Overnight Energy: Democratic debate takes heat for watered-down climate questions | Senate votes to force military, EPA to deal with 'forever chemicals' | Renewable energy production surpasses coal in US

Overnight Energy: Democratic debate takes heat for watered-down climate questions | Senate votes to force military, EPA to deal with 'forever chemicals' | Renewable energy production surpasses coal in US
© Greg Nash

GREENS HEATED ABOUT DEBATE CLIMATE Q's: Green groups and politicians alike are criticizing the first Democratic primary debate moderated by NBC News on Wednesday night for failing to ask enough substantive climate change questions.

While debate moderators spent nearly 10 minutes asking various candidates about issues related to their climate action plans, critics who have been calling for a single climate-focused debate are arguing it was significantly lacking.

"I don't think that we are discussing climate change the way we need to be discussing climate change," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Bloomberg's 2020 moves draw ire from Democrats Sanders: Potential Bloomberg run shows 'arrogance of billionaires' Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez see 'class solidarity' in report Bezos asked Bloomberg to run MORE (D-N.Y.) said on "The Late Show with Steven Colbert" after the debate. 

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"It is such a huge, broad systemic issue and you can't just say, 'Is Miami gonna exist in 50 years?' We need to say what are you going to do about this."

Candidates on the Miami stage were asked a variety of pin-pointed questions, including could their climate plans alone save Miami from sea level rise, how could they make carbon pricing economical and how they can spread the message of a climate crisis.

But critics argued the questions at times lacked important context and made large assumptions about the state of climate change, letting candidates answer with broad-stroked responses.

"It's absurd to host a debate in Miami -- a city where millions of people could lose their homes due to sea level rise that's also only 20 miles from the Everglades, where massive fires are out of control -- and spend only a few minutes on the climate crisis," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement a youth-led climate action group.

Read more here.

 

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PFAS GETS ITS DAY IN CONGRESS: The Senate passed a defense bill Thursday that would require an increased response from the government to harmful chemicals that have leached into water in at least 43 states. 

Included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is language that would push the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a national drinking water standard for a class of chemicals known as PFAS that have been linked with cancer and other health problems. 

The EPA has said it will decide by the end of the year whether to regulate the chemicals that are so persistent in the environment they've been deemed "forever chemicals." 

PFAS is used in a staggering number of products, including firefighting foam, which the bill directs the military to stop using. 

Why it's a big deal: A move by Congress to force a drinking water standard would be significant and ultimately require local governments to keep PFAS in water below a certain level. Currently, the EPA recommends water contain no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS, but many states, tired of waiting for the EPA, have set more stringent standards far below that figure.

The bill also directs the Department of Defense to take more aggressive action on PFAS following accusations that the Pentagon was trying to weaken EPA regulations that would force the military to take on expensive cleanup costs now estimated at around $2 billion. 

The bill pushes the Pentagon to finalize agreements with states for cleaning up PFAS contamination caused by the military largely through the use of firefighting foam. The military would have three years to phase out use of the foam.

Other provisions would also force the EPA to consider barring new uses of PFAS and require PFAS manufacturers to share data on their production.

But the Senate version does not make Superfund cleanup money available for places where PFAS has contaminated drinking water, something Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Liz Cheney applauds Trump for pulling out of Paris climate agreement Overnight Energy: Trump formally pulls out of landmark Paris climate pact | EPA to ease rules on waste from coal-fired power plants | States, green groups sue to save Obama lightbulb rules MORE (D-Del.) has been pushing for.

"The provisions we secured in this legislation will improve both the federal government's understanding of and response to PFAS contamination," he said.

And carbon capture too!: The Senate version of the defense bill also includes a number of other environmental measures, including funding for research into carbon capture.

Read more here.

 

CLEAN ENERGY EDGES OUT COAL: Renewable energy production surpassed coal-fired generation for the first time in the U.S., according to the latest figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Sources like wind and solar energy provided 23 percent of America's electricity in April, compared to 20 percent from coal, the agency announced Wednesday.

"Record generation from wind and near-record generation from solar contributed to the overall rise in renewable electricity generation this spring," EIA said on its website.

The bulk of renewable generation comes from wind power and hydroelectricity.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE has made repeated promises to save a coal industry he says was damaged by the Obama administration, but energy experts have contended market forces are behind coal's decline.

A number of utilities have announced their intention to cease their reliance on coal and close coal-fired power plants by dates ranging from 2030 to 2050.

Big-box retailers like Target have also made pledges to transition to renewable energy to power their stores. 

Many states are also pushing the shift toward green energy, increasing renewable energy mandates for utilities within their borders.

States like Hawaii, California and New York have pledged to reach 100 percent clean energy by as soon as 2040. 

Read more here.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION: 

Russian activities in the Artic, as well as their motivations, deserve not only scrutiny but also a plan for countering them, argues Alice Hill, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Extreme Europe heat wave to persist in Spain, France after many countries set all-time highs for June, Accuweather reports

California, Canada sidestep Trump, ink deal on emissions, the Associated Press reports

Exxon Mobil invests in Global Thermostat carbon capture technology, the Houston Chronicle reports

Wisconsin Supreme Court backs Enbridge in Dane County case, the Associated Press reports

Temperature records melting Miami, The Washington Post reports

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Thursday...

-Senate vote requires military, EPA to deal with harmful 'forever chemicals'

-Democratic debate takes heat for watered-down climate questions

-Renewable energy production surpasses coal in US for first time

-Ocasio-Cortez criticizes climate change questions in Democratic debate

-Democrats face off on climate change positions in first debate