OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters | Democrats detail their $1.5T green infrastructure plan | Green groups challenge Trump water rules rollback

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters | Democrats detail their $1.5T green infrastructure plan | Green groups challenge Trump water rules rollback
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TAKING A LOOK AT LAFAYETTE SQUARE: An internal government watchdog is probing the actions of Park Police earlier this month when law enforcement used chemical agents to disperse protesters in front of the White House.

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“Given the significance of the events, we have already begun collecting and reviewing information,” a spokesperson for the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) told The Hill in an email on Monday, adding that the review follows requests from three lawmakers as well as Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. 

“After we make an initial determination of which agency had command and control of the law enforcement operations, we will conduct a review of Park Police actions accordingly,” the spokesperson added. 

On June 1, law enforcement used chemical agents to clear protesters who were demonstrating against police brutality in Lafayette Square following the police killing of George Floyd. 

Shortly thereafter, 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 to widespread criticism alleging that peaceful protesters had been attacked for a presidential photo opportunity.

Acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan said earlier this month that smoke canisters and pepper balls were used to combat “violent” protesters. 

He added that the demonstrators threw bricks, frozen water bottles and “caustic” liquids at officers. However, journalists and protesters at the scene contradicted the claims of violence and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrGOP senator says Trump commuting Stone was a 'mistake' Barr recommended Trump not give Stone clemency: report Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence MORE described to The Associated Press a meeting about moving protesters away from the area in advance. 

The incident prompted Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump administration to impose tariffs on French products in response to digital tax Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE (D-Ore.), as well as Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Deb HaalandDebra HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters | Democrats detail their .5T green infrastructure plan | Green groups challenge Trump water rules rollback Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters Judge orders Mnuchin to give Native American tribes full stimulus funding MORE (D-N.M.) to ask the OIG to “investigate whether the Park Police’s use of force in Lafayette Park complied with applicable law, regulations and agency guidance." 

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Read more about the probe here

INFRASTRUCTURE TIME: House Democrats on Monday released new details about their $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan slated to come to a vote as early as next week.

The legislation, announced Thursday, would funnel hundreds of billions of dollars toward transportation and broadband, along with investments in schools and hospitals, with requirements to reduce emissions and clean up industry woven throughout the bill.

“This is the largest tax investment in combating climate change Congress has ever made,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealSupreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress Five takeaways from PPP loan data Trump administration releases PPP loan data MORE (D-Mass) said when the bill was first announced.

The legislation, much like House Democrats’ latest coronavirus stimulus package, may not be taken up in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Ernst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP Advocacy groups pressure Senate to reconvene and boost election funding MORE (R-Ky.) has expressed resistance to addressing infrastructure through a pandemic relief measure. 

The bulk of the 2,300 page Moving Forward Act is geared toward transportation, a $500 billion tab that requires states to account for climate change before undertaking projects and meet certain greenhouse gas emission goals when they accept funding.

Beyond building new roads and bridges, the legislation commits significant funding for public transportation, favoring systems that have success reducing congestion and that expand access in low income neighborhoods. It would also shift funds to systems that offer more frequent service — a key metric for recruiting riders — rather than low operating costs.

Mixed in with grants for zero-emissions buses, electrifying the postal service fleet, and allowance of electronic driver’s licenses is funding for university research into implicit bias training for police officers to prevent racial profiling during traffic stops.

The $100 billion broadband portion, spearheaded by Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGOP lawmaker: Refusal to wear masks is 'tragic' The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push MORE (R-Mich.), dedicates the bulk of its funding — $80 billion — to bringing broadband access to rural and otherwise underserved areas.

Other grant funding would give money for wifi on school buses, expanding mobile hotspot access through schools and libraries, and funding digital equity programs to ensure people of diverse backgrounds have access to the internet.

The bill also contains a number of direct environmental measures, including efforts to boost electric vehicle charging stations across the country.

And, the legislation has some tax provisions that could help the renewable industry..

The bill would extend two tax credits that can be claimed by renewable energy producers.

It will allow companies that start construction on certain wind, biomass and hydropower facilities by the end of 2025 to claim the production tax credit, which can be claimed by companies that produce electricity from renewable sources.

The legislation would also expand the commercial use of the investment tax credit (ITC), which allows claimants to receive a portion of the cost of installing certain renewable energy facilities as a tax credit. 

And it would extend tax credit for carbon capture and sequestration technology, which takes carbon out of the atmosphere, by two years until the end of 2025. 

The Moving Forward Act would also restrict the transportation of LNG by rail after the Trump administration recently issued a final rule authorizing the bulk transportation of the substance by rail. 

It would require the Transportation Department to rescind any previous authorizations and halt any new ones until the department conducts further safety evaluations.

It would also direct the administration to start a probe into safety and environmental risks of transporting LNG. 

The Democratic bill would also aim to tackle PFAS chemicals, which are often found in water and are known for their persistence in the environment and human body, by creating a grant program to help utilities pay for costs of treating them.

Read more about the big picture provisions here and read more about the tax credits here

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WHOA WHOA WOTUS: A coalition of environmental groups sued the Trump administration Monday, challenging a rollback of protections for the nation’s waterways originally put in place under the Obama administration.

