Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court orders Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down | Energy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline | House rejects Trump cuts, proposes boost for environmental agencies

Greg Nash

IT’S MONDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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PIPES DOWN: A court has ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down, delivering a victory for tribes that oppose it. 

Judge James Boasberg on Monday ruled that the pipeline has to be shut down within 30 days while the Army Corps of Engineers works to prepare an environmental impact statement for a rule relaxation that allowed it to cross the Missouri river.

The court had ruled already that the Corps of Engineers had violated environmental laws when it gave Dakota Access an easement to construct a segment of the pipeline. 

The new decision determined that the easement should be overturned while the government works to rectify the situation. 

“Clear precedent favoring vacatur during such a remand coupled with the seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow for the thirteen months that the Corps believes the creation of an [environmental impact statement] will take,” wrote Boasberg, an Obama appointee. 

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued over the controversial pipeline, which crosses native lands and has drawn protesters from across the country. The 1,200-mile project carries oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” tribe Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

Pipeline company Energy Transfer said in a statement that the ruling is “not supported by the law or the facts of the case” and that the judge went beyond his authority in ordering the shutdown. 

“We will be immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes and are confident that once the law and full record are fully considered Dakota Access Pipeline will not be shut down and that oil will continue to flow,” the company said. “Shutting down this critical piece of infrastructure would throw our country’s crude supply system out of balance, negatively impact several significant industries, inflict more damage on an already struggling economy, and jeopardize our national security.”

And….another pipeline has recently been thwarted

Two energy companies behind plans to build a natural gas pipeline spanning from West Virginia to North Carolina and called the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) announced Sunday that the project was canceled, citing ongoing legal battles over its construction.

In a statement, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy pointed to a recent federal court decision in Montana ending the Army Corps. of Engineers’ authority to issue utility line permits across wetlands and bodies of water as a sign of the continued legal troubles the project faced before completion. The project was slated to be completed in 2021, and had won a permit battle at the Supreme Court earlier this year.

“The potential for a Supreme Court stay of the district court’s injunction would not ultimately change the judicial venue for appeal nor decrease the uncertainty associated with an eventual ruling. The Montana district court decision is also likely to prompt similar challenges in other Circuits related to permits issued under the nationwide program including for ACP,” the companies said.

“This new information and litigation risk, among other continuing execution risks, make the project too uncertain to justify investing more shareholder capital. For example, a productive tree-felling season this winter is a key milestone to maintaining the project’s cost and schedule,” they added.

Environmental groups had fought the project for years, with opposition to the pipeline cropping up particularly in Virginia shortly after the project was announced in 2014. The pipeline planned to carry fracked natural gas 600 miles across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Construction costs for the project soared from initial estimates of $4.5 billion to $5 billion when it was first announced to at least $8 billion, according to the news release.

Read more about the temporary shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline here and more about the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline here

DEMS SEEK TO UP INTERIOR FUNDING: The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee on Monday proposed a funding bump for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), soundly rejecting cuts proposed by President Trump. 

The committee bill would increase funding for the EPA, Interior and related agencies by $771 million for fiscal year 2021, including a $304 million increase for Interior and a $318 million increase for the EPA. 

“With this bill, we reject the Trump administration’s pandering to the fossil fuel industry and disregard for the environment and public lands. Instead, we increase funding to preserve our landscapes, protect endangered species, and help prevent the worst impacts of climate change,” said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) in a statement. 

The $36.7 billion in funding is slightly smaller than the $37.2 billion the committee approved last year. The final budget approved for the agencies was reduced following a compromise with the Republican-led Senate. 

Meanwhile, a separate appropriations bill would increase the Energy Department’s budget by $2.3 billion over last year’s budget.

In his budget wish-list unveiled earlier this year, President Trump proposed a 26 percent cut to the EPA’s budget and a 16 percent cut to the Interior Department budget. 

He also proposed cutting the Energy Department’s budget by 8 percent. 

Read more about the appropriations bills here

MONUMENTAL NEWS: The White House unveiled an executive order Friday evening to create a “National Garden of American Heroes” that will feature statues of prominent Americans.

The executive order, which President Trump announced during a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore, comes as the nation grapples with calls to tear down Confederate statues across the country and address other racist iconography.

“These statues are silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal. They preserve the memory of our American story and stir in us a spirit of responsibility for the chapters yet unwritten. These works of art call forth gratitude for the accomplishments and sacrifices of our exceptional fellow citizens who, despite their flaws, placed their virtues, their talents, and their lives in the service of our Nation,” reads the executive order, which was disseminated by the White House. 

The executive order establishes the Task Force for Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes, which will be empowered to use funding from the Interior Department to establish the site. The task force has 60 days to submit a report to the White House detailing options for the creation of the National Garden, including potential locations. 

The executive order says the garden will include statues of John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson and Harriet Tubman, among others.

The garden will also “separately maintain a collection of statues for temporary display at appropriate sites around the United States that are accessible to the general public.”

Under the order, the garden will be open prior to July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence.

Read more about the executive order here.

PENDING NOMINATION: President Trump’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management is expected to come under tough scrutiny during the Senate confirmation process, posing a test for vulnerable GOP senators.

The nominee, William Perry Pendley, has a record of opposing public land ownership while also dismissing the science behind climate change. He also has a 17-page recusal list highlighting the number of people, companies and advocacy groups he must avoid while working at the agency.

Trump’s decision to nominate Pendley, who has led the agency in an acting capacity for nearly a year, came as a surprise when the White House made the announcement last week. He’s been a lightning rod for public lands advocates who have long suspected that Trump hadn’t officially nominated him because he would fail to secure enough GOP support in the Senate.

A first test on that front will come when Pendley testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for his confirmation hearing. The panel has several Republicans who are up for reelection in western states, putting pressure on them to choose between bucking Trump or angering constituents who are public lands advocates.

The White House this week praised Pendley’s work to “increase recreational opportunities on and access to our Nation’s public lands, heighten concern for the impact of wild horses and burros on public lands, and increase awareness of the Bureau’s multiple-use mission.”

But in Colorado, where public lands have been a key issue in GOP Sen. Cory Gardner’s reelection campaign, Pendley has received a tepid response.

Speaking with Colorado Public Radio, Gardner said he would have “tough questions” for Pendley but didn’t say whether he supported him or if his record is disqualifying.

A spokesperson for Gardner told The Hill that the senator “looks forward to fully reviewing Mr. Pendley’s record during the confirmation process.”

Read more about the hurdles Pendley faces here


The House Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies will each hold a markup on proposed budgets for fiscal year 2021. 


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Jordan Cove natural-gas terminal exports formally approved, The Associated Press reports

Algae turns Italian Alps pink, prompting concerns over melting, AFP reports

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Warming waters could prohibit common fish from reproducing, study says


Carbon pricing is not enough to fight climate change, writes Alice Kaswan, a professor of Law and the associate dean for Faculty Scholarship at the University of San Francisco 

Tags Cory Gardner Donald Trump Nita Lowey

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