Overnight Energy: Feds sued over fracking rule repeal | Perry says US ‘blessed’ with fossil fuels | Park Service gets new acting director

Overnight Energy: Feds sued over fracking rule repeal | Perry says US ‘blessed’ with fossil fuels | Park Service gets new acting director
© Getty Images

CALIFORNIA LEADS SUIT AGAINST FRACKING RULE REPEAL: California and a group of environmental organizations sued the Trump administration Wednesday over the Interior Department's repeal of its hydraulic fracturing rule for federal land.

Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: New controversies cap rough week for Pruitt | Trump 'not happy about certain things' with Pruitt | EPA backtracks on suspending pesticide rule EPA backpedals on suspending pesticide rule following lawsuit Overnight Health Care —Sponsored by PCMA — Spotlight on Trump drug pricing plan MORE (D), a frequent litigant against Trump, announced a lawsuit Wednesday, saying Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the law when it repealed the rule last month.

"They didn't follow the law. They didn't let the law or the facts get in their way in their zeal to repeal what was a commonsense measure. And so California was left with no choice but to take them to court," Becerra told reporters before filing the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

ADVERTISEMENT

A coalition of environmental groups also filed their own lawsuit against the rule in the same court on Wednesday, the first day it was possible to file cases.

"This is another case of the Trump administration putting our public lands and water at risk to pad the bottom line of the oil and gas industry," Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman said in a statement.

Interior referred questions about the case to the Justice Department, which did not return a request for comment.

The 2015 rule from the Obama administration set numerous standards for fracking on federal land, mainly in requiring companies to disclose the chemicals they use, standards for well casings and covering fracking fluid waste that's stored outdoors.

The rule was quickly criticized by Republicans and the oil and gas industry as unnecessarily burdensome and costly.

A federal judge halted the rule in 2015, and overturned it in 2016, saying the BLM did not have congressional authority to regulate fracking. An appeals court overturned that decision in 2017.

The Trump administration and Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeZinke blatantly disregards Trump’s opposition to ‘horror show’ elephant trophy hunting Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Yellowstone superintendent officially learned of dismissal through press release MORE targeted the fracking rule as part of their "Energy Dominance" agenda, saying it stood as a hurdle to domestic fossil fuel production.

Read more here.

 

AT DAVOS: PERRY CALLS US 'BLESSED' FOR FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCTION: Department of Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets DNC to reject fossil fuel company donations Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures MORE said Wednesday that the U.S. is "blessed" to provide fossil fuel to the rest of the world.

Speaking at panel on energy transformation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Perry said countries like the United States and Saudi Arabia were "blessed" for their abilities to provide fossil fuel globally and such countries help give the world a "better quality of life or better opportunities."

"We're blessed to be in counties with pretty substantial abilities to deliver to the people of the globe a better quality of life to those fossil fuels," said Perry.

He added, "I think when we have a bit of a surplus and a bit more feast right now than we do famine, I think that's good for the globe."

The oil production rates in the U.S. are currently at all time highs. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that average crude oil production in 2018 will increase by about 1 million barrels per day from 2017 levels. If true, it would be the highest annual average on record.

Last week, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said he foresees the United States becoming the "undisputed leader" in oil and gas production for "years to come."
But longterm numbers for oil production appear more bleak. Some outlooks for 2025 show production decreasing, which some fear would bring stresses on the energy market. Perry rebuffed those fears, telling the crowd, "we shouldn't buy into these terrible numbers."

 

Earlier Wednesday: 'Exporting freedom': In a Fox Business Network interview earlier Wednesday from Davos, Perry declared that by exporting fossil fuels, the United States is "exporting freedom."

The United States is not just exporting energy, we're exporting freedom," Perry said on "Mornings with Maria."

"We're exporting to our allies in Europe the opportunity to truly have a choice of where do you buy your energy from. That's freedom. And that kind of freedom is priceless."

The former Texas governor further cited the estimate from numerous sources, like the International Energy Agency, that the United States will become the world's top oil producer this year. It is already the top natural gas producer.

"I'm not sure anything since World War II has been any more dynamic, from my perspective, than the shift in energy supply, energy control if you will," Perry said of the domestic oil and gas boom of the last decade.

"The United States isn't about controlling a country with this energy. It's about literally freeing up our allies around the world, letting them know that we're going to be there for them. There's no strings attached when you buy American [liquid natural gas]. So that's world-changing."

Read more here.

 

PARK SERVICE GETS NEW ACTING HEAD: A National Park Service (NPS) official accused of helping Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder improperly cut down trees has been named the acting director of the agency.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the promotion of Deputy Director Dan Smith on Wednesday.

"Dan has a strong record of leadership in the National Park Service both in Washington and on the front lines as a superintendent of a park that tells the stories of some of the most consequential moments in American history," Zinke said in a statement.

"I can think of no one better equipped to help lead our efforts to ensure that the National Park Service is on firm footing to preserve and protect the most spectacular places in the United States for future generations."

A 2006 report by Interior's inspector general (IG) concluded that Smith, then a high-ranking adviser to NPS Director Fran Mainella, repeatedly pressured lower-level officials to allow Snyder to cut down trees separating his Maryland mansion from the Potomac River.

The trees were on Snyder's property but subject to an NPS easement for historic preservation. Snyder wanted to improve the view of the river, and Smith repeatedly met with him at his home as Snyder was trying to get approval to remove the trees.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park eventually relented, but the IG said that should not have happened.

Read more here.

 

COMPETING FOR SOLAR: The Department of Energy announced a new competition Wednesday to "re-energize innovation" in the U.S. solar manufacturing market, following the president's decision earlier this week to place tariffs on imported solar panel technology.

The challenge-based "American Made Solar Prize" would award $3 million to U.S. entrepreneurs focused on developing processes and products related to solar energy with a goal to "reassert American leadership in the solar marketplace."

"The United States possesses the talent, expertise, and vision to surpass the rest of the world in solar technologies and forge a new solar energy landscape around the globe," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a statement. "The American Made Solar Prize will galvanize our country's entrepreneurs, allow them to utilize technologies and innovations developed through [the Department of Energy's] early-stage research and development, and, ultimately, bring new American-made products to market."

Winners would be embedded in a program that would link them with the agency's 17 national labs and dozens of energy incubators in order to prime the companies for private-sector investment, according to the Energy Department's statement.

The announcement follows President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE's decision Monday to place a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels. China is currently the largest solar manufacturer.

The decision was seen as a major blow for America's $28 billion solar industry, which gets about 80 percent of its solar panel products from imports.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY I: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing at the Washington Auto Show on vehicle technology innovation, featuring representatives of auto makers and the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY II: Also at the auto show, the head of the EPA's air and radiation office, Bill Wehrum, will speak.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) signed an executive order to block permits for new wind farms in the state, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Saudi Aramco now hopes to make an initial public offering "when the time is right," and isn't sticking to doing so this year, Bloomberg reports.

General Electric Co.'s CEO said this year could be worse than expected for its power unit, CNBC reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

Keith Gaby of the Environmental Defense Fund says the EPA's budget has been devastated for years.

Former Montana Department of Revenue director Dan Bucks says Trump has been working throughout his time in office to subsidize fossil fuels.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Rick Perry: US 'blessed' to provide fossil fuels to the world
-Official implicated in Redskins-owner scandal named Park Service's acting director

-New DOE competition aims to jump-start US solar manufacturing

-California, greens sue Trump administration over fracking rule repeal

-Perry: US 'not just exporting energy, we're exporting freedom'