6:40 p.m. - NEW SANCTIONS TARGET RUSSIA’S ENERGY SECTOR. State-owned oil giant Rosneft faces new limits on access to U.S. capital markets. Click here to read our piece on the sanctions, which also target Russian banks and arms companies. — BG
3:00 p.m. - UDALL COMES OUT AGAINST BALLOT MEASURES THAT RESTRICT FRACKING. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who is facing a tough reelection battle, on Wednesday came out against ballot measures in his state that would give local governments new powers to restrict hydraulic fracturing. Udall announced his position after Gov. John Hickenlooper abandoned plans for a special legislative session aimed at creating a compromise on the topic that would keep the measures off the statewide ballot.
Udall said he opposes “one-size-fits-all” restrictions and that the proposed ballot measures don’t strike the right balance between environmental protection and developing abundant energy resources. The Associated Press, reporting from Denver, has much more here, while Colorado Public Radio breaks it down here. — BG
1:10 p.m. - UPDATE: EPA PUMPS THE BRAKES ON CONTROVERSIAL WAGE GARNISHMENT RULE. Due to what the agency called “the receipt of adverse comments,” EPA will not move directly to finalizing a controversial proposal that would have allowed it to garnish the wages of people who owed the agency money without a court order. The agency said the proposal was in line with the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 and would have been used as a last resort to collect debts, such as fines for violating regulations. But in a Federal Register notice today, EPA stated its intention to withdraw the direct-to-final rule, which would have taken effect in September. Instead, the agency will accept comments on the rule until Sept. 2, said agency spokeswoman Alisha Johnson.
The rule, predictably, attracted the ire of the right wing. Three Republican senators wrote a letter last week saying the rule gave an agency “prone to regulatory abuses with even more power over Americans.” And the House Appropriations Committee included language in its Interior and environment spending bill to block the rule. — JP
12:45 p.m. - LCV ENDORSES ANN CALLIS IN ILLINOIS HOUSE RACE. The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund officially endorsed Democrat Ann Callis, who is running to unseat Illinois Republican Rodney Davis. In a statement, league President Gene Karpinski said Callis “has a strong reputation as a reformer” and noted her support for investing in clean-energy technology and for fighting the dumping of toxic chemicals in her district.
Davis is a target of environmental groups for his skepticism of climate science and is seen as a potential Democratic pickup in the swing district. — JP
12:05 p.m. - KERRY TAPS EX-COAST GUARD CHIEF AS ARCTIC ENVOY. Secretary of State John Kerry has named retired Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr. as his “special representative” for the Arctic. The naming of Papp comes at a time when diminishing ice is expanding access to the region for shipping, and bringing both new competition for energy resources and environmental risks.
“The Arctic region is the last global frontier and a region with enormous and growing geostrategic, economic, climate, environment, and national security implications for the United States and the world,” Kerry said in a statement. The appointment arrives as the U.S. prepares for its stint at chair of the multinational Arctic Council next year. Papp, who served as commandant of the Coast Guard, retired in May. — BG
11:21 a.m. - EPA’S INTERNAL WATCHDOG FINDS NO SIGN OF BIAS IN FOIA FEE DECISIONS. EPA’s inspector general said in a new report that there are “no indications of bias” in EPA decisions about whether to waive fees for parties seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The finding rebuts conservative activists’ claims that EPA has a double standard of refusing to waive fees for their requests while routinely granting fee waivers to green groups. However, the IG report finds some problems with EPA’s FOIA processes. The report says EPA should clarify what information that parties should provide to justify their waiver requests. — BG
9:59 a.m. - OBAMA’S CLIMATE PUSH GOES FAR BEYOND EPA. We have a new story on the White House announcement of new executive steps to help boost state and local resilience to climate change. — BG
7:10 a.m. - WITH LOCAL FOCUS, WHITE HOUSE UNVEILS CLIMATE INITIATIVES. The White House will offer funding for disaster preparedness, rural electricity, and drought recovery under a number of new climate-change initiatives to be released today. The programs are the result of the 26-member State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness, which will hold its fourth and final meeting in Washington today.
The initiatives also include a previously announced $1 billion disaster resilience competition to be distributed through the Housing and Urban Development Department, which will offer money for disaster preparedness and recovery. The Agriculture Department will also award a total of $236.3 million to states to support rural electricity, as well as an undisclosed amount of money to help rural areas dealing with the ongoing drought. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will distribute $1.5 million under the Coastal Zone Management Act to examine how climate change may affect coastal areas.
The U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies will collaborate on a $13.1 million 3-D Elevation Program partnership to develop a three-dimensional map data meant to give local areas more information on the threats of climate change. — JP
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Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"President Trump informed Mexican President Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday afternoon that he will not pull the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite reports earlier in the day that he had considered doing so. ... The three leaders agreed to proceed quickly with renegotiation plans as the initial review process comes to a close."
"A new bill to revive a permanent nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev., fails to address the concerns of Nevada lawmakers, suggesting the latest attempt may not resolve a 20-year impasse over the issue." The state's congressional delegation "shared their opposition to the nuclear waste policy amendment during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing focused on the legislation," and promised that Gov. Brian Sandoval would oppose it at every turn. "The new bill aims to finally use some $31 billion that has accumulated in the Nuclear Waste Fund, set aside in 1982 to collect specifically for a permanent repository."
Despite bussing nearly every senator to the White House grounds on Wednesday for a briefing on North Korea, the administration didn't have much to tell them. Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley said he didn't learn anything he couldn't read in the newspaper, while Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth called it a "dog and pony show."