With help from Zack Colman
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— Environmental activists across the U.S. have adopted a local strategy to build momentum to ban single-use bags and other plastics.
— Several Senate panels will take a look at the president’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada this week, including the Environment and Public Works Committee.
— The Democratic governor of California unveiled a budget last week that proposes $12 billion toward climate change.
WELCOME TO MONDAY! I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino. 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.
Jonathan Whelan of Optony gets the trivia win for knowing former President Thomas Jefferson was the first to have a vice president older than him. George Clinton, his vice president, was four years older. For today: Which type of coal has the highest carbon content? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to email@example.com.
IN THE BAG: State and local policymakers across the U.S. have long pushed to nix single-use plastic bags. Yet, only eight states have successfully out-right banned them, thanks in large part to a deep-pocketed chemical industry that has opposed such efforts, Pro’s Samantha Maldonado, Bruce Ritchie and Debra Kahn report this morning.
To thwart that, U.S. environmentalists have adopted a strategy of winning hyper-local grassroots victories to build momentum to ban the bag and other plastics, the trio reports. That same approach helped California environmentalists win a referendum to uphold a bag ban in 2016 and, in 2019, legislation to phase out plastic hotel toiletry bottles — and now other states, like New Jersey, are following suit.
Nationwide, state lawmakers introduced at least 95 bag-related bills last year, including bans, fees and improved recycling, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. On the national level, former Vice President Joe Biden said earlier this month he backed phasing out plastic shopping bags across the U.S.
Leading the charge against bag bans is the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents the plastic bag industry, which employs nearly 25,000 workers in 40 states. The alliance, an independent division of the Plastics Industry Association, won’t disclose the size or source of its funding, the trio reports, but the industry association itself is a relatively small player in Washington, spending just $320,000 on federal lobbying in the first nine months of 2019.
Still, after years of environmental lobbying, only eight states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont — ban plastic bags. Fourteen others, including Florida, have moved in the opposite direction, adopting pre-emption laws to tie the hands of local officials, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“The industry is winning in heavy oil-and-gas states,” which typically lean Republican, said Jennifer Hensley, director of state lobbying for the Sierra Club.
DEM SENATORS URGE SHAREHOLDERS ON CLIMATE: A trio of Democratic senators urged four major Marathon Petroleum shareholders to exert influence to shift the refining company’s climate change lobbying efforts. The letters from Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.) to JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard cited Marathon’s push to thwart increasing vehicle fuel economy standards and an increase to caps on electric vehicle credits as misaligned with those investors’ stances on climate change. “As an investor with a stated commitment to climate action and a stated concern about climate risk, Marathon’s pattern of repeatedly opposing efforts to limit carbon pollution should be doubly concerning,” the senators wrote in separate letters, which also sought what the companies “knew about Marathon’s political behavior” on climate.
In response, Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheiry said the company engages with shareholders “on a variety of topics they bring to us, and will continue doing so.” Kheiry added: “Our shareholders are aware of our efforts to diversify our portfolio, including our substantial investments in biofuels.”
NEXT STEPS: House Natural Resources ranking member Rob Bishop is expected to announce today whether he will run for governor in Utah. Bishop (R-Utah) announced last year he would retire from Congress at the end of his current term, and has since mulled running for the governorship.
USMCA HITS THE SENATE: President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is slated for a series of hearings in the Senate, as the measure faces a 90-day countdown clock for Congress to approve or reject the deal. The Environment and Public Works Committee is one of several Senate committees this week to hold a markup on the measure, H.R. 5430 (116), following a Senate parliamentarian decision that the bill must obtain some form of approval from the EPW; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Appropriations; Foreign Relations; Commerce; and Budget committees before heading to the floor. Several Democratic senators, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Whitehouse, have said they oppose the NAFTA replacement plan over concerns that it lacks climate change consideration.
DOWN WITH HFCs? A bipartisan bill, H.R. 5544 (116), phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbons will be the subject of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. The measure tackling the coolant that is a powerful contributor to climate change has the support of industry groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as greens like the Natural Resources Defense Council. Still, GOP Rep. John Shimkus, a member of the E&C Committee, has said he won’t support the bill, and Senate EPW Chairman John Barrasso hasn’t committed to a hearing on companion legislation, S. 2754 (116), in the chamber.
