OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump says export terms for liquefied natural gas extended until 2050 | Dozens of facilities skipping out on EPA pollution monitoring have prior offenses | Green groups challenge Trump rollback of bedrock environmental law

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump says export terms for liquefied natural gas extended until 2050 | Dozens of facilities skipping out on EPA pollution monitoring have prior offenses | Green groups challenge Trump rollback of bedrock environmental law
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LNG IS BIGGER IN TEXAS: President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE announced Wednesday that export authorizations for liquefied natural gas (LNG) will go through 2050 and signed four permits for pipeline and rail transport of fossil fuels.

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The administration had already proposed extending LNG export terms through 2050, though it finalized the policy on Wednesday. The export terms previously lasted 20 years.

“The United States is now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas on the face of the earth,” Trump said during a speech in Midland, Texas.

“To ensure we maintain this dominant position ... my administration is announcing today that export authorizations for American liquefied natural gas can now be extended through the year 2050,” he added.

Trump signed four energy infrastructure permits, including two that allow for the transport of U.S.-produced oil into Mexico.

“I will sign four critical permits granting approval to vital pipeline and railway infrastructure on our nation’s border,” he said ahead of the signing. “This will include two permits allowing the export of Texas crude to Mexico, a giant victory for the workers of this state.”

The permits allow for the construction and maintenance of pipeline facilities between the U.S. and Mexico and also for the construction of railway facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border. His action also allows for the maintenance of an existing pipeline at the U.S.-Canada border.

And...Trump took the opportunity to hit Biden on energy policy

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Trump railed at length against the Green New Deal supported by progressive Democrats and warned of dire consequences for the energy sector if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Biden offers well wishes to Lebanon after deadly explosion MORE won the presidency. 

“The radical left … is fighting to abolish American energy, destroy the oil and gas industries, and wipe out your jobs,” Trump told the crowd, claiming that Democrats’ agenda would destroy the U.S. economy.  

“I don’t think Biden’s going to do too well in Texas. He’s already written it off,” Trump added, citing a unity platform between Biden’s campaign and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLongtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (I-Vt.), which includes measures to combat climate change that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Read more about the policy and permit announcements here and more about the politics of Trump’s remarks here

A CLOSER LOOK AT WHO’S NOT MONITORING: More than 50 facilities across the country that have faced enforcement actions for alleged Clean Water Act violations are among those taking advantage of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy that lets companies forgo pollution monitoring during the pandemic, an analysis by The Hill found.

The temporary EPA policy, announced in March, says industrial, municipal and other facilities do not have to report pollution discharges if they can demonstrate their ability to do so has been limited by the coronavirus.

The Hill first reported that 352 facilities have skipped water pollution monitoring requirements under the policy, which applies to air pollution as well. Of those facilities, 55 have faced formal enforcement actions in the past five years from either the EPA or state regulators.

“A significant number of these plants already have a history of violations and for that reason should be more closely monitored to make sure the violations aren’t repeated or that they are following the requirements of their consent decrees,” said Eric Schaeffer, former director of the EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement who is now executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.

Schaeffer’s group, which did its own analysis of the EPA data, found that over the past three years, 167 facilities, or nearly half of the 352, had at least one effluent violation, meaning they exceeded the amount of permissible pollution.

“Some of these facilities have a history of not monitoring or reporting discharges,” Schaeffer said. “I’d be a little concerned that any recent failures to comply with these monitoring and reporting requirements are just more of the same, rather than any result of the pandemic.”

The EPA’s implementation of the temporary policy followed requests from certain industries asking for relief from obligations they described as nonessential during the pandemic. Environmental groups later sued over the policy, arguing that polluters would be empowered to skirt the rules without proper monitoring.

Last month, top EPA enforcement official Susan Parker Bodine said in a letter to lawmakers that about 300 facilities with Clean Water Act permits had decided to forgo their pollution monitoring requirements under the temporary policy.

