Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Trump officials propose overhaul of environmental rule for federal forests | GOP pollster warns party over climate stance | Roundup ingredient found in cereals

TIME TO TRIM THOSE HEDGES OR TREES: A new proposed rule from the U.S. Forest Service designed to make environmental reviews more efficient would shortcut important oversight of industry plans, environmentalists say.

The rule comes after months of complaints by President Trump that the agency is mismanaging forests and not doing enough to prevent fires in California and other states.

Federal law requires an environmental review for projects on federal land, but exceptions are granted if industry can show the project would not severely impact the environment. The Forest Service proposal would expand the types of exceptions for skipping the review process.

"The Agency proposes these revisions to increase efficiency in its environmental analysis," the Forest Service wrote in the rule, while "fully honoring its environmental stewardship responsibilities."

Why greens are worried: The proposal follows an executive order from late last year widely viewed as an attempt to increase logging on federal lands.

Environmentalists say letting industry skip the environmental review process would eliminate the mechanism communities and citizens have to express concerns over nearby projects.

"The Trump administration is trying to stifle the public's voice and hide environmental damage to public lands," Ted Zukoski, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "These rules would let the Forest Service sidestep bedrock environmental laws. Logging companies could bulldoze hundreds of miles of new roads and chainsaw miles of national forests while ignoring the damage to wildlife and waterways. All of this would happen without involving nearby communities or forest visitors."

Environmental groups say the rule would not protect communities because it excludes them from participating in the process.

The exceptions to environmental review include some logging if the Forest Service has determined such efforts would be restorative to forests, but critics say there would be no review of the agency's decision beforehand.

"The public may only know after the fact when the Forest Service has already made a decision," Randi Spivak, director of public lands for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Spivak is also concerned about a provision that would allow five miles of road to be built through federal land without an environmental review. There are not exceptions though, to how many times that provision could be used.

The agency's side: Vicki Christiansen, chief of the Forest Service, told NPR that current regulations are more thorough than is needed.

"We do more analysis than we need, we take more time than we need and we slow down important work to protect communities," Christiansen said.

The Forest Service did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

Trump's impact: The president has repeatedly chided the Forest Service for how it manages lands, most recently in a speech last night in Iowa.

"You can't let 15 and 20 years of leaves and broken trees and dead wood that after the first 18 months is dry as a bone. You can't let that be there, you have to clean it. You have to clean those floors of the forest and you're going to see a big difference," Trump said.

The proposed rule would limit environmental review for things like prescribed burns, something Spivak said is often needed.

Read more about the proposed rule here.

 

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GOP POLLSTER SOUNDS ALARM ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Prominent GOP pollster Frank Luntz is warning Republican lawmakers that the public's views on climate change are shifting and that ignoring the issue could cost them important votes at the ballot box.

In a memo circulated to Republican congressional offices on Wednesday, Luntz Global Partners warned that 58 percent of Americans, as well as 58 percent of GOP voters under the age of 40, are more concerned about climate change than they were just one year ago.

The polling group also noted that 69 percent of GOP voters are concerned that the party's stance on climate change is "hurting itself with younger votes."

Of the GOP voters under the age of 40, more than half, or 55 percent, said they are "very or extremely" concerned about their party's position on climate change.

"Climate Change is a GOP VULNERABILITY and a GOP OPPORTUNITY," read a copy of the memo obtained by The Hill. "Yes, Republican voters want a solution. It is on measures of salience to vote that we have detected the greatest change."

"The appetite for seeing real action is palpable to voters of both sides," the memo states.

Referring to a listening session with likely voters, the memo said many are angered that GOP leadership "ceded the issue to the Dems."

"Typically, the most effective campaign approach is to build-out from the base. ... Not here; there's simply too much recognition that the politicking has blocked Progress," the group said in the memo.

Luntz Global conducted the online poll of 1,000 voters on behalf of the Climate Leadership Council, which is promoting its own carbon tax and dividend plan. The survey found that GOP voters supported the plan by a 2-1 margin.

Fifty-three percent of Republicans surveyed said they would be more likely to support a candidate who supported a plan that included a carbon tax.

The memo said a carbon-fee plan would sit "in stark contrast" to the Green New Deal, a progressive climate action plan embraced by the majority of Democratic presidential candidates.

Red more on the Luntz memo here.

 

HEY, THERE'S ROUNDUP IN MY CEREAL!: A key chemical used in the controversial pesticide Roundup is found in a number of name-brand cereals and granolas, a study out Wednesday found.

The study, paid for by the Environmental Working Group, found that levels of glyphosate were found in 21 oat-based cereal and snack items, many of which are marketed to children.

Testing results showed that amounts of glyphosate, a cancer-linked chemical, were found in Cheerios and Nature Valley products.

Glyphosate is a key ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, a commonly used commercial pesticide. Since August, three courts have ruled against Bayer-Monsanto, the producer of the pesticide, finding that the product led to cancer in the instances of three plaintiffs. Most recently, a California court in May awarded a couple $2 billion in damages after determining their cancer was caused by the weedkiller Roundup.

More than 13,000 similar lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto or its parent company Bayer.

Where the EPA stands: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month proposed new rules to "help farmers target pesticide sprays on the intended pest, protect pollinators, and reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to glyphosate."

But the agency has denied the link between the pesticide and cancer and the chemical is still approved federally for commercial use.

"EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate," Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in an earlier statement.

Yet the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, in 2015 classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans." California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in 2017 classified glyphosate as a known carcinogen.

The pesticide is commonly used on corn, soybean and oat crops.

The Environmental Working Group's study found the chemical on all of the 21 oat-based products it tested with Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch exhibiting the highest level of glyphosate at 833 ppb, or parts per billion. In drinking water, EPA's maximum contaminant level for the chemical is 700 ppb.

The EPA did to return a request for comment on the study's findings.

Read more on the study here.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

Over in the House Thursday, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change will hold a hearing on methods to clean up spent nuclear fuel. The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will also hold a hearing on renewables.

On the Senate side, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on wildland fire management.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Ohio requests federal aid for tornado victims, WPTA reports

Gas prices could fall below $2 across U.S., CNN reports

Trump says he's considering slapping sanctions on gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, CNBC reports

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Wednesday...

-Trump administration proposes overhaul on environmental regulations managing federal forests

-Democrats grill FEMA over inflated payments for Hurricane Maria

-Activists deliver petition with 200,000 signatures calling for climate debate to DNC

-GOP pollster Luntz: Majority of younger Republicans worried by party stance on climate change

-Roundup ingredient found in cereals marketed toward kids: study

-Ethics group goes after Interior for sidestepping Senate when filling posts

-Theresa May commits UK to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

-Former GOP EPA chief: Trump administration is 'trying to create confusion in science'

-Trump administration signals support for uranium mining that could touch Grand Canyon

-Trump in Iowa touts ethanol while bashing Biden

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