Overnight Energy: White House axes advisory boards for marine life, invasive species | Northeast states move to reduce transportation emissions | Judge allows Bears Ears lawsuit to proceed

Overnight Energy: White House axes advisory boards for marine life, invasive species | Northeast states move to reduce transportation emissions | Judge allows Bears Ears lawsuit to proceed
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ADVISORY BOARDS ARE GETTING AXED: The Trump administration is disbanding two federal advisory boards focused on protecting marine life and battling invasive species.

As of Tuesday, the government will no longer fund the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the Interior Department's Invasive Species Advisory Committee, the two agencies confirmed.

Both federal advisory panels have been in operation for more than a decade.

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The discontinuation of each committee, as well as the end of the work of the various scientists and academics working on them, comes as the Trump administration has called for cutting at least one-third of all advisory panels. Monday was the deadline for each agency to comply with the June executive order.

Advisors on the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee were first alerted via email Monday that the council was being disbanded but were offered no explanation, two scientists on the committee told The Hill.

"Two years ago, when the federal advisory committee was up for renewal, a lot of us thought it would get the axe given the politics of the federal government. When it didn't, we were surprised and glad we had the extra two years," said Will McClintock a scientist on the council. "Now that it's been discontinued, I can only guess at the reasons why."

The panel advises NOAA on ways to strengthen the country's Marine Protected Areas and identify challenges facing them. It was first chartered in 2003 under former President George W. Bush.

There are over 1,700 marine protected areas in the U.S. covering 41 percent of marine waters, which include marine monuments and sanctuaries. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE in 2017 issued an executive order asking the Commerce Department to review "future offshore energy potential" at national marine sanctuaries and monuments that had been designated or expanded since 2007.

Separately, former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight 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 Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE recommended to Trump in January 2018 that three of the national monuments be opened to commercial fishing or reduced in size. No action has been taken.

Pushback: "Marine Protected Areas are places where human activities are limited and altogether excluded. And as far as I can tell, that has nothing to do with the Trump administration's priorities with the extraction of resources including oil," said McClintock, a project scientist at the Marine Science Institute, part of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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McClintock said papers filed by the committee were hardly controversial. A recently filed document included a tool kit on enhancing conservation at cultural heritage marine sites.

Administration's view: A spokesperson for the Commerce Department said the elimination of the committee followed a "comprehensive review" of all of the agency's advisory panels "in an effort to use government resources more efficiently" following Trump's June executive order. The spokesperson would not provide details on other committees cut as a result of Trump's order.

"As part of the review, Commerce recommended to the Office of Management and Budget that the charter of the Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee be allowed to expire," the spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

Read more about the eliminated committees here

 

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TACKLING EMISSIONS: A coalition of New England and mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday took a first step toward limiting transportation emissions across 13 states.

At the heart of the draft proposal is an effort that would place pollution limits on middlemen who bring gasoline to U.S. consumers, forcing those companies to buy credits to compensate for pollution that will stem from their products. 

The effort, known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), is based on another similar regional cap and trade initiative known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI limits pollution from power plants, forcing utilities to pay if they exceed the caps.

States from Maine to Virginia are banding together to form a similar cooperative, but instead of power plants their efforts will be focused on oil terminals that store fuel before it heads to market as well distributors of gasoline.

Members of TCI include Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia.

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The big picture: Taking on transportation emissions is an ambitious project. The sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in car-reliant America. Leaders involved in the effort are unsure whether their proposal would raise prices at the pump.

"By working together on this, we can really deliver a better, cleaner, more resilient transportation system benefitting all of our communities, particularly those who are underserved by current transportation and also disproportionately affected by pollution," said Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

A final agreement isn't expected until spring 2020. Theoharides and others involved in the initiative said they have not yet decided how much to try and limit pollution.

The effort comes as the Trump administration has reduced tailpipe emissions standards and proposed weakening fuel economy for vehicles.

Read the story here

 

BEARS EARS: A federal judge ruled that legal action can proceed against the Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

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U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan rejected the Trump administration's bid to dismiss the lawsuits against the 2017 actions, according to the three-page decision.

Chutkan, an Obama appointee, ordered lawyers from all sides in the case to attend a hearing on an "expedited, coordinated schedule" for the filing of additional legal briefs. 

Environmental groups and five Native American tribes are challenging the administration's decision to reduce the size of Bears Ears by about 85 percent. Trump also slashed the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument nearly in half.

The rulings mean that the legal action brought by those groups will proceed.

Heidi McIntosh, managing attorney of Earthjustice's Rocky Mountains office, told The Hill in a statement that the group looks "forward to the next step: showing that President Trump violated the law when he dismantled Bears Ears and Grand Staircase."

"When Trump went after our national monuments, he thought he could ride roughshod over this country's cultural and natural heritage, and auction off iconic public lands that belong to all of us. But this remains a country of laws. We will work relentlessly until we ensure that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase are protected forever as they were meant to be," she said. 

Read more on the lawsuit here

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TIDBITS:

-First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump tweet mocking Greta Thunberg sparks backlash Biden slams Trump for criticizing Greta Thunberg: 'What kind of president bullies a teenager?' Melania Trump's 'Be Best' hashtag trends after president goes after Greta Thunberg MORE will visit Wyoming's national parks.

-The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sided with New York in its lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the agency should do more to regulate cross-state pollution. EPA had previously argued it doesn't need a "good neighbor" rule.

-House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenConservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' 'Medicare for All' backers notch win with high-profile hearing Democrats declare victory for eliminating drug protections in trade deal MORE (R-Ore.) questioned how committee Democrats will reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-Climate change could make borrowing costlier for states and cities, Stateline reports.

-Portland's plastic by-request policy starts Oct. 1, KOIN 6 reports. 

-Judge allows PFAS suit in Ohio to proceed against 3M, other companies, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

-Vermont now able to regulate certain radioactive materials, WCAX 3 reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

Bears Ears lawsuit to proceed, federal judge rules

Prosecutors: Timber thieves started Washington forest fire while trying to burn bees' nest

White House eliminates advisory boards for marine life, invasive species

Yellowstone National Park gets its first ever female chief ranger

 

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