Overnight Energy: GOP moves to reform Endangered Species Act

Overnight Energy: GOP moves to reform Endangered Species Act
© Moriah Ratner

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Congressional Republicans launched efforts Wednesday aimed at reforming the Endangered Species Act to make it more friendly for states, landowners, industry and others.

The debates in the House and Senate were on bills with specific, limited purposes, not the full-scale comprehensive reforms that Republicans and some industries have been craving.

Nonetheless, the GOP made it clear that they want to make significant changes to a law that they see as outdated, ineffective and unnecessarily costly for states and land users.

Democrats, meanwhile, see the proposals as significant threats to a bedrock environmental law and a handout to industries, including oil and natural gas.

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The House Natural Resources Committee discussed five bills whose effects would include allowing the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to use economic costs to deny listing a species as endangered or threatened, require the agency to prioritize input in listing decisions from states, remove the gray wolf from the endangered list and limit payouts of attorneys' fees in Endangered Species Act (ESA) litigation.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, meanwhile, debated legislation meant to boost hunting and fishing that has a provision attached to undo the gray wolf listing.

The Obama administration tried to delist the gray wolf, but a federal court reversed the decision. Provisions in both the House and the Senate would instruct the FWS to reinstate the delisting and declare that it is not subject to review by the courts.

"In short, the ESA doesn't work," said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHouse Natural Resources chairman pledges to retire after next term Trump's monument plan still shrouded in secrecy Greens threaten lawsuit over potential monument reductions MORE (R-Utah). "We have to find a way to reform it so that it actually solves problems, not just continues on the process. Hopefully, working with our colleagues in the Senate and the administration, we can lay a foundation for ESA reform that will do us well."

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), the top Democrat on the panel, shot back.

"The Endangered Species Act works," he said.

Read more here.

HOUSE PASSES TWO PIPELINE BILLS: The House voted Wednesday to streamline the federal permitting process for a variety of oil and natural gas pipelines.

The House passed a bill to designate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency for interstate gas pipeline permitting and require other agencies to coordinate with FERC and conduct simultaneous reviews.

Lawmakers also passed a measure to give FERC responsibility for permitting oil and gas pipelines and electric transmission lines that cross the Canadian or Mexican borders, such as the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

To the GOP, the bills fit within the theme of the week: removing barriers -- environmental or otherwise -- to production, transportation and use of domestic fossil fuels and other sources of energy.

But Democrats said the pipeline bills would exacerbate climate change by encouraging fossil fuel use, and that they would shortcut the environmental review process.

Read more here.

 

PRUITT SUPPORTS GREAT LAKES FUND: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has endorsed a House proposal to continue funding a popular cleanup program for the Great Lakes.

Pruitt told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Wednesday that he agrees with House lawmakers, who have written a bill to put $300 million into the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in fiscal 2018, the same as its current funding level.

Trump's budget proposal aimed to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes program, leading to bipartisan backlash among lawmakers, state leaders and others. But Pruitt said he "[understands] the investment that's been made historically. ... It's a continuing need and we have to see that it's adequately funded."

Read more here.

 

ICYMI: A House panel approved a bill late Tuesday night to cut the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) funding by $528 million but rejected several deep cuts sought by President Trump.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 on Tuesday to send to the House floor its $31.4 billion funding bill for the EPA, the Interior Department and other programs.

The committee rejected several Democratic amendments to the bill, including measures to strip out policy riders related to water regulations and the Endangered Species Act and a proposal to block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Lawmakers also voted down an amendment blocking the EPA from closing regional offices, a worry raised by lawmakers in the Midwest earlier this year but one the EPA has said is unfounded.

Republicans defended the spending cuts for the EPA, saying the bill allows the agency to pursue its "core" missions.

Read more here.

 

CNN TO HOST GORE CLIMATE CHANGE EVENT: will host a one-hour "global town hall" with environmental activist and former Vice President Al GoreAl GoreStop the loose talk about hurricanes and global warming Parties struggle with shifting coalitions OPINION | Midterms may provide Dems control — and chance to impeach MORE on August 1 at 9 p.m.

The event will be moderated by anchor Anderson Cooper.

"More than a decade after his documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' was released, Al Gore will discuss his latest film -- 'An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,' which dramatically presents Gore's premise that we are close to a real energy revolution and his efforts to work with the current government on bringing change," reads a CNN release.

CNN says in the live event "Cooper and members of a live audience will discuss with Gore how efforts to solve the climate crisis in the U.S. and around the world have been impacted by the Trump Administration's actions on climate and identify the way forward in the climate movement."

Read more here.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY I: Six Trump administration nominees face the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for a confirmation hearing.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY II: The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up its Energy and Water spending bill. Members unveiled the $38.4 billion bill on Tuesday.

 

Rest of Thursday's agenda ...

A Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee will hold a hearing on water infrastructure.

A House Natural Resources panel will hold a hearing on hardrock mining.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to override Gov. Chris Christie's (R) veto of a bill providing more information about oil-by-rail operations in the state, The Record reports.

Beijing is looking to cut its coal use and boost its reliance on renewable power, Reuters reports.

General Motors is promoting a new hydrogen-fueled electric truck fleet, the Los Angeles Times reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-House votes to streamline pipeline reviews

-Trump administration to drop $3M Harley-Davidson pollution fine: report

-GOP takes aim at reforming Endangered Species Act

-CNN to host 'global town hall' with Gore on 'climate crisis'

-EPA head backs funding for Great Lakes cleanup

 

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com and Devin Henry dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill