Updated Feb 22, 2018

Scoop: Top Energy Department adviser to depart

Workers leave the Departent of Energy in D.C. Photo: Washington Post/Getty

Travis Fisher, a political appointee at the Energy Department who oversaw a high-profile electricity study, is leaving the agency, according to an administration official.

Why it matters: Departures of top advisers always matter. And in this case Fisher’s time at the agency was marked by controversy surrounding Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s divisive proposal to boost economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants.

Drilling down: Fisher oversaw a study Perry requested last year that found market dynamics — namely, cheap natural gas and renewables — were making nuclear power and coal plants less economically viable. That study ended up being much less controversial than some had speculated because it largely reaffirmed what most objective experts say. It therefore contrasted markedly with the subsequent rule Perry requested the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issue boosting coal and nuclear power plants. FERC rejected that proposal.

For the record: Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes declined to comment on Fisher’s departure, calling it an internal personnel matter.

The intrigue: Many observers had questioned why the staff report differed so much from what Perry ultimately asked FERC to issue. Fisher’s departure from the department is at least partly due to these differences in policy positions, according to a person familiar with the dynamics. Fisher was formerly at the conservative and free-market group Institute for Energy Research, and before that he spent seven years at FERC itself, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The bigger picture: Fisher’s pending departure is the third in a series among senior energy staff at the Trump administration, though they don't represent the senior most ranks at the Cabinet level. Other recent departures:

  • A White House energy adviser resigned last week over background check issues.
  • The Energy Department’s deputy general counsel left to go to a Texas think tank a couple of weeks ago, according to E&E (paywall).

Go deeper:

  • Fisher was a guest on the Interchange, a popular energy podcast, to talk about his role in the electricity study last summer.
  • The Hunger Games of Electricity, a Harder Line column of mine about the electricity conflict among different energy sources

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,094,068 — Total deaths: 58,773 — Total recoveries: 225,519Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 273,880 — Total deaths: 7,077 — Total recoveries: 9,521Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
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  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
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  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
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Government will cover uninsured patients' coronavirus treatment

Azar at Friday's briefing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The federal government will cover the costs of coronavirus treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a White House briefing Friday.

How it works: The money will come from a $100 billion pot set aside for the health care industry in the most recent stimulus bill. Providers will be paid the same rates they get for treating Medicare patients, and as a condition of those payments, they won't be allowed to bill patients for care that isn't covered.

More states issue stay-at-home orders as coronavirus crisis escalates

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on Friday as the novel coronavirus pandemic persists. The order goes into effect Saturday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through April 30. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also issued a statewide social distancing order on Friday.

The big picture: In a matter of weeks, the number of states that issued orders nearly quadrupled, affecting almost 300 million Americans.

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