Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Backlash to Trump’s proposed EPA cuts grows


INDUSTRY, GREENS LINE UP AGAINST EPA CUTS: Tuesday saw a new wave of backlash to President Trump’s proposed 31 percent budget cut at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Some opposition came from a group of manufacturing companies and environmental groups, who wrote congressional appropriators to object to eliminating the Energy Star energy efficiency program.

“This voluntary partnership program … helps businesses, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, homeowners, and consumers save money by investing in energy efficiency,” wrote the companies and groups, including 3M, Johnson Controls Inc., Philips Lighting, Intel, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Alliance to Save Energy.

“Energy Star accomplishes several highly desirable goals at once: it helps consumers reduce high energy bills, promotes economic growth by stimulating investment in new technology, reduces pollution through cost-effective measures, and helps ensure the reliability of our electric system by reducing peak demand,” they said.

{mosads}Energy Star is a voluntary program in which companies can put labels on their products to signify that they meet certain efficiency standards.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Defense Fund released a television ad against the EPA cuts.

The ad says cutting the agency’s budget will lead to “more asthma attacks, more lead in drinking water, more health problems, more pollution.”

The campaign — a six-figure effort with ads running in Washington, D.C. and California, warns lawmakers to “be ready” to be held responsible for those issues should they vote to cut the EPA’s budget.

“We will fight to educate Members of Congress about the impact this draconian budget would have and will fight to educate the public about who is responsible if such cuts become law,” Elizabeth Thompson, EDF’s vice president for political affairs, said in a statement.

Read more about the Energy Star push here, and EDF’s campaign here.

WATCHDOG DINGS OFFSHORE REGULATOR: A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report is alleging numerous problems at the federal government’s offshore drilling regulator, including in its inspection and environmental stewardship programs.

In numerous previous reports, the GAO has said that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) suffers from problems ranging from revenue collection to employee retention and organizational restructuring.

“Leadership seems to be a continual problem at BSEE since its formation after the Deepwater Horizon incident,” Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), chairman of the House Oversight Committee subpanel with authority over Interior, said at a Tuesday hearing on the report.

“The GAO has found a disconnect — and more importantly, a distrust — between BSEE headquarters and its region,” he said. “This distrust has caused significant duplication and reduced the agency’s efficiency.”

The watchdog in its Tuesday report concluded that BSEE has made “limited progress” in the last five years in implementing reforms in how it oversees offshore safety and environmental compliance, including developing a “risk-based” approach to drilling inspections.

On the environmental program, BSEE implemented two programs to reduce environmental risk, but they were both overlapping and ineffective, GAO found.

Read more here.

EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS GROWING: Extreme weather events are pushing the Earth into “truly uncharted territory,” the United Nations’ weather agency said on Tuesday.

In a report detailing severe weather last year, the World Meteorological Organization warned that the prevalence of climate-related weather issues last year “made history” and has continued into 2017.

El Niño fueled extreme weather events such as receding sea ice and unusual hurricanes last year. But the agency said regular warming associated with global climate change has continued that trend so far in 2017.

This year, the agency noted, officials have observed three “Polar equivalent[s] of a heat wave,” where temperatures were close to the melting point. It noted nearly 12,000 new warm temperature records in the United States and unusual heat in Canada and Australia.

“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system,” World Climate Research program director David Carlson said in a statement.

“We are now in truly uncharted territory.”

Read more here.

VANDALISM FOUND ON DAKOTA ACCESS ROUTE: Authorities in South Dakota and Iowa told the Associated Press on Tuesday that they had identified vandalism along the Dakota Access Pipeline route, one day after the pipeline’s developers warned of “recent coordinated physical attacks” against the project.

South Dakota officials told the AP they discovered “felony vandalism” at a pipeline location southeast of Sioux Falls last week, where it appeared someone had burned a hole into the pipe.

Iowa officials confirmed similar damage along the line southeast of Des Moines.

In a status report filed in federal court on Monday night, Dakota Access attorney redacted several paragraphs describing work along the pipeline’s route, saying the then-unmentioned incidents “pose threats to life, physical safety, and the environment.”

Regardless of the vandalism, the company said it hopes to begin running oil through the pipeline sometime this week.

Read more here.  

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing on a bill related to ozone standards.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up legislation to modernize nuclear energy laws.

Rest of Wednesday’s schedule…

Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, will testify at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.


New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman went to the infamous Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn to talk to the press about the impact of Trump’s proposed EPA cuts, Gothamist reports.

Environmentalists and miners are sparring over a bill in Montana to protect streams and rivers from pollution from hard-rock mining, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports.  

One of Pennsylvania’s top utility regulators — and a potential Trump administration pick — accused natural gas pipeline opponents of a “jihad” Tuesday, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.


Check out Tuesday’s stories …

-Greens launch ad campaign against EPA cuts
-Watchdog piles on criticism of offshore drilling regulator
-UN climate agency: Extreme weather in ‘uncharted territory’
-Dems: Trump ‘ignoring’ rulemaking procedures
-Companies join green advocates in push to save efficiency program
-Repeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate
-Oil could flow through Dakota Access ‘sometime this week,’ company says

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

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