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in January limits federal protections for smaller bodies of water, a move critics say risks contamination of larger ones used for drinking water.

The suit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Sierra Club, other environmental groups, and a number of tribes, argued the Trump administration erred in removing protections for wetlands and streams that result from rainfall.

The plaintiffs called the rule an “egregious example of putting profits over people. Industrial polluters could potentially be given free rein to dump toxic pollution into nearly 2 million miles of the nation’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands for which protections would be removed. This must not be allowed to happen.”

The suit, filed on the day the law takes effect, is the third filed by a coalition of environmental groups and follows litigation filed by 17 states. A Colorado-based suit has succeeded in temporarily blocking the rule there.

The latest suit asks the court to strike down the law, arguing it is arbitrary and capricious because it contrasts with previous EPA findings on the connectivity of water as well as existing protections for waterways.

The EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board reviewed the rule when it was first proposed, writing in a draft report that “aspects of the proposed rule are in conflict with established science ... and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.”

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“EPA and the Army [Corps of Engineers] developed the rule to protect the navigable waters and their core tributary systems for the entire country while respecting our statutory authority. The Rule strikes the proper balance between state and federal jurisdiction and is designed to end the confusion that has existed for decades,” an EPA official said by email.

Read more about the lawsuit here

DO YOU WANT THE GOOD NEWS OR THE BAD NEWS FIRST? The recession caused by the coronavirus could have a bigger impact on emissions than the earlier stay-at-home orders tied to the pandemic, experts say.

Researchers found that emissions dropped by as much as 17 percent worldwide at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak as travel plans and daily commutes to work and school came to a halt.

But experts say that decline is likely to rebound to pre-coronavirus levels, unless a protracted recession takes hold.

“The economy is dependent on energy,” said Steve Davis, a professor at the University of California, Irvine. “If you’re making stuff, you need heat and electricity to make that stuff. Then you need oil to deliver that stuff. So when the economy slows down, you get less consumption demand as people do less and make less.”

Research has found that emissions dip when there’s an economic downturn, whether it's the oil crisis of the late 1970s or the financial crisis surrounding the Great Recession.

That recession, from 2007 to 2009, led to a 10 percent drop in U.S. emissions, according to research by Davis and others.

Emissions typically rebound alongside the economy, but a lengthy recovery accompanied by potential changes in consumer behavior could keep emissions lower for a longer period.

“Emissions were down one-sixth, and now they’re only down one-twentieth globally,” said Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford University and head of the Global Carbon Project, as emissions levels tick back up in China, the U.S. and elsewhere.

“Now we’re moving quickly back to close to normal. But if close to normal lasts a long time, we could see a sustained drop in emissions that's meaningful.”

The combination of a faltering U.S. economy, with 13.3 percent unemployment, and fear of the coronavirus could keep tens of millions of people from resuming their typical driving and consumption habits.

“It’s going to be a much deeper recession; it's going to be larger and there might be structural changes that are difficult to predict,” said Klaus Hubacek, an environmental economist affiliated with the University of Maryland.

The success of teleworking has prompted some companies to embrace the practice, encouraging employees to continue working remotely if it suits them. And the proliferation of online meeting software gives companies the option of reconsidering travel for short meetings.

At the same time people may increasingly turn to their cars as their preferred mode of transportation, spurning public transit and carpooling in an effort to keep their distance from others.

“It’s not just about stay-at-home orders but the lack of comfort people have to integrate into societies,” said Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard University.

Researchers say they’re not yet sure what the overall effect on emissions will be as people change their habits.

“I don't know where transportation will end up,” Jackson said. “This recession is different in that most of the emissions decrease came from transportation. We stayed at home in this recession in ways we didn't in the past.”

“People are not going to jump back on airplanes anywhere near what we used to in the past any time soon,” he said, while noting that it’s too to say whether an increase in car use might offset that.

It’s also tough to sort out how the recession will affect the energy industry.

Oil companies have made major cuts in response to lower fuel prices, while the renewable energy industry has lost more than 600,000 jobs.

“Fossil fuels are getting hit harder than renewables. They’re both getting hit, but fossil fuels are getting hit harder,” said Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research.

“If a few more fossil fuel companies fall off the cliff while renewable companies don’t,” the clean energy sector could be in a stronger position going forward, he said.

Read more about how economic changes could impact emissions here

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

3 Years and $3 Trillion Could Shift the Climate Change Narrative, Bloomberg reports

When It Comes To Water Rights, This Once-A-Decade List Details Who Will 'Use It Or Lose It,' KUNC reports

Enbridge reports ‘significant damage’ on Line 5 pipeline to Michigan, MLive reports

Indigenous peoples say US demand for clean energy destroying Canada's environment, The Guardian reports

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend…

EPA to reopen DC headquarters after coronavirus closure

Natural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings

Arctic town records highest temperature ever

Green groups challenge Trump water rollback

Recession likely to hinder rebounding emissions levels

Democrats detail their $1.5T green infrastructure plan

Democrats eye tax credit assistance for renewables in infrastructure bill

Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters