Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Trump moves to ease Obama water rule | EPA document contradicts agency over water rule data| Manchin to be top Dem on Senate Energy panel

TRUMP MOVES TO RELAX OBAMA-ERA WATER PROTECTIONS: The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed reduced federal protections for many small waterways such as streams and wetlands, opening them up to potential new harm from developers, energy companies and others.

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposal would redefine the "Waters of the United States," a legal term for which waterways are protected from harm and pollution by the federal government under the Clean Water Act.

The change is a major victory for developers, energy companies and other industries that emit water pollutants and use land. They had complained that under the 2015 rule created by the Obama administration, large swaths of often dry land required permits for routine activities.

The announcement came days after the EPA set out plans to roll back carbon dioxide limits for new coal-fired power plants. In recent months, the agency has moved to repeal or weaken regulations on auto efficiency, power plant emissions, methane pollution and other major rules, mainly from the Obama administration.

EPA's new plan is already setting off alarm bells from environmentalists, who say it could present a grave threat to drinking water, wildlife and ecosystems.

It's also guaranteed to kick off numerous aggressive lawsuits once the EPA makes the changes final.

The Obama-era rule is only currently in effect in about half of the country's states, due to lawsuits challenging it.

From the administration: Trump officials said that the new rule would make it easier and simpler for farmers, landowners, developers, states and others to tell if a water body is federally protected.

Streamlining that determination is important to industries because certain activities that could pollute water, like filling ditches or moving ponds, might require an expensive federal permit.

EPA leaders are promoting the rule change as a means to give states more authority to regulate water pollution.

"Our proposal would replace the 2015 definition with one that respects the rule of law and the primary role of states in managing their land and water resources. It would end years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends," acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said at an event at agency headquarters with dozens of industry officials and Republican lawmakers.

"Our new, more precise definition means that hard-working Americans will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit and more time upgrading aging infrastructure, building homes, creating jobs and growing crops to feed our families," he said.

The numbers: The EPA estimated that the new rule would avoid as much as $164 million in industry compliance costs annually. But it would lose up to $38 million from the Obama rule's benefits, since some water bodies like wetlands or ponds could be harmed.

Under the Trump administration's proposed definition, certain small streams that are tributaries of larger water bodies will no longer be protected, nor will wetlands that aren't directly connected to otherwise protected waters such as rivers.

Streambeds that only have water when it rains also won't be subject to federal protection.

We've got the details here.

 

 

And in other WOTUS news….

 

INTERNAL EPA DOCUMENT CONTRADICTS AGENCY ON WATER DATA: An internal EPA document is contradicting agency officials who said Tuesday that there is no data on how many waterways will lose protections under the administration's latest rule rollback.

The document, released through a Freedom of Information Act request to E&E News Tuesday, shows that officials in 2017 estimated that 13 percent of streams and 51 percent of wetlands across the U.S. would lose protections under EPA's latest rollback, announced today.

When announcing the details of the proposal to reporters at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., agency officials said the data on how many waterways would lose environmental protections didn't exist.

"Nobody has, in the history of the agency, a detailed mapping of all the wetlands in the country," said Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

"The numbers that have been thrown around over the last 24 hours, 60 percent, 80 percent, are not accurate."

Breaking down the controversy: EPA's Office of Water chief Dave Ross explicitly told reporters the data didn't exist, despite environmentalists' estimations to the contrary.

"No one has that data," he said. "If you see percentages of water features that claim to be in and reductions, there really isn't the data to support those statistics,"

An EPA spokesperson said officials ultimately decided the data discussed in the 2017 slideshow was not accurate enough to include in the final report.

"After a thorough review of the data and information available on the nation's waters, including the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), the agencies determined that the datasets are not robust enough to accurately or precisely depict federally regulated waters. So the statement that Assistant Administrator Ross' made is accurate."

More on the water data here.

