OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court strikes down Trump administration's methane rollback | Energy regulators uphold compensation for rooftop solar energy producers | Democrats target Confederate monuments in spending bill

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court strikes down Trump administration's methane rollback | Energy regulators uphold compensation for rooftop solar energy producers | Democrats target Confederate monuments in spending bill
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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.

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INSANE IN THE METHANE: A federal court late Wednesday struck down a Trump administration rule that weakened restrictions on methane gas releases from drilling on public land, restoring an Obama-era regulation. 


In 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rolled back parts of the prior rule that limited the release of the greenhouse gas. The change was expected to allow for more methane leaks in a process called flaring, adding to air pollution. 

On Wednesday, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers determined that the rulemaking process used by the BLM was “wholly inadequate.”

“In its haste, BLM ignored its statutory mandate under the Mineral Leasing Act, repeatedly failed to justify numerous reversals in policy positions previously taken, and failed to consider scientific findings and institutions relied upon by both prior Republican and Democratic administrations,” wrote Rogers, an Obama appointee. 

“In its zeal, BLM simply engineered a process to ensure a preordained conclusion,” she added in the decision’s conclusion. “Where a court has found such widespread violations, the court must fulfill its duties in striking the defectively promulgated rule.”

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that can have 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide in equal quantities. In 2018, it accounted for nearly 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. 

The judge’s order will go into effect in 90 days, and she is requiring the BLM to chart its course of action in a report due in 30. 

BLM spokesperson Derrick Henry said he disagreed with the court's ruling.

"Our commonsense deregulatory actions were lawful and based on the best available science," Henry said in a statement to The Hill. "The Department will continue to implement President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world MORE’s agenda to create more American jobs, protect the safety of American workers, support domestic energy production and conserve our environment."

Read more on the ruling here

MAKING SOLAR PAY: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday rejected a challenge to a practice in which homeowners are paid for the excess solar energy they produce for the electric grid. 

The commission voted unanimously against a challenge to the practice, known as net metering, from the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA). 

The association argued that FERC, rather than the states, should have exclusive jurisdiction over the price paid to homeowners, who it said are currently overcompensated. 

However, FERC rejected the petition, saying that NERA failed to “identify a specific controversy or harm that warrants the Commission acting” according to a summary of Thursday’s FERC meeting. 

Proponents of net metering argue that it incentivizes homeowners to install solar panels and also adds to energy supply by having these people provide energy to the nation’s electric grid. 

Environmentalists and renewables advocates hailed FERC’s decision as a victory. 

“As the leader of a coalition of conservative groups, solar advocates, state regulators and elected officials from both sides of aisle in opposition to this petition, SEIA applauds FERC’s unanimous decision to dismiss this flawed petition,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, the president Solar Energy Industries Association, in a statement. 

Read more on the decision here

PUTTING YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS: House Democrats are seeking to get rid of Confederate statues and memorials situated on National Park Service (NPS) land via requirements in a new appropriations bill.

A similar effort failed in 2015, but proponents feel they have a better chance this year amid the national reckoning on race following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd.

The fiscal year 2021 spending bill for the Interior Department, which oversees the NPS, would require the Park Service to remove all Confederate statues, monuments and plaques unless prohibited by a law or policy. It also would ban NPS from using funds in the bill to purchase or display the Confederate flag except in “specific circumstances where the flags provide historical context.”

“Our constituents are demanding that we dismantle the legacy of slavery as captured in the Confederate monuments and flags throughout the country,” said Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeSenate candidate Gary Chambers discusses his opposition to criminalizing marijuana Treasury rolls out quarters featuring Maya Angelou, first Black woman on the coin A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day MORE (D-Calif.) during a markup of the bill. “These symbols, they celebrate who fought to continue the enslavement of Africans brought to America in chains 401 years ago.”


The appropriations measure also would require the Interior secretary to submit to Congress an inventory of its assets that have Confederate names.

When reached for comment, Interior spokesperson Ben Goldey said in email that NPS “preserves these and other memorials, often as features of a historic landscape, and offers interpretive context for the benefit of all visitors.”

“The Department supports the use of the legislative and regulatory process by the President and Congress, rather than lawless vandalism, to make important decisions about removing symbols of historical events,” Goldey added.

Nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice following Floyd’s death have amplified calls to remove Confederate monuments and statues. Proponents of their removal argue that the statues are a celebration of slavery and those who fought to protect it.

President Trump and several of his Cabinet members have criticized efforts to take down such statues.

The president has called for 10 years imprisonment for anyone who defaces national monuments. Interior Secretary David Bernahrdt has condemned the damage to monuments during recent protests and called for National Guard assistance to protect those in Washington, D.C.

Democrats in Congress have taken several steps this year to address the issue of Confederate names and imagery on federal property. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill Man seen wearing 'Camp Auschwitz' sweatshirt on Jan. 6 pleads guilty to trespassing Democrats should ignore Senators Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-Calif.) in June ordered the removal of Confederate portraits in the Capitol. That same month, she called for the removal of 11 Confederate statues displayed in the Capitol complex.


There is also bipartisan momentum to include a provision in a massive defense policy bill that would rename bases that are named after Confederate generals.

Read more on the effort here


The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “Accelerating our Progress toward Economic Recovery and a Clean Energy Future” 


Regulators approve Xcel Energy's plan to run 2 Minnesota coal plants at part-time, the Duluth News Tribune reports

UN official: Catastrophe looming from oil tanker off Yemen, The Associated Press reports


ICYMI: Stories from Thursday…

Oil-producing countries strike deal to increase production

Former military leaders push to extend ban on offshore drilling in Florida gulf