BURN NOTICE: Several environmental groups, including Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, signed onto a letter Friday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper calling for the department to “immediately cease” its incineration of so-called forever chemicals. The letter points to Section 330 of the newly signed National Defense Authorization Act that dictates new requirements governing the disposal and incineration of materials containing PFAS.
The groups allege that DoD is in violation of those requirements, specifically that it has not ensured all incineration is conducted at a temperature range “adequate to break down PFAS chemicals while also ensuring the maximum degree of reduction in emission of PFAS,” as required. The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ME.
GAO TO REVIEW SMALL REFINERY WAIVERS: The Government Accountability Office will review EPA’s use of small refinery waivers under the Renewable Fuel Standard, after a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers requested a review in August, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports. EPA under Trump has dramatically expanded its use of economic hardship waivers for small refineries, a move that has infuriated biofuel, corn and soy interests. GAO on Friday accepted the review request.
NEWSOM UNVEILS BUDGET WITH CLIMATE FOCUS: California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a $222.2 billion budget on Friday that proposes more than $12 billion toward climate change, including a $4.75 billion climate resilience bond, Pro California’s Mackenzie Mays reports. Another $1 billion in his 2020-21 budget would go toward a Climate Catalyst Fund that will offer low-interest lending for environmentally friendly projects focused on recycling and sustainable agriculture projects.
The budget also tees up a possible takeover of Pacific Gas & Electric if the troubled utility’s bankruptcy exit plan doesn’t comply with a landmark law Newsom signed last summer, although it does not estimate how much that would cost, Pro’s Colby Bermel reports. “You think it was just words on paper; I can assure you, on the basis of my time off during the holidays, it was time on this issue, focused on what that would look like, what it would not look like, including a potential legislative play in the short-term,” Newsom said at a press conference Friday.
Not thrilled: Despite the climate-focused budget, some environmental groups criticized the governor for short-changing several existing programs that promote emissions cuts from transportation and in low-income communities, Debra reports for Pros.
PUTIN EYES 2021 NORD STREAM COMPLETION: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he hopes the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project will be completed by the end of 2020 or early 2021, Reuters reports.
Trump in December approved sanctions on companies involved in the project that would deliver gas from Russia directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea, delaying construction of the pipeline with one company suspending work to avoid being penalized, POLITICO Europe’s Laura Kayali reports. “We, of course, would be able to finish construction on our own and without involving foreign partners,” Putin said, speaking at a press conference after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel defended the pipeline and criticized U.S. “extraterritorial sanctions,” Reuters reports. Speaking at the same press conference, Merkel said: “I believe that this project is legitimized by new European regulation and that we therefore should complete it.”
6 DEMOCRATS TO DEBATE TUESDAY: Six candidates have been invited to participate in the next presidential primary debate in Iowa on Tuesday, marking the smallest — and least diverse — debate stage yet, POLITICO’s Zach Montellaro reports. The candidates: Biden, former South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sanders of Vermont, businessman Tom Steyer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Steyer’s addition to the debate stage comes as he has spent $106 million in advertising, which POLITICO’s Christopher Cadelago, Maggie Severns and Maya King report has “lifted him to new and surprising heights in Nevada and South Carolina.” The millions spent by Steyer, as well as by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, seem to be getting results, the trio reports.
Steyer on Sunday argued it’s his messaging that got him on the debate stage — not the millions of dollars he’s spent on advertising. “I am the only person in this race who will say that his or her No. 1 priority is climate, and I will attack it from the standpoint — from the very first day from the standpoint of environmental justice,” he said on CNN.
— “Australia turns from defense to offense in wildfire battle,” via Associated Press.
— “Denied both sales and aid, face of PFAS wonders how to survive,” via Bloomberg Environment.
— “House Democrats push environmental bills, but victories are few,” via The New York Times.
— “Ex-parks chief: NPS filled with ‘anti-public land sycophants,'” via E&E News.
— “U.K. police say it was mistake to call climate group extremist,” via Associated Press.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!