorney General.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member of the committee, asked Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday to delay the vote because Democrats are “deeply concerned” about Pruitt’s answers to members’ questions.

Barrasso declined the request, but Democrats on the committee were meeting Tuesday to discuss whether to boycott the hearing, something they did with two other Trump nominees on Tuesday.

If Democrats show up, expect a contentious, divided hearing over Pruitt and his agenda for the EPA, something that will foreshadow the floor fight over his nomination.

Read more about Carper’s letter here, and the boycott meeting here.

HOUSE TO VOTE ON RULES MEASURES: Also Wednesday, the House will vote on two Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenges to rules issued late in the Obama administration.

Members will consider a CRA resolution against the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which is designed to protect waterways from mountaintop removal mining. They will also consider a resolution ending a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation requiring more financial information from mining and drilling firms.

The stream protection rule could become just the second regulation in history — and the first in 16 years — to be repealed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to overturn regulations they disapprove of with a simple majority. There is a Senate version of the bill to undo it, and President Trump has indicated his support for the measure.

Environmentalists like the stream rule, saying it will protect waterways and public health in coal-heavy states.

But the coal industry says it will kill jobs, something Republicans warn against.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) called the rule “one of the most onerous regulations that has come out of the Obama administration.”

“Tomorrow, we’re turning the page on Obama’s war on coal,” added Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.).

The Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday key-voted the two rules, adding extra incentive for Republican support.

Read more here.