Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans

Greg Nash

WHO’S UP NEXT:  Several House Republicans are eyeing a run for the top GOP seat on the Natural Resources Committee, which will be vacant after the retirement at the end of this Congress of Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah).

More than four members on the panel have voiced interest in taking over the powerful position. The possible contenders include GOP Reps. Bruce Westerman (Ark.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Tom McClintock (Calif.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.).

The role comes with a broad portfolio to oversee energy and mineral resources, water, oceans and wildlife, as well as Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring, making it an attractive position for members representing states with rich natural resources.

One member who is already gearing up for the contest is Westerman, whose office recently sent out a note to GOP media contacts asking for them to reach out if they have previously “helped a current or former boss with a committee chairmanship run” before, according to a screenshot obtained by The Hill.

When asked whether he intends to throw his name in the ring, Westerman told The Hill: “I am looking at it.”

The Arkansas Republican, who describes himself on his website as an “engineer and forester by trade,” said that while it will be a great honor to serve in such a role, his current priority is regaining the House majority.

While Westerman is ninth in seniority among Republicans on the panel, which puts him behind several members also eyeing the spot, he is seen as a strong contender for the role. 

Read more about the contenders here

In other committee news… House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi announced Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) will be filling a vacancy on the House Natural Resources Committee. 


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BLACKROCK WILL NO LONGER INVEST IN DIGGING UP BLACK ROCK: One of the nation’s largest financial firms announced Monday it would pull back from its investments in coal as investors increasingly recognize climate change as an investment risk. 

“Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects,” wrote Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, which manages investment portfolios including those used to fund retirement. 

In a letter to clients, Fink said research “is deepening our understanding of how climate risk will impact both our physical world and the global system that finances economic growth,” pushing the firm to reevaluate various investments.

The company will make sustainability a key factor in its investment approach going forward, “exiting investments that present a high sustainability-related risk, such as thermal coal producers,” and offering investment portfolios that exclude fossil fuel companies.

Read more on the announcement here


HFC BILL: Several Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee slammed bipartisan legislation to gradually reduce the use of heat-trapping chemicals in air conditioners and refrigerators, arguing the measure would raise costs for consumers.

At a committee hearing to discuss a bill that would reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the GOP criticism was led by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who railed against replacement costs and the possibility of needing to replace HFCs with a mildly flammable alternative.

“The consumer is the one that’s getting hit with this,” Mullin said.

He later told The Hill that he would only sign on to the measure if it included “consumer choice.”

“Don’t force this system out,” he said. “Just allow the consumers to make the decision.”

David Doniger, senior strategic director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, warned lawmakers of the environmental impact of HFCs, which he said have “hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.”

Democrats, meanwhile, rallied around the legislation introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Pete Olson (R-Texas), Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

Tonko said after the hearing that he was not concerned about the opposition from his GOP colleagues.

“I think there’s a way to build consensus,” he told reporters, but did not elaborate.

Read more on the HFC bill here



Fracking… Environmental groups sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its fracking plans in California, arguing that a federal analysis it adopted didn’t adequately review “serious environmental and health impacts.” 

The lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and others accuses the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of opening public lands “to harmful oil and gas leasing and development, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

It seeks to prevent the agency from carrying out oil and gas leasing under a 2014 resource management plan “pending compliance with NEPA.”

The groups argue that the analysis adopted by BLM’s Bakersfield, Calif., office “unlawfully minimizes the number of wells predicted to be fracked on new leases, and fails to adequately analyze the impacts of fracked wells on existing leases, leading to an underestimation of the impacts to air quality, climate, water quantity and quality, human health and safety, recreational uses, national park units and other public lands, and seismicity.”

BLM did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the lawsuit. 

The Trump administration also announced last year that it would open up 725,000 acres in California to oil and gas lease sales, ending a five-year pause. That decision is facing a court challenge. 

Read more on the suit here


PFAS… The state of Michigan is suing several companies over the use of PFAS chemicals, known as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and human body.

“Who knew that firefighting foam, teflon, leather goods and clothing… are just a few of the thousands of industrial and consumer products made with defendants ‘forever’ PFAS chemicals that persist and build up in our environment?” questioned Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) at a press conference on Tuesday. 

“I’ll tell you who knew,” she continued. “The 17 defendants we sued today.”

In the lawsuit, Michigan accused the companies of manufacturing and using PFAS chemicals “with full knowledge of PFAS health and environmental risks, which they intentionally hid from the public and the State.”

It also accused the companies of failing to act despite knowledge of health and environmental risks posed by PFAS.

Read more about the suit here.



On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hear from Chris Fall, the Energy Department’s director of the Office of Science. 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday will examine the implementation of the  Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.

Also Wednesday, the House Science, Space and Technology committee will look at climate science and solutions. 



Australia wildfire smoke will make ‘full circuit’ around world, NASA says, we report

2019 was a record year for ocean temperatures, data show, according to The New York Times.

Revised climate change bill creates new battle lines for Oregon lawmakers, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports

EU to invest 1 trillion euros to battle climate change, we report.

Who controls Trump’s environmental policy? The New York Times provides a breakdown.


ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday…

Michigan sues companies over ‘forever chemical’ contamination

Environmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail

Green groups sue Trump administration over California fracking plans analysis

Republicans push back on bipartisan bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners

Australia wildfire smoke will make ‘full circuit’ around world, NASA says

Investment firm BlackRock to pull back from fossil fuels

Volcano rumblings in Philippines cover surrounding area in ash

EU to invest 1T euros to battle climate change

Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel

Weather Channel to talk environmental justice with 2020 candidates

Energy Department agrees to begin releasing Ukraine-related records

Tags Bruce Westerman Doug Lamborn Elise Stefanik Markwayne Mullin Paul Gosar Paul Tonko Pete Olson Rob Bishop Scott Peters Tom McClintock

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