Overnight Energy: Green group sues Trump over major environmental rollback | New fuel efficiency standard could take months to complete | Trump unveils picks for EPA, Energy deputies

Overnight Energy: Green group sues Trump over major environmental rollback | New fuel efficiency standard could take months to complete | Trump unveils picks for EPA, Energy deputies
© Getty Images

A NEPA NOPE-A: An environmental group is trying to block one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE's most far-reaching environmental rollbacks from taking effect, arguing the administration has not provided proper access to public documents on a new rule that would limit the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) is seeking an injunction from the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville that would block changes to the bedrock environmental law that are slated to take effect in early March.

The suit is the latest move in SELC's 17-month battle to get public records from the White House detailing the reasoning behind the January rule, which the administration has said it will not be able to provide until November. The administration is holding commenting sessions before the rule is finalized.


"The irony of all this is that the comment process puts a high value on informed input from the public, but at the same time, the Trump administration is keeping information away from the public," said Kym Hunter, a senior SELC attorney who filed the request for the preliminary injunction. 

"The rules call for openness and transparency, but instead the administration has shut the door and boarded the windows," she added.

NEPA requires agencies to evaluate how pipelines, highways and some oil and gas developments affect the environment and nearby communities.

The law has been a repeated target of President Trump, who has vowed to speed the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure and eliminate barriers to construction projects.

Read more about the suit here


HAPPY THURSDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.


CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.


CARS: The Trump administration's proposed rollback to Obama-era fuel efficiency standards could take months to complete, The New York Times reported on Thursday. 

Six people familiar with a draft proposal sent to The White House in January told the Times that it had several spelling and numerical errors and that 111 of its sections were labeled "text forthcoming."

The Trump proposal would freeze the average fuel economy under the Obama administration by more than 30 percent.

Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds EPA allows use of radioactive material in some road construction MORE, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said at an auto show last year that the Trump administration would roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards imposed on the automobile makers to "unleash the muscle" of the industry. 

However, a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal also reportedly said that consumers would lose more money than they would save from the changes, according to the Times. Aides found that over time, fuel costs would outweigh savings from the lower prices of less efficient cars, the newspaper reported. 

EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said that the Obama administration, unlike the Trump administration, had been "hasty" with the fuel efficiency standards that it placed on the auto industry.  

"By contrast, the Trump administration has reviewed hundreds of thousands of comments, met with numerous stakeholders, and provided ample amount of time for all involved to voice their opinion on this serious matter," Abboud said. "The standards the Obama administration sought to finalize are unworkable."

President Trump has long sought to lower fuel economy standards set by the Obama administration. The Times reported that he has been angered by the delay, and hoped to tout an accomplishment on the issue in Michigan, a key election state. 

Changes made under former President Obama strengthen fuel efficiency standards for cars to 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2026. The Trump administration has aimed to freeze the average fuel economy at 37 mpg, a move that the EPA has said would increase petroleum consumption by 500,000 barrels per day. 

Read more about it here


THE NOMS ARE IN: President Trump on Thursday announced the nominations of two officials to become the deputy chiefs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Energy Department. 

Douglas Benevento will be nominated as the EPA's deputy administrator and Mark Menezes will be nominated to be the deputy Energy secretary. 

Menezes has served as under secretary of Energy since 2017, advising the department on energy policy and energy technology. Before that, he worked as an executive with Berkshire Hathaway Energy. He has also lobbied for several energy companies. 

Read more about each nominee here


A MAN, A PLAN, BUT NO SPONSOR: A coalition of former government officials and business leaders on Thursday rolled out what they are calling a "middle of the road" climate plan that seeks to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035 by putting a price on carbon.

The plan from the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), which was founded by high-ranking officials alongside a number of corporations, including the oil and gas sector, would return the funds raised by a carbon tax to consumers.

"It is the best and most effective way to encourage technological innovation and to spur long-term, large-scale investments that over time will significantly lower emissions," former Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenFed formally adopts new approach to balance inflation, unemployment Federal Reserve chief to outline plans for inflation, economy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - First lady casts Trump as fighter for the 'forgotten' MORE said in a call with reporters.


Under the plan, each ton of carbon emitted into the environment would be taxed $40, a fee that would increase $5 each year. The creators believe that would help cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2035.

While the fee is expected to increase costs to consumers, the money would be returned to them through a dividend, an equal sum for all Americans paid by the Treasury Department on a quarterly basis. The creators estimate a family of four would receive about $2,000 each.

"Seventy percent of American households, and particularly the most vulnerable, will gain under this plan," Yellen said.

Read more about the plan here.


DEEPWATER MESS DEEPER THAN REALIZED: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was approximately 30 percent larger than previously thought, according to a study published Wednesday.

The study, published in Science Advances, found that large portions of the Gulf of Mexico were exposed to "invisible and toxic oil that extended beyond the boundaries of the satellite footprint."


"The cumulative satellite oil slick footprint was largely accepted as the [Deepwater Horizon] oil spill extent from scientific, public, and management perspectives," the study said. "Yet, accumulating field data support a much wider extent."

Don't forget the study was released the same day that BP announced its new carbon initiative...

Read more about the study on the devastating spill here


THE STATS ARE IN: The Environmental Protection Agency released its enforcement and compliance results for fiscal 2019, showing a slight improvement over fiscal 2018 figures. 

Those figures are still a sharp decline from the final two years of the Obama administration, something the EPA attributed to major cases against Volkswagen and BP.



Bill prohibiting plastic bag bans heads to South Dakota House for final vote, The Argus Leader reports.

Oregon forestry agency says it will soon run out of money, the Associated Press reports.

Most teachers don't talk about climate change in the classroom. Washington state is trying to fix that, Grist reports.

'We Knew They Had Cooked the Books,' The Atlantic looks at EPA's plan for fuel efficiency. 


ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday...

Deepwater Horizon spill larger than previously believed: study

Green group sues Trump over major environmental rollback

Trump announces nominations of deputy chiefs for EPA, Energy Department

NOAA says January was the hottest in recorded history

Australian fires declared 'contained' after devastating season

Coalition plan seeks to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035