Overnight Energy: Interior sees rise in revenue from drilling on public lands | Officials propose easing pesticide rule for farms | Trump prepares to formally leave Paris climate deal

Overnight Energy: Interior sees rise in revenue from drilling on public lands | Officials propose easing pesticide rule for farms | Trump prepares to formally leave Paris climate deal
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DRILLING DISBURSEMENTS: Revenue collected and dispersed assets from energy production on public lands rose by billions in fiscal year 2019, according to new data released by the Interior Department Thursday.

Revenues from energy sources, such as drilling of oil and gas on and offshore, rose to nearly $12 billion, an increase of 31 percent over the previous year. Disbursements rose to $11.69 billion compared to the previous year's $8.93 billion with 35 states receiving more than $2.44 billion, according to the data.

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Interior officials hailed the growth amidst the Trump administration's push for increased oil and gas drilling on public lands.

"The President believes we can appropriately develop our natural resources and be great stewards of conservation," Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. 

"The disbursements paid to states and Tribes from energy development revenues go right back to the communities where the energy was produced, providing critical funding for schools, public services, conservation improvements, and infrastructure projects that create good-paying American jobs."

The agency attributed the growth to higher oil and gas production volumes that offset the market price decrease in the fossil fuels. 

Read more here

 

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PESTICIDE ROLLBACK: A new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule proposal would shrink enforcement responsibilities for farmers by narrowing the areas where they must restrict human contact when applying pesticides.

The rule announced Thursday shrinks enforcement of the boundaries established under the Application Exclusion Zone to just within a farm owner's property. The previous statute extended the exclusion zone to areas outside the farm, where workers and others might come into close proximity to processes and equipment used to spread pesticides.

The new proposal would also no longer mandate family members living on farms to leave during pesticide application times. Instead they can choose whether to voluntarily leave or stay on any homes or in any structures on the farm land.

EPA's stance: EPA head Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA to resume contract negotiations with employee union Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits Latest EPA guidance weakens air protections in favor of industry, critics say MORE called the rule changes more "effective and easier to implement." 

"In listening to input from stakeholders, our proposal will make targeted updates, maintaining safety requirements to protect the health of those in farm country, while providing greater flexibility for farmers," he said in a statement Thursday.

The other side: Critics argue the rule significantly shrinks worker and family protections established under the EPA's Worker Protection Standard (WPS), by allowing more chances of contact with often harmful and cancer-linked chemicals and pesticides.

"The EPA continues to betray farmworkers and the recommendations agreed to by stakeholders, including industry government and farmworkers, in meetings held over two decades by weakening the measures urgently needed to protect farm workers and their loved ones," said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Farm workers and their families continue to be poisoned by pesticides, and if anything, the WPS must be strengthened, not weakened."

Burd argued the new changes would largely benefit farm owners at the expense of farm hands who work in close proximity to the chemicals.

"Over and over, the concerns of farm owners are represented, echoing that they appreciate not being bound by burdensome rules. But they don't have any farm worker voices stating how these rules will affect them," she said of EPA's press release on the rule.

Read more on the proposed rule here

 

WE'RE KINDA SORTA LEAVING PARIS, BUT ALSO WE ALREADY DID: The White House is reportedly beginning to prepare to formally withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.

The official withdrawal would cement a promise President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE made in the White House Rose Garden in 2017, where he first announced his intention to withdraw from the global climate change agreement signed by every other country. 

Trump can formally begin the yearlong withdrawal process on Nov. 4, allowing the U.S. to finalize the process on the same date in 2020 – just one day after the presidential election. 

Trump was widely expected to announce the formality during a Wednesday speech in Pittsburgh but instead bashed the deal.

"I withdrew the United States from the terrible, one-sided Paris Climate accord. It was a total disaster," Trump told crowds gathered at a natural gas event, before repeating a line from when he first pledged to leave the deal, saying "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

His views on the deal have been widely criticized by Democrats, environmentalists, and even some Republicans, who say the U.S. is abdicating global leadership at a time when urgent action is required to stem the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Trump has repeatedly boasted about withdrawing the U.S. from the deal, despite the rigid timelines required by the agreement.

Adding to the confusion was a White House readout of Wednesday's speech, which said "the President announced he is pulling the United States out of the fraudulent, ineffective, and one-sided Paris Climate Accord."

When asked by The Hill whether the speech constituted a formal withdrawal, a spokesman for the White House said "the president has already announced the U.S. withdraw from the disastrous Paris Climate Accord." Reporting from the New York Times indicates the formal process is set to begin soon.

Read more about Trump's plans here

 

A LAST CHANGE TO BLOCK USDA MOVE: Thirty-two Democratic lawmakers have signed a letter asking House and Senate appropriators to withhold funds in the 2020 budget that could be used to move the U.S. Department of Agriculture's two research agencies out of the capital.

"With only a fraction of reassigned employees opting to relocate, we are extremely concerned that moving forward with this relocation will increasingly jeopardize ERS and NIFA's ability to continue their critical work as well as cause irreparable harm to the federal scientific workforce," the lawmakers wrote, using abbreviations for the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Background: The USDA announced in June it would relocate the two agencies to Kansas City. The department's Office of Inspector General has questioned the legality of the decision. 

The move has already had impacts as employees leave the agencies. ERS was forced to delay or quash research after losing nearly 80 percent of its staff as employees fled rather than relocate. 

The House did not include funding for the move in the USDA spending bill, but the Senate version passed Tuesday does. 

"It is disappointing that this bill supports the administration's ill-advised relocation of USDA research agencies. I have spoken out about this relocation effort and remain concerned about the loss of expertise and focus such a move precipitates at USDA," Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors Trump brings pardoned soldiers on stage at Florida fundraiser: report ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks MORE (D-Vt.) said on the floor. 

Read more on the controversy here.

 

DEMS FIGHT TONGASS LOGGING: Democrats are fighting a Trump administration proposal to open logging in Alaska's pristine Tongass National Forest.

A letter from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijavla (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Harris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires MORE (D-Calif.) asks the U.S. Forest Service for an assessment of how rolling back protections for the area will impact the environment and the economy.

The Trump administration announced earlier this month it would reverse a long-standing limit on logging in the forest as well as removing it entirely from a 2001 Clinton-era regulation known as the "Roadless Rule." The rule established prohibitions on road construction and timber harvesting across 58.5 million acres of roadless lands in the National Forest System.

"The Trump administration has made destroying our environment a central feature of its agenda, and the consequences are going to be felt for a long time," Grijalva said in a statement. "Cutting down old-growth trees is not a sustainable jobs plan. This administration and its cheerleaders aren't happy unless big corporations are happy, and that's not a balanced way to set conservation policy."

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

Coca-Cola named most polluting brand in global audit of plastic waste, The Intercept reports. 

Deadly California fire spurs review of guidance to dump burning trash, the Associated Press reports.

Sierra Club sues SEC for first time ever over blocked climate resolutions, CNBC reports.

Purple sea urchins wreaking havoc on the West Coast, we report.

Massachusetts sues Exxon Mobil, saying company lied about climate change, Reuters reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday...

Trump prepares to formally withdraw US from Paris Climate Accord

Climate change is top priority for young voters: study

South Dakota drops pipeline protest laws after lawsuit

Purple sea urchins wreaking havoc on the West Coast

Trump administration rule to shrink exclusion boundaries near pesticide applications

Revenue from drilling on public lands increased by a third last year

Democrats ask appropriators to block funding for USDA move