Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: EPA to propose Clean Power Plan repeal | Pruitt takes on wind, solar tax credits | Committee to mark up antiquities reform


PRUITT TO SIGN CLEAN POWER PLAN REPEAL: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt announced Monday that the formal proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan is coming soon.

Pruitt told a Kentucky audience that he’ll sign the proposal Tuesday, kicking off the process toward undoing one of former President Obama’s signature priorities.

“The Clean Power Plan, it wasn’t about regulating to make things regular,” Pruitt said Monday at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to raucous applause. “It was truly about regulating to pick winners and losers.”

Pruitt gave his remarks at a Hazard, Ky., mining and construction equipment business, in the heart of Eastern Kentucky’s hard-hit coal country.

The Obama rule was expected to significantly hurt the coal industry since coal-fired power plants are the biggest carbon emitters. But Pruitt’s announcement was also a rebuke of what he and Republicans see as Obama’s “war on coal.” He and other Republicans are opposed to what they see as numerous regulations that have hurt the coal industry, which was already reeling from competition from cheap natural gas.

The EPA’s announcement is the first major step toward fulfilling a key campaign promise Trump made to repeal the climate rule that he’s called “stupid” and “job-killing.”

Trump’s EPA argues that the agency overstepped with the regulation, arguing it can only regulate pollution from individual plants and not sector-wide.

“It’s Congress that passes legislation that gives us direction, that gives us our orders as far as how we administer the statute,” Pruitt said Monday. “The last administration simply made it up.”

Myron Ebell, head of the energy and environment program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, cheered the proposed repeal as a step toward getting rid of the rule completely.

“If it had gone into effect, the ‘Clean Power’ Plan rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas power plants would have been one of the most expensive regulations ever imposed, causing electric rates for consumers to go up and threatening the reliability of the electric grid,” he said in a statement.

But environmentalists have vowed to protect the regulation, arguing the economic and health benefits of a cleaner electricity sector will outweigh any effort to stick to polluting fuels like coal.

“If Administrator Pruitt plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan, that would be a complete abdication of EPA’s legal responsibility to protect our children’s lungs from dangerous smokestack pollution and their homes from climate-destabilizing extreme weather,” Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp said last week when details of the repeal plan came out.

Read more here.

Attorneys General line up to sue: Democratic attorneys general quickly promised to sue the Trump administration over its Clean Power Plan decision.

“The Trump administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change — and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation — is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement on Monday.

Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, said she would sue “to protect the Clean Power Plan from the climate change deniers in this administration who are trying to move us backwards.”   

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan contend the EPA has a legal requirement to regulate climate change-causing pollution, noting the agency’s endangerment finding for carbon dioxide and Supreme Court decisions on the issue.

“This responsibility can only be fulfilled through a strong, effective, and science-based policy like the Clean Power Plan. Repealing it simply won’t cut it,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

“That is why I will do everything in my power to defend the Clean Power Plan.”

Read more here.

Pruitt takes on wind, solar tax credits: At Pruitt’s second Kentucky stop of the day, he said he opposes the federal tax credits incentivizing wind and solar power.

“I would do away with these incentives that we give to wind and solar,” he said, referring to wind’s production tax credit and solar’s investment tax credit.

“I’d let them stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources, and let utilities make real-time market decisions on those types of things as opposed to being propped up by tax incentives and other types of credits that occur, both in the federal level and state level,” he continued.

Pruitt conceded that any move to end the credits would be a “policy decision” for Congress, “not an EPA decision.”

Both credits are on course to expire at the end of 2019.

Read more here.

COMMITTEE TO MARK UP ANTIQUITIES REFORM: A House Committee on Wednesday will mark up a bill to overhaul the Antiquities Act, a law that gives the president power to establish national monuments for preservation.  

The bill, from Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) would set limits on the president’s power to declare national monuments, ensuring that any new, large monument go through a federal environmental review process first.

The legislation applies increasingly strict rules to potential monuments the larger they get, ultimately requiring country and state governments to sign off on the monument designation before it takes effect. It also codifies the president’s ability to shrink a monument.

Bishop, a frequent critic of presidential monument designations under the Antiquities Act, said his bill would fix a law that has a “worthy goal” that “has been manipulated for ulterior political purposes.”

“Today the act is too often used as an excuse for presidents to unilaterally lock up vast tracts of public land without any mechanism for people to provide input or voice concerns. This is wrong,” he said in a statement.

The bill is likely to kick up a fight between conservationists, who support the Antiquities Act’s broad monument powers, and industry groups, including fossil fuel firms and ranchers who say the law is too expansive.   

The House Natural Resources Committee will mark up the bill on Wednesday.

Read more here.

ON TAP TUESDAY: Officials from the Departments of Energy and Commerce will participate in an Atlantic Council discussion about the role of energy exports between U.S. and China.  


California wildfires have killed one and destroyed at least 1,500 homes, businesses and other buildings in one of the state’s worst-ever wildfire days, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said climate change could be beneficial because “far more people die in cold snaps,” the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Dead birds in natural history museum collections can tell detailed stories of air pollution over time, according to a new study the Washington Post reported on.


Check out stories from Monday and the weekend …

-House committee to consider Antiquities Act overhaul

-EPA chief: I’d ‘do away with’ wind, solar tax credits

-Dem AG vows to sue over Clean Power Plan repeal

-Puerto Rico governor asks Congress for more federal aid after hurricane

-EPA to repeal landmark Obama climate rule

-Week ahead: House turns its eye to hurricane relief

-Trump administration denies endangered species protection to Pacific walruses

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

Tags Mitch McConnell Rob Bishop Scott Pruitt Xavier Becerra
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