Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants

TRUMP VS CALIFORNIA, PART 89234094: The Trump administration is set to formally revoke California's tailpipe waiver under the Clean Air Act on Wednesday, according to a source with knowledge of the change.

The move is a major strike in the ongoing battle between the Trump administration and California over the state's right to enact more stringent air pollution standards due to its poor air quality.

It would come as Trump is fundraising in California, a state that has been a hotbed of resistance to his administration where Hillary Clinton won more than 4 million more votes than the president in the 2016 election.

The announcement indicates the White House is moving ahead with plans to split its auto emissions rule into two parts, a move seen as a way to speed up the process of finalizing the hotly debated deregulation.

The first section of the rule formally revokes California's preemption and waiver under the Clean Air Act, according to two sources with knowledge of the regulation.

The rule could be finalized within a week. 

Removal of the waiver would affect 13 other states that also follow California's clean air rules.

It's expected to quickly be challenged in court.

The second part of the rule will include a final decision over what fuel efficiency levels to set emissions at starting in 2025. It will be released within a month, according to one of the sources with knowledge of the rulemaking.

It is not yet known which of the eight fuel economy standard alternatives the Trump administration is favoring, though it's widely expected it will be lower than the Obama era regulation.

Read more here.


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HELP 'ESA' ON THE WAY: Democrats are fighting back against a Trump administration rule that scraps numerous protections for endangered species.

Legislation filed in the House on Tuesday would rescind a rule announced by the Department of the Interior in August that rolls back the Endangered Species Act (ESA), dramatically scaling back America's landmark conservation law.

The regulation allows economic factors to be weighed before adding an animal to the list, limits protections for threatened species and limits how factors such as climate change can be considered in listing decisions as well as in the review process used before projects are approved on their habitat.

The regulation was panned by Democrats and environmental groups, some of which have already filed suit to challenge the rule.

"The Trump administration's new regulations intentionally cripple the ESA - another giveaway to industry that puts near-term profits ahead of our long-term national interest. The Trump effort to gut the Endangered Species Act turns a blind eye to the science that tells us we should be enhancing wildlife habitat protections not dismantling them at the behest of special interests," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M).

The resolution, which seeks to void the Trump administration regulation, is also being sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Democratic Reps. Don Beyer (Va.) and Debbie Dingell (Mich.).

Critics say the Trump administration rule was especially startling in the wake of a United Nations report estimating there are 1 million species threatened with extinction due to human activity.

"We are in the middle of an extinction crisis, and President Trump is bulldozing the most important tool we have to protect endangered species," Grijalva said in a statement. "If we want to protect species close to extinction, Congress has no choice but to act."

A spokesman for Interior said, "We will continue to be steadfast in our implementation and improvement of the Endangered Species Act with the unchanging goal of conserving and recovering our most imperiled species."   

Read more about the bill here


THAT'S ONE WAY TO TRIM THE FAT: Pork plants will have their products looked over in less time by fewer inspectors under a rule finalized Tuesday by the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The new rule reduces the number of inspectors required at pork plants and also removes a cap on the speed inspection lines can run, prompting concern from groups that the rule will hurt public health as well as worker safety.

"This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a release, calling it a modernization of a 50-year-old process.

But a decrease in inspectors could leave the responsibility to companies' staff to spot signs of disease and remove unsuitable products, leaving USDA inspection at the end of the line.

"The new rule would remove 40 percent of government food safety inspectors from the pig slaughter plants, turning their tasks over to plant operators with no required training, and allow plants to aggressively increase their already breakneck line speeds to process more hogs per hour -- and increase profits," said Debbie Berkowitz, director of the worker safety and health program at the National Employment Law Project and a former senior policy adviser for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Obama administration. 

"By removing all limits on pig slaughter line speeds in an already dangerous industry, the Trump administration is rigging the rules against our nation's packinghouse workers and sacrificing their health to benefit narrow corporate interests."

The USDA's Office of the Inspector General has already opened a probe into whether the agency concealed information and used flawed data on worker safety when evaluating the new hog inspection system.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 30,000 pork plant workers nationwide, agreed with others that the changes will be dangerous for workers.

"Today's USDA rule sends a clear message that this administration values corporate profits more than the safety of America's food and workers," the group said in a statement.

USDA said inspectors "will also retain the authority to stop or slow the line as necessary to ensure that food safety and inspection are achieved" but estimates that reductions in staff will save the agency $8.7 million.

Read more here


BLM DELAYS NOTIFYING EMPLOYEES: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) missed its deadline to tell nearly 300 Washington-based employees where they will be reassigned as the agency moves out West, with leaders telling staff that higher ups failed to formally notify its state offices of the move.

The Department of Interior announced in July that it would be moving all but 61 of its Washington BLM staff to various existing offices out West, telling staff they would be notified where they will be moving by Sept. 17.

But those letters didn't arrive Tuesday, and though news of the move has been public for months, employees were told agency leaders have yet to formally notify the directors of its state offices that Washington-based employees would be relocating to their offices.

"The state directors were never notified in regards to the BLM staff relocating to their offices. They never contacted any of the state directors to tell them this was happening here in the Washington office," one BLM employee said. 

A spokesman for Interior confirmed that employees would not receive their relocation letters Tuesday, but would not respond to additional questions about failure to notify the bureau's 11 western state directors. 

Critics of the move have argued that it has been poorly planned and implemented. Many see it as a way to dismantle the agency that manages the nation's public lands and their resources, decentralizing its operations by spreading policy staffers across different offices.

Read more on the BLM controversy here



The House Committee on Foreign Affairs hosts activist Greta Thunberg for a hearing titled "Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis."

Meanwhile, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold its first hearing on the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. 

A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on water policy under the Trump administration. 

On Wednesday afternoon, a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee will look at ways to clean up the transportation sector.

In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on water infrastructure.



-Duke Energy to accelerate coal-plant closings, target 'net zero' carbon emissions by 2050, the Charlotte Business Journal reports.

-Maryland relaxes initially proposed oyster harvest limits, aims for 26 percent reduction, The Baltimore Sun reports.

-U.S. to allow drivers to choose 'quiet car' alert sounds, Reuters reports.

-Gas prices could rise 15 to 30 cents following Saudi attack, we report.


ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

Interior gains new watchdog

Solar market slows as large projects shift to 2020

Air pollution reaches placenta during pregnancy: study

Home Depot won't sell rugs coated with 'forever chemicals'

Trump border wall may damage archeological sites: report

Trump administration plans to reduce pesticide testing on birds

Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver

Trump administration finalizes rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants

Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback

Saudi Arabia: Oil production will be restored by the end of the month

Obama meets with Greta Thunberg: 'One of our planet's greatest advocates'

BLM fails to notify state offices of relocation plans, leaving 300 staffers unsure where they'll be sent