Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Groups sue over EPA record keeping | Pruitt cites Bible to justify his policies | Surge in civil lawsuits after Gulf spill

GROUPS SUE EPA OVER RECORD KEEPING: A pair of environmental groups representing public employees sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday, claiming officials failed to adequately maintain public records in violation of federal law.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a joint lawsuit against the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt for failing to keep records in accordance with the Federal Records Act (FRA).

The groups charge that the Trump administration operated in “secrecy” to avoid creating a paper trail of notes that would be considered public records under the FRA. Those notes would also be open to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the public and journalists.

“Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA has assumed a bunker mentality where paper trails are religiously avoided unless penned in invisible ink,” PEER counsel Adam Carlesco said in a statement. “By law, the American public has a right to know the basis for public health and anti-pollution decision-making that affects their lives.”

The suit also accuses David Ferriero, the federal archivist, and the National Archives and Records Administration of failing to enforce the law to take and maintain public records.

PEER sued the EPA last year for failing to respond to its FOIA requests regarding recommendations from the agency’s Superfund Task Force. In December, the EPA revealed that the task force had kept no record of its deliberations for its nearly three-dozen-page report on recommendations for waste clean-up sites.

Read more here.


PRUITT ON HOW BIBLE INFORMS HIS VIEWS: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt said his desire to use the Earth’s resources like oil and coal is grounded in the Bible.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network published Thursday, Pruitt spoke about how his Christian views inform his views on the environment and environmental policy.

“The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,” he told CBN’s David Brody.

Trump’s top environmental regulator, who has overseen aggressive rollbacks of rules on greenhouse gases, air pollution, water pollution, chemicals and more, also tied religion into his ongoing criticisms of left-wing environmentalists. He accuses them of wanting to shut down drilling and other resource development.

“The ‘environmental left’ tells us that, though we have natural resources like natural gas and oil and coal, and though we can feed the world, we should keep those things in the ground, put up fences and be about prohibition,” he said. “That’s wrongheaded and I think it’s counter to what we should be about.”

Read more here.


SURGE IN LAWSUITS TIED TO DEEPWATER HORIZON SPILL: A recent increase in federal civil environmental lawsuits stems from decisions and settlements made in relation to Deepwater Horizon litigation in Louisiana, according to a report released Wednesday.

During the last quarter, which ended in January, 745 civil environmental lawsuits were filed in federal court, a big jump from the 198 suits filed the previous quarter, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

That data shows an overall 276 percent increase in civil environmental lawsuits filed in the four-month period. In January of this year alone, 172 cases were filed, according to the study.

The majority of the cases in the past quarter were driven by litigation in the Eastern District of Louisiana following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the study found.

The 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers on the rig, which was leased to oil and gas giant BP at the time, and ultimately released 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean over an 87-day period. The catastrophe has cost BP more than $60 billion.

While the disaster occurred nearly a decade ago, the litigation process has been slow. Funds from BP’s 2016 settlement first became available last April to states affected by the spill. So far this year, the court has released orders on a number of medical benefits settlements and damages claims.

The report also found that nearly half of all of the federal civil environmental litigation filed either between companies, against the government or by the government between 2014 and end of January 2018 were filed in the same district in Louisiana.

Read more here.


UNIVERSITY WALKS BACK GLIDER TRUCK STUDY: A Tennessee university is asking the EPA to at least temporarily disregard a study it conducted on pollution volumes from certain heavy trucks.

Tennessee Technological University president Philip Oldham told the EPA in a letter this week that “experts within the university have questioned the methodology and accuracy,” and the institution is investigating the matter, The New York Times reported.

At issue is the EPA’s proposal last year to rescind the Obama administration’s regulations on glider trucks, new truck bodies with older engines that previously were subject to the looser pollution rules in place when the old engines were manufactured.

The Obama administration in 2016 closed the regulatory loophole and declared that the glider trucks are subject to modern emissions rules.

A company that manufacturers such trucks paid Tennessee Tech to study glider emissions, and the study concluded that the trucks’ emissions are at or below the levels of completely new vehicles. The study has been criticized by multiple groups, including faculty at Tennessee Tech, and has not been peer-reviewed.

The company cited the study in asking the EPA to repeal the rule, and the EPA cited it in a proposed repeal last year.

But the EPA told the Times that it “did not rely upon the study or even quote directly from it” and “only noted the existence of the study.”

Read more here.


TRUMP PLAN FOR ENERGY STAR SPARKS INDUSTRY OUTRAGE: President Trump is facing strong opposition in his drive to eliminate federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) popular Energy Star program.

With the Department of Energy’s help, the voluntary Energy Star program sets efficiency benchmarks for appliances, electronics, building materials, lighting and other products, and lets companies use the Energy Star label on products that meet the specifications.

In his budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2019, Trump asked lawmakers to eliminate the $42 million in federal funding for the program. He instead proposed allowing the EPA to fund the energy efficiency certification through fees charged to companies that use it. The idea has been pushed in conservative circles for years.

The Trump administration and supporters of the plan say it would shift the burden for its costs to the companies that benefit from it.

But groups that represent manufacturers, retailers, utilities, environmentalists and others who benefit from the program are lining up against Trump’s plan.

Read more here.


ON TAP FRIDAY: The Conservative Political Action Conference heads into day two. The agenda includes a general session energy discussion with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, moderated by former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.).



Austria filed a legal challenge against the European Commission for approving neighboring Hungary’s plans to expand nuclear power, Reuters reports.

Sunoco expects its controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania to enter operation by the end of June, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.

Virginia lawmakers are considering a major overhaul of its utility laws that would affect electricity rates for a decade, the Washington Post reports.



Check out Thursday’s stories …

-Groups sue EPA over lack of records

-Pruitt: Bible says ‘harvest the natural resources’

-Green groups rip potential pick for Trump environmental adviser

-New surge in civil lawsuits tied to Deepwater Horizon spill: study

-University walks back truck pollution study submitted to EPA

-Trump’s plan for Energy Star sparks industry uproar


Tags CREW Donald Trump EPA gas Lawsuits oil PEER regulations Rick Perry Ryan Zinke Scott Pruitt Scott Pruitt Superfund

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