Overnight Energy: DHS waives environmental rules to start border wall | Court revives protections for gray wolf | States sue EPA over ozone rule

Overnight Energy: DHS waives environmental rules to start border wall | Court revives protections for gray wolf | States sue EPA over ozone rule
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DHS WAIVES ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS FOR WALL: The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is waiving dozens of environmental laws for construction of the president's wall along the border with Mexico.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cited its authority under a 2006 law to set aside environmental laws and rules when necessary for border infrastructure.

The decision, signed by then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last week, applies to a 15-mile border segment in the area of San Diego, where DHS plans to upgrade fencing and build border wall prototypes, among other projects.

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Kelly was named White House chief of staff last week after signing the decision, which will appear Wednesday in the Federal Register.

The San Diego border area "remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads," DHS said in a statement.

"While the waiver eliminates DHS's obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, the department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects," it said. "DHS has been coordinating and consulting -- and intends to continue doing so -- with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible."

The notice exempts the border infrastructure projects from complying with major laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, among dozens of others.

Read more here.

 

BIG WIN FOR THE GRAY WOLF: A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled against the Interior Department's 2011 decision to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the Fish and Wildlife Service "failed to reasonably analyze or consider two significant aspects of the rule -- the impacts of partial delisting and of historical range loss on the already-listed species." The court vacated the decision, restoring protections for the wolves.

Regulators in 2011 delisted the gray wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, arguing that the populations there were "significant" and that disease and humans did not pose a threat to the wolves.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sued over the decision, and in 2014 a federal district court ruled against the delisting effort.

The group said that Tuesday's court decision should preempt any congressional action to codify the 2011 delisting decision.

"A federal appeals court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed," said Jonathan Lovvorn HSUS's senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation."

"Congress should respect the ruling relating to the management of wolves in the Great Lakes and allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to re-examine the broader conservation questions raised by the courts."

Read more here.

 

EPA SIGNS OFF ON PLAN TO FORGIVE FLINT DEBT: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday concurred with a Michigan plan to forgive $20.7 million in federal drinking water fund debts owed by Flint, Mich.

Flint incurred the debt through four Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans issued between 1999 and 2003. As part of a state and federal effort to help the city recover from its drinking water crisis, Michigan in May proposed forgiving that debt.

A government spending bill signed by President Trump in May directed the EPA to grant that request, something it did on Tuesday.

"Forgiving Flint's past debt will better protect public health and reduce the costs associated with maintaining the city's water system over time," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

"Forgiving the city's debt will ensure that Flint will not need to resume payments on the loan, allowing progress toward updating Flint's water system to continue."

Read more here.

 

STATES SUE OVER EPA OZONE DELAY: Sixteen attorneys general are suing the EPA over its decision to delay implementation of an ozone pollution rule.

"By illegally blocking these vital clean air protections, Administrator [Scott] Pruitt is endangering the health and safety of millions," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) said in a Tuesday statement.

"But attorneys general have made clear: we won't hesitate to fight back to protect our residents and our states."

EPA Administrator Pruitt announced in June that the agency would delay the start date for the agency's 2015 ozone standards until October 2018.

The agency was previously scheduled to finalize its list of areas that fall short of the standards by this October. But Pruitt told state governors in a June letter that the agency is instead "committed to working with states and local officials to effectively implement the ozone standard in a manner that is supportive of air quality improvement efforts without interfering with local decisions or impeding economic growth."

Read more here.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: A Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee panel will hold a hearing on drought preparedness.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the FBI headquarters consolidation project.

 

Rest of Wednesday's schedule...

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement will host an event to discuss changes to oil spill preparedness since the Exxon Valdez incident.

Solar industry groups will hold a Capitol Hill event on the future of job growth in the sector. 

 

AROUND THE WEB: Southern California Gas Co. resumed natural gas injections into its Aliso Canyon storage facility near Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The ACLU is defending "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" in a defamation suit brought against the show by Murray Energy head Robert Murray, the Hollywood Reporter reports.

Archeologists say climate change is damaging historic Seminole sites in Florida, the Miami New Times reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-Top EPA official resigns over direction of agency under Trump

-States sue EPA over ozone rule delay

-EPA approves Michigan plan to forgive $21M in Flint debts

-DHS waives environmental laws to speed border wall construction

-W.Va. lawmaker hits GOP primary rival for late Trump endorsement

-Court rules against gray wolf Endangered Species Act delisting

 

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