SPONSORED:

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

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
© Thinkstock

IT’S TUESDAY! 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.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

SUIT UP: A coalition of 20 states is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a rule that weakens states’ ability to block pipelines and other controversial projects that cross their waterways.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Clean Water Act previously allowed states to halt projects that risk hurting their water quality, but that power was scaled back by the EPA, a move Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds MORE said would “curb abuses of the Clean Water Act that have held our nation’s energy infrastructure projects hostage.”

The suit from California and others asks the courts to throw out the rule, which was finalized in June.

“Let's be clear, this Trump administration rule is not about water quality. This is about pushing forward fossil fuel energy infrastructure,” said California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Favorites emerge as Latino leaders press Biden to appoint 5 Hispanics to Cabinet MORE (D), calling the Clean Water Act “the only way to prove that these projects comply with state law.”

The Clean Water Act essentially gave states veto authority over projects by requiring projects to gain state certification under Section 401 of the law.

It applies to a wide variety of projects that could range from power plants to waste water treatment plants to industrial development.

But that portion of the law has been eyed by the Trump administration after two states run by Democrats have recently used the law to sideline major projects.

New York denied a certification for the Constitution Pipeline, a 124-mile natural gas pipeline that would have run from Pennsylvania to New York, crossing rivers more than 200 times. Washington state also denied certification for the Millennium Coal Terminal, a shipping port for large stocks of coal.

ADVERTISEMENT

The EPA would not comment on the litigation directly but said that “prior to issuing this final rule, EPA’s water quality certification regulations were nearly 50 years old.”

“The agency’s recent action reflects the first comprehensive analysis of the text, structure and legislative history of Clean Water Act Section 401. As a result, the agency’s final rule increases the transparency and efficiency of the Section 401 certification process in order to promote the timely review of infrastructure projects while continuing to ensure that Americans have clean water for drinking and recreation," the agency said.

The new policy from the Trump administration accelerates timelines under the law, limiting what it sees as state power to keep a project in harmful limbo. The need for a Section 401 certification from the state will be waived if states do not respond within a year.

But states argue the new rule won’t give them the time necessary to conduct thorough environmental reviews of massive projects. 

Read more about the lawsuit here

WHO’S IN AND WHO’S OUT OF THE NDAA, PFAS EDITION: House Democrats added several amendments aiming to regulate a class of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS to a defense spending bill Monday. 

The additions followed the failure of the chamber to add a broader amendment that would tackle the substances. 

PFAS chemicals are also often called “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in nature and the human body. They are found in firefighting foam that is used by the military as well as a variety of household products. 

The House version of the bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is slated for a vote on Tuesday. 

On Monday, the House added amendments from Reps. Antonio DelgadoAntonio Ramon DelgadoMaloney vows to overhaul a House Democratic campaign machine 'stuck in the past' Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Next Congress expected to have record diversity MORE (D-N.Y.), Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? MORE (D-Mich.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (D-Colo.) that aim to study or limit PFAS. 

The provision from Levin would temporarily prevent the Defense Department (DOD) from incinerating PFAS until the Defense secretary finalizes disposal regulations. 

The Delgado amendment would require all PFAS manufacturers to disclose any discharges of the substance over 100 pounds. Last year, the House required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make manufacturers report discharges of some types of PFAS in the same quantity, but Delgado’s measure would prevent the agency from applying a certain exemption. 

The Houlahan and Perlmutter amendments would increase or require PFAS studies. 

However, late last week, a broader amendment presented by Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellGM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards Ex-AG Holder urges GOP to speak against Trump efforts to 'subvert' election results McEnany disputes any Trump 'advocacy' with invite to Michigan lawmakers MORE (D-Mich.) and Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyOVERNIGHT 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 House Democrats add some 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking major amendment House Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks MORE (R-Fla.) that would designate PFAS a hazardous air pollutant in an attempt to clean up the substance was determined to be outside the bill's rules.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s disappointing that my bipartisan amendment, which cleared the House earlier this year on a strong bipartisan vote, is being ruled out of order to the NDAA because of budgetary points of order,” Dingell said in a statement after the fact. 

Read more about the amendments here. 

HOPING TO DELAY THE DEADLINE: Lawmakers are stepping in to seek more time for tribal governments to spend coronavirus relief money after funding slated for Native American communities was delayed by the Treasury Department.

