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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court vacates nearly 300 oil and gas leases on public lands | GOP lawmaker seeks review of Harvard study tying air pollution to coronavirus deaths

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court vacates nearly 300 oil and gas leases on public lands | GOP lawmaker seeks review of Harvard study tying air pollution to coronavirus deaths

LEASES RELEASED: A federal court has vacated 287 oil and gas leases issued by the U.S. government that covered 145,063 acres of land in Montana, deciding that the Trump administration did not adequately consider risks to the environment and water supply. 

“The Court does not fault BLM for providing a faulty analysis of cumulative impacts or impacts to groundwater, it largely faults BLM for failing to provide any analysis,” said the decision by Obama appointee Brian Morris, referring to the Bureau of Land Management.

Morris vacated the leases, which were sold by the administration to oil and gas producers between December 2017 and March 2018. 

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He also ordered the bureau to conduct further analysis of the environmental impacts granting the leases would cause. 

The Friday decision came in response to a suit filed on behalf of landowners and environmental groups. 

“The oil rush on Montana’s public lands put generational rural landowners at risk of losing clean water and the sustainability of their communities.” said a statement from Elizabeth Forsyth, an attorney at Earthjustice, which represented the environmental groups. 

“The Bureau of Land Management was well aware that current oil and gas drilling practices would not protect sources of drinking water in these Montana communities, but rushed the sale anyway,” Forsyth added. 

BLM officials said the agency would evaluate the ruling and determine its next steps. 

“With all due respect, we disagree with the Court’s conclusion, and the BLM stands by its analysis in following the letter of the law to issue oil and gas leases in Montana,” a statement from the agency said. “Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this dispute and despite the attempts of radical, special interest groups, the Department and the BLM will continue to work towards ensuring America’s energy independence while preserving a healthy environment."

The Trump administration’s continued lease sales on public lands have particularly come under scrutiny in recent weeks as oil prices have plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

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The story is here.

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STUDY UP: A Maryland lawmaker is asking for a government review of a Harvard University public health study linking air pollution with coronavirus deaths.

The widely reported April study found parts of the country with a higher prevalence of fine particulate matter, or soot, had an increase in fatalities from COVID-19.

While the researchers initially found that an increase in air pollution of 1 gram per cubic meter of fine particulate matter led to as much as a 15-percent spike in death rates among patients in those areas, it updated its study about two weeks later, dropping the figure to an 8-percent increase in the death rate.

Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it House rebuffs GOP lawmaker's effort to remove references to Democrats in Capitol MORE (R-Md.) wrote a letter Friday asking both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the study.

“I request that you and/or your agencies’ appropriate advisory bodies undertake a review of the Harvard study and the current state of understanding regarding the relationship between air quality and Covid-19,” Harris wrote. 

Harris said in an ideal world, a peer review of the study would be performed, “but the urgent and rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic is ill-served by a months-long journal review process.”

HHS did not respond to request for comment, but Harvard said it had updated the study to account for new information. 

"As public health professionals at the time of a pandemic, we are continuing to update our analyses accounting for the most recent number of deaths. Also since the release of the previous report on April 5, we have accounted for a larger number of confounding factors," the university said in an email. 

Harris’s letter said the review of the study is needed after environmental groups referenced it when suing the EPA for suspending enforcement of pollution monitoring due to coronavirus.

EPA did not commit to reviewing the study. 

“We are reviewing the letter and will respond through proper channels.Drawing conclusions from a study without peer review and with insufficient data is irresponsible and paints a distorted scientific picture,” the agency said in a statement.

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BAILOUT: Tanking oil prices haven’t had much of an impact on voters’ willingness to give the industry a bailout.

A new Morning Consult poll found that 38 percent of voters would support a government bailout for the oil and gas industry.

A plurality of respondents, also 38 percent, told pollsters the sinking prices did not have an impact on their personal finances.

Meanwhile, 56 percent of respondents said they would support a bailout for the renewable energy industry.

The poll was conducted with nearly 2,000 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The figures come as Democrats and Republicans have both vied for support for each side of the energy industry.

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A major coronavirus relief package included neither support for the fossil fuel industry wanted by Republicans nor a package of tax credits for the renewable energy industry offered by Democrats. 

The White House has continued to offer up various ideas for offering assistance to the oil industry, particularly after prices fell to historic lows.

“Well we're not gonna let our oil companies go and get in trouble. It's not their fault that they got hit by 50 percent less volume in one day,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE said recently. “I think the oil industry is one of the top on the list.”

Reporting has found fossil fuel companies have already received more than $50 million in coronavirus aid

CONFIRMED: The Senate voted 87-0 to confirm Robert Feitel as the inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  

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