Overnight Energy: Trump doesn't mention climate change in speech touting environmental policies | Green groups fight EPA's new FOIA rule | Trump emissions rollback hit with legal challenge

Overnight Energy: Trump doesn't mention climate change in speech touting environmental policies | Green groups fight EPA's new FOIA rule | Trump emissions rollback hit with legal challenge
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TRUMP TALKS ENVIRONMENT BUT NOT CLIMATE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE touted his environmental successes in a speech from the White House on Monday that focused heavily on his steering of the economy and help for the nation's energy sector, and that didn't mention the phrase "climate change" once.

Flanked by cabinet heads from the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department, Trump said he alone had proved that job creation and environmental protection could go hand in hand.

"For years politicians told Americans that a strong economy and vibrant energy sector were incompatible with a healthy environment-- that one thing doesn't go with the other," he said. "And that's wrong."

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Much of the speech addressed environmental issues as a footnote to his efforts on energy, but Trump argued that growth in energy and a clean environment could build on one another.

"We're unlocking American energy and the United States is now a net exporter of clean reliable American gas," Trump said. 

In the next breath, he added: "Today the U.S. is ranked number one in the world for access to clean drinking water."

Since entering the White House, Trump has rolled back EPA regulations on methane, replaced an Obama-era rule regulating power plants emissions and suggested weakening vehicle fuel standards. He has also proposed easing a major Obama-era rule protecting waterways.

But pointing to numbers released last Friday that showed the economy gained a better-than-expected 224,000 jobs in June, Trump said his administration's embrace of fossil fuels had unlocked economic growth and ended a "war on energy." And he cast this as an important part of his administration's environmental legacy.

"The previous administration waged a relentless war on energy. We can't do that," Trump said.

The 2020 angle: Trump's address comes as environmental issues and climate change have risen in importance for Democratic voters heading into the 2020 elections. Polls have shown global warming is now a top voting issue, ranking alongside health care and the economy. 

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Americans disapprove of Trump's position on many major issues. The lowest-ranking issue in the poll was climate change, with just 29 percent of respondents saying they approved of Trump's position.

No climate change talk: Trump has come under intense criticism from environment groups and Democrats for rolling back Obama-era regulations intended to address climate change, and for saying he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords.

The withdrawal from the Paris deal has also led to new tensions with U.S. allies in Europe. Trump has argued the Paris agreement was a bad deal that unfairly hurt the United States.

Another criticism aimed at Trump is that he has contributed to doubts about climate change by questioning himself the degree to which the planet is warming.

The 45-minute speech contained no reference to global warming or plans to re-enter or draft a better deal for the Paris Climate agreement.

Former EPA employees and environmentalists called the speech a clear case of misdirection.

Read more on Trump's speech here.

 

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FOIA FRENZY: A coalition of environmental groups pushed back Monday against a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that could restrict access to public records. 

The new EPA rule, the details of which were first reported by The Hill, allows the agency administrator and other political appointees to review all materials requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. 

"Any politicization of FOIA undermines its core functions of enabling the public to inform itself on what its government is up to, and to hold officials accountable for those actions," the groups wrote in the letter, saying they were "concerned that this new rule will unduly impair the public's right and ability to apprise itself of important agency actions."

According to the new rule, which was signed by EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA walks back use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock from wild animals EPA proposes rolling back states' authority over pipeline projects New Mexico says EPA abandoned state in fight against toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE without first going through a comment period, political appointees and other officials would review documents and then decide "whether to release or withhold a record or a portion of a record on the basis of responsiveness or under one or more exemptions under the FOIA, and to issue 'no records' responses."

The groups that signed the letter, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists and many others, have asked Wheeler to withdraw the rule, saying it would be improper to implement it without giving the public a chance to weigh in on its impacts. 

EPA's new rule is similar to the controversial process employed by the Department of the Interior, which also lets political appointees review FOIA requests before they are released to the requester. 

Critics of the rule at EPA and Interior have highlighted the potential for abuse.

"Aside from this requirement intuitively granting political staff heightened opportunities to interfere with FOIA requests, it is difficult to see how this change could possibly improve the Agency's FOIA efficiency or enhance the public's lawful access to information," the groups wrote in their Monday letter.

Lawmakers may step in: There is already talk in Congress of using legislation to limit the review of public records documents by non-FOIA staff, something the agencies refer to as an "awareness review."

"Transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act help provide access to information in the face of an opaque and obstinate government. Unfortunately, a recent Supreme Court ruling and new regulations at EPA and the Department of Interior are undermining access," Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation Trump health official: Controversial drug pricing move is 'top priority' Environmental advocates should take another look at biofuels MORE (R-Iowa) said in a late June speech on the Senate floor.

"The public's work ought to be public. So, I'm working on legislation to address these developments and promote access to government records."

Read more on the FOIA fight here.

 

HEALTH GROUPS SUE OVER EMISSIONS RULE: Two major health organizations on Monday sued the Trump administration over its rollback of an Obama-era rule on power plant emissions.

The American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association are challenging President Trump's newly unveiled American Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the administration's replacement for the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

Critics have widely panned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump for introducing a rule that opponents say will do little to reduce pollution from power plants.

"In repealing the Clean Power Plan and adopting the ACE rule, EPA abdicates its legal duties and obligations to protect public health under the Clean Air Act, which is why we are challenging these actions," the two groups said in a statement Monday.

"EPA has legal authority and obligation under the Clean Air Act to protect and preserve public health and welfare, including by regulating carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants," they added. "However, it is simply not lawful for EPA to use its legal authority in ways that will increase dangerous air pollutants and harm the health of Americans."

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration's replacement rule is designed to give states more time and authority to decide how to implement new technology to lower net emissions from coal-fired plants.

The administration argues that the Obama rule was too extreme, and that the replacement rule focuses more narrowly on technology power plants can use to reduce their pollution.

"This regulation does not cap emissions, does not set a state-wide cap or a facility cap - we don't cap emissions, we limit emissions rates," a top EPA official told reporters on a call when the ACE rule was announced.

A number of state attorneys general and environmental groups have also vowed to sue over the new rule.

Read more on the lawsuit here

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The House Committee on Rules will have a business meeting on the defense policy bill, which includes measures to deal with PFAS, commonly known as "forever chemicals." 

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a number of energy bills, including legislation from Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (R-Maine) to further research on battery storage. 

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-All Mississippi beaches shut down due to toxic algae, we report.

-Ohio lawmakers miss deadline to save two nuclear plants, vow to keep trying, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

-The California coast is disappearing under the rising sea, the Los Angeles Times reports.

-New Jersey law requires utilities to check for electricity-dependent customers, NJ.com reports.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Monday and over the weekend...

-Trump touts environmental policies, but says nothing of climate change

-Environmental groups fight EPA's new FOIA rule

-Agriculture Department suspends data collection for honeybees after Trump budget cuts

-More than 1,800 pounds of trash left behind by Fourth of July visitors at Lake Tahoe

-Lawmakers talk legislation in response to FOIA changes

-Ocasio-Cortez slams GOP amid DC flooding: 'Republicans are tripling down on fossil fuels'

-Health groups sue over Trump rollback of Obama-era emissions rule