Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Cost analysis backing BLM move comes under scrutiny | Republicans eye legislation to rival Dems’ climate plan | Report claims top global risks all climate-related

Greg Nash

EXPLAIN YOURSELF: Experts say the cost-benefit analysis used by the Interior Department to justify its plan to relocate the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) outside of Washington is incomplete and does little to back the agency’s reasoning that the move will save taxpayers millions.

“This is a highly incomplete basis for informing a policy decision,” said Craig Thornton, an economist and president of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis, who reviewed the documents at the request of The Hill. 

The cost-benefit analysis created by Interior, which was obtained by The Hill, is just two pages — a brief synopsis when breaking down the financial pros and cons of a decision that could typically fill a binder. 

The figures, shared with members of Congress in August about a month after Interior announced it would move nearly all of BLM’s D.C.-based staffers to offices out West, estimates the relocation will save $123 million over 20 years through reduced salary and lease costs.

But the document lacks key details to explain the savings, giving only top-line figures without explaining how many employees they believe will move, nor how much it will cost to move each employee. 

The brevity of the document spurred the House Natural Resources Committee last week to demand Interior supply a full cost-benefit analysis for the relocation, the latest move in a months-long battle as Democrats work to halt the Trump administration’s vision for BLM.

“If I was a decisionmaker, and I got this, I’d have a whole list of questions about ‘How’d you calculate this? How’d you get that number?’ ” Thornton said of Interior’s work.

“This really isn’t a cost-benefit analysis. It’s a couple of spreadsheets,” he said, adding the documents narrowly focus on the effect on the budget.

The move, announced in July, would place about 25 BLM employees in a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo. Roughly 150 other staffers would be spread to existing offices across the West. The relocation would leave just 61 of the agency’s 10,000 employees in Washington.

Read more about the cost-benefit analysis here.


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Steyer divested? Well it’s more complicated… Billionaire presidential candidate Tom Steyer boasted that he divested from fossil fuels during his time as a hedge fund manager when faced with questions during Tuesday’s debate on his environmental record.

But earlier reporting found that Steyer’s investments would fund coal mining and other fossil fuel ventures even after he decided to divest.

Steyer previously ran Farallon Capital Management, an investment company, before making a name for himself as a philanthropist and climate activist.

“We invested in every part of the economy, and over 10 years ago I realized that there was something going on that had to do with fossil fuels that we had to change, so I divested from fossil fuels,” he said during the debate.

But previous reporting suggests the picture is more complicated.

Steyer told Bloomberg in September that he still has some holdings in hydrocarbons.

“There’s probably some dregs left,” he told the outlet of holdings purchased during his time at Farallon.

Reviews of Steyer’s financial disclosures showed investments in firms that develop fossil fuels in Australia, including coal. Another listing shows investments between $6 million and $31 million with a private equity firm that also invests in oil and gas. He also has a small investment in Direct Petroleum Exploration Inc., an oil and gas company.

Read more about his finances here

A 90s throwback… “Understand this: we have known about climate change for decades — back in the 1990s we were calling it global warming,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said during the debate, arguing that initial interest in tackling the issue fell apart due to special interests.

“You know what happened? The industry came in and said we can make big money if we keep them divided… Priority No. 1 has to be taking our government back from the corruption.”

A bridge fuel… “When it comes to the issue of fracking I actually see natural gas as a bridge fuel. It’s a transition fuel to where we get to carbon neutral,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said. Her plan would require carbon neutrality by 2050.


MAKING MOVES: Republicans are working on their own climate plan, teeing up legislation after Democrats unveiled sweeping climate legislation last week.

Republicans will meet Thursday to discuss the broad points of the legislation in an effort led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“This is a policy conference to discuss how conservative solutions have been the greatest driver of emissions reductions in the world and how these principles are the roadmap for a cleaner environment here at home and around the globe,” Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, told The Hill, stressing that it was not a response to the Democrats’ plan.

GOP lawmakers active in the energy sphere said the plan would likely build upon a package of a dozen pieces of legislation that House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans organized as part of their 2020 agenda.

“This is a leader issue,” committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told The Hill. “We have some ideas I think will be incorporated there.”  

The Republicans’ plans follow a broad package being developed by Democrats that requires 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050, a mandate that includes a clean energy credit trading system. The transportation sector would also have to be emissions-free by that deadline, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratcheting up increasingly tight vehicle standards.

Read more here


RISKY BUSINESS:The globe’s top five risks are all climate-related, according to an analysis released Wednesday from the World Economic Forum.

The Switzerland-based nonprofit analyzes worldwide risks annually, looking at a wide variety of economic, health and geopolitical issues. This year, many of the top problems facing the globe had direct links to climate and the environment.

Risk experts “are also sounding the alarm, ranking climate change and related environmental issues as the top five risks in terms of likelihood — the first time in the survey’s history that one category has occupied all five of the top spots,” the group wrote in its in its report. 

Extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss and human-made environmental disasters constituted the top five risks. 

Climate scientists have cited the ongoing fires in Australia as an example of how extreme weather caused by climate change can exacerbate natural disasters, displacing humans while devastating plant and animal life along the way. 

Read more about the analysis



Why cutting car and truck emissions is so hard, Stateline explains. 

Australia wildfires are paving the way for ‘fire clouds,’ ABC News reports

Australian wildfire smoke stokes health fears in cities, The Associated Press reports


ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday…

Cost analysis backing BLM move comes under scrutiny

2019 was the second hottest year on record, per NASA and NOAA

World Economic Forum: Top global risks all climate-related

Bloomberg says he’ll cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030

Tags Amy Klobuchar Elizabeth Warren Greg Walden Kevin McCarthy Tom Steyer

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