 

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COAL SUPPORTER Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinLabor head warns of 'frightening uptick' in black lung disease among miners Labor leader: Trump has stopped erosion of coal jobs Overnight Energy: States fight Trump rollback of Obama lightbulb rules | Greens seek hearing over proposed rule on energy efficiency tests | Top Dem asks GAO to investigate climate threat MORE NAMED TOP DEM ON SENATE ENERGY COMMITTEE: Senate Democrats named Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, despite objections by progressive groups.

Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGetting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults MORE (D-N.Y.) announced the appointment Tuesday, along with the ranking members of other panels.

While Senate Democrats decide committee leadership roles by seniority, the Democratic caucus ratified the lineup.

"I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve West Virginians in this new role as the lead Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources," Manchin said in a statement.

"This committee has a long history of bipartisanship that has helped propel our nation's energy technology forward. West Virginia is a leading energy producer and major contributor to advanced energy technologies, and I intend to ensure this progress is continued," he said.

"The problems facing our country are serious, and I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common sense solutions for long-term comprehensive energy policy that incorporates an all-of-the-above strategy and ensures our state and our nation are leaders in the energy future."

The panel oversees the Energy and Interior departments, including public lands, energy policy, energy efficiency standards and fossil fuel production on federal land and offshore.

Manchin, who won a rough reelection race last month, is a strong supporter of the coal industry and frequently sides with the Trump administration and the GOP on energy matters. He famously shot a copy of the Democrats' cap-and-trade climate change bill in a 2010 campaign commercial to demonstrate his opposition to it and support for coal.

But he voted last week against Bernard McNamee, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE's nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It was a flip from his vote in the Energy Committee, and he said it was because McNamee denied the science of climate change.

We've got more on Manchin here.

 

ARCTIC HITS SECOND WARMEST TEMPS ON RECORD IN 2018: Historically high temperatures and increasingly thinning ice in the Arctic indicate worrisome climate trends, according to a new federal report released Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) annual report paints a stark picture for the future of one of the globe's coldest regions, finding that temperatures in 2018 were the second warmest on record after 2016 -- an increase of 1.7 degrees Celsius relative to the long-term average.

In fact, over the past five years, temperatures have risen above that average, the report said.

Hotter temperatures are also contributing to significant melting in the typically extensively frozen and inhospitable region. The region's oldest and thickest ice has declined by 95 percent over the past 33 years and currently only makes up less than 1 percent of the total ice pack.

Why this has climate experts worried: That directly impacts global climate since the arctic plays a significant role in regulating temperatures.

Without older, thicker ice, the region's ice remains younger, thinner and not as expansive as in past years. In fact, the reach of sea ice measured in March of this year was the second lowest in 39 years.

The report noted that one of the more "remarkable" changes included the lack of ice found in the Bering Sea, which was at its record low for nearly the entire 2017 and 2018 ice season.

The report's warning: "The collective results reported in the 2018 Arctic Report Card show that the effects of persistent Arctic warming continue to mount," the report noted.

"Continued warming of the Arctic atmosphere and ocean are driving broad change in the environmental system in predicted and, also, unexpected ways. New and rapidly emerging threats are taking form and highlighting the level of uncertainty in the breadth of environmental change that is to come."

More on the Arctic here.

 

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ON TAP WEDNESDAY:

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy is having a hearing on public private partnerships for federal energy management.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee on National Parks considers a host of bills.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

James Durso, the Managing Director of Corsair LLC, argues for an Atlantic coast pipeline.

Bill Arnold, professor at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business, argues that Qatar is signaling a big break from Saudis by leaving OPEC.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-Oil rises after report shows large crude-stockpile drop

-UK announces $126 million of funding for renewable energy in Africa

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee

-Internal EPA document contradicts agency over existence of water rule data

-Key Dem lawmaker objects to building new Redskins stadium on federal land

-Greens sue Trump to stop offshore oil testing

-Arctic hits second warmest temperatures on record in 2018

-Trump moves to relax Obama-era water protections