Overnight Energy: 20 states sue EPA over power plant regulation | States, groups sue to block federal coal leasing program | GOP lawmaker wants vote on public lands bill delayed

Overnight Energy: 20 states sue EPA over power plant regulation | States, groups sue to block federal coal leasing program | GOP lawmaker wants vote on public lands bill delayed
© Greg Nash

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GOING TO THE MATS: A coalition of 20 states, several cities and a county are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a regulation that undermines the justification for certain clean air standards. 

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The states sued over changes to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, which regulates pollution from power plants. 

In a statement, they particularly took aim at the EPA’s determination that it is not “appropriate and necessary” to regulate the emissions of mercury and other pollutants from power plants. 

“It’s absurd that in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE is putting the interests of the coal lobby and polluters ahead of the health of the American public,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in the statement on Monday. 

“This rule is an assault on critical regulations that protect our most vulnerable residents — who are already dying from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates — from toxic substances and harmful air pollutants,” Healey said. “We are suing to defend these important standards that help protect our environment and public health.”

The EPA has concluded that it is not appropriate and necessary to regulate these emissions, which does not undo the MATS rule, but rather weakens the legal justification for it.  

Critics say that changes made by the Trump administration will make the rule more vulnerable to legal challenges from those who want to get rid of the rule entirely. 

The “appropriate and necessary” determination follows changes the agency made to the MATS rule’s cost-benefit analysis that prevents it from weighing certain “co-benefits” in its justification for the standards. 

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Because of the changed analysis, which bars the EPA from considering the emissions of a class of substances known as hazardous air pollutants, the Trump administration’s cost-benefit analysis for the MATS rule looks vastly different from the Obama administration’s analysis. 

The Obama administration determined that the rule would save consumers as much as $90 billion, but the Trump administration said the rule would only save between $4 million and $6 million.

The Trump administration also found power producers will spend up to nearly $10 billion on adding pollution controls, so the costs will outweigh the benefits.

At least one coal company has already sued following the altered cost-benefit analysis. 

An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the new lawsuit on Monday, but at the time the changes were announced, Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA, employee union sign contract after years of disputes OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump order aims to curb US agencies' use of foreign workers after TVA outrage | EPA transition back to the office alarms employees | Hundreds of green groups oppose BLM nominee EPA transition back to the office alarms employees MORE argued that the Trump administration’s analysis was better because it only considered “targeted” pollutants like mercury rather than the co-benefits from reductions of additional pollutants. 

Read more on the suit here

COAL GOALS: Four states, as well as a coalition of environmental groups and tribes, are challenging the Trump administration in an attempt to prevent it from moving ahead with leasing federal lands to coal companies. 

Attorneys general from California, New Mexico, New York and Washington state filed the lawsuit in federal court on Monday, arguing that the administration’s environmental review was “inadequate” and “overly narrow.”

The states take issue with the government reviewing four newer coal leases, saying more of the approximately 300 existing leases should have been examined. It also said that the government’s Final Environmental Assessment (EA), issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) this year, did not look at these four leases thoroughly enough. 

“[The] Final EA ignores many of the impacts and concerns that warrant consideration in an updated environmental review of the program, such as harm to public lands and wildlife from coal mining, air quality impacts from coal transport and combustion, the disposal of coal ash, which contains hazardous constituents, as well as environmental justice impacts related to such activities,” their lawsuit argues. 

“Further, the Final EA’s failure to consider any alternatives other than its so-called 'no action' alternative or the proposed action ... violates NEPA’s mandate to consider a reasonable range of alternatives and is arbitrary and without basis in fact,” it continued, referring to the National Environmental Policy Act. 

Environmental groups and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe also sued Monday, similarly alleging that the government didn’t comply with environmental requirements. 

The administration originally tried to end an Obama-era ban on new coal leasing on public lands in 2017. A federal judge ruled last year that the Trump administration did not take the required steps to comply with environmental laws.

However, the judge, Brian Morris ruled in May that the federal government had “remedied the violation” after the BLM completed an assessment this year.

That assessment determined that there would not be significant environmental impacts of resuming coal leases. 

In his decision to throw out the case, Morris wrote that those who wanted to stop the leasing “remain free to file a complaint to challenge the sufficiency” of the assessment, setting the stage for Monday’s lawsuits. 

“We're taking the Trump Administration to court over its haphazard decision to restart the federal coal leasing program without any consideration of the serious consequences for environmental justice communities and climate change,” said California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCampaigns accuse California AG of slanted descriptions of ballot initiatives California sues Trump administration to mandate undocumented immigrants are counted for apportionment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money MORE in a statement. 

“The Trump Administration has repeatedly thrown out the rule book in order to benefit super polluting coal companies. It's not only immoral — it's illegal, and we intend to prove it,” he said. 

Interior Department spokesman Conner Swanson criticized the Monday move as a "laughable attempt to keep the baseless lawsuit alive" in a statement to The Hill.

"The Department is confident the court will agree that the analysis by our career experts is lawful and based on the best available science," Swanson said. "The Department will continue to implement President Trump’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 suit here.

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NOT SO FAST: Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopTrump signs major conservation bill into law Overnight Energy: House passes major conservation bill, sending to Trump | EPA finalizes rule to speed up review of industry permits House passes major conservation bill, sending it to Trump's desk MORE (Utah), the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, is pushing to delay a vote on a major public lands bill in light of a decline in federal oil and gas revenue.

The Great American Outdoors Act, which has broad bipartisan support, would use mostly offshore oil and gas revenues to permanently fund a conservation program known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The bill is slated for a floor vote Wednesday.

Bishop, an opponent of permanently funding the LWCF, said the chamber should delay the vote following a Congressional Research Service report published last week that found an 84 percent decline in offshore drilling funds sent to the government in May compared to the same month in 2019.

“Given what has been confirmed by the Congressional Research Service and knowing how this language is drafted, it would be ludicrous for House Democrats to move forward with this bill without amendment,” Bishop, who is not running for reelection, said in a statement Monday, adding that the report "has just confirmed that these revenue streams have evaporated due to the pandemic."

Companies that drill for oil and gas on public lands and waters have to pay the federal government based on how much energy they produce.

Earlier this year, prices plummeted amid a lack of demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, and some companies may have cut back on drilling. Others have applied for lower royalty rates as a result of lower prices.

However, energy demand has somewhat rebounded since then.

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And don’t forget…

The Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act last month in a 73-25 vote. President Trump has also signaled support for the legislation.

Read more on the battle for the bill here

ON TAP TOMORROW: 

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a series of bills that aim to remove certain Confederate monuments

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Chevron will buy Noble Energy for $5 billion -- the biggest oil deal since the pandemic, CNN reports

Study says better air conditioning can slow global warming, The Associated Press reports

Smaller houses and denser neighborhoods needed to slash homes’ carbon footprint, research says, The Washington Examiner reports 

ICYMI: Stories from Monday…

Morgan Stanley commits to measuring climate change impacts of its investments

GOP lawmaker wants vote on public lands bill delayed over decline in oil and gas revenue

Scientists warn polar bears could become nearly extinct by end of century

States, groups sue to block federal coal leasing program

20 states sue EPA over weakened justification for power plant regulation

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:

“Our environmental paradox: The conservation fund dependent upon oil and gas money,” writes Tate Watkins, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center.