Overnight Energy: Judge won’t shut down Dakota Access | Bloomberg funds anti-coal campaign | House bill on national monuments advances

Overnight Energy: Judge won’t shut down Dakota Access | Bloomberg funds anti-coal campaign | House bill on national monuments advances
© Greg Nash

DAKOTA ACCESS TO STAY OPEN DURING REVIEW: The Dakota Access pipeline can continue operating during a new federal review of the project's environmental impact, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in June ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers' review of the project was inadequate before it granted the permits necessary to build the pipeline, a decision that prompted opponents of the pipeline to ask him to shut off the route while the new review takes place.

But in a 28-page ruling issued Wednesday, he said the deficiencies in that review "are not fundamental or incurable flaws" and that the corps has such a "significant possibility of justifying its prior determinations" that the pipeline can continue operating.

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But Boasberg added that the government's review "cannot be reduced to a bureaucratic formality" and suggested he will reconsider "whether [regulators] have in fact fulfilled their statutory obligations" should legal challenges arise after the review is complete.

Dakota Access, which has a capacity of 470,000 barrels per day, has been operating since June. The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who have reservations near the pipeline's route through North Dakota, have opposed the project.

Read more here.

 

BLOOMBERG PUTS $64M INTO ANTI-COAL EFFORTS: Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg pumped a new $64 million Wednesday into his ongoing efforts to shut down coal-fired power plants.

A day after the Trump administration started undoing the Clean Power Plan, Bloomberg went to the Sierra Club -- which is getting $30 million of the money for its Beyond Coal campaign -- to make the announcement.

Bloomberg declared his actions Wednesday as a "war on coal," embracing a term Republicans use to attack clean-energy advocates, saying that the Trump administration and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating Overnight Energy: Watchdog probes Pruitt speech to mining group | EPA chief promises to let climate scientists present their work | Volkswagen manager gets 7 years for emissions cheating Scott Pruitt's year of environmental destruction MORE are wrong to say that the war is being fought mainly in Washington, D.C.

"These are the groups that are fighting the war on coal, and it's happening all across America, and they are winning," Bloomberg said of the groups receiving funds from his Bloomberg Philanthropies organization.

"The war on coal is a fight for America's health, for our economy and our environment, and our competitive place in the world. And it's a fight we're going to win, no matter what anybody in Washington says," he said.

"This is to save American lives and save the American economy. This is our future, and going in the wrong direction is just needlessly inflicting pain on all of us, and it has to stop."

Bloomberg, through his philanthropic group, has been the main financier of the Beyond Coal campaign since it launched in 2011. His $30 million commitment is in addition to more than $100 million he has dedicated for the anti-coal project in the last six years.

Since the Sierra Club launched the program, almost half of the nation's coal fleet -- 259 plants -- has shut down or committed to do so, according to figures the group tracks. That includes 11 plants since Trump's inauguration.

Read more here.

 

COMMITTEE PASSES MONUMENTS REFORM: A House committee approved a bill to reform a key federal conservation law on Wednesday, setting up a floor fight over the future of the president's power to declare national monuments.

The bill, from Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopRyan picks his negotiating team for tax cut bill Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments Five things to know about Trump's national monuments order MORE (R-Utah), would overhaul the century-old Antiquities Act, setting new limits on the president's ability to unilaterally preserve federal land and calling for more public input on potential new monument designations.

Bishop, a long-time critic of presidents' national monuments power, said his bill would reform a law with "worthy intent" and "honest purposes."

But he argued modern presidents have used the law to lock up too much federal land, taking away the potential for private landowners to use the land themselves.

"Congress never intended to give one individual the power to unilaterally dictate the manner in which Americans may enjoy enormous swathes of our nation's public lands," he said. "Overreach in recent administrations have brought us to this point and it's Congress' duty to clarify the law and end the abuse."

Democrats said the bill runs counter to the goals of the Antiquities Act because of the role it gives state and local officials a role in decisions over federal land.

They also accused Republicans of playing into the hands of industry groups, opposing legislation to establish conservation land and working to water down the president's monument-making authority.

Monument designations "run counter to industry plans to maximize profits by drilling and mining on every inch of land belonging to American people," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said.

"The Antiquities Act allows a president who values natural resources to protect them for future generations, at least until Congress can come along and provide legislative solutions."

Read more here.

 

PRO-TRUMP GROUP SLAMS GRID RULE: An energy policy think tank, whose political arm endorsed President Trump, is panning the administration's proposal to mandate higher payments to coal and nuclear power plants.

The Institute for Energy Research's Director of Policy Kenny Stein wrote Wednesday that the Department of Energy's proposal is "excessive and unnecessarily distortive."

The proposal, unveiled last month, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to require that electric grid operators pay power plants for their costs plus a fair return, as long as the plants have at least 90 days of fuel on-site, a quality only possible in coal and nuclear plants.

Stein said grid resilience is a real concern, but Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryPerry pictured with falcon, sword during trek to Saudi Arabia Trump promised ‘best people’ would run government — they upended it US oil and gas boom will actually help spur energy revolution MORE's proposal is far from the best solution.

"Like using a sledgehammer to swat a fly, this rule would end up causing enormous destruction even if it also managed to provide more resilient baseload capacity," he wrote. "Guaranteeing cost recovery for certain types of generation would destroy electricity markets."

Read more here.

 

FERC won't change deadline: FERC decided Wednesday to reject a petition by energy associations to extend the comment deadline for DOE's proposal.

Under the petition from numerous groups who oppose the rule, the comment period would be 90 days, with a 45-day period for replies, pushing it well into 2018.

But, in an order with no explanation, FERC denied the request. It is sticking to the total 60-day timeline DOE sought.

That means the initial comment deadline will be Oct. 23 -- 12 days from now -- with the reply comment deadline Nov. 7.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY I: Perry will testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY II: A Natural Resources Committee panel will meet to discuss Endangered Species Act and hydropower bills.  

 

AROUND THE WEB:

A former employee of a Hanford nuclear site contractor was awarded $8 million for retaliation and discrimination, the Tri-City Herald reports.

Michigan's health department is disputing a recent study, saying that water contamination in Flint did not cause significant increases in infant mortality, stillbirth, preterm birth or low birthweight, the Detroit Free Press reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Committee approves bill to overhaul presidential monuments power

-Judge will not shut down Dakota Access pipeline during new review

-Bloomberg pledges $64M for anti-coal initiatives

-Pro-Trump energy group blasts plan to help coal, nuclear

-EPA's 4-year strategic plan does not mention 'climate change'

-Trump's repeal of Obama's climate rule: What to watch for

 

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