Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Officials tout climate agenda for Earth Week

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP

The Biden administration is making its Earth Day pitch, asbestos dangers are expected to linger despite federal action and Elizabeth Warren is warning that a lack of climate action would invite midterm disaster.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 

Biden to highlight climate policies for Earth Day 

The Biden administration says it plans to highlight several of its climate change accomplishments ahead of and on Earth Day this Friday.  

Tuesday: The administration is expected to provide an update on its efforts to tackle extremely powerful climate-warming gases called hydrofluorocarbons — which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now phasing down after a 2020 law required it to do so, senior officials told reporters Monday.  

Wednesday: The administration will highlight its clean energy accomplishments.

Thursday: The Department of Transportation is expected to make an announcement related to the bipartisan infrastructure law and helping states cut transportation emissions. Biden is also expected to visit Portland, Ore., to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure law. 

Friday: Biden will travel to Seattle, where he will “showcase how we are using mother nature” to help tackle climate change, an official said.  

The string of announcements and events comes as lawmakers struggle to reach a deal to advance climate legislation, leaving the administration’s climate agenda largely up in the air. 

The story so far: Last year, the administration and Democrats had touted their proposed “Build Back Better” bill that would have taken actions like providing clean energy tax credits and sought to incentivize industry away from methane leaks. 

Swing vote Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in December that he opposed the bill — effectively killing it.  

An official told reporters on Monday, however, that the administration is still pushing for a reconciliation bill, which would only require Democratic support to pass.  

“We are in touch with a wide range of members about a reconciliation package that will cut some of the biggest costs that families face,” the official said. “It’s going to fight inflation and it’s going to keep reducing deficit at a historic pace.” 

Read more about the administration’s plans here

US faces major asbestos problem 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently took a big step toward curbing asbestos use, but experts say that even with the new regulations exposure to the substance is expected to remain a problem for years to come. 

It has been estimated the substance lingers in more than 700,000 public and commercial buildings in the U.S., leaving millions of people potentially vulnerable, particularly maintenance workers, construction crews and firefighters. 

“It’s still a very real problem,” said Arthur Frank, an environmental and occupational health professor at Drexel University who studies asbestos exposure. 

What you need to know: Asbestos refers to a group of six types of minerals that are made up of very small fibers. It has historically been used in cement and roofing, though its use has dwindled since the 1970s after its health hazards became more widely known. 

Exposure to the toxic material can cause diseases such as asbestosis, which is lung scarring from breathing in large amounts of the fibers. It also increases the risk of developing lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the membrane that covers the lungs and chest cavity, as well as membranes surrounding other organs.  

Asbestos exposure has been estimated to kill 40,000 Americans every year.  

Earlier this month the EPA proposed a ban on six ongoing uses of a type of asbestos called chrysotile asbestos, prohibiting the substance’s use in asbestos diaphragms, sheet gaskets, oilfield brake blocks, automotive brakes and linings as well as other vehicle friction products and gaskets.  

Despite the ban on these uses, asbestos still lingers in many structures, including homes and schools.  

EPA spokesperson Tim Carroll said in an email that about 20 percent of public or commercial buildings, or 733,000 structures, contain the potentially dangerous type of asbestos that can be crumbled, citing a 1984 national study. 

Read more about the challenges here.

Warren: Dems must do more to avoid wipeout

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is cautioning Democrats that they must deliver more on their promises to avoid a brutal outcome in this fall’s midterm elections. 

“Democrats win elections when we show we understand the painful economic realities facing American families and convince voters we will deliver meaningful change,” Warren wrote in a New York Times op-ed published on Monday. 

“To put it bluntly: if we fail to use the months remaining before the elections to deliver on more of our agenda, Democrats are headed toward big losses in the midterms.” 

“Time is running short,” she writes. “We need to finalize a budget reconciliation deal, making giant corporations pay their share to fund vital investments in combating climate change and lowering costs for families, which can advance with only 50 Senate votes.” 

“Other priorities can be done with the president’s executive authority,” she writes. “It’s no secret that I believe we should abolish the filibuster. But if Republicans want to use it to block policies that Americans broadly support, we should also force them to take those votes in plain view.” 

Read more from The Hill’s Hanna Trudo. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Is there a possible link between New Jersey high school and brain cancer? (WABC
  • Inside Biden’s sparsely staffed, high-pressure environmental shop (E&E News
  • US calls on Australia to increase 2030 emission reduction pledge to help prevent ‘greater destruction’ (The Guardian

ICYMI

      And finally, something offbeat and off-beatA picture’s worth a thousand words. 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

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