- The Interior Department acknowledged that staff intentionally excluded some meetings due to “internal protocol” from the public calendar of now-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that he had with fossil fuel, water and other interests and confirmed that he continues to use one Google document for scheduling that has often been overwritten by staff. Separately, the agency’s internal watchdog said it has launched an inquiry into Bernhardt’s “potential conflicts of interest and other violations.”
- Mary Kendall, deputy inspector general of the Interior Department, will voluntarily step down in May to become deputy inspector general of The National Railroad Passenger Corp., or Amtrak, according to Nancy DiPaolo, spokeswoman for Interior’s internal watchdog.
- Bernhardt met in April 2018 with Marc Kasowitz, a former lawyer for President Donald Trump, whose law firm was working with the Schaghticoke tribal nation at the time in opposition to other tribes’ requests to operate a casino in Connecticut, according to agency documents. Bernhardt’s predecessor, Ryan Zinke, is reportedly under investigation by a grand jury over his role in blocking tribes’ requests to run the casino.
- Energy Secretary Rick Perry is finalizing the timing and details of his departure from the Trump administration, including preparing Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette for the transition, according to two people familiar with the plan, while three sources said his exit is not imminent but that Perry has mulled leaving for weeks. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said Perry is not leaving any time soon.
- The Environmental Protection Agency will not regulate pollution that enters surface waters from underlying groundwater, the agency said in an interpretive statement, explaining that passage through groundwater “breaks the causal chain” between the pollution and the surface water.
- The EPA also finalized a rule to “close the door” on new uses of asbestos, requiring companies to receive EPA’s approval to produce or import products into the United States using the substance.
- The U.S. Supreme Court denied a trade association and utilities’ challenges to zero-emission credit programs for nuclear plants implemented by New York and Illinois, leaving intact rulings last September that determined the credits do not intrude on the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Oil and gas
- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed legislation that gives the state’s municipal governments more authority over oil and gas project siting and directs regulators to emphasize public safety and the environment over energy production.
- Kinder Morgan Inc. is holding internal talks over whether to build a third natural gas pipeline in the Permian Basin, Chief Executive Steven Kean said on an investor call, adding that the company expects that gas takeaway capacity could increase by 2 billion cubic feet per day every year for the next few years.
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects total refining production to decline in April by 8.5 percent compared with the start of 2019 as U.S. oil refiners prepare to make plant overhauls in the second quarter. U.S. refinery maintenance tends to be higher in early spring and winter, but refiners are currently conducting more upgrades than usual to prevent autumn and winter shutdowns as they work to meet upcoming low-sulfur standards.
Corporations and climate change
- Microsoft Corp. said it will join the Climate Leadership Council advocacy group to promote a carbon tax, adding that it will reach its target of powering its data centers with 60 percent renewable power by the end of this year and will attain more than 70 percent renewable energy by 2023.
- Starbucks Corp. said it will passively invest in eight solar farms in Texas run by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Cypress Creek Renewables LLC and will buy solar power from two of the companies’ projects in the state.