Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Trump signs permit to jump-start Keystone XL | Dem requests probe into Interior pick’s handling of endangered species report | New York to become second state to ban plastic bags

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TRUMP SIGNS NEW KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE PERMIT: President Trump on Friday signed a presidential permit to jump-start construction of the Keystone XL pipeline with a facility in Montana, a move seen as a way to circumvent previous court orders halting construction.

The permit authorizes energy company TransCanada Corp. to “construct, connect, operate, and maintain” pipeline facilities between the U.S. and Canada.

The permit also allows for the maintenance of a pipeline facility at Phillips County, Montana, for importation of the oil to the U.S.

{mosads}The order supersedes a March 2017 order. That permit was invalidated by a Montana federal judge in November. The ruling is being appealed in the 9th Circuit.

Separately, a December lawsuit placed an injunction on most preconstruction activities.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I hereby revoke that March 23, 2017, permit,” Trump wrote in Friday’s order.

The November court ruling was seen as a major victory for environmentalists and indigenous rights groups. District Court Judge Brian Morris in Montana overturned Trump’s permit for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline.

Read more here.


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DEM WANTS PROBE INTO INTERIOR PICK’S HANDLING OF ENDANGERED SPECIES REPORT: A Democratic lawmaker has asked the Interior Department’s watchdog to look into reports that President Trump’s nominee to lead the agency directly intervened to stop the release of a study linking the effects of two chemicals on endangered species.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to Interior’s acting Inspector General Mary Kendall asking for an investigation into allegations that the agency’s acting chief, David Bernhardt, stopped the release of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) study.

Bernhardt’s intervention was outlined as part of more than 84,000 pages of documentation recently released through a Freedom of Information Act request to The New York Times.

“Mr. Bernhardt, in his role as Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, directly intervened with Fish and Wildlife Services officials to block the release of a report on toxic pesticides,” Wyden wrote in his letter.

The FWS study commissioned under the Obama administration looked at the health effects three known toxic chemicals had on various endangered species. The study concluded that two of the chemicals that are used in well-known pesticides were so toxic that they would “jeopardize the continued existence” of nearly 1,200 endangered plants and animals, the Times found.

Questions for Bernhardt: Bernhardt, who was nominated in February to permanently serve as Interior secretary following the resignation of Ryan Zinke, testified in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday for his confirmation hearing.

During the hearing, Wyden pressed Bernhardt on his past roles working as a lobbyist for energy and agriculture companies.

Wyden said the acting secretary had so many conflicts of interest that, if confirmed as Interior secretary, he’d likely get bored due to all the meetings he’d have to recuse himself from.

Asked about his role keeping the FWS study from being released, Bernhardt told the Senate panel that his decision was backed by Interior’s legal counsel.

“You’re dealing with some of the most difficult consultations on the planet and when I read the document my reaction to it was this is really an interesting draft but it clearly didn’t have any legal review and in our world you can’t ignore the law and come up with a scheme,” Bernhardt said.

“I basically said let’s go kick it over to career lawyers, have them look at it, and their assessment was exactly like mine.”

What’s next: An inspector general spokesperson said the office received the letter from Wyden midday and will be reviewing his request.

Read more here.


NEW YORK PRIMED TO BE SECOND STATE TO BAN PLASTIC BAGS: New York state lawmakers have agreed to a ban on single-use plastic bags, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The ban, which will likely be part of state budget bills that are expected to pass Monday, will reportedly prohibit retailers from giving customers single-use bags, making New York the second state to ban the bags.

There will be several exceptions to the ban, including for trash bags, newspaper bags, garment bags and food takeout bags.

It will go into effect next March.

Counties will also reportedly be allowed to opt in to a 5-cent fee on paper bags to discourage their use as well.

A growing trend?: California became the first state to ban plastic bags last year. Hawaii has also effectively banned the bags, as all of the state’s counties have passed legislation banning them.

Supporters of such bans say that the non-biodegradable bags are harmful to the environment. Environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy of New York are supporting the ban and also calling for a fee on other single-use bags.

According to the Times, the plan was proposed a year ago by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

 “For far too long plastic bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways and that’s why I proposed a ban in this year’s budget,” Cuomo said in a statement to The Hill.

“With this smart, multi-pronged action New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers,” he added.

Read more here.



The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold its first meeting next Thursday titled “Generation Climate” to discuss the urge by young people to fix the global warming crisis.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday,on climate’s effect on national security.

Over on the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources committee will press ahead with hearings examining the President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget by looking at the proposal for the Department of Energy on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies will discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2020 budget. EPA Head Andrew Wheeler will testify.



-Energy chief Perry OKs deal to share nuke tech with Saudis, the Associated Press reports

-Indonesia threatens to quit Paris climate deal over palm oil, Reuters reports

-Mosquito-spread diseases may endanger millions in new places due to climate change, The Guardian reports

-California governor rips PG&E plan that would ‘prioritize’ profits following fire, The Sacramento Bee reports

-Rising seas force ‘underwater homeowners’ to mobilize, the Associated Press reports



Check out stories from Friday…

-Trump signs permit to jump-start delayed construction of Keystone XL pipeline

-Dem asks for probe into Trump pick’s involvement in halting endangered species report

-New York to become second state to ban plastic bags

-Trump on wind energy: ‘I know a lot about wind’

-Trump contradicts his own budget proposal, tells rally crowd he’ll give more money for Great Lakes restoration

Tags David Bernhardt Donald Trump Interior Keystone pipeline plastic bags Ron Wyden Ryan Zinke
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