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Overnight Energy & Environment — Dozens killed by weekend tornadoes

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Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here:

Today we’re looking at the climate implications of the tornadoes that killed dozens this weekend, Vice President Harris’s electric vehicle announcement and an early draft of legislation that includes a provision opposed by Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinAmid multiple crises, Biden runs to NBC’s safe space with Jimmy Fallon Graham says Democrats must ‘quit lying’ about Build Back Better, calls for House to revote Child tax credit expiration adds pressure for Democrats MORE (D-W.Va.).

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: and Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Let’s jump in.


Deadly tornadoes hit six states 

A series of deadly tornadoes swept through several states on Friday night, killing dozens of people and prompting a federal response. 

The storms reached Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Kentucky was among the worst-hit states, with at least 74 people dead and 100 missing as of Monday. 

President BidenJoe BidenPublicist ‘not associated’ with Kanye West at time of election incident: spokesperson Trump teases 2024 run during Orlando event with O’Reilly Facebook exec says ‘people,’ not platform, to blame for vaccine misinformation MORE said he will travel to the state on Wednesday, receiving a storm briefing at Ft. Campbell and surveying damage at Mayfield and Dawson Springs, according to the White House.

He was also among those seeking to know more about the role of climate change, saying on Saturday, “The specific impact on these specific storms, I can’t say at this point. I’m going to be asking the EPA and others to take a look at that.”

On Monday, experts told The Hill that warm temperatures may have helped set the stage for the deadly tornadoes, but said they can’t directly attribute climate change as the source of the storms.

“It’s not that climate change caused the tornado,” said Walker Ashley, a professor and atmospheric scientist at Northern Illinois University. “It’s how it might have influenced what we call the ingredients necessary to produce the storm that of course went on to produce the tornado.”

James Elsner, a professor at Florida State University who studies the changing nature of the hurricane and tornado risks, compared the situation to blaming fog for car accidents.

“You might see that for example, when it’s foggy, there’s more crashes, but you don’t say the fog caused the crashes,” Elsner told The Hill.

“If you think about climate change as the fog, we can’t really say it caused the accident, but it contributes,” he said. “It’s increasingly warm and moist, but that’s not sufficient to produce tornadoes. It’s a necessary but not sufficient condition.”

Read more about Biden’s trip here and the potential role of climate change here.

Harris rolls out plan for EV charging network 

The White House and Vice President Harris rolled out a plan on Monday for building out an electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

A fact sheet the White House released on the plan relies heavily on the bipartisan infrastructure law and existing actions it has taken, but there are some new announcements as well.

Those include the creation of a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation between the Energy and Transportation departments, which will be tasked with implementing the charging network and other electrification provisions in the law.

What else? The law provides $7.5 billion to advance the buildout of an electric vehicle charging network. 

“People who live in apartments…might not have a private driveway where they can install a plug,” Harris said during remarks in Brandywine, Md.

“When we install public chargers, in rural, urban and suburban neighborhoods, we make it easier for people to go electric,” she added.

So what more needs to be done? The fact sheet also said that the White House will hold stakeholder meetings on the issue, and that the Energy and Transportation departments will create an electric vehicle advisory committee.

The Transportation Department will also publish guidance by Feb. 11 for states and cities to strategically deploy electric vehicle charging stations and will publish standards by May 13 to make sure chargers are functional, safe and accessible.

Read more about the announcement here.


Preliminary Senate Finance Committee text for the Build Back Better (BBB) social spending and climate bill released over the weekend retains a tax credit for union-made electric vehicles, despite objections to the provision by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

The preliminary text released by Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenChild tax credit expiration adds pressure for Democrats On The Money — Inflation hits nearly 40-year high It’s time for Congress to close the carried interest loophole  MORE (D-Ore.) includes a $4,500 credit for electric vehicles domestically produced in unionized facilities. The same provision was included in the House version of the bill passed in November. The text is not final and has not been submitted to the Senate parliamentarian.

The text released by the Finance Committee also retains a provision from the House bill that would increase tax incentives for use of carbon-capture technology, bringing it from $50 to $85 per ton of carbon pulled.

“Our package is historic. It would create good-paying jobs, lower the cost of raising a family, combat the climate crisis and reduce energy bills, build more affordable housing, and cut health care costs for families and seniors,” Wyden said in a statement.

Manchin, an essential vote in the 50-50 upper chamber, has spoken out against the tax credit for union-made electric vehicles in recent weeks, saying at a Toyota event in November that Congress “shouldn’t use everyone’s tax dollars to pick winners and losers.” However, the inclusion of the provision in the early text suggests that Wyden, one of the chamber’s climate hawks, will at least attempt to include the tax credit in the final Senate bill.

Read more about the preliminary text here.




And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Or maybe on-beat, if you want to really stretch the definition.


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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