Overnight Energy: Trump eyes easing offshore drilling safety rules | NY threatens lawsuit over climate rule repeal | Pruitt aide was cleared to work for GOP firm

Overnight Energy: Trump eyes easing offshore drilling safety rules | NY threatens lawsuit over climate rule repeal | Pruitt aide was cleared to work for GOP firm
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OFFICIALS PROPOSE EASING OFFSHORE DRILLING SAFETY REGS: The Trump administration is proposing to roll back parts of a landmark offshore drilling safety regulation that was written in response to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The rule, dubbed the Well Control Rule, was put into place in 2016. Its standards focus on blowout preventer systems, the emergency systems that offshore oil and natural gas drillers have on hand for when something goes wrong with drilling and operators lose control of the well. That happened in the BP spill, causing an explosion that killed 11 workers and an 87-day uncontrolled oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The announcement came Friday, a week after the eighth anniversary of the explosion.


The Well Control Rule was the centerpiece of the Obama administration's response to the disaster.

The oil industry and its allies, including most congressional Republicans, have long complained that parts of the rule were unnecessarily burdensome and sought to have them overturned. Many of those provisions would be undone with the Trump proposal.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) argues that it is making changes that ease burdens on drillers -- saving them $946 million over 10 years -- without at all compromising safety.


Who is for it:

-- Erik Milito, director of upstream operations for the American Petroleum Institute:

"BSEE's decision to revise its technically flawed Well Control Rule will help to strengthen safer offshore operations... These revisions will move us forward on safety, help the government better regulate risks and better protect workers and the environment."

--Randall Luthi, president of the National Offshore Industries Association: "As written, the existing rule is flawed with technical deficiencies and ambiguities that detract from safe operations...BSEE's proposed revisions to the WCR will enhance safety and decrease risk offshore."


Who is against it:

--Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 MORE (D-Fla.): "This administration wants to turn a blind eye to history just to help their friends in the oil industry. We can't let that happen. These rules were put in place to prevent another massive oil spill off our coasts. We can't allow this new administration to take us backwards in time and, once again, expose Florida's beautiful beaches and tourism-based economy to such an unnecessary risk."

--Senate Energy and Natural Resources Ranking member Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing MORE (D-Wash.): "After over $65 billion of damage and bipartisan Congressional oversight hearings on the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, new protections were put in place to make sure this type of disaster never happened again. Today Interior is trying to ignore those protections. They are creating an unbelievable liability for taxpayers by ignoring safety."

--House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.): "Republicans have decided the federal government's job is doing expensive favors for oil and gas companies. This administration's obsession with more drilling and fewer regulations, whatever the cost, is the same attitude that produced Deepwater Horizon in the first place. The industry needs stronger oversight, especially as we drill new wells off our coastlines. This administration offers the exact opposite."

Read more here.


NY THREATENS LAWSUIT IF CLEAN POWER PLAN REPEALED: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) is threatening to sue the Trump administration if it moves forward and repeals the Clean Power Plan.

Schneiderman led a coalition of 26 Democratic states, cities and counties late Thursday in filing formal comments objecting to EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Democratic lawmaker calls for DOJ investigation of entire Trump administration MORE's proposal.

"The law and the science are clear. The Trump EPA's efforts to dismantle this vital measure once again demonstrate that they're more committed to pleasing the fossil fuel industry than protecting the health, safety, and wallets of New Yorkers and Americans," Schneiderman said in a statement Friday.

"As we've made clear, if the Trump EPA refuses to protect those they serve and abandons this unlawful and unsupported repeal of the Clean Power Plan, we'll see them in court."

In the coalition letter filed on Thursday -- the deadline for public comments on the EPA's proposal -- the states, cities and counties argued that the EPA is obligated to aggressively regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, as it did in the Clean Power Plan.

Read more here.


EPA AIDE APPROVED TO WORK FOR GOP CONSULTING FIRM: EPA ethics officials approved John Konkus to work for Jamestown Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm, and a Florida state representative while he was still employed at the agency, E&E News first reported Friday. EPA did not release the name of the Florida lawmaker. Jamestown Associates boasts on its website that it helped win Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Chris Christies 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial race.

The document dated August 1, 2017, from EPA ethics official Justina Fugh approved Konkus's request to partake in the paid outside work. The letter also acknowledged the Konkus had plans to add additional clients in the "next six months." The letter stated that Konkus could not earn more than $27,765 through outside compensation.


What's notable:

After going through the effort to get the outside ventures approved by EPA's office of ethics, documents say Konkus never ended up completing the outside ventures.

In a public financial disclosure report for Konkus's 2017 wages, Fugh wrote a note on April 25, 2018, that read, "Even though Mr. Konkus had sought prior approval of anticipated outside activity, he indicated that he did not in fact engage in any outside activity at all during calendar year 2017. Therefore, he has no outside income or position to report."


Why this is familiar: 

Konkus's arrangement was first revealed in a letter the EPA sent in January to Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But the agency redacted the names of the clients Konkus was approved to work for.

At the time, Pallone and his Democratic colleagues questioned whether Konkus's outside employment raised a conflict of interest

Read more here.


SCALISE INTRODUCES ANTI-CARBON-TAX RESOLUTION: Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future MORE (R-La.) wants the House to once again condemn the idea of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

The House's majority whip joined with Rep. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyEnergy secretary says pipeline setbacks pose national security issue MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill MORE (R-W.Va.) Thursday in introducing a nonbinding resolution declaring it the sense of Congress that "a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States."

"Our resolution will affirm the position of Congress that a carbon tax would run counter to the goals of American energy dominance and national security," Scalise said in a statement.

The House easily passed a similar resolution in 2016, with all Republicans and some Democrats signing on.

It's been a while since a carbon tax was taken seriously as a policy proposal in Washington, D.C. But a team of former Republican statesmen, led by former Secretary of State James Baker, made a concerted effort last year to convince President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE of its merits.

Read more.



Houston officials approved a plan to build a new housing development in a floodplain, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Thousands of Wisconsin residents are returning home after a refinery explosion Thursday, WCCO reports.

A special rock formation in Oman could be the key to fixing climate change, The New York Times reports.



Check out Friday's stories...

-EPA approved aide to work for GOP firm, Florida lawmaker

-Trump officials seek to ease landmark offshore drilling safety rules

-Environmental concerns may turn voters blue: poll

-Scalise offers anti-carbon tax resolution

-New York threatens to sue Trump over EPA climate rule repeal

-EU to ban all bee-harming pesticides