Overnight Energy: Court tosses fracking rule lawsuit

Overnight Energy: Court tosses fracking rule lawsuit
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APPEALS COURT DISMISSES FRACKING LAWSUIT: A federal appeals court threw out a case Thursday over the Obama administration's federal-land fracking rule.

The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is already working to repeal the rule on its own, it isn't right to keep the lawsuit going.

The judges did not touch the merits of the case, which sought to revive the regulation after a lower district court overturned it last year.

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"Our proceeding to address whether the District Court erred in invalidating the BLM's fracking regulation when the BLM has now commenced rescinding that same regulation appears to be a very wasteful use of limited judicial resources," the court wrote.

In a victory for environmentalists who had supported the Obama rule, the appeals court vacated the Wyoming District Court's ruling from last year that the BLM had overstepped its authority and cannot regulate fracking on federal land at all.

The fracking rule was an Obama administration effort to update oil and natural gas drilling regulations on federal land. The 2015 rule won support from environmentalists, but drilling interests and some Western states said it would be costly to implement and create duplicative regulations.

The BLM formally proposed repealing the rule in July, after President Trump signed an executive order asking agencies to roll back unnecessary regulations on energy production.

Read more here.

 

DETAILS OF EPA ANTI-LEAK TRAINING LEAK: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees are undergoing mandatory classes as part of a Trump administration effort to stop unauthorized disclosures to the press.

"Enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm U.S. interests," according to a three-page fact sheet given to workers.

Materials given to some of the employees, which were obtained by The Hill, use stark terms to warn about the consequences of leaking information.

Few EPA employees handle classified information, but agency leadership is also trying to ensure that workers do not disclose "controlled unclassified information" (CUI).

"[F]ederal employees, federal contractors and specifically assigned personnel, have a special responsibility to properly protect classified information and CUI from any unauthorized disclosure," an EPA fact sheet stated.

Leaks across the government have angered leaders at all levels, particularly President Trump. At the EPA, employees have divulged policy plans, information about Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election EPA pushes forward plan to increase ethanol mix in gasoline Trump: The solitary executive MORE's activities and information about alleged discord among workers.

"It's ironic that we have an anti-leaking story that is rooted from a leaked memo," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said of the materials.

The training materials cover espionage and hacks in addition to leaks, with examples of each -- such as The Washington Post uncovering a "highly successful," and subsequently halted, program in 1972 that allowed the U.S. to intercept Soviet telephone conversations in limousines.

Read more here.

 

PUERTO RICO COULD GO MONTHS WITHOUT POWER: Officials in Puerto Rico are warning the island could be without electricity for up to half a year following Hurricane Maria.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told MSNBC on Thursday that the U.S. territory's 3.5 million people are "looking at four to six months without electricity" after Maria, a Category 4 storm, swept across the island yesterday.

"The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there," she added.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Wednesday that "we are 100 percent without power."

"We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history," he said.

President Trump issued a disaster declaration for the territory Wednesday night, a move that will speed up relief efforts following the storm.

The White House said that Trump "continues to direct all necessary federal resources to protect the people of the United States territories affected by Hurricane Maria and to support response and recovery efforts with respect to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma."

Read more here.

 

TEAM TRUMP HUDDLES ON CLIMATE: Trump administration officials met this week to discuss a new path forward on climate change strategy, Politico reported Thursday.

The meeting was to consider new policies beyond the administration's early and extensive work to repeal former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhatever happened to nuclear abolition? On The Money: Trump presses GM, union to start talks over closed plant | Trump renews call to cut arts, PBS funding | Alan Krueger, former Obama economic adviser, dies at 58 | Americans expected to bet .5B on March Madness Obama reminisces about visit to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day: 'It'll always be O'Bama' MORE's suite of climate regulations, the report said.

Officials allegedly also discussed new ways to frame Trump's energy and environmental work, and to push back on the public perception that the administration doesn't support climate change science.

The meeting comes after the Trump administration reaffirmed its desire to pull out of the Paris climate deal during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week. The EPA is also planning on launching an effort to critique climate science, which Trump himself has called a "hoax" created by the Chinese government to hurt U.S. businesses.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP FRIDAY: The International Trade Commission is due Friday to announce its initial decision on a petition from two domestic manufacturers for trade penalties on imported solar panels.

The commission will announce whether it has determined that the two companies, Suniva and SolarWorld, have been injured by imports.

If the answer is yes, the commission will later recommend some penalties to Trump, who has the ultimate authority to impose them.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Ohio regulators have increased their pollution-related fines on a natural gas pipeline developer to $2.3 million, the Associated Press reports.

Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says a debate between renewable energy and coal "dumbs down" the climate debate and reiterated his support for an all-of-the-above energy strategy in his country, The Guardian reports.

Flint, Mich., suffered from higher fetal deaths and reduced pregnancies after lead levels increased in the city drinking water, the Detroit Free Press reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories...

-Poll: Americans divided by party on global warming's role in hurricanes

-GOP rep on paying for flood loss: 'At some point, God is telling you to move'

-Report: Trump officials huddle over new climate strategy

-DiCaprio: History will 'vilify' Trump for not fighting climate change

-Court dismisses lawsuit over Obama-era fracking rule

-EPA teaching employees how to avoid leaking information

-Officials warn Puerto Rico could be without power for 6 months

 

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