A new bill, which has been introduced by bipartisan teams in both the House and Senate, would give tribal governments until Dec. 30, 2022, to spend funds that would otherwise need to be spent by the end of this year.

“Tribal communities ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic received federal resources and relief far too late — pitting them right up against fast approaching spending deadlines,” said Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior Secretary | Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry | Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans MORE (D-N.M.), one of the Senate sponsors, adding that the legislation “will allow tribal governments extra time to address the planning needs for these critical funds.”

Tribes were allotted $8 billion in funds through the $2.2 trillion March CARES legislation.

But the funding was repeatedly held up by Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience On The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed MORE, who delayed releasing the funds as litigation proceeded over whether corporations affiliated with tribes should receive funds.

ADVERTISEMENT

So-called Alaska Native Corporations, which have vast land holdings and secure significant profits from timber and oil sales, had sued to receive some of the funding but were blocked by a May court ruling.

Treasury began to release some of the funding in May, but it wasn’t until a June court decision by the same judge that Mnuchin was forced to release all the funding.

Read more about the bill here. 

OHIO UH-OH: Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R) helped pass a controversial nuclear bailout bill in exchange for almost $61 million in bribes, federal prosecutors said Tuesday as they announced racketeering charges against the official.

"Make no mistake, these allegations are bribery, pure and simple," David DeVillers, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said at a press conference. "This was quid pro quo, this was pay to play."

Householder, his aide Jeff Longstreth, former Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes were all arrested and charged in federal court on Tuesday.

Householder could not be reached for comment. It's unclear if any of the defendants have obtained lawyers.

ADVERTISEMENT

The alleged scheme was aimed at passing Ohio's House Bill 6, which was signed into law a year ago. The bill tacked on a surcharge for energy consumers to raise a bailout worth more than $1 billion for two unprofitable nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions.

According to court documents, FirstEnergy began paying a nonprofit controlled by Householder $250,000 quarterly payments in 2017, amid his second term in the state legislature. The money was allegedly used to enhance Householder's political power, fund advocacy behind House Bill 6 and line the pockets of the officials and lobbyists involved in the scheme.

FirstEnergy was referred to as "Company A" and none of its officials were charged. DeVillers said that he could not refer to the company by name but admitted that it was obvious which business the indictment was referring to.

FirstEnergy released a statement saying it had received subpoenas Tuesday afternoon relating to the investigation and vowed to cooperate fully with law enforcement.

Three months after Householder started his second term as speaker, House Bill 6 was introduced, and it passed into law in July 2019. The company increased its payments to an entity controlled by Householder, who used the money to help fund a messaging campaign around the bill and also dipped into it for personal use.

FirstEnergy poured another $38 million into the nonprofit called Generation Now in order to help defeat a ballot initiative aimed at stopping HB 6 from taking effect.

DeVillers said on Tuesday that of the $61 million, about half a million went to line Householder's personal pockets.

Read more about the case here

ON TAP TOMORROW: 

  • The House is expected to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, which would fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address a national park maintenance backlog
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on “the increased risk of zoonotic disease from illegal wildlife trafficking.”
  • Senate Democrats’ Climate Committee will examine “Transportation Solutions to Move People and Goods in a Decarbonized Economy”

OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY:

Major Investors To Fed: Act On Climate Change Or Face ‘Disastrous’ Economic Consequences, Forbes reports

Lethal fog smothers Texas oil sites as inspections lag, E&E News reports

EU leaders reach $2 trillion deal on recovery plan after marathon summit, CNBC reports

New Emails Show How Energy Industry Moved Fast to Undo Curbs, The New York Times reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday…

Lawmakers push NOAA to prevent future 'Sharpiegate'

Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee

Bullock sues to boot controversial public lands bureau director as he awaits confirmation

Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money following Treasury delays

Prosecutors say Ohio House leader helped pass energy bailout in exchange for $61 million in bribes

20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects

House Democrats add some 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking major amendment

Microsoft, Starbucks, Nike set goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050

Greta Thunberg to donate one million euros in award money to green groups

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:

Shifting sands in the House of Saud with a king's declining health, writes Simon Henderson, the  director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 

Don't bail out ethanol, opines Joseph Glauber, the former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture