Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Trump proposal would nix agency reviews of long-term climate impacts | Greens rip decision | House votes to block offshore drilling for one year

TRUMP REVERSES ANOTHER OBAMA CLIMATE POLICY: The White House on Friday proposed reversing an Obama-era policy that directs agencies to consider the climate impact from various projects.

The draft guidance would change the way agencies evaluate the environmental effect of things like pipelines and oil and gas drilling.

“Agencies should analyze reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences of major Federal actions, but should not consider those that are remote or speculative,” the guidance said in a section about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.{mosads}

The document added that agencies “need not give greater consideration to potential effects from GHG emissions than to other potential effects on the human environment.”

Context: The guidance from the White House Council on Environmental Quality comes just days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a rollback of Obama-era regulation on emissions from power plants.

The guidance directs agencies to consider greenhouse gas emissions when “substantial enough to warrant quantification.” Agencies do not have to consider how a project might impact greenhouse emissions if doing so would be “overly speculative.”

It reverses a 2016 rule from the same council that directed agencies to analyze how the projects they approve will contribute to climate change. Trump withdrew the Obama-era guidance in April 2017.

Greens react: Environmental groups called the proposal an attack on environmental protection.

“Once again, the Trump administration is more than willing to change the rules to benefit their corporate polluter friends. Today’s actions do nothing but turn a blind eye to the climate crisis while further stripping oversight and safeguards in an effort to aid the fossil fuel industry,” the Sierra Club said in a statement, vowing to fight the proposal.

Read more about the guidance here.


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DEMS HIT PAUSE ON OFFSHORE DRILLING: A spending bill passed by the House late Thursday would block offshore drilling along most U.S. shores, taking development of all of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts off the table.

Passed as part of a bill funding the Department of the Interior, the measure would bar new offshore development through fiscal 2020.

Members on both sides of the aisle have pushed for measures that would limit drilling along their state’s shorelines. The collection of amendments included in the bill limit new development in most coastal waters, including the Florida portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s pretty cut and dry where I come from. We don’t want it and we don’t need it,” Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) said at a meeting earlier this week to review offshore drilling bans.

Another portion of the bill would block the seismic testing used to find oil and gas reserves.

The Trump administration has pushed an energy dominance strategy that includes further offshore drilling, but Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has yet to unveil the department’s five-year offshore drilling plan, citing the uncertainty surrounding an Alaska case that blocks development there.

A number of environmental groups expressed support for the spending bill.

Read more about the ban here.


ICYMI: FORMER EPA STAFFER SAYS WHEELER LIED TO CONGRESS: A longtime former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffer is accusing Administrator Andrew Wheeler of lying in a letter he wrote to Congress Thursday that denied agency staff were shut out as EPA developed a controversial rollback on Obama-era fuel standards.

Critics of the rollback have long contended that the EPA sidelined its Office of Transportation and Air Quality when developing the rule. The office is home to the agency’s in-house lab for testing vehicles emissions.

Wheeler denied that accusation this week, but Jeff Alson, a former senior policy advisor to that office, said Wheeler is not telling the truth.

“I know that is a lie because I was there. I was one of 20 people at EPA working on this for a decade,” Alson told The Hill. Alson retired in April of last year after working 40 years at the agency.

The issue of sidelined staffers came to a head as lawmakers probed the stalled negotiations between EPA and California, which has long had more stringent standards for vehicle fuel economy and is fighting the EPA rollback.

As lawmakers grilled EPA officials over the failed negotiation, the EPA delivered a letter from Wheeler that blamed California for the standstill.

It also accused the state’s negotiator, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, of incorrectly saying the Office of Transportation and Air Quality were shut out of the rulemaking process.

“Her testimony that EPA professional staff were cut out of this proposal’s development is false,” Wheeler wrote.

Alson said the administration has denied pushing aside career staff before, but he found this instance particularly grievous.

“To see it in a formal letter that was given to Congress and to specifically accuse someone else of lying when in reality that person was being truthful and when Administrator Wheeler was the one doing the lying, it just put me beyond the point of no return,” he said.

Read more on the controvery here.



On Tuesday, the House will hold hearings on uranium mining and protecting American waterways.

The Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee will review implementation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

On Wednesday, House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) will host an environmental justice summit.

On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on storing nuclear waste.



Massive fire breaks out at Philadelphia oil refinery, The Washington Post reports.

New Jersey just gave the green light to build the nation’s largest offshore wind farm, NJ Advance Media reports.

Florida Gov. DeSantis signs bill pledging $18 million to fight red tide, WGFL reports.

Tags Andrew Wheeler Climate change Donald Trump Joe Cunningham John Barrasso Offshore drilling Raúl Grijalva Sierra Club Tom Carper White House Council on Environmental Quality
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