Overnight Energy: Trump formally pulls out of landmark Paris climate pact | EPA to ease rules on waste from coal-fired power plants | States, green groups sue to save Obama lightbulb rules

Overnight Energy: Trump formally pulls out of landmark Paris climate pact | EPA to ease rules on waste from coal-fired power plants | States, green groups sue to save Obama lightbulb rules
© Greg Nash

WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS...OR NOT: President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE on Monday began the yearlong process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

The official announcement cements a promise Trump made in the White House Rose Garden in 2017 when he first announced his intention to withdraw from the global climate change agreement signed by every other country in the world.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFive takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony Pompeo: No US response ruled out in Hong Kong Ousted ambassador describes State Department in 'crisis' in dramatic impeachment testimony MORE announced the move in a statement.

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"President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement," Pompeo said. "The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens' access to affordable energy.

"The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix," he added, arguing "innovation and open markets" will drive emissions reductions.

A controversial move: Trump's 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.

"It is shameful. It is cowardly when we need to be brave and act boldly. Long after the rest of us are gone, future generations will remember this president's failure to lead on the greatest environmental challenge of our time," said Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Liz Cheney applauds Trump for pulling out of Paris climate agreement MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. 

"By breaking America's commitment to the Paris Accord, President Trump is reducing America's standing in the world," Carper added.

The president has repeatedly boasted about already withdrawing the U.S. from the deal, despite the rigid timelines required by the agreement for nations seeking to leave it.

What's next: The agreement allowed the U.S. to begin the process to withdraw on Monday and finalize the U.S. exit from the agreement on Nov. 4, 2020 -- just one day after the presidential election.

The process will kick off just weeks ahead of a United Nations summit in Spain, where leaders will hammer out final details for complying with the agreement.

Democrats have already asked U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft to recuse herself from the withdrawal process, given her financial and personal ties to the fossil fuel industry. Craft's husband, Joe Craft, is CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest coal companies in the U.S.

The 2020 angle: Recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate accord has become a box to tick for Democrats running for president in 2020, most of whom have said they would do so their very first day in office.

Read more about the withdrawal here

 

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QUITE A COAL ROLLBACK: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday announced it would roll back Obama-era regulations on how coal-fired power plants dispose of waste laden with arsenic, lead and mercury.

The Trump administration's proposals weaken rules dealing with the residue from burning coal, known as coal ash, as well as the residue rinsed off of filters installed on smoke stacks. Both are often mixed with water and stored in giant pits that could leach into groundwater or be released directly into local waterways.

The rollbacks, which were spurred by a court decision ordering EPA to overhaul the use of unlined ponds, target 2015 Obama administration rules that required power plants to invest in wastewater treatment technology and monitoring of coal ash ponds, measures they estimated would stop some 1.4 billion pounds of coal ash from entering rivers and streams.

Companies will now have more time to leave coal ash sitting in storage ponds and power plants could petition to keep large ponds open for up to eight more years, until 2028.

The administration's side: The proposals are the latest attempt by the Trump administration to prop up the coal industry, which has been losing ground to renewables and natural gas.

The EPA said the new rules "support the Trump Administration's commitment to responsible, reasonable regulations by taking a commonsense approach, which also protects public health and the environment."

Criticism from greens: Environmental groups have already threatened to sue over the proposal, which now faces a 60-day comment period.

Betsy Southerland, a former director of the EPA's Office of Science and Technology in the Office of Water who helped develop the 2015 rule, said the latest proposals give broad exceptions and extensions that will increase the likelihood of contaminating nearby water.

"The 2015 rule being replaced today documented that coal fired power plants discharge over 1 billion pounds of pollutants every year into 4,000 miles of rivers, contaminating the drinking water and fisheries of 2.7 million people," she said.

She also took issue with the EPA assumption that many companies would voluntarily install additional pollution controls.

And while the latest proposal keeps the monitoring process, Southerland said that will be of little comfort to communities who live near waste ponds that may now stay open years longer than expected.

"These things are leaking like crazy into ground water or busting into rivers," she said. "The people living around these plants are just screwed."

Read more about the rollbacks here

 

LET US SHINE A LIGHT ON THIS SUIT ON THIS VERY BUSY DAY: Separate coalitions of states and environmental advocacy groups sued the Department of Energy (DOE) Monday, challenging a decision to eliminate energy efficiency standards for nearly half the lightbulbs on the market.

Fifteen states and a coalition of seven environmental and consumer groups are fighting the rule, arguing it will hasten climate change as utilities crank out more electricity to power inefficient bulbs.

"The United States cannot and will not be the exception to the international movement to phase out the inefficient, unnecessary, and costly use of incandescent bulbs," New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who spearheaded the suit, said in a statement.

"The Trump Administration's not-so-bright idea to rollback light bulb energy efficiency standards is an obvious attempt to line the pockets of energy executives while simultaneously increasing pollution and raising energy bills for consumers."

The controversial rule erases Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs, keeping in place rules for standard pear-shaped bulbs, while removing such requirements for recessed lighting, chandeliers and other shapes of bulbs.

The impact: The rule will increase U.S. electricity use by 80 billion kilowatt hours over the course of a year, roughly the amount of electricity needed to power all households in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to an analysis by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. That translates to more than an $100 a year added onto the average consumer bill.

Who's on board with the suit: In addition to New York, the suit was filed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and the city of New York.

At the heart of the challengers' arguments is a "backsliding" provision of the law that prohibits adopting weaker energy efficiency rules.

"It's outrageous that the Department of Energy turned its back on the law passed by a bipartisan Congress and supported by industry more than 12 years ago to ensure our lighting is as energy efficient as possible," said Kit Kennedy with the Natural Resource Defense Council, which led the suit on behalf of the advocacy groups. 

"It's not only illegal to backtrack on energy efficiency standards, the United States will become the dumping ground for the inefficient incandescent and halogen models already banned in Europe and being phased out by countries around the world."

Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryHighly irregular: Rudy, the president, and a venture in Ukraine White House releases rough transcript of early Trump-Ukraine call minutes before impeachment hearing Overnight Energy: Perry replacement faces Ukraine questions at hearing | Dem chair demands answers over land agency's relocation | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan MORE appeared to acknowledge as much in a May appearance before Congress, telling lawmakers portions of the Obama regulation were burdensome but that "you can never back up a standard."

Read more on the lawsuits here

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

On Tuesday, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a confirmation hearing with Katharine MacGregor, who has been nominated as the new deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

Britain to impose immediate moratorium on fracking, we report.

Former Perry aide to defy Democrats' subpoena, E&E News reports.

Mysterious oil spill threatens marine biodiversity haven in Brazil, Science reports.

 

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

Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez to hold climate summit in Iowa

Democrats say they're waiting for nearly 50 requests for Trump info on science, environment

2020 Dems target inequality with green plans

Trump rips California governor, threatens to cut aid as wildfires ravage state

Indigenous leader killed by illegal loggers in the Amazon

Newsom fires back after Trump tweet: 'You are excused from this conversation' for not believing in climate change

EPA rolls back rule on waste from coal-fired power plants

Trump formally pulls out of landmark Paris climate agreement

States, green groups challenge rollback of Obama-era lightbulb rules