Overnight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief
Overnight Energy: Trump EPA finalizes rule to kill Obama climate plan | Trump officials delayed releasing docs on Yellowstone superintendent's firing | Democrats probe oil companies' role in fuel rule rollback
SHOT: Trump administration submits final rule to kill Obama Clean Power Plan: The Trump administration Wednesday finalized a rule to repeal and replace a capstone Obama-era carbon pollution regulation that they argue exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority.
The new replacement rule to the Clean Power Plan (CPP), deemed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, aims to give states more time and authority to decide how to implement the best new technology to ease net emissions from coal-fired plants.
"Under the CPP, ... [the] Obama administration went beyond implementing best technology," said a senior EPA official on a call with reporters Wednesday. "Under the CPP the Obama administration actually imposed emissions reductions on each and every state. We don't believe that's an EPA role or authority under the [Clean Air Act.]"
The result of the relaxed rule, the official said, could mean individual coal plants might increase their overall emissions. But, the official said, across the board the agency expects emissions to drop.
"We project that at full implementation, emissions from the sector will decrease. It's possible that some emissions will go up but [the] emissions rate will go down," the official said.
"This regulation does not cap emissions, does not set a state-wide cape or a facility cap -- we don't cap emissions, we limit emissions rate."
EPA officials estimated that under the rule the U.S. power sector would see CO2 emissions drop as much as 35 percent below 2005 levels.
"Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement.
The Trump administration's argument for the rule change has largely centered on the conclusion that the Obama-era rule picked winners and losers in the energy sector.
Obama's plan aimed to transition the nation's electrical grid off coal-fired power plant reliance. The emissions reductions proposed in CPP largely targeted coal plants.
The Trump administration, which has championed coal and the continuation of fossil fuel production, said the plan aimed to unlawfully change the energy marketplace.
Read more here.
CHASER: Inslee knocks carbon move: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who has made combating climate change the centerpiece of his 2020 White House bid, blasted the Trump administration on Wednesday over efforts to repeal Obama-era carbon regulations.
"Donald Trump's undying loyalty to coal CEOs is literally killing Americans. Today's action provides yet another egregious giveaway to corporate polluters and fossil fuels," Inslee said in a statement.
"This Dirty Air Rule may be the most destructive environmental policy action ever taken by an American president, and it will foist upon the American people tens of billions of dollars more in climate and health costs, over the next decade and beyond," he added.
"This proposal is morally reprehensible: This is a bailout for coal CEOs that will lead to more premature deaths, more children with asthma and more impacts of climate change across the world," Inslee said.
Happy Wednesday! And welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.
SHOW ME THE DOCUMENTS: The release of internal documents sought by The Hill related to the replacement last year of Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk was delayed by the Interior Department under a new rule that gives political appointees more say over what is released.
Interior political officials held back the release of a set of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents for nearly a month after some officials questioned whether the materials should have been provided to The Hill, according to new internal Interior emails granted to the environmental group Earthjustice in a recent public records request.
The partially redacted documents were eventually released to The Hill on April 4, nearly a month after the first deadline set by the National Park Service (NPS).
The delayed documents included communications in the days leading up to Wenk's departure between him and acting NPS Director Dan Smith, Interior chief of staff Todd Willens, former senior adviser and national park superintendent Dave Mihalic and Rick Obernesser, the acting deputy director for operations at NPS.
FOIA officials first flagged the four responsive documents set to be released to The Hill on March 6 to political appointees as part of the newly implemented Interior policy known as an "awareness review."
The policy allows senior political officials referenced in FOIA requests to see the documents 72 hours prior to their release to any reporter or watchdog group that requested the public data.
"[The FOIA documents are] slated to be released on March 12, 2019. The attached documents are being provided to you for 72 Awareness Review," Charis Wilson, NPS FOIA officer, wrote to Interior officials.
A day before the documents were set to go out, Interior's top lawyer, Hubbel Relat, responded to the email, requesting a delay.
"We're reviewing now. Could we get a bit more time? Thanks!" he said.
Both Willens and Smith were able to view the documents before their release, according to the internal emails.
In another email, Katie Mills, the top lawyer for Interior's Office of the Secretary, asked why text messages were to be included in the release. She questioned whether the dates were outside The Hill's FOIA request.
"I was also curious as to why some text messages are included when they are outside of the date range requested?" Mills asked the day before the documents were set for release. "I'm just trying to understand why they may have been included, or if I was possibly missing something? Thanks so much!"
HOUSE DEMS INVESTIGATE BIG OIL: The House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched an investigation into petroleum companies' involvement in a Trump administration rollback of Obama-era fuel economy standards for vehicles.
In letters to Marathon Petroleum and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers (AFPM), Democrats accused the two of involvement in a "covert lobbying and social media campaign" to support the rollback, which was announced in August 2018.
A key pillar of former President Barack Obama's environmental legacy involved strengthening fuel emissions standards for cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2026. But Trump's rollback, which Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis said would increase petroleum consumption by 500,000 barrels per day, would freeze the average fuel economy at 37 miles per gallon.
The New York Times found the two groups worked through other conservative and energy groups to push favorable reception of the rollbacks on fuel standards.
Democrats have asked the two entities to turn over all communications with government officials about the policy change, as well as descriptions of any conversations or lobbying efforts they were involved in.
They made the same request to conservative groups the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity, and Energy4US, a group tied to AFPM.
The auto industry has opposed the rollback of fuel efficiency standards, largely on the grounds that California is fighting to keep its more stringent standards, and EPA career staff countered claims from agency heads that the measure would save lives.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Flesh-eating bacteria spreads to East Coast beaches, infecting people crabbing in Delaware Bay, People reports.
Venezuela faces gas shortages, NPR reports
Tesla slips to third place for solar installations in the US, Marketplace reports
Major solar, renewable energy bills on verge of passage in Maine, The Portland Press Herald reports
ON TAP THURSDAY:
The Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce will look into an EPA rule proposal to roll back emissions standards for cars. Witnesses testifying at the hearing will include California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols.
Nichols has been an instrumental figure in California's pushback to Trump's proposed emissions rule. Expect some fireworks.
Also Thursday, the Natural Resources Committee's subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will hold a hearing on U.S. oil and gas development.
The Senate's Energy and Natural Resources committee Thursday will discuss geothermal energy development.
Stories from Wednesday...
-Democrats take aim at Trump policies by passing $1T spending package
-Inslee knocks carbon move: Trump's 'undying loyalty to coal CEOs is literally killing Americans'
-Trump UN nominee: Climate change poses 'real risks'
-Trump speech, flyover confirmed as part of July Fourth schedule
-Trump admin submits final rule to kill Obama Clean Power Plan
-Exclusive: Trump administration delayed releasing documents related to Yellowstone superintendent's firing
-Trump says 'air and water are the cleanest they've ever been' in US