Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: BLM move would split apart key public lands team | Renewables generated more power than fossil fuels in UK for first quarter ever | Harley-Davidson stops electric motorcycle production

BREAKING UP THE TEAM: The team that assesses the environmental impacts of major projects on the nation's public lands will be split up and spread across seven states, according to new internal documents detailing the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) plans to relocate most of its Washington-based employees out west.

The documents reviewed by The Hill provide insight into how BLM plans to split up teams, spreading people who currently work together to offices across different states.

"It's more apparent than ever to me what the goal is for this proposal, and it's not to make things more efficient and to get things on the ground," said Steve Ellis, who served 38 years with BLM before resigning from its highest level career position in 2016. "Staff is being scattered so they can't work together efficiently and effectively."

The big picture: The Department of the Interior announced in July that it would be moving to a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo., while spreading roughly 300 D.C.-based staffers to existing offices in the west. The plan would leave just 61 employees in Washington. 

The move has been contested by lawmakers, conservationists and former BLM employees who see it as a way to dismantle the agency and sideline career staffers who could present a roadblock to some energy development. 

Fallout for NEPA staff: The team that produces the environmental analysis of major projects required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of the groups that would be hit hard by the move.

Under the plan dated Sept. 25, the 20-person NEPA team would be scattered across seven states, with 12 in Denver and one employee each in Fort Collins, Colo.; Phoenix; Reno, Nev.; Sacramento, Calif.; Anchorage, Alaska; Santa Fe, N.M.; Salt Lake City; and Billings, Mont. 

This comes after Interior announced in 2017 it would streamline the NEPA process by centralizing reviews primarily among some of the highest-level Interior and BLM political appointees.

"This staff is now being scattered all over," Ellis said. "And it's being replaced by this political review in Washington."

What the team does: Environmental reviews play a pivotal role as BLM considers things like whether to greenlight drilling for oil on public lands or approve lumber projects in national forests. One recent environmental impact statement reviewed how drilling would affect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  

Interior's pushback: "The relocation of BLM staff has bipartisan support and will fundamentally improve the Bureau's operational efficiency and effectiveness. The assertion that these changes are to dismantle the Bureau is ignorant and out of touch with the needs of communities in the West; communities who are directly impacted by decisions currently being made more than a thousand miles away in Washington," Nick Goodwin, spokesman for Interior, said in an email to The Hill. 

Goodwin said the 2017 changes to NEPA "shifted the responsibility for NEPA compliance to the BLM's state directors, so the need for these positions to be in DC is no longer necessary. The relocation of these planning positions to State Offices will provide greater support for environmental analyses in each state's planning areas."

Other teams: The documents also show how other teams would be broken up under the plan.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Protection division would be roughly split in two, with half going to Salt Lake City and half in Denver. 

Ellis sees this as a problem, as it would split up an interdisciplinary team designed to look at a landscape holistically, evaluating how different parts of an ecosystem interact in order to preserve various types of habitat. 

"I fail to see how this will be a more efficient and effective organization," he said. "Whoever proposed this thing knows nothing about how the organization works. They can't or they wouldn't have done this." 

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ENERGY SHIFT: Electricity generated from wind, solar and hydraulic plants beat out traditional fossil fuel plants as the top source of power for the United Kingdom during a three-month period for the first time, according to an analysis released Monday. 

Between July, August and September, renewable energy sources generated about 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh) compared to just 29.1TWh generated from fossil fuel sources, according to an analysis by UK-based climate news site Carbon Brief.

The results showed that the three summer months were the first quarter where renewable power generation outpaced fossil fuel power in the United Kingdom since the country opened its first public electric power station in 1882.

Looking at the source of power in the country's past, the strong shift toward renewables is striking. In 2010, fossil fuels accounted for more than 10 times the amount of electricity than renewables, according to the analysis. Today electricity generation from fossil fuels has halved, according to the report, with electricity derived from coal, oil and gas down from 288TWh to 142TWh in the most recent 12-month period.

The report attributed the shift to shrinking demand due to efficient electric grids and the growth of renewable capacity paired with falling energy costs.

The trend is the first sign that the country, which has recently vowed to adopt net zero gas emissions by 2050, is heading in the right direction. 

Read more here.

 

MORE TIDBITS:

That's hogwash... Harley-Davidson has stopped making and delivering an electric motorcycle after a glitch was discovered during quality checks. 

The motorcycle producer said it found a "non-standard condition" in the LiveWire bikes, which it had started shipping to vendors last month, Reuters reported Monday.

The firm told Reuters that testing was going "well" but didn't say when production would resume. 

LiveWire has reportedly been available to preorder since January and it costs $29,799. 

 

Sounds like she's Fonda getting arrested... Actress Jane Fonda says she is prepared "to get arrested every Friday" amid the climate change protests that led to her being detained outside the Capitol last week.

Fonda made headlines for participating in what she called her "Fire Drill Fridays" demonstration, inspired by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Appearing on CNN Monday, Fonda said she moved to Washington from her home in California to take up climate-focused activism after Thunberg organized climate strikes across the globe.

"This is a collective crisis, it requires collective action and so I decided to use my celebrity to try to raise the sense of urgency and I moved to Washington and I'm going to get arrested every Friday," she said.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY:

On Tuesday, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will review technology to address lead removal at a field hearing in New Jersey.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-A solution for food waste in Maine schools: Give it to the pigs, the Associated Press reports.

-Louisiana kills net metering. Will other states roll back solar? E&E reports. 

-Michigan moves ahead on standards for PFAS in drinking water, The Detroit News reports.

-Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs bill limiting oil and gas development, the Los Angeles Times reports.

-California first in the nation to ban new fur sales, Stateline reports.

-Notre Dame to cease burning coal a year ahead of schedule, the South Bend Tribune reports.

-Newsom vetoes tough bill on new plastic bottle recycling rules, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. 

 

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and over the weekend...

Governor declares drought watch for Virginia

BLM move would split apart key public lands team

Harley-Davidson stops electric motorcycle production

Jane Fonda said she is prepared 'to get arrested every Friday' for climate change protests

Renewables generated more power than fossil fuels in UK for first quarter ever

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