JUDGE CLEARS OBAMA'S ATLANTIC NATIONAL MONUMENT: A federal court Friday upheld the massive national monument former President Obama created off the coast of New England in the Atlantic Ocean.
In a blow to commercial fishing and other industries who felt the protections for the monument significantly impeded their business, Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument complied with the law.
The case, Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association v. Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossHolding defiant Trump witnesses to account, Jan. 6 committee carries out Congress's constitutional role Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ House panel, Commerce Department reach agreement on census documents MORE, centered on arguments that the 1906 Antiquities Act does not allow presidents to protect bodies of water, that the government doesn't have sufficient control of water many miles offshore and that the nearly 5,000-square-mile monument was too large.
"In all, plaintiffs offer no factual allegations explaining why the entire monument, including not just the seamounts and canyons but also their ecosystems, is too large," wrote Boasberg, a district court judge for the District of Columbia who was nominated to the bench by Obama.
He said that the court, legislative and administrative history of the Antiquities Act, the law that grants presidents the power to create monuments, makes it clear that waterways can be protected.
"The Antiquities Act reaches lands both dry and wet," he declared.
Obama created the monument in 2016 to protect unique ecosystems in a series of undersea canyons and seamounts on and near the continental shelf, about 130 miles from Massachusetts's Cape Cod.
A boost from Trump: While President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE has been highly critical of some of Obama's national monuments -- particular Bears Ears in Utah -- his administration defended the monument in court, telling Boasberg in April that the Atlantic Ocean monument was within Obama's authority.
It's not settled: Jonathan Wood, an attorney with the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation who represented the lobstermen's group, said he would appeal the case to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
"For a full century after the Antiquities Act was enacted in 1906, presidents respected its limit to 'land owned or controlled by the Federal Government' by not designating national monuments on the ocean beyond the nation's territorial sea," he said. "Today's decision ignored that century of practice and all but eliminated any limits on the president's monument-designation authority."
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GOP SENATORS SAY STATES USING WATER LAW TO BLOCK FOSSIL FUELS: A group of Republican senators are highlighting concerns that a provision under a key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water rule makes it too easy to block fossil fuel projects.
In a Thursday letter lead by Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Barrasso calls Biden's agenda 'Alice in Wonderland' logic: 'He's the Mad Hatter' MORE (Wyo.), the five Republicans asked EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to send new guidance regarding a statute in the Clean Water Act, which they fear has been used in the past to restrict the development of natural gas pipelines.
"In the last few years, a troubling trend directed at fossil energy projects has arisen. A select number of states have hijacked Section 401 to delay or block the development of natural gas pipelines and a coal export terminal. While the focus of these abuses today is fossil energy, the approach could be used to target any type of project that is disfavored politically," GOP Sens. Barrasso, Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — Senate looks to break defense bill stalemate Senate GOP moving toward deal to break defense bill stalemate Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE (Okla.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal GOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision MORE (W.Va.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziLobbying world Cheney on same-sex marriage opposition: 'I was wrong' What Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling MORE (Wyo.), and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesBill honoring 13 service members killed in Afghanistan heads to Biden's desk The Memo: Much-criticized Trump policy puts Biden in a vise The good, bad, and ugly of Tester's Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act MORE (Mont.) wrote in the letter.
Section 401 mandates that any industry that is applying for a federal permit to allow them to put discharges into a water system must also obtain a certification from the state in which the discharge is coming from to ensure they are complying with water quality standards. The rule can affect chemical plants, power plants or other fossil fuel drilling activities that could lead to pollution of a water source.
The lawmakers said the current statute is being used to "fight" fossil fuel projects rather than project water quality. They did not offer examples of projects that might have been unfairly struck down under the provision.
SENATORS SPLIT OVER TRUMP'S EXPECTED E15 DECISION: Trump is expected to announce over a trip to Iowa next week that he will allow year-round sales of an ethanol blend previously restricted, and a number of lawmakers are speaking up over the move.
