Overnight Energy: Feds eye rolling back Alaska wildlife rule | Park service releases climate report | Paper mills blamed for water contamination | Blankenship plans third-party Senate run

Overnight Energy: Feds eye rolling back Alaska wildlife rule | Park service releases climate report | Paper mills blamed for water contamination | Blankenship plans third-party Senate run
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Happy Monday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the day's energy and environment news. While neither of us woke up early enough to watch the Royal Wedding this past weekend, we couldn't help but notice an environmental connection-- Prince Harry and Meghan drove to their wedding reception this weekend in an electric Jaguar E-Type Concept Zero.

 

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill.

 

NEW RULE WOULD ROLL BACK PROTECTIONS ON ALASKAN BEAR CUBS: Wildlife protections on black bears, coyote pups and other Alaskan animals are likely to be stripped away under a new National Park Service (NPS) rule formally proposed Monday.

The rule, published in the Federal Register, aims to reverse Obama-era protections from 2015 that prohibited certain hunting practices that otherwise were allowed by Alaska.

The practices the Obama-era rule prohibited included

  • the killing of all black bears by dogs;
  • the hunting of caribou from powered motorboats;
  • hunting of wolves or coyotes and their pups during denning season months; and
  • using "bait" to attract and shoot brown bears.

Under the new NPS rule, states would be allowed to determine their own protections and could remove the previous federal protections for wildlife.

The decision to rollback the protections of the various animals was determined in conjunction with a series of Interior Department secretarial orders from 2017 that directed the agency to expand access for recreational hunting and fishing on public lands.

Why it matters: Under the Trump Administration, the Interior Department has routinely emphasized its interest in weakening various regulations on hunting on national park land. Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeUS to approve import of black rhino killed in hunt Zinke must change direction and support conservation Energy development will likely land one bird on the Endangered Species list MORE has met a number of times with representatives of the National Rifle Association as well as the big game hunting lobby, the Safari Club.

We have more on the proposal here.

Interior announces hunting and fishing expansion at 30 national wildlife refuges: The Interior Department also Monday announced plans to submit a rule that would expand fishing and hunting access on more than 248,000 acres at wildlife refuges.

The rule would create new and expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 30 national wildlife refuges, increasing the number of refugees where hunting is allowed to 377.

New hunting options include wild turkey hunting at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and small mammal hunting at Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge. The department touted the planned rule as a way jumpstart economic activity--highlighting in a press release that hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic in 2016 according to a survey done by the agency. In the draft rule proposal Interior estimates that expanding the number of hunting and fishing opportunities on land will result in $711,000 in recreation-related expenditures, creating a "ripple effect" that will ultimately yield a total economic impact of approximately $1.6 million.

"As stewards of our public lands, Interior is committed to opening access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down this American heritage," Zinke said in a statement. "These 30 refuges will provide incredible opportunities for American sportsmen and women across the country to access the land and connect with wildlife."

 

PARK SERVICE PUBLISHES CLIMATE REPORT: The National Park Service (NPS) released a major report on rising sea levels after the Trump administration was accused of censoring it.

The Center for Investigative Reporting's Reveal reported last month that administration officials removed mentions of human-caused climate change in the report, reflecting President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE's and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's skepticism that manmade greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change.

But the report released late Friday puts the blame for sea-level rise squarely in human hands.

"Human activities continue to release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, causing the Earth's atmosphere to warm," the report says.

"Further warming of the atmosphere will cause sea levels to continue to rise, which will affect how we protect and manage our national parks."

NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum said the report went through the usual editing process, and the agency is confident in its scientific accuracy.

"The report has undergone several rounds of internal and external scientific peer review to ensure that it is most helpful and relevant to the intended audience of park managers and planners, and accurately portrays scientific understanding of how a changing climate and associated sea level rise can affect national park infrastructure, facilities, and resources," he said in a statement.

Click here for more on the controversy and what's in the report.

 

PAPER MILLS LIKELY MAJOR SOURCE OF WATERWAY CHEMICAL POLLUTION: A number of U.S. paper mills are expected to discharge hundreds of pounds of a controversial chemical into rivers -- a reality that the federal government is aware of and has signed off on, according to internal Federal Drug Administration (FDA) documents.

Chemical companies Daikin America and Chemours alerted the FDA in environmental assessments from 2009 to 2010 that paper mills using their chemical, known as perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), would likely distribute hundreds of pounds of the chemical in wastewater discharge per day.

PFASs are common consumer chemicals typically used to coat nonstick objects such as frying pans. In this case, the chemicals were being used to grease nonstick pizza boxes and other food packaging products.

In the 900 pages of documents obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) through a Freedom of Information Act request, it shows that FDA approved the notices despite the known environmental risks.

Why it's relevant: PFASs are currently a hot-button topic as debate rages between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry over acceptable levels of the chemical in drinking water. Tuesday the EPA is scheduled to host a summit on PFASs at its headquarters.

We've got the details on the FDA documents here.

 

BLANKENSHIP PLANS THIRD-PARTY RUN FOR SENATE: Former coal executive and ex-convict Don Blankenship on Monday announced plans to launch a third-party bid for a West Virginia Senate seat after losing the GOP primary to state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

It's unclear whether Blankenship will actually be allowed onto the ballot, since state law bans candidates who lose a major-party primary from running as a third-party candidate in a general election, a rule often referred to as the "sore loser law."

But if he is successful, he could deal a serious blow to Morrisey's attempt to coalesce Republicans around his bid to defeat Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos GOP plays defense on ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions Doug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh MORE.

In a statement announcing his decision, Blankenship blasted the GOP establishment that successfully fought to keep him from winning the primary, warning that there would be payback and accusing the White House of reneging on a promise to not get involved in the race.

"The political establishment is determined to keep me -- the most anti-establishment candidate in the nation -- out of the United States Senate," he said.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY:

The EPA will host its National Leadership Summit on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), bringing together EPA officials, officials from other agencies, state representatives and others to discuss potential actions to fight PFAS contamination in water.

The Senate Appropriations Committee's energy and water subcommittee will vote on its fiscal 2019 bill to fund energy and water programs.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on its bipartisan water infrastructure bill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee will hold a hearing on legislation to promote advanced nuclear power technology.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on international conservation and wildlife trafficking legislation.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will vote on a bill on shark and ray fishing.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

NextEra Energy Inc. said it is buying Gulf Power from Southern Co. in a transaction worth $6.4 billion, the Miami Herald reports.

Residents near Hawaii's Kilauea volcano are on the lookout for "laze," a haze with fine glass particles, USA Today reports.

Australia's New South Wales is shelving a plan to cull wild horses, ABC reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and over the weekend...

-Proposed Trump administration rule would roll back protections on Alaskan bear cubs, coyote pups

-Park Service publishes climate report after charges of censorship

-Environmentalists: Paper mills likely major source of chemical pollution in waterways

-Alaska Airlines ends use of non-recyclable plastic straws

-Supreme Court to consider challenge to Virginia uranium mining ban