Overnight Energy: EPA sued over power plant determination | Former NPS employees 'appalled' by plan to ease hunting rules | Park Police chief accused of unlawful searches

Overnight Energy: EPA sued over power plant determination | Former NPS employees 'appalled' by plan to ease hunting rules | Park Police chief accused of unlawful searches
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GOING TO THE MATS: A coalition of more than 20 health, environmental and racial justice organizations are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a finding that undermines the legal justification behind a regulation for the emission of mercury and other toxins from power plants. 

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The groups sued the EPA on Friday over the finding that it is not "appropriate and necessary" to regulate certain power plant emissions, which was based on changes to an analysis that justified its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule.

The Trump EPA did not make any changes to the power plant regulations themselves but did change the cost-benefit analysis behind them to make it appear that the Obama-era rule’s costs outweighed its benefits.

The Obama administration found in its analysis that benefits from the rule would save consumers as much as $90 billion. The Trump administration, however, said the rules would only save between $4 million and $6 million, and that power producers will spend up to nearly $10 billion on adding pollution controls, so the costs would be greater than the benefits. 

The groups argue that the altered cost-benefit analysis and the reversal on whether regulations are "appropriate and necessary" open the EPA up to lawsuits that could jeopardize the MATS rule. One mining company has already filed such a suit following the changes to the rule’s legal underpinnings. 

Earthjustice attorney Neil Gormley, one of the lawyers on Friday’s lawsuit, said in a statement that EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe EPA proposes tighter emissions standards for industrial boilers after court order Watchdog: EPA hasn't provided 'sufficient justification' for decision not to recover Pruitt travel spending MORE “deceitfully created a bogus excuse for coal companies to challenge the MATS rule in court even though he knows the rule saves thousands of lives every year.”

“If Wheeler’s giveaway to his former clients is successful, our children will be poisoned while we’re preoccupied with the pandemic. This corrupt attack on our communities is immoral and must be stopped,” Gormley added, referring to Wheeler’s former role as a coal lobbyist. 

The Trump and Obama administration analyses differ so greatly because the Trump administration’s analysis only considers “targeted” pollutants like mercury and excludes “co-benefits” from the reduction of additional pollutants that were considered in the Obama administration’s analysis. 

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The EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Board criticized this approach last year, saying that its recommendations “do not seem to have been taken into consideration in the published analysis.” An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the new lawsuit but told The Hill in a statement that the new analysis “properly evaluates the compliance cost to coal- and oil-fired power plants.”

The spokesperson added that the power plants “remain subject to and must comply with the mercury emissions standards of the MATS rule, which remains fully in effect notwithstanding the revised cost-benefit analysis.”

Mercury has been found to damage lungs and the brain and is linked with developmental disorders.

Read more about the lawsuit here

 

PARK IT: A group of former National Park Service (NPS) employees is asking the Interior Department to completely abandon a new policy allowing hunting tactics that make it easier to kill bear cubs and wolf pups in Alaska.

The rule, finalized earlier this month, ends a five-year ban on baiting hibernating bears from their dens, shining a flashlight into wolf dens to cause them to scurry, targeting animals from airplanes or snowmobiles, and shooting swimming caribou from boats.

The policy is set to take place in early July.

Former NPS managers who worked in the state said the new rule ignores scientific information on Alaska’s wildlife and raises significant legal and policy concerns.  

“We are utterly appalled that NPS has adopted this final rule, which is so contrary to its mission,” the employees, now affiliated with the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, wrote in a letter to Interior.

NPS did not immediately respond to request for comment.

NPS waived the 2015 regulations imposed under the Obama administration that prohibited the controversial hunting tactics, arguing the state, not the federal government, retained the authority to regulate hunting practices there. 

But critics have argued that allowing the hunting tactic will reduce populations of wolves and bears that prey on the caribou and moose favored by game hunters.

“Alaska is the last place in the United States, if not the world, where large intact ecosystems have been designated for protection, so that they function naturally with little to no direct influence from man,” the letter from the former employees states.

The former NPS employees say the agency is abdicating its responsibility under the law to manage hunting practices on federal lands in order to promote conservation.

The rule, they argue, not only violates laws requiring vigorous environmental review of the impacts of the decision, but NPS regulations that “specifically promotes conservation of natural processes.”

Read more about their concerns here

 

POLICING THE POLICE: The head of the U.S. Park Police was accused of multiple illegal body cavity searches between 1999 and 2004, The New York Times reported Thursday. 

There were reportedly at least four investigations into acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan, whose law enforcement agency was one of several that controversially used chemical agents to disperse protesters in front of the White House this month. 

National Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet told The Hill in a statement that the cases referenced in the Times article were investigated and that the accusations were deemed unfounded. 

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"This means that the allegations were false or not factual, or he was exonerated, meaning the incident occurred but was lawful and proper," Picavet said. 

She added that a review of internal affairs records found no "sustained dispositions" that led to disciplinary or adverse action against Monahan.

The Times reported that the four probes were mentioned in a letter by Kenneth L. Wainstein, who was serving as the U.S. attorney in Washington. The letter reportedly said that in one case, federal lawyers decided not to prosecute him and that he was cleared by the Park Police in two others, while one investigation was still pending. 

In a fifth case, Monahan was accused of searching a man for drugs by reaching into the man’s buttocks, according to the newspaper. In that case, Monahan reportedly said he searched the man, whom he had pulled over for a cracked windshield, because he saw the man “clinching his buttocks” and had found a package of crack cocaine after patting the man down. 

Judge Gerald B. Lee said in his decision that the search was not constitutional and that he didn’t believe Monahan’s testimony, the Times reported. 

However, Picavet told The Hill that accusations of "testimonial misconduct" were unfounded.

The Park Police has faced scrutiny in recent weeks for the manner in which protesters were cleared from Lafayette Square in front of the White House on June 1. Shortly after the incident, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE walked through the park to visit a nearby church, leading critics to believe the protesters were cleared for a photo-op. 

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Read more about the accusations here

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

Wednesday:

– The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee will discuss the coronavirus impact on mineral supply chains 

Thursday:

– The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a number of bills, including the Murder Hornet Eradication Act 

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

U.S. EPA receives 52 new petitions for retroactive biofuel blending waivers, Reuters reports

Alaska Airlifts ‘Into the Wild’ Bus Out of the Wild, Outside Magazine reports

Rising Seas Threaten an American Institution: The 30-Year Mortgage, The New York Times reports

Texas Justices Hand Exxon Setback in California Climate Cases, InsideClimate News reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Friday…

Vatican calls on Catholics to divest from fossil fuels

Park Police chief accused of unlawful searches years ago

Former NPS employees 'appalled' by plan easing hunting rules for killing Alaskan bear cubs and wolf pups

EPA sued over weakened legal justification behind power plant pollution regulation