Two Democratic House members Friday and a bipartisan group of 20 Senators Thursday each separately sent dueling letters to Trump the policy.
Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosCongress needs to act on the social determinants of health Democrats brace for flood of retirements after Virginia rout Democrats fear Virginia is precursor to House drubbing MORE (D-Ill.) and Dave LoebsackDavid (Dave) Wayne LoebsackPelosi to seat Iowa Republican as Democratic challenger contests election results Iowa Democrat who lost by six votes will appeal to House Iowa officials certify Republican Miller-Meeks's 6-vote victory MORE (D-Iowa.) their letter to Trump encouraged him to change the standards, writing that: "Allowing the year-round sale of E15 represents a significant step towards strengthening America's Heartland."
On the other hand, the group of senators, which included Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTrump haunts Biden vaccine mandate in courts IRS data proves Trump tax cuts benefited middle, working-class Americans most Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems press drillers over methane leaks MORE (D-W.VA.), wrote Trump to ask him to not change the standards. Many of the senators represent fossil fuel heavy states.
"We are concerned that doing so would do nothing to address the policies impacting refinery jobs, could hurt millions of consumers whose vehicles and equipment are not compatible with higher ethanol blended gasoline, and risk worsening air quality," their letter reads.
Trump is expected to allow the year-round sales of gasoline mixed with 15 percent ethanol, known as E15. The move is championed by corn growers as it would likely expand the market of ethanol but opposed by representatives of the oil and gas industry. Previously, the higher mix of ethanol in fuels was banned under the Obama administration during the summer months as studies showed ethanol when burned during warmer temperatures greatly contributed to smog. The change would essentially waive E15 from national vapor-pressure requirements, which currently block the sale of the fuel between June 1 to Sept. 15 in many areas dealing with smog issues.
COAL ASH DIDN'T POLLUTE NC RIVER ABOVE LIMITS, STATE SAYS: North Carolina officials didn't find any evidence that potential coal ash in the Cape Fear River led to unacceptable water pollution levels.
The state's Department of Environmental Quality released test results late Thursday from near Duke Energy's shuttered Sutton coal-fired power plant, showing that nearly all metal levels met state standards.
Duke had earlier acknowledged that last month's Hurricane Florence caused some coal ash from the plant to get into the river. Coal ash is a waste product from burning coal and contains harmful heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium.
The official testing results match Duke's claims that the ash spills didn't compromise water quality.
"Test results show all metals below state water quality standards with the exception of dissolved copper," the state agency said. Copper levels frequently rise after flooding, and the state doesn't believe it to be harmful.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK:
Trump is reportedly planning a trip to Iowa next week to announce he's ordering the EPA to allow gasoline with 15 percent ethanol to be sold year-round, a longtime priority of the ethanol industry and the corn-heavy state.
Bloomberg reports the election-season announcement could come with some other actions meant to appease the oil or refiner industry, such as limits on trading ethanol compliance credits.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the Endangered Species Act Wednesday. The specific topic will be state wildlife conservation efforts, with a focus on the Yellowstone grizzly bear and the Delmarva fox squirrel.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the panel, is pushing draft legislation to change the ESA, which would in part increase the power that states have in deciding how to recover the species. The hearing is a bid to boost arguments from Barrasso and other Republicans that states need more say in ESA decisions.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is planning a Thursday hearing on how the electric utility industry can restore electric service after a blackout.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
A drilling company is facing a new court delay in its attempt to start fracking in the United Kingdom for the first time in more than seven years, the Independent reports.
Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling 2.4 million hybrid cars due to a potential stalling issue with its hybrid system, USA Today reports.
New research says a dramatic increase in wind power could increase the climate's temperature, the Associated Press reports.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Friday's stories ...
-Coal ash didn't pollute NC river above state standards, officials say
-GOP senators ask EPA to block states that have 'hijacked' rule to stop fossil fuel production
-Court upholds Obama's Atlantic Ocean national monument