House lawmakers will have an opportunity to pressure oil executives at a hearing on Wednesday. We’ll also look at a proposed asbestos limit from the EPA and the EU’s move to sanction Russian coal
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Lawmakers question Big Oil on gas prices
Democratic lawmakers face a showdown with energy executives Wednesday over high gasoline prices.
Executives from BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell – as well as Devon Energy Corporation and Pioneer Natural Resources Company – will testify before the House Energy and Trade Committee.
The hearing is the second time executives from the four oil companies have come before Congress. In October, they appeared before the House Oversight and Reform Committee as part of a Democrat investigation into whether they had run a climate disinformation campaign.
Wednesday’s event instead focuses on high gasoline prices as Democrats have accused companies of price-gouging after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed up oil prices.
However, many analysts have cast doubt on allegations of irregularities, citing the so-called “rocket-and-feather phenomenon,” in which gasoline prices shoot up when oil prices are high but take longer to fall when prices fall.
The White House has pushed back on that idea, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying last month that “if gas retailers’ costs come down, they need to pass those savings on to consumers immediately.”
Visit TheHill.com Wednesday for more information.
The EPA proposes a ban on common types of asbestos
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday proposed a major step to limit exposure to asbestos, a carcinogen that kills 40,000 Americans every year.
The EPA proposed to ban the import, manufacture, processing, and sale of a type of asbestos called chrysotile asbestos.
Chrysotile asbestos, the most commonly used type of asbestos, is found in automobile brakes and linings, gaskets and other products.
Partisan differences? The move differs from a Trump-era asbestos regulation that aimed to require a federal license to manufacture or import certain products that used asbestos.
The Trump rule has been heavily criticized by environmental and health advocates for skipping a ban.
Asbestos has been linked to respiratory problems, including lung cancer; mesothelioma, a cancer found in the lining of the lungs and abdomen; and asbestosis, a lung disease.
Asbestos use has declined over several decades and most consumer products that previously used it have been phased out.
According to the EPA, chrysotile is the only type of asbestos currently imported, processed, or distributed in the United States
The agency also said in a statement that while its current proposal does not address past use of asbestos, it “evaluates” legacy use and disposal.
Read more about the proposed ban here.
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EU BANS RUSSIAN COAL IMPORTS
The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it would impose an import ban on coal from Russia as part of its latest sanctions package against Moscow.
The ban, worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) a year, “will cut another important source of revenue for Russia,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. According to the European Commission’s Eurostat website, as of 2020 the European Union relied on Russia for 19 percent of its coal.
Oil could be next: Earlier media reports on Tuesday had suggested that the new package could include an oil ban, with the President simply stating that the Commission was “working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports”.
Pointing out that the four packages of sanctions enacted by the EU so far “have hit hard and limited the Kremlin’s political and economic options”, von der Leyen emphasized the need to “further increase our pressure”.
“Today we propose to take our sanctions one step further,” she said. “We’re going to make them broader and sharper so that they get even deeper into the Russian economy.”
Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin here.
SAUDIS WANT TO RISE THE PRICES
Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil producer is set to hike prices in all regions as the kingdom’s market advantage grows amid the Ukraine crisis, beating an April record.
Saudi Aramco hiked prices for May shipments to Asia to $9.35 above the benchmark on Monday. The rise is $4.40 above the April level, which is a record itself.
The move came the week after OPEC+ decided to gradually increase oil production despite calls from the US to increase production. US prices, meanwhile, are expected to rise by $2.20 a barrel, while in northern Europe they are expected to rise by $3.00 a barrel.
While the surge is likely to have major geopolitical implications, it didn’t come out of nowhere, according to Giovanni Staunovo, a commodities analyst at UBS Group AG.
The official selling price (OSP) is driven by a number of factors ranging from local market conditions to refinery yields, he said, so a significant increase was already expected.
“Another factor that may also have influenced OSP pricing was the US government’s decision to tap into its strategic oil reserves,” Staunovo said in an email to The Hill.
Read more here.
ON TAP TOMORROW
- EPA Administrator Michael Regan will testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the agency’s budget
- The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing with testimonies from Exxon, BP, Chevron and Shell executives titled “Gouged at the Tank: Big Oil and America’s Pain at the Pump,” among others.
- The Clean Air, Climate and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold hearings to consider the nominations of Beth Pritchard Geer, Robert P. Klein and L. Michelle Moore to serve on the board of directors Benny R. Wagner becomes Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
WHAT WE READ
- Scientists sound alarm over US regulator’s new definition of ‘forever chemicals’ (The Guardian)
- Joe Manchin’s advice for testifying oil execs: fly commercially to DC (Bloomberg)
- Soaring utility bills threaten California’s climate goals (E&E News)
- Exxon signals record quarterly profit from oil and gas prices (Reuters)
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Visit The Hill’s energy and environment page for the latest news and reports. we will see you tomorrow