Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: EPA moves to delay Obama water rule two years | Greens sue over Alaska refuge road | Trump official pledges to be coal’s advocate

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EPA FINALIZES WATER RULE DELAY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pushing back by two years implementation of an Obama administration rule redefining the federal government’s power over small waterways.

The Trump administration is working to repeal the rule, dubbed the Clean Water Rule or Waters of the United States (WOTUS), as it formally proposed to do last year. 

EPA head Scott Pruitt said the Wednesday action is meant to stop confusion over the application of the Clean Water Rule. A Supreme Court decision last week had overturned a federal appeals court’s halt on the rule.


“Today, EPA is taking action to reduce confusion and provide certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers,” Pruitt said in a statement.

“The 2015 WOTUS rule developed by the Obama administration will not be applicable for the next two years, while we work through the process of providing long-term regulatory certainty across all 50 states about what waters are subject to federal regulation.”

The EPA is taking the action alongside the Army Corps of Engineers, which also has responsibility for enforcing the Clean Water Act.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the delay puts significant water supplies at risk, and said it would sue to stop the delay.

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is racing the clock to deny protections for our public health and safety. It’s grossly irresponsible, and illegal — and we’ll challenge it in court,” said Jon Devine, the group’s senior attorney.

Read more here.

GREENS SUE OVER INTERIOR’S KING COVE DECISION: A group of nine environmental groups are suing the Trump administration for authorizing the exchange of wildlife refugee land to allow Alaska to build a road through a previously protected preserve.

Defenders of Wildlife, the Wilderness Society and other environment groups filed a joint lawsuit against the federal government Wednesday challenging the legality of selling the lands in King Cove, Alaska.

The groups claim the land exchange, which reverses former President Obama’s decision, was an example of wheeling-and-dealing behind closed doors.

“The Trump administration’s illegal backroom deal to force a road through Izembek is unconscionable. President Trump and his administration plan to rip irreplaceable federal wildlands from public ownership to satisfy commercial interests,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. “We will not wait for the bulldozers to destroy Izembek’s wilderness wetlands and threaten the species that depend on them for survival.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke advanced plans for the land transfer early last week. The transfer will allow the Alaskan community to build the road through designated wilderness wetlands in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Read more here.

TRUMP OFFICIAL PLEDGES TO BE COAL ‘ADVOCATE’: A senior Trump administration official in the Energy Department told a coal industry gathering Wednesday that he aims to be a strong advocate for coal.

“The good news is I’m with the federal government and I’m here to help,” Doug Matheney, a special adviser in the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy, said at the West Virginia Mining Symposium, according to S&P Global.

“I went to Washington, D.C., for one purpose and that was to help create coal jobs in the United States. That’s my total purpose for being there,” he said. “I’m not a researcher, I’m not a scientist, I’m an advocate for the coal industry.”

Matheney, who once worked for the industry-backed Count on Coal initiative, told attendees that he hoped to continue Trump’s aggressive deregulatory agenda.

He also said that the Energy Department is working on a new plan to boost coal as a replacement to the failed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposal to require higher electricity payments to coal and nuclear power plants.

Read more here.

OHIO LAWMAKERS WANT TO REVERT DENALI TO MT. MCKINLEY: GOP lawmakers from Ohio are pressing President Trump to uphold a promise to reverse former President Obama’s decision and rename the Alaskan mountain Denali to its old name, Mt. McKinley.

In a letter to Trump, the 11 lawmakers say it was “disrespectful” for Obama to change the name of the mountain, which had been named after William McKinley, a former president from Ohio. The mountain was named after the 25th president in 1896, a change from the name used by native Alaskans.

“President William McKinley’s legacy should not be compromised by a political stunt,” the letter signed by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and other lawmakers stated.

“Mr. President, we appreciate your comments opposing the Obama administration’s actions and stand ready to work with you to preserve William McKinley’s legacy by restoring President William McKinley’s name to the Alaska mountain.”

In 2015 Trump tweeted in response to Obama’s decision to change the mountain’s name, “President Obama wants to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali after more than 100 years. Great insult to Ohio. I will change back!”

Read more here.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is launching an investigation into deaths of minke whales along the East Coast in recent months, the Associated Press reports.

A Florida utility plans to use treated sewage to fix the canals for a nuclear power plant’s cooling system, the Miami Herald reports.

Domestic oil production exceeded 10 million barrels per day in November for the first time ever, CNBC reports.


Katie Tubb of the Heritage Foundation advocates for a “pro-science approach” to Yucca Mountain, saying Congress should appropriate the funds for the licensing program.

Three leaders in the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis say deregulation didn’t help coal in 2017, so it won’t help it in 2018.


Check out Wednesday’s stories …

-Greens sue over Interior plans to build road through Alaska refuge

-The American Meteorological Society asks Trump to check government agencies for climate change information

-Trump official tells coal group he’s “an advocate for the coal industry”

-White House to ask for 72 percent cut in renewable energy programs

-Puerto Rico says FEMA will continue to provide aid to communities in need

-EPA delays Obama water rule

-GOP chairmen ask Interior for more staff out West

-Ohio lawmakers urge Trump to change Denali’s name back to Mt. McKinley

-Green group backs Baldwin, Nelson for reelection

-Rubio: ‘We have to do more’ to help Puerto Rico

Tags Bob Gibbs Donald Trump Ryan Zinke Scott Pruitt Waters of the United States
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