Overnight Energy: Democrats to vote on 2020 climate debate | Green groups sue to stop Keystone XL construction | States sue EPA for tougher rules on asbestos

Overnight Energy: Democrats to vote on 2020 climate debate | Green groups sue to stop Keystone XL construction | States sue EPA for tougher rules on asbestos
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CLIMATE DEBATE, IS THAT YOU?: The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is considering two measures that could decide the fate of a standalone climate debate for Democratic presidential hopefuls, two DNC officials confirmed to The Hill Monday.

Members of the DNC's executive committee unanimously voted Saturday to allow two measures related to holding a climate debate to be further considered and potentially voted on as early as August.

The two measures, forwarded to the DNC resolution committee, call for either the establishment of an official climate change-focused debate or a more intimate forum on the matter.

A vote on the topic of a climate debate is anticipated as early as August 22 when DNC officials are slated to meet in San Francisco. However, a DNC official cautioned that the shape of the resolutions are likely to change by then, with the possibility of additional climate-focused resolutions or hybrid options brought to the table. 

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"They are voting on the topic in August in some shape or form. They may be amended, there may be yet a third resolution written that tries to bring them into harmony," said Christine Pelosi, a member of the executive committee and the resolution committee.

"I don't see these two options on a collision course with one another. I think there is a solution we can call a win win."

Mounting pressure: The resolution comes as the DNC has been experiencing mounting pressure to hold a separate debate on the topic of climate.

Just last week the DNC held its first presidential primary debate in Miami where candidates discussed a variety of pressing issues. Despite nearly ten minutes of questioning being devoted to climate action issues on each of the two debate nights, environmental advocates and others criticized the debates for not allowing substantive responses about the issue of which multiple candidates have labelled the top threat facing the U.S.

Also, last week members of the youth climate action group The Sunrise Movement rallied outside the DNC's Washington, D.C. headquarters demanding a climate debate.

Pelosi was one of three DNC members to introduce the resolution Saturday that called for a standalone climate debate.

Read more on the potential vote here.

 

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KEYSTONEWALLED: Various environmental groups on Monday sued the federal government over allowing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing the project violates environmental law.

The Sierra Club, Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance and other groups filed a suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saying that it violated the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued a nationwide permit to allow the construction of the TransCanada Corp. gas pipeline.

The suit argues specifically that the federal government's permit to allow the construction of the pipeline between Canada and the U.S. was done "without assessing its significant direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects and by using the Permit to approve most of Keystone XL's water crossings without analyzing its project-specific impacts."

"Incredibly, the EA [environmental assessment] does not evaluate the risks or impacts of oil spills into waterways at all," the suit reads.

How we got here: A federal court ruled last winter that the U.S. State Department violated environmental laws by failing to supplement its 2014 environmental impact statement in light of a new pipeline route through Nebraska.

Another ruling placed a stay on construction from going forward. But the Trump administration in late March rescinded that 2017 Keystone permit, issuing a new one in its place.

The administration argued the new permit, which aimed to circumvent the environmental impact statement issues, nullified the construction moratorium. 

A White House spokesperson told The Hill at the time that the new permit "dispels any uncertainty."

"Specifically, this permit reinforces, as should have been clear all along, that the Presidential Permit is indeed an exercise of Presidential authority - that is not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act," the spokesperson added. The Trump administration moved to remove the stay on construction and the 9th Circuit later agreed, dismissing in early June the previous suit as moot.

More lawsuits: The same environmental groups on Monday sent separate notices of intent to sue to the Army Corps, Trump administration and TransCanada Energy over violations to the Endangered Species Act through intended pipeline construction.

The groups argued the construction would allow for the unlawful killing and destruction of habitat of listed endangered species.

Read more about the lawsuit here

 

ANOTHER PUSH TO LIMIT ASBESTOS: Eleven Democratic attorneys general from across the country have filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing the agency has failed to effectively regulate asbestos. 

The agency announced a rule in April to restrict the substance but stopped short of banning it outright, a move critics say could open the door to new uses of asbestos. 

"It is widely acknowledged that asbestos is one of the most harmful and toxic chemicals known to humankind," California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver Microsoft to follow landmark California privacy law nationwide MORE (D) aid in a release about the lawsuit. "While it's troubling that we must once again take the EPA to court to force the agency to do its job, we won't pull any punches. There's too much at stake to let the EPA ignore the danger that deadly asbestos poses to our communities."

The attorneys general had previously petitioned the EPA to create a new rule requiring data collection on the importation and use of asbestos, something the agency denied around the time it unveiled its new rule. The suit would force the agency to issue a new asbestos reporting rule.

Officials have known for decades that asbestos causes illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. The EPA's April rule was the first action the agency took on the substance in 30 years, but it was panned by critics as a half measure that could reintroduce some asbestos products to the market.

"This new rule makes it more difficult for industry to resume some abandoned uses of asbestos, but that is a half step at best," Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group, wrote in a press release at the time. An outright ban "is the only way the public can trust industry will never again be able to use this dangerous material that has literally killed tens of thousands of Americans."

The EPA has not ruled out an asbestos ban under its new rule.

"If there is any unreasonable risk, the EPA will regulate, and our regulation could take the form of a ban," Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention told The Hill in April. 

But many Democrats say they've lost patience with the agency, expressing concern that agency scientists who recommended a full ban were ignored by top EPA officials.

More on this lawsuit here

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

-House Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to the World Wildlife Fund seeking documents on a range of human rights abuses linked with the nonprofit, including torture, sexual assault, and extrajudicial killings associated with anti-poaching efforts. Grijavla and committee ranking member Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopWalden retirement adds to GOP election woes Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden won't seek reelection MORE (R-Utah) also asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the matter.

-GAO also released a report finding that the Department of the Interior could do more to ensure oil and gas companies fully pay royalties owed from drilling on public lands. 

-The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution urging Congress to adopt a national price on carbon emissions. The group includes more than 1,400 cities. 

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-Paris bans nearly 3 million vehicles during weekdays in effort to crack down on pollution, we report.

-America's second offshore wind farm is now under construction, Bloomberg reports.

-Japan catches first whales after ban lifted, the BBC reports.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Monday and the weekend...

-Paris bans nearly 3 million vehicles during weekdays in effort to crack down on pollution

-Green groups sue to stop Keystone XL construction

-States sue EPA for tougher regulation of asbestos

-Prince Harry, Meghan MarkleMeghan MarkleHillary Clinton says she faces 'enormous pressure' on 2020, but it's 'not in my plans' Trump says he 'can understand' Meghan Markle and her struggles with media scrutiny Dozens of women MPs sign letter in support of Meghan Markle MORE promote environmental activists: 'There is a ticking clock to protect our planet'

-Harvard faces backlash for naming former Michigan Gov. Snyder as research fellow

-Russia to tow controversial nuclear power station to Arctic: report

-Japan readies for first commercial whaling hunt in decades

-United Nations says world may face 'climate apartheid' that pushes over 120 million into poverty by 2030

-North Carolina animal rescue group asking for discarded bras to help injured turtles

-Trump rejects need for climate action at G-20: US has 'cleanest' water and air 'we've ever had'

-US oil output grows to historic rate of 12 million barrels per day