Overnight Energy: EPA data shows drop in enforcement | Budget deal sets up largest oil stockpile sale in history | Canadian companies sue over Trump solar tariff

Overnight Energy: EPA data shows drop in enforcement | Budget deal sets up largest oil stockpile sale in history | Canadian companies sue over Trump solar tariff
© Greg Nash

EPA DATA SHOWS DRAMATIC DIP IN ENFORCEMENT: Under President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined far fewer polluters for breaking emissions rules than the Obama administration.

Numbers released Thursday by the EPA in its annual enforcement report revealed that polluters were fined a total of $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2017 -- about a fifth of the $5.7 billion EPA penalties collected the year prior, under President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNational security leaders: Trump's Iran strategy could spark war The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE.

The federal fiscal year goes from Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017.

The drop in the EPA's enforcement of regulations is even more stark when looking specifically at the agency's actions on injunction relief -- the monetary commitments polluters pledge to spend in order to remediate their pollution and keep it from reoccurring.  

The EPA report shows that injunctive relief in 2017 stood at $20 billion, compared to 2016's $13.7 billion. But $15.9 billion of the recent total came from the landmark Volkswagen settlement. When the settlement is taken out of the calculation, injunctive relief payments in fiscal year 2017 totaled just $4 billion -- less than a third of 2016's numbers and less than half of 2015's.

In its press release about the report, the EPA highlighted the year as one for "deterring noncompliance."

"A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes," said Susan Bodine head of the agency's compliance office in the EPA statement.

Read more here.


BUDGET DEAL WOULD SPUR OIL STOCKPILE SALE: The two-year budget deal reached by congressional leaders would set up the biggest sale in history from the nation's emergency oil stockpile.

In an effort to partially pay for new spending, the budget agreement would sell 100 million barrels of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in the next decade.

Taken with sales Congress authorized last year to pay for other spending, the deal would leave the Department of Energy-managed reserve with just over 300 million barrels, or about half its previous size.

The deal takes a big chip out of a landmark safety net established in the 1970s to guard the United States from the effects of international turmoil or other big supply disruptions.

"It's the biggest non-emergency sale proposed in history," Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, said of the 100 million-barrel sale.

"The age of energy scarcity, the entire structure -- regulatory and otherwise -- that was built to address concerns about 'not enough,' has apparently ended."

Oil is currently going for around $60 a barrel, which would net the United States $6 billion if sold today. Prices are likely to increase over the next decade, when the sales would happen, but it's difficult to predict by how much.

Read more here.


FINAL TOXIC CHEMICAL RULE PROPOSES FEES TO MANUFACTURERS: The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fourth and final rulemaking to revamp a chemical safety rule would collect more than $20 million annually from chemical and petroleum manufacturers and distributors.

The proposed fees rule under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), announced Thursday, would collect approximately $20.05 million a year from companies that manufacture or import, distribute in commerce, or process chemical substances, according to EPA's copy of the rule. The fees could also impact petroleum and coal products and chemical, petroleum and merchant wholesalers, according to the rule.

The text of the rule said the fee total does not include the fees collected for manufacturer-requested risk evaluations. Under the proposed rule, businesses would begin incurring fees at the start of October.

The EPA said the fee is meant to defray some of the agency costs associated with implementing TSCA and will be added to the TSCA Service Fee Fund held at the U.S. Treasury.

"These fees are intended to achieve the goals articulated by Congress to provide a sustainable source of funds for EPA to fulfill its legal obligations to conduct activities such as risk-based screenings, designation of applicable substances as High- and Low-Priority, conducting risk 5 evaluations to determine whether a chemical substance presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment, requiring testing of chemical substances and mixtures, and evaluating and reviewing manufacturing and processing notices, as required under TSCA," the rule said.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE said the fee would ensure that TSCA be implemented with the "highest standards."

Read more here.


CANADIAN SOLAR COMPANIES SUE OVER TARIFFS: A handful of Canadian companies that make solar panels are suing the Trump administration over the 30-percent tariffs the president imposed last month on their products.

In their lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the United States Court of International Trade, the three companies say that since Canadian solar imports do not harm United States producers, the tariffs violate the Trade Act and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"Because the proclamation is unlawful as applied to plaintiffs, and inflicts grave and irreversible harms on them, plaintiffs seek a declaration that the proclamation violates the Trade Act and the NAFTA Implementation Act and an injunction prohibiting its enforcements against plaintiffs," they wrote.

The companies bringing the lawsuit are Silfab Solar Inc., Heliene Inc. and Canada Solar Solutions Inc.

In response to a plea by two ailing U.S. solar companies last year, President Trump in January put a 30 percent tariff on imported solar cells and modules from any country except developing ones.

Trump said it will help domestic manufacturers and create jobs. But the bulk of the solar industry opposed the tariffs, saying it would increase their costs, since they rely heavily on imported supplies.

Read more here.



Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) said a federal coal ash cleanup plan violates the state's rights, AL.com reports.

After backlash, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) will pay back Xcel Energy for the Super Bowl tickets it gave him, KVRR reports.

Mexico's state oil company said illegal taps of its pipelines are up about 50 percent year-over-year, the Associated Press reports.



Daniel Cohan of Rice University pushes back against federal projections showing a rosy picture for coal and bad times ahead for renewable energy.



Check out Thursday's stories ...

-EPA data reveals dramatic decrease in enforcement of polluter fees

- Budget deal envisions largest oil stockpile sale in history

- Canadian solar companies sue Trump over tariffs

- Dems call for $1 trillion federal investment in infrastructure

- Budget deal renews expired tax breaks

- Controversial Pennsylvania pipeline can resume construction

- Final EPA toxic chemical rule proposes $20 million in annual fees to manufacturers