Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — SCOTUS rebuffs bid to halt climate accounting metric

Greg Nash, The Hill

The Supreme Court refused to take up a request from Republican attorneys general to block the Biden administration’s use of the “social costs” of greenhouse gases. Also, the Interior Department is proposing new offshore wind leasing off California’s coast.  

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. 

SCOTUS won’t block climate accounting measure

The Supreme Court is rebuffing an attempt from red states to block the Biden administration from using a key climate accounting metric in its decision making.  

In a new order on Thursday, the high court denied the states’ request to review a ruling that enabled the Biden administration to use the climate impacts measurement. 

The order did not provide insight into the court’s reasoning. 

So what is this all about? The metric in question, known as the “social costs” of greenhouse gases, is a set of values that help the government calculate the climate costs or benefits of its actions.  

The Obama, Trump and Biden administrations have all used social cost values for greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, but the Trump administration put a much lower cost on their release. 

A higher cost of these gases may be used to justify taking more stringent climate actions, while a lower cost could justify actions that are less stringent. 

But, the Biden administration has met GOP pushback: Republican attorneys general say that their states are harmed when high values are used to evaluate potential oil and gas leasing on their lands.  

Since the states receive revenue from those leases, they may end up shortchanged if less land is leased because of the climate costs, the attorneys general argued.   

At their request, a federal court in Louisiana temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s use of the metric in February, but in March, that ruling was halted, reinstating the use of the social costs.   

Late last month, 10 Republican attorneys general asked the Supreme Court to once again block the administration’s use of the social costs. 

Read more about the case here.  

Interior proposes California offshore wind lease sale

The Biden administration on Thursday proposed an offshore wind lease sale off the coast of California, the latest in a series of sales as the administration seeks to build out renewable energy infrastructure.  

The lease sales, which are the first off the U.S. west coast, would take place in five proposed lease areas. 

Two of the areas are off the coast of northern California in the Humboldt Wind Energy Area, while the remaining three are off of central California in the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area.  

The proposed leases total about 373,268 acres and could unleash more than 4.5 gigawatts of offshore energy capacity, according to the Interior Department. That’s the equivalent of about 495 million LED lights. 

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already held 10 lease sales and issued 25 offshore wind leases in an area of the Atlantic stretching from North Carolina to New England. The proposed lease sale notice for the West Coast will last for 60 days beginning May 31. 

Read more about the proposal here.

TWO DEMOCRATS BACK SOLAR PROBE 

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) signaled their support Thursday for a federal investigation into solar panel components condemned by many of their colleagues in both parties.  

The Commerce Department investigation, announced in March, concerns allegations that panel parts manufactured in southeast Asian countries have been used as fronts for Chinese companies to avert antidumping and countervailing tariffs. 

The Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA) has said the investigation could devastate the U.S. solar industry, and allies in the Senate, led by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), have called on Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and President Biden to expedite the conclusion of the probe.   

Brown and Casey pushed back against the SEIA characterization of the investigation in a letter Thursday, writing that “it is troubling that corporate lobbying against a simple investigation would reach this level of mass hysteria if there was not some concern over what career civil servants at [the Department of Commerce] may uncover.”  

Read more about their letter here. 

SEC hopes to crack down on greenwashing 

New federal rules released Wednesday could help ensure that investment funds labeled as environment, social and governance (ESG) actually deserve the name.  

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a new regulation to combat the practice of “greenwashing,” the misleading marketing of unsustainable investments under the ESG label. 

If adopted, the measure would require funds marketing themselves as ESG-focused to disclose additional information to investors.  

A related rule also introduced Wednesday would require any fund that labeled itself as ESG-focused to put at least 80 percent of its money into such investments. 

“ESG encompasses a wide variety of investments and strategies. I think investors should be able to drill down to see what’s under the hood of these strategies,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in the statement. 

Read more about the proposals here, from Rachel and The Hill’s Saul Elbein. 

NOM NEWS 

The Senate late Wednesday confirmed Christopher Frey to lead the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.  

The senators voted 51-43 in favor of his confirmation. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) voted with Democrats in Frey’s favor.  

Frey is currently serving as the deputy leader of the office, and previously worked as a processor at North Carolina State University. He has also served on a number of EPA advisory organizations, including the Particulate Matter Review Panel when it was disbanded under the Trump administration

QUOTE OF NOTE  

Lawmakers met for the fifth time on climate and energy, but the outcome of their meetings is still uncertain.  

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) expressed openness to cutting a deal with some policies he opposes in order to undercut the possibility of a Democrat-only deal through reconciliation.  

Cramer called the possibility of a Democrat-only deal a “factor in our calculations,” but also noted that Election Day is coming up. 

He expressed opposition to tax credits for electric vehicles, but whether he’d consider a deal including them “depends on what I’d get for it.” 

WHAT WE’RE READING

And finally, something offbeat and off-beatThat’s what big brothers are for. 

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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