Overnight Energy: Rhode Island sues oil companies over climate change | Senate GOP seeks to overhaul endangered species law | Conservatives object to greenhouse gas treaty

Overnight Energy: Rhode Island sues oil companies over climate change | Senate GOP seeks to overhaul endangered species law | Conservatives object to greenhouse gas treaty
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THE OCEAN STATE VS. OIL: Rhode Island's attorney general sued a dozen oil and natural gas companies and their affiliates Monday in state court, accusing them of causing climate change and not sufficiently mitigating its effects.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (D) said Rhode Island is uniquely harmed by global warming, with its more than 400 miles of shoreline, fishing industry, marine economy and other factors.

"Rhode Island is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate changes that is now on our doorstep with sea level rise and an increase in severe weather patterns, as seen by the extensive damage caused by storms in the past several years, including Super Storm Sandy and the floods of 2010," Kilmartin said in a statement.

"The defendants' actions for the past several decades are already having and will continue to have a significant and detrimental impact on our infrastructure, economy, public health, and our eco-systems, and will force the state to divert already-limited resources to mitigate the effects of climate change, thereby diminishing resources for other vital programs and services."

Who the suit targets: The defendants in the lawsuit include big companies across the petroleum supply chain, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Marathon Oil Corp. and Hess Corp.

Industry responds: The National Association of Manufacturers said such a lawsuit isn't productive.

"It's time for politicians and trial lawyers to put an end to this frivolous litigation," said Lindsey de la Torre, executive director of the group's Manufacturers' Accountability Project.

"Taxpayer resources should not be used for baseless lawsuits that are designed to enrich trial lawyers and grab headlines for politicians. This abuse of our legal system does nothing to advance meaningful solutions, which manufacturers are focused on every day."

What happens now: It's anybody's guess how the lawsuit will play out, but the recent record of climate lawsuits by governments against fossil fuel companies is not good.

Just last month, a federal judge dismissed similar claims by San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., against major oil companies. Judge William Alsup said the science of climate change and its link to fossil fuels is solid, but it's not a place for the courts to get involved.

Read more.

 

Happy Monday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

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.

 

BARRASSO LAYS OUT PLAN TO OVERHAUL ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT: Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoHouse votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge Lobbying World Meet the Democratic senator trying to negotiate gun control with Trump MORE (R-Wyo.) embarking on an ambitious effort to overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Draft legislation released Monday by the Environment and Public Works Committee chairman would give new powers and responsibilities for state officials to determine how animals and plants should be protected.

The GOP contends that its goal is not to weaken protections, but to take advantage of the experience of state regulators.

"When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough," Barrasso said in a statement to The Hill in advance of the unveiling. "We must do more than just keep listed species on life support -- we need to see them recovered. This draft legislation will increase state and local input and improve transparency in the listing process."

Conservationists, however, say the new bill represents the most significant threat in years to the 44-year-old law, which has been credited with rescuing the bald eagle, gray wolf and grizzly bear from possible extinction.

"It's a bill which, on a broad basis, rewrites the ESA, with a whole host of consequences -- as far as we can tell, almost entirely adverse consequences -- for the protection of species," said Bob Dreher, senior vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife.

Dreher and other critics fear the effort would tilt the balance too far toward industries while de-emphasizing the role of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"This bill is all about politics. It's not about science. It's especially not about better ways to conserve endangered species," he continued. "It's a partisan bill."

Read more.

 

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS ARGUE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT: Over 20 national and state conservative groups are urging the Trump administration to reject an international agreement that aims to fix climate change by limiting the use of a chemical commonly found in refrigerators.

In a letter sent Monday to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE, the groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Heritage Action asked Trump to pull the U.S. out of an Obama-era agreement known as the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to reduce emissions of global warming-causing hydrofluorocarbons used as a refrigerant.

The groups argued that the agreement would increase the cost to U.S. consumers, saying it "would impose restrictions on production of the affordable refrigerants currently used in most types of air conditioning and refrigeration units and necessitate their likely replacement with more expensive alternatives."

The letter added: "The result would be higher costs for households, motorists, and businesses that rely on air conditioning and refrigeration."

The Obama administration and environmentalists alike championed the United Nations treaty negotiated in 2016, which was created to help countries meet the emissions standards put forth in the Paris climate agreement. One hundred and seventy countries signed onto the agreement, which scientists expected could on its own help prevent a nearly 1 degree rise in temperatures by 2100.

On the other hand: Big businesses, including the U.S. refrigerator industry, are also supportive of the agreement, urging the Trump administration to stay committed to the deal because of the business potential of new regulations.

The industry hopes to convince the administration that staying in will create U.S. jobs due to the fact that the country is a leader in refrigerant products and the pact will likely drive new demand for their expertise globally.

Read more on the debate here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Production volumes for Tesla's Model 3 jumped in the second quarter, and the company hit its goal of putting out 5,000 in one week, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. is suing state regulators to stop them from slashing electricity rates, which was meant to cut off the additional funding the utility got for a failed nuclear project, The State reports.

Authorities arrested a Danish man and accused him of starting a recent Colorado wildfire, Reuters reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and the weekend ...

-Rhode Island sues oil companies over climate change

-Top conservative groups urge Trump to reject climate change agreement

-Senate GOP seeks overhaul of Endangered Species Act

-Seattle plastic straw, utensil ban takes effect

-EPA's chief ethics officer recommends investigations into Pruitt allegations: reports