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Overnight Energy: Dakota Access fight enters new phase

Overnight Energy: Dakota Access fight enters new phase
© Greg Nash

'NO TIMEFRAME' FOR DAKOTA REVIEW: A government lawyer told a federal judge on Wednesday that he has "no timeframe" for a new environmental review of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

Asked by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg if he could estimate what the timeline might be, Army Corps of Engineers lawyer Matthew Marinelli said, "I'm very hesitant to do that."

"The Corps is just starting to grapple with the issues the court has identified," he said.

Boasberg last week ruled that parts of the environmental review of the Dakota Access project were inadequate, and he said federal regulators should reconsider the "impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial."

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He did not order oil to stop flowing through the pipeline, which came online earlier this month. Instead, Boasberg asked the government, Dakota Access developers, and local tribes to plead their case on that question in a series of legal briefs due to the court this summer, starting next month.

Given the briefing schedule, Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice lawyer representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the case, said he expects there will be a decision on the question of the pipeline's operations by September.

Read more here.

 

ZINKE HITS DEMS FOR SLOW WORK ON NOMINEES: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hit at Democrats on Wednesday during a contentious budget hearing, accusing them of "willfully" delaying the confirmation of his department's nominees.

"In my opinion, it's being slow-rolled, and it's not the White House," Zinke said in response to questions from Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan Trump drama divides GOP, muddling message MORE (R-Alaska) on the slow pace of staffing during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, the Environment and Related Agencies.

"That is a frustration, and I suspect it's being done willfully," Zinke added.

President Trump's pick for deputy Interior secretary is one of the higher-profile nominations yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

Democrats have raised concerns about David Bernhardt's past work in lobbying and his potential conflicts of interest.

Bernhardt served eight years in former President George W. Bush's Interior Department. He left government to work for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a natural resources law firm, where he earned at least $1.1 million lobbying for energy and mining companies, according to financial disclosures.

He has said he would recuse himself from decisions involving former clients for up to one year if he's confirmed.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee sent Bernhardt's nomination to the floor earlier this month.

Read more here.

 

METEOROLOGISTS VERSUS RICK PERRY: A group of weather scientists ripped Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Wednesday, saying that he lacks a "fundamental understanding of the science" behind climate change.

"It is critically important that you understand that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause. This a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence," the American Meteorological Society said in a letter to Perry Wednesday.

Perry told CNBC's "Squawk Box" Monday that he doesn't believe that carbon dioxide is the primary "control knob" for climate change. Perry said the changes are caused by "the ocean waters and this environment we live in."

The conclusion is at odds with most climate scientists, who have concluded increased greenhouse gas emissions, driven by human activity such as burning fossil fuels, are a driving force behind climate change.

Read more here.

 

INTERIOR AIMS TO CUT REGULATIONS: The Interior Department said Wednesday it will seek public comments on ways to "alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens."

The agency will publish a notice in the Federal Register asking individuals and "specifically entities significantly affected by federal regulations" to recommend "what Interior regulations may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification" because they impact jobs or are too costly.

The agency's request comes after President Trump signed an executive order aiming to reduce federal regulations that might impact employment.

 

GRID STUDY PUSHED TO JULY: The Energy Department's contentious study on electric grid reliability won't be available until July.

Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hays said Wednesday that the report is "nearing completion."

The draft will go to Secretary Rick Perry in early July, and it will be released publicly shortly after that, assuming it complies with his order.

The department had originally intended to release it late this month.

While it hasn't been released, the study is already highly controversial. Perry asked his staff to examine whether renewable power sources like wind and solar are harming baseload power like coal and nuclear by pushing them off the grid, and whether government support like tax credits is contributing.

Advocates for wind and solar say that the study appears to be set up to unfairly boost coal, natural gas and nuclear at the expense of renewables. But coal, nuclear and similar industries say it could give them the support they deserve.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY I: Zinke and Perry head back to Capitol Hill for their third round each of budget hearings.

Zinke will testify at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing starting at 9:30 a.m. Perry will follow that up with an appearance at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at 10:00 a.m.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY II: A Senate Commerce Committee panel will hold a hearing on marine debris in the Great Lakes and the oceans.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Miami-Dade County is the latest municipality to publicly support the Paris climate deal after Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the agreement, the Miami Herald reports.

Coal India, the world's largest coal mining company, said it will close 37 of its mines because they are no longer economically viable, The Independent reports.

Mylan, the drugmaker behind the EpiPen, has large coal holdings that allowed it to utilize tax credits that increased the company's net earnings upward of $80 million over the last two years, Reuters reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories...

-Senators grill Perry on Yucca nuclear waste plans
-Lawyer: 'No timeframe' for new Dakota Access environmental review
-Weather society to Perry: You lack 'fundamental understanding' of climate science
-Zinke hits Dems for delaying Interior nominees
-Obama energy secretary launches nonprofit
-Trump's Cabinet takes beating over budget plan

 

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