Kenneth J. Markowitz Stacey H. Mitchell Dario J. Frommer Christopher A. Treanor December 19 2022 Climate change policy update: fossil fuel industry, EPA's new climate fund and fusion energy Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP | Environment & Climate Change - USA Kenneth J. Markowitz, Stacey H. Mitchell, Dario J. Frommer, Christopher A. Treanor Environment & Climate Change Manchin's permitting bill: newest iterationRepublicans investigate Biden energy policiesFossil fuel industry accused of "greenwashing"EPA's new climate fundFusion energy breakthroughVirginia officially withdraws from regional carbon marketCalifornia's climate actionGovernor Hochul announces $52 Million in awards for regional clean energy hubsFTC seeks public opinion on "green guides" This article outlines pertinent legal and policy climate change developments in the United States during the past week.(1)Manchin's permitting bill: newest iterationSenator Joe Manchin released the newest iteration of his environmental permitting reform bill. Despite the update's several concessions to republicans, such as the exclusion of language that would enable the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to place electric transmission lines without state permission, republican senators have doubled down on their opposition to the bill.Republicans investigate Biden energy policies Representative James Comer, who will assume the House Oversight and Reform chairmanship in the new Congress, launched several investigations of federal agencies' climate policies. Specifically, Comer sent letters to:Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, regarding the Biden-Harris administration's approach to reducing energy costs and the release of strategic petroleum reserves;State Secretary Antony Blinken, regarding a "secret deal to boost oil production" between the United States and Saudi Arabia;Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, regarding the agency's methane rule; andSecurities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler regarding the environmental, social and governance rule.Fossil fuel industry accused of "greenwashing" Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee Representative Carolyn Maloney and Representative Ro Khanna issued a letter to the committee's membership detailing its ongoing investigation into the fossil fuel industry. The letter argued that the fossil fuel industry "greenwashed" its public image with promises and actions that oil and gas executives knew would not significantly reduce emissions – while the industry simultaneously committed to fossil fuel production for decades to come. The letter specifically calls out Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP's "failure" to invest in clean energy, despite approximately $100 billion in combined profits.EPA's new climate fundFunded through the Inflation Reduction Act, the EPA's new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will direct federal funding to non-profit organisations, which will divide the money among local lenders that specialise in green financing and community development lending. The fund's public comment period closed on 5 December 2022 and the letters largely argued over which organisations should receive the programme's general fund. Some comments advocated for a national green bank to oversee funding distribution, while others argued that non-profit organisations with relationships with credit unions and banks within disadvantaged communities should take the lead.Fusion energy breakthrough The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California recently made a breakthrough by achieving, for the first time, a net energy gain in a fusion reaction. While scientists acknowledge that fusion power is not yet ready to be scaled, the potential of the finding could provide access to clean energy that emits no carbon or radioactive waste.Virginia officially withdraws from regional carbon market The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board began the Commonwealth's withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with a vote of 4-1 with two abstentions. The board's vote will allow Governor Glenn Youngkin to initiate his proposed regulatory process for Virginia to leave the cap-and-trade programme. However, the legality of the Youngkin administration's regulatory action is in question.California's climate action Governor Gavin Newsom issued a press release highlighting the state's recent climate actions. The governor touted the California legislature's special session to hold greedy oil companies accountable, the state's first offshore-wind auction, the state's entrance into the National Building Performance Standards Coalition and a river restoration project in partnership with Oregon and the Yurok and Karuk tribes.Governor Hochul announces $52 Million in awards for regional clean energy hubs Governor Kathy Hochul announced "$52 million in awards to establish 12 Regional Clean Energy Hubs" in New York. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is partnering with community organisations to ensure "equitable access to the benefits of the state's clean energy transition".FTC seeks public opinion on "green guides"The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it would like the public to weigh in on potential updates to the Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Claims. These guides help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are deceptive under section 5 of the FTC Act. The FTC seeks to update the guides based on increasing consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products. "The FTC is requesting general comments on the continuing need for the guides, their economic impact, their effect on the accuracy of various environmental claims, and their interaction with other environmental marketing regulations. The Commission also seeks information on consumer perception evidence of environmental claims, including those not in the guides currently."For further information on this topic please contact Kenneth J Markowitz, Stacey H Mitchell, Dario J Frommer or Christopher A Treanor at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP by telephone (+1 202 887 4000) or email ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]). The Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP website can be accessed at www.akingump.com.Leila Fleming, public policy specialist, assisted with the preparation of this article.Endnotes(1) For further updates, including upcoming congressional hearings, federal agency climate news and events, click here. For the previous week's update, click here.