OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA effort to boost uranium mining leaves green groups worried about water | DNC climate platform draft calls for net-zero emissions by 2050 | Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA effort to boost uranium mining leaves green groups worried about water | DNC climate platform draft calls for net-zero emissions by 2050 | Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country
© Getty Images

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.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

URANIUM ON THE CRANIUM: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday took action to bolster the struggling uranium mining industry that environmentalists warn risks contaminating the West’s limited water supplies.


An agreement between the agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits the EPA’s authority to regulate so-called in situ leach (ISL) recovery of uranium, which involves dissolving minerals deep underground and pumping them to the surface for processing. Environmentalists have cautioned against the method because of its risk for polluting groundwater.

“This is an important step towards establishing a robust domestic uranium mining industry, which is increasingly important for the national security interests of the U.S.,” EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA sued by environmental groups over Trump-era smog rule Environmental groups sue over federal permit for Virgin Islands refinery OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE said in a release after traveling to Wyoming, a large mining state, to sign the memorandum of understanding.

“In situ uranium mining is a proven safe and cost-effective way to provide fuel for America’s nuclear power plants, which supports thousands of jobs and is a large source of emissions-free energy."

Uranium, a key ingredient for nuclear fuel, has seen its price largely decline over the last decade. 

The administration has made numerous moves to help the industry, starting with a 2017 declaration from President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE making uranium a critical mineral for national security purposes. 

An April report from the Nuclear Fuels working group outlined a number of ways to “pull America’s nuclear industrial base from the brink of collapse.” 

But critics say the U.S. doesn’t need to prop up a struggling and polluting domestic industry when the bulk of uranium imports come from allies such as Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan. 


EPA proposed its most recent regulation on ISL recovery on President Obama’s last day in office — something Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoInterior Department reverses Trump policy that it says improperly restricted science Biden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland MORE (R-Wyo.) has asked the agency to withdraw for nearly as long.

That proposal, which never took effect, would have required uranium mining companies to study nearby aquifers before mining, use strong monitoring while drilling to detect any leeching, and fully restore aquifers to their previous condition after any contamination. 

“In every single instance ISL uranium mining operations have heavily contaminated the mined aquifer and then failed in attempts to restore that contaminated aquifer,” the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in a letter urging the Trump administration to keep the tougher regulations proposed under Obama.

“How much scarce western groundwater has been permanently contaminated by the ISL uranium industry is still an open question.”

Barrasso, however, called the agreement a “major win for uranium production in Wyoming,” which will in turn help support nuclear power.

Read more about the EPA’s action here.

(DEMOCRATIC) PARTY TIME:  A draft of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) climate platform calls for net-zero emissions by 2050, in line with the policy goals set forth by presumptive presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe West needs a more collaborative approach to Taiwan Abbott's medical advisers were not all consulted before he lifted Texas mask mandate House approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act MORE.

The draft platform, obtained by The Hill on Thursday, includes several updates Biden made to his plan recently. The DNC objectives, however, do not go as far some of the more ambitious goals laid out by progressives.

Like Biden, the DNC wants to achieve carbon-free power by 2035, as well as invest in 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations and conserve 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.

Currently the U.S. has about 26,000 charging stations. According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, the U.S. was conserving 12 percent of its lands as of 2018.

Both Biden's and the DNC's draft plans call for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. The DNC also calls for a “carbon adjustment fee” for products from countries that do not meet their obligations under the accord.

"We must lead the world in taking on the climate crisis, not deny the science and accelerate the damage,” the platform’s preamble states. “The last four years have seen record-breaking storms, devastating wildfires, and historic floods.”

“Democrats will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and go further, building a thriving, equitable, and globally competitive clean energy economy that puts workers and communities first, and leaves no one behind,” it continues.

The party platform differs from Biden’s vision in some areas, calling for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030, compared with Biden's 2035 goal.


The DNC also wants to invest in 500 million solar panels and 60,000 wind turbines. Biden's plan doesn't set specific goals for turbines or solar panels.

The DNC plan is less ambitious than some of the policy recommendations laid out by progressive and environmental groups that want to end fossil fuel production, reach “near-zero” emissions by 2040 and achieve 100 percent clean energy in electricity generation, buildings and transportation by 2030.

The story is here

POST-COAL GOALS: Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine Pro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget Duckworth calls for Russian bounties intelligence to be declassified MORE (D-Ill.) is sponsoring a bill to provide a safety net for coal workers who risk losing their job as the country shifts to cleaner forms of energy.

The Marshall Plan for Coal Country Act, a nod to the economic recovery plan for Europe after World War II, would ensure health care coverage for coal workers as well as cover higher education costs for coal miners and their family.

Duckworth’s legislation comes as the senator has risen to the top of the shortlist for the Democratic Party running mate this year and as the Biden campaign has shifted its climate plan to appease the left wing of the party.

The bill from Duckworth includes many of the “just transition” ideals prescribed by the Green New Deal revolution sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J vax rollout today; third woman accuses Cuomo 'Lucky': Inside Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement of Sanders MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case Senators question Bezos, Amazon about cameras placed in delivery vans OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE (D-Mass.), and would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. 


“For centuries, our nation has relied on the sacrifices made by coal country — and coal workers — to industrialize and power our nation with affordable energy,” Duckworth said in a release. 

“Mineworkers spent their days in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions to provide a good life for their families and help the rest of our country succeed. We can’t afford to leave them behind.”

Despite efforts from the Trump administration to bolster the coal industry, market forces have pushed utilities to cheaper, cleaner forms of electricity, leaving the nation’s roughly 50,000 coal jobs in jeopardy.

The legislation would provide Medicare to coal workers who have lost their jobs while also modifying bankruptcy laws to require coal companies to pay expenses for health care, pension benefits and environmental damages before dealing with executive pay.

Beyond the educational benefits, the bill requires the Department of Energy to place a federal grant coordinator within each coal community for a minimum of 10 years.

Read more about the bill here.

EMINENTLY QUOTABLE: A group of seven Republican senators wrote to Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC MORE on Thursday, asking him to help the renewable energy industry in any upcoming stimulus package. 


“Continuing to scale up the clean energy sector would grow jobs, support U.S. energy independence, economic resilience, and will be essential for global competitiveness. We respectfully ask your consideration of the clean energy sector — which employs millions of Americans nationwide — in any upcoming relief and recovery bill,” they wrote. 


MONEY & POWER: The secret origins — and public collapse — of the campaign to privatize Jacksonville’s electricity and water, The Florida Times-Union reports

New York Bill Would Classify Fracking Waste As Hazardous, Bloomberg reports

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun, The New York Times and ProPublica report

 Michigan’s 1st PFAS drinking water standards clear final hurdle, Michigan Advance reports

ICYMI: From Thursday...

Ivanka TrumpIvanka TrumpTrump Jr. was deposed in inauguration funds probe Former Trump officials eye bids for political office The Hill's Morning Report - Disaster politics hobble Cruz, Cuomo MORE visits Rocky Mountain park after passage of conservation bill