GOP Convention

E&E Daily's Koss gives behind-the-scenes look at energy, climate discussions

This week, as Republicans convene in Cleveland for their national convention, significant discussions on energy and environment issues are taking place at side events and in private meetings. During today's OnPoint, E&E Daily reporter Geof Koss, who is part of a team of five E&E reporters at the convention, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the role these issues are playing in the main hall and in side discussions.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to a special addition of OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. This week Republicans are convening in Cleveland, Ohio, for their National Convention. E&E has a team of five reporters on the ground, and with me today is E&E Daily reporter Geof Koss. Geof, thank you for joining me.

Geof Koss: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: Geof, day three of the convention Donald Trump has officially received the nomination. Broadly there has not been a huge emphasis on policies and issues. But get us up to speed on where we've seen energy and climate so far.

Geof Koss: Well sure. You know conventions are more of a pep rally than a deep dive into the nitty-gritty details of policy. But on Monday the ... their 2016 reform which includes a fairly significant section on energy and environmental issues. There are a lot of familiar themes there that sort of echo what they've done on legislation in recent ... really throughout the whole Obama administration: less regulation, more access to public lands, a greater role for states, permitting reforms and that type of thing.

One thing that was significant in there that was sort of new is there's a proposal to make EPA into a bipartisan commission which would be modeled on, say, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And that's significant because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission actually is a blended agency within the executive branch. And under their rules regulations are not subject to White House review.

So I think that gives Republicans a little more comfort from what they see as political interference in the regulatory process. And also the NRC also; the two political parties sort of take turns making recommendations for the commissioners themselves. There are five commissioners on the NRC. So it would give sort of Republican ... each have some say on who is actually leading that commission. That's sort of a new approach.

It falls short of, you know, Donald Trump's calls to abolish the EPA entirely. But it does sort of give you some sense of what they would like to do with the EPA.

Monica Trauzzi: And last night there were a series of speeches with energy references. Was there anything significant in the framing of those remarks?

Geof Koss: Well you know last night's theme was about the economy and making America work again. And there wasn't a whole lot of discussion of energy. There were a few references to the regulatory environment ... relations. Mr. McConnell you know made a reference to the Keystone pipeline, which is also included in the platform. You know he said Donald Trump ... that bill.

Some years Shelley Moore Capito did really address the war on coal, which really you know railed against the Obama administration and blamed for you know the loss of coal jobs ... interstate. That was probably the most ... of energy. Tonight Harold Hamm will be speaking, and my colleague Hannah Hess spoke with him yesterday and he promised that he'll be talking about energy some more tonight.

Monica Trauzzi: And so it seems that a lot of the emphasis on energy and the environment seems to happen -- or be happening in some of the side events occurring, also private meetings. And you've been covering all of that. What have you seen and heard coming out of these side events?

Geof Koss: And that's right. There are a lot of events where there is more in-depth discussion of policy. And there are people from industry and some other in Congress. You know a lot of people sort of have questions about what a Trump administration would look like and what they would do because let's face it, Trump isn't exactly a policy. ... You do kind of get some clues from people. You know Kevin Cramer, the congressman from North Dakota has been serving as sort of an informal energy adviser to Trump.

He was on a panel earlier this week, and you know he made reference to the fact that a lot of Western lawmakers aren't crazy about Trump -- his views on public land. He might be a little more prone to protection because he's a New Yorker. Congressman Bill Johnson was on another panel earlier this week and we actually spoke to ... and found out that you know he sat down with Donald Trump for nearly 20 minutes last week and he said that he basically made the case that we need a moratorium on rate relations for 60 months or so.

Harold Hamm -- You know there are a lot of questions about what role Harold Hamm could play in a Trump administration. Some people say he would be a good fit for the Energy secretary. And he was asked about that yesterday and didn't really ... on that. So you know there are a lot of interesting tidbits here and there. And there are some things that are starting to emerge. Bill Johnson, the Ohio congressman, put forth the name of Craig Butler, the head of the Ohio EPA, as a potential EPA administrator. Jay Faison, who runs -- who started the CleanPath Foundation -- the ClearPath Foundation, I'm sorry.

He -- you know we just had a meeting with him. He said that Jim Connaughton should have a role in a Trump administration, either at EPA or the Interior Department or the Energy Department. And Connaughton of course was the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality throughout the Bush administration. So ... gleans some information in tips and whatnot from people here.

Monica Trauzzi: And I know that right before coming to speak to me today you got out of a meeting with Jay Faison that you just referenced. And he's of course focused on conservative clean energy solutions.

Geof Koss: Yes.

Monica Trauzzi: Talk a bit about the conversation you just had with him and the role that he is playing at the convention and the discussions on energy and the environment.

Geof Koss: Yeah he's a very interesting figure you know. He's really preaching the gospel of clean energy. And he's spending a lot of time and effort on getting Republicans to push you know in all-of-the-above ... to get more focused more on sort of the clean side of the portfolio. One thing that I thought was interesting, and I think this shows that. He's having ... said that there are ... in the platform on nuclear power and ... power which they helped to get in there.

Also he mentioned this year alone he's sat down individually with 65 members of Congress to sort of flesh this strategy out. And I think he was on a panel yesterday with Marsha Blackburn, who is a member of the Energy and Commerce -- you know the congresswoman from Tennessee. And you know yesterday she made a comment about -- She was asked about climate change in the Republican position. And she essentially said that there is no climate change, that the globe has been cooling for the last 12 years or so, which I think scientists would dispute.

But Jay kind of -- His ... is on finding areas of agreement within the party. He didn't focus on the science question. He talked about technology and innovation. And this is what he's really trying -- He's pushing the party to embrace and starting to see some results. You know there's a bipartisan legislation in the Senate with Jim Inhofe and Sheldon Whitehouse, you know, who's a very pro-climate Democrat from Rhode Island. Mr. McConnell is on that bill. This is some sort of advanced nuclear power bill.

Yeah, that's sort of the example of the type of thing that he's doing. He's really working to find the areas and, you know, explore those and see some legislation emerge from that.

Monica Trauzzi: All right Geof, we're going to end it there. Great reporting as always, and I look forward to your continued reporting throughout the end of the week from the convention. Thanks for joining me.

Geof Koss: Thanks so much Monica. Take care.

Monica Trauzzi: And thank you for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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