“To date, out of over 49,600 facilities with a Clean Water Act discharge permit, only about 300 facilities have used the COVID-19 code,” Bodine wrote, referring to a code that entities skipping their pollution monitoring were told to put into the EPA’s system. “This is about six tenths of one percent.”

The Hill’s analysis found that of the enforcement actions taken against 55 facilities over the last five years, a majority of them involved settlements or penalty payments.

Many actions were in response to recent violations, though some dated back to the 1980s.

The alleged violations also varied in size and scope.

The Hill’s review found that sewage and wastewater treatment plants appear most frequently on the list of 352 facilities, with more than 100 locations taking advantage of the policy that’s slated to expire at the end of August.

Industries that appeared frequently on the EPA’s list, which did not include facilities typically required to monitor other types of discharges like air pollution, were concrete production facilities and shipyards.

Sectors that are often targeted by environmentalists, such as fossil fuels and chemicals, make up a smaller share. The Hill identified about seven oil and gas facilities, six minerals mines or quarries and just a handful of coal mines and chemical company facilities.

Read more about the facilities and their histories here

SAYING NOPE TO NEPA CHANGES: The White House is facing lawsuits from two coalitions of environmental groups challenging its latest rollback to a bedrock environmental law.

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The Trump administration finalized changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) just two weeks ago. Environmentalists say the administration's actions gut a law designed to weigh environmental and community effects before roads, pipelines, oil and gas drilling and other major construction projects are permitted. 

The suits are being led by both the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Earthjustice, representing more than 35 environmental groups between the suits.

“The Trump administration picked the wrong fight,” Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney serving as co-counsel on the case, said in a release.

“They want to make it easier to silence people’s voices and give polluters a free pass to bulldoze through our neighborhoods. That’s why we’re taking them to court.”

The rewrite of the 50-year-old NEPA removes requirements to consider climate change before proceeding on a project.

Protocols for weighing concerns from nearby communities — often communities of color — would become far more complex.

It also opens the door for more industry involvement in reviewing the environmental effects of their projects or nixing reviews entirely for some projects that receive little federal funding.

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President Trump has called NEPA the “single biggest obstacle” to major construction projects.

But environmentalists have a long list of issues with the new rule, starting with how it was developed.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, which promulgated the rule, held two hearings on the changes — one in Washington and one in Denver. It also issued its rule four months after it was proposed, leaving little time to go through the more than 1.1 million public comments submitted.

Critics say those elements likely violate the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires the government to provide opportunities for the public to weigh in on rules and consider each comment.

“While the federal government has the ability to change policies, rules and regulations, it must follow the law, not cut corners, when it does so,” the SELC wrote in its suit.

Though technical, the Administrative Procedures Act arguments against the Trump administration have been highly successful in challenging rules spanning immigration policy to environmental rollbacks.

“We’ve seen the Trump administration lose on those grounds over and over and over again. You have to follow the law to change the law and they have just not learned how to do that,” said Kym Hunter, the lawyer handling SELC’s case, calling the violations “the most straightforward way the rule is problematic.”

The other arguments center around policy changes in the rule itself, which environmentalists argue are antithetical to the purpose of NEPA.

Read more about the lawsuits here.

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Loss of bees causes shortage of key food crops, study finds, The Guardian reports

Inside the rise of the green super PACs, according to E&E News

Record number of environmental activists killed in 2019, CNN reports

Puerto Rico’s power grid fails hours ahead of potential arrival of tropical storm, The Miami Herald reports

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday... 

Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining

EPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule

Lawmakers weigh increased telework as some agencies push federal workers back to the office

Hundreds of hazardous waste sites could face flooding in next 20 years: report

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:

2020 Global Tiger Day comes with good news, but Congress still has work to do, write Dan Ashe,Obama-era director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ginette Hemley, the senior vice president of wildlife conservation at World Wildlife Fund.