Overnight Energy: BLM chief says he's thankful for speeding up environmental reviews| Ban on consumer use of chemical found in paint strippers goes into effect| Environmental groups sue Trump administration over tailpipe emissions rollback

Overnight Energy: BLM chief says he's thankful for speeding up environmental reviews| Ban on consumer use of chemical found in paint strippers goes into effect| Environmental groups sue Trump administration over tailpipe emissions rollback
© Greg Nash

WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR? In a Thanksgiving note to staff on Friday, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acting director William Pendley said he was thankful for the agency’s achievements, including changes to the  environmental review process that allows for fast-tracking of major projects on public lands.

Projects on government land like logging, mining, and pipelines can’t proceed without an environmental impact statement (EIS) — something critics have said unnecessarily slow down projects as government experts weigh how it would impact the environment and ecosystem. 

The Trump administration has vowed to speed the process, something Perry said is already well under way in an email obtained by The Hill. 

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“The average EIS once ran for 1,485 pages and took over four years to complete. This year, those numbers dropped to 151 pages within 15 months.  Similarly, the average [environmental assessment] length prior to 2017 was 42 pages written over one year. This year, those numbers dropped to 27 pages in just three months,” Pendley wrote of “streamlining the environmental review process.”

Environmentalists have complained the Trump administration is speeding ahead on reviews without doing their due diligence.  

In 2017, the Department of the Interior, which oversees BLM, announced a new process for doing environmental reviews, centralizing the process with some of the highest-level staff at Interior. Those who review National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses include the chief of staff, the deputy secretary, and the deputy solicitor for Interior.

The change was criticized at the time, with environmentalists arguing environmental reviews should be done by expert career staff rather than high-level political appointees. 

And BLM’s upcoming relocation out West could further sideline those career staff. 

Documents obtained by The Hill show the move would split up the NEPA review team, splitting the 20-person team across seven states. 

Pendley also boasted about other developments at BLM, including the sale of 250 million board feet of timber valued at $62.4 million, the most the agency has offered up since 1993. They’ve also sold off or adopted 7,104 wild horses and burros — the highest number in 15 years. 

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BANNING STRIPPERS: Starting on Saturday, consumers will no longer be able to handle or purchase products containing the chemical methylene chloride, found often in paint strippers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March announced it would be banning all consumer sales of the chemical, which has been linked to a number of child and worker deaths.

“EPA’s action keeps paint and coating removers that contain the chemical methylene chloride out of consumers’ hands,” EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight 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 Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows to push for Paris climate goals | Senate confirms Brouillette to succeed Perry at Energy | EPA under attack from all sides over ethanol rule MORE said in a statement Friday. 

“It is against the law to sell or distribute methylene chloride for paint and coating removal in the retail marketplace — a step that will provide important public health protections for consumers.”

Prior to the EPA’s decision, a number of big box stores, including Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes, had already moved to ban products containing methylene chloride.

The EPA’s decision stops short of a full ban, leaving the door open for commercial sales of the chemical to the industry. Instead, the agency is considering future programs for workers, including training certification and a limited access program for industry use of the substance.

Advocacy groups denounced the decision to keep open the door for commercial use of the chemical, arguing that work-related deaths from the substance have been common and will leave workers open to health risks.

Read more here.

PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE: Environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Friday to challenge a recent decision that would limit California and 13 other states from regulating their own vehicle emissions standards.

Environment America, The Center for Biological Diversity, The Sierra Club and other green groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging that its decision to revoke California’s waiver to regulate its own tailpipe emissions, vested under the Clean Air Act, violates the law.

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“EPA doesn’t have the authority to withdraw a waiver, and, even if it did, none of the justifications put forth stand up to scrutiny,” Mike Landis, Environment America’s attorney in the litigation.

The ruling filed in the Federal Circuit Court in Washington, D.C follows a finalized joint decision by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in September that revoked California's ability to regulate emissions in the state at a more stringent standard than the federal government. California had previously been granted the waiver under the Obama Administration and currently 13 other states follow its heightened regulations.

When establishing federal vehicle emissions standards, the Obama administration worked hand in hand with the Golden State to establish what was considered one unified standard, so that carmakers could manufacturer models that followed all state regulations.

The Trump administration’s move in September was the first of two anticipated steps to reverse those Obama-era regulations. The EPA is expected to next suggest an emissions standard that is lower than the regulations put in place under Obama.

California’s attorney general and 22 other states sued the Trump administration in their own suit last week challenging President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE’s decision to block the state from setting tougher tailpipe emissions standards.

Critics say the Trump administration's move is not only illegal, it will lead to greater pollution.

Read more on the lawsuit.

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OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-U.S. rig count dips ahead of traditional holiday slump, The Houston Chronicle reports

-California restaurants warn natural gas ban takes seared steak off the table, Bloomberg reports

-Federal regulators approve new liquified natural gas projects in Texas, Axios reports

-Nevada governor signs climate change executive order, says state will look at stronger emission standards, The Nevada Independent reports.

ON TAP NEXT WEEK: THANKSGIVING!!!

ICYMI. Stories from Thursday…

-BLM chief says he's thankful for speeding up environmental reviews

-Ban on consumer use of chemical found in paint strippers goes into effect

-Environmental groups sue Trump administration over tailpipe emissions rollback