Overnight Energy: Study finds fall in greenhouse gas emissions last year | House chair pushes BLM to justify move | EPA employees draft 'bill of rights'

Overnight Energy: Study finds fall in greenhouse gas emissions last year | House chair pushes BLM to justify move | EPA employees draft 'bill of rights'
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THE NUMBERS ARE IN: Preliminary greenhouse gas emissions fell last year, largely due to a drop in coal consumption, but there was less progress in other sectors, a new study has found. 

After an uptick in 2018, greenhouse gas emissions decreased 2.1 percent in 2019, according to a study from the research provider Rhodium Group. 

Coal-fired power generation decreased by 18 percent to the lowest level since 1975, researchers found. 

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However, natural gas generation rose and emissions from other sectors like buildings and industry also increased. 

A call for action: The study also called on the Trump administration to strengthen regulations on certain sectors to employ what it has deemed "low-cost" technology solutions to reduce emissions.

"The industrial, agriculture, and waste sectors remain largely untouched, either by policy or technology innovation. Industry is now a larger source of emissions than coal-fired power generation, and growing," it said. "There are low-cost technology solutions to reduce oil and gas methane emissions, but their deployment at scale requires strengthening regulations that the Trump Administration instead has been weakening."

Researchers also determined that the U.S. is "at risk" of missing its 17 percent reduction target by the end of 2020 under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord and that the country is "a long way off" from the 26 percent to 28 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction agreed to in the Paris climate agreement.

Read more on the study here

 

HAPPY TUESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. And a hearty welcome to Rachel Frazin, our newest addition to The Hill's energy and environment team. You can reach her at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her @RachelFrazin. You can continue to send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch and @thehill.

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AROUND THE AGENCIES:

At Interior... House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) pushed again Tuesday for the Department of the Interior to hand over documents explaining its rationale for relocating the headquarters of the nation's public lands agency to Colorado, turning down a meeting with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as the committee inches closer to a subpoena.

Grijalva has been asking for a cost-benefit analysis of the move since July, questioning how uprooting nearly 200 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees from D.C. makes financial or practical sense. He has previously threatened to subpoena the department for the documents.

In a Dec. 31 letter, Bernhardt offered to meet with Grijalva but did not turn over the requested analysis.

"Your New Year's Eve letter is part of a pattern whereby we request data and you offer to meet for a discussion. Your feelings about moving BLM headquarters to Colorado are clear and I do not require a meeting to discuss them. What I require is the supporting data you say you have, but will not provide," Grijalva wrote Tuesday.

Interior has given some numbers to the committee, but Grijalva's staff said it fell short of the multi-page analysis expected for a major relocation.

Interior's plans for the agency include stationing roughly 25 employees in a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo., while spreading the rest among existing offices across the West. The plan would leave just 61 of the agency's 10,000 employees in Washington.

In a copy of Bernhardt's letter obtained by The Hill, he points to recent appropriations that "ensures the department can conclude, with no limitation, its effort to relocate" the Bureau of Land Management.

He went on to call Grijalva's concerns "curious" since Interior has offered a personal briefing.

Interior has claimed the move would ultimately save money, with cost savings from drops in salaries and office leases balancing out the nearly $6 million in 2019 funds the agency plans to use to cover the move. Those funds will cover realtor fees, moving costs, bonuses and severance payments to those who will be booted from federal services.

Critics -- including current and former agency employees -- say those cost reductions and expenses may not lead to any overall savings for the department. But their bigger concern is that the move will functionally dismantle the department.

Previous documents obtained by The Hill showed the move would split the team that reviews the environmental impacts of projects, spreading 20 employees across seven states.

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Other documents show some legislative affairs staff would be moved away from D.C.

Interior has argued the move will help put employees closer to the lands they manage. Currently, 97 percent of BLM employees work outside of Washington.

The agency on Friday called Grijalva's letter "misleading."

"This letter continues to perpetuate a false narrative about our congressionally funded and supported relocation efforts that will better serve the American people and the Bureau of Land Management's multiple-use mission. The BLM relocation continues to move full speed ahead. For the chairman to suggest the Department has not cooperated with Congress is completely disingenuous," an agency spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

Read more about the correspondence here

 

At EPA... Unionized employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have drafted a bill of rights, asking the agency to recognize the need for scientific integrity, research into climate science and the ability to enforce environmental laws without political interference.

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The bill of rights comes as the agency and the union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), sit down to hammer out a new contract following complaints from employees that the EPA unilaterally imposed the last one without their consent.

It also follows years of complaints from those inside and outside of the EPA that the agency has been sidelining the scientific advice of staff.

"EPA employees have committed our careers to protecting human health and the environment, working day-in and day-out to keep our air clean, ensure our water is safe to drink, and clean up our land so that we may live and work on it," Bethany Dreyfus, AFGE Local 1236 president, said in a statement. "Yet time and time again, the Administration has attempted to silence research and gut our labor rights. That's why we're not just standing up for a fair contract, we're fighting to be able to do our jobs and protect public health -- and we'll keep fighting until our voices are truly heard."

The bill of rights asks for a fair contract in the negotiations, but it mainly pushes for worker protections related to the agency's mission.

It specifically asks for whistleblower protections and "a right to protect human health and the environment, to protect environmental justice communities, and to work without fear of reprisal."

Read more about the bill of rights here.

 

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API EYES 'COMMON GROUND' ON CLIMATE: The American Petroleum Institute (API) is launching an advertising campaign portraying oil and gas energy as a way to combat climate change, despite many environmental groups arguing that the industry hurts such efforts.

In a seven-figure ad buy, API will call for "common ground" on the energy debate in 2020 and beyond, according to a spokesperson. The campaign touts oil and gas energy as a way to reduce climate change by lowering carbon levels.

"The innovators in America's natural gas and oil companies have teamed up with the country's brightest minds and reduced carbon emissions levels to the lowest in a generation," one ad says.

During an event in Washington on Tuesday, API President and CEO Mike Sommers similarly stressed the industry's commitment to fighting climate change while expressing opposition to a fracking ban endorsed by some Democratic presidential candidates. 

"The size and scope of the climate challenge requires a tremendous response and it requires innovation from everyone, including our members," he said. 

Mitch Jones, the policy director at the environmental group Food & Water Watch, slammed the API campaign as "laughable."

"This is just more of the oil and gas industry's attempt to greenwash their dirty, climate-change-forcing industry," Jones told The Hill.

"The science says very clearly we have to stop extracting fossil fuels and we have to stop burning fossil fuels and that includes not only coal, but also oil and fracked and natural gas," he added. 

He also stressed the need to shift to an economy based on green jobs, saying, "What we're talking about is transitioning from a dirty energy sector to a clean energy sector."

Sommers, meanwhile, touted his support for carbon capture legislation and API's environmental partnerships aimed at reducing methane emissions.

He argued, however, that a ban on fracking would threaten millions of jobs and potentially invite a recession for the U.S. economy.

You can find the story here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-Atlantic Coast Pipeline loses permit battle with historically black community, we report.

-California Democrats want their own Green New Deal to fight homelessness, climate change, The Sacramento Bee reports. 

-Voters will decide whether to reintroduce wolves in Colorado, The Denver Post reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

Trump offers Australian PM assistance in fighting widespread fires

Oil and gas group launches campaign touting its efforts as good for climate

Atlantic Coast Pipeline loses permit battle with historically black community

EPA employees push 'bill of rights' to protect scientific integrity

House Natural Resources chair pushes for justification for BLM move while eyeing subpoena

Study finds greenhouse gas emissions fall, calls on Trump to further strengthen regulations