Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — EU agrees to oil ban — with an exception

AP Photo

The EU reached a deal to ban most of its oil imports from Russia, and the Pentagon is reporting some drinking water with high levels of toxic PFAS chemicals near its bases. 

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. 

EU agrees to embargo on most Russia oil 

The European Union (EU) on Monday agreed to ban most Russian oil after weeks of uncertainty over the plan.  

The EU will block Russian oil imports by the end of the year but exempt oil carried by pipeline. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she expected the embargo to cover about 90 percent of Russian oil imported into the EU. 

Hungary, which is landlocked and therefore can’t import oil via ocean, was a major hurdle to securing an agreement. The pipeline exemption is expected to mollify concerns from its prime minister, Viktor Orbán.  

The announcement was part of a sixth round of sanctions from the European Union on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. 

Read more here from The Associated Press.  

RUSSIA HITS SOME OF EUROPE’S GAS IMPORTS 

Russia is cutting off additional supplies of natural gas to Europe — this time impacting countries including Germany —  as the continent moves ahead with its ban on Russian oil.  

Russian company Gazprom said in Telegram posts on Tuesday that it would cut off gas supplied under a contract with Shell to Germany and under a contract with Danish company Ørsted and Dutch company GasTerra BV. 

The three companies failed to comply with Russia’s new requirement to pay for gas in Russian rubles, Gazprom said.     

In the meantime, companies will try to get fuel from elsewhere:

  • Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith said via email that the company has “access to a diverse portfolio of gas from which we will continue to supply our customers in Europe.”
  • Ørsted CEO Mads Nipper said the company has been “preparing for this scenario, so we still expect to be able to supply gas to our customers.” Nipper said that there is no gas pipeline that goes directly between Russia and Denmark, so Russia would not be directly cutting of the country’s supply. 
  • GasTerra said it “has anticipated this by buying gas from other providers” but also said that it is “impossible to predict” whether the European market can absorb the lost supply without serious consequences. 

Read more about the latest cutoffs here. 

High PFAS levels detected in water near bases 

The Defense Department is reporting high levels of toxic perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water near several of its bases, according to new data released by the department. 

Drinking water testing near bases in Washington state, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan found levels of the chemicals well above a health threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

A refresher: PFAS is the name for a group of thousands of chemicals, some of which have been linked to health issues such as kidney and testicular cancer and liver damage.   

The substances have been used in products such as firefighting foam, which is used by the military. For this reason, PFAS can be found near military bases and can contaminate nearby water.  

While it has long been known that PFAS have leached into groundwater near military installations, the new data provides an official glimpse into how it is impacting nearby drinking water. 

While the EPA has said that levels of two types of PFAS called PFOA and PFOS should not exceed 70 parts per trillion (ppt) — and states have called for even lower levels — findings at some of the bases far exceed that.  

One assessment from October found a sample of drinking water near the Naval Air Station at Washington State’s Whidbey Island contained 4,720 ppt of PFOS. In September, a sample containing 208 ppt of PFOA was detected.

Meanwhile, a drinking water sample near Washington state’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord Yakima Training Center was found to have 800 ppt of PFOS in January. A separate sample from January at the base was found to have 130 ppt of PFOA.

A sample from near Pennsylvania’s Willow Grove base was found to have 864 ppt of PFOS in October. 

Read more about the data here.

HHS GETS AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE OFFICE 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday announced an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) within the department to address climate-related health issues particularly affecting poor and marginalized Americans.  

The office, which will be under the aegis of the HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, will be responsible for developing the department’s broader environmental health strategies and coordinating its annual environmental justice reports, according to HHS. The department is seeking public comment on its implementation plan for the new office through June 18.  

Read more about the new office here.  

‘Eco-fascism’ targets old scapegoats for new fears 

Mass shooting suspects, including the man arrested for the recent Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store massacre, are increasingly invoking the so-called eco-fascist movement, which launders racist and anti-immigrant conspiracy theories through the lens of environmentalism. 

The Buffalo suspect, who has been charged with the murder of 10 predominantly Black shoppers at a grocery store, identified as an eco-fascist. Similar sentiments can be found in the writings of shooters in New Zealand and El Paso, Texas, who targeted Muslims and Latinos, respectively.   

As the climate crisis intensifies and leads to increased migration and political instability, experts say the problem is likely to get worse.  

In practice, the term refers to “a kind of political ideology that combines fascism with some kind of environmental or ecological focus,” said Matthew Lyons, author of “Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire” and co-author with Chip Berlet of “Right-Wing Populism in America.”  

Typically, Lyons said, this equates to scapegoating groups like immigrants and nonwhites for the climate crisis, environmental degradation and the depletion of natural resources.  

Eco-fascism is at heart simply a rebranding of a much older “murderous political strategy,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, and uses environmental concerns as a sort of Trojan horse for extremist ideas.  

“This is a movement that is looking for any avenue that it can get recruits or to enter larger political conversations,” she said.  “And the language of environmentalism, especially at a time of climate disaster, is a very clear way to do that.”   

Read more here.  

FOREST SERVICE TAKES BLAME FOR FOREST FIRE 

The Forest Service says it was responsible for both the blazes that merged late last month and created the largest fire in New Mexico history. 

The agency said Friday that its fire investigators determined the Calf Canyon Fire was started by a holdover fire, or sleeper fire, from a federal pile burn that concluded Jan. 29. 

Though crews monitored the fire for a couple days following the conclusion of the burn, the Forest Service said, it remained dormant and survived three winter snow events before it reignited and escaped containment lines in April and was “significantly” spread by a wind event. 

The Calf Canyon Fire then merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, which was also started by an escaped federal prescribed burn, to cause New Mexico’s biggest-ever fire. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Lexi Lonas. 


WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Allegations of industry influence rock mine safety commission (Politico
  • Biden wants to rebuild the EPA. He doesn’t have the money to do it. (The Washington Post
  • Does California have enough water for lots of new homes? Yes, experts say, despite drought (The Los Angeles Times
  • Companies Rush to Cash In on EPA Rules for Capturing Methane Emissions (The Wall Street Journal
  • How John Podesta and the Sunrise Movement Found Common Cause (The New Republic


ICYMI


And finally, something offbeat but on-beat: Wooldn’t you know it 


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. 

VIEW FULL VERSION HERE

Tags Ursula von der Leyen Viktor Orban
See all Hill.TV See all Video