OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat | White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus | Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat | White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus | Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA
© Rebecca Beistch

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.

CLAWING AT SUPPORT: President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE is struggling to win over Maine voters with his recent pledge to lift restrictions for the state’s lobster industry.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump was beaming when he traveled to the state just two months ago to tell lobstermen he was reversing protections for some 5,000 miles of ocean territory in a bid to open it to fishing.

“You’re going to go fishing in that area now that you haven’t seen for a long time,” Trump said at a roundtable with representatives from Maine’s fishing industry. “Lobstermen and seafood producers, I want to just congratulate you.”

But the state’s lobstermen aren’t celebrating. That’s because the area Trump aims to reopen is 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod — far beyond the reach of Maine’s day-boat lobstermen.

“This doesn’t help the Maine fisherman at all,” Leroy Weed, 79, who has had a lobster license since he was 10 years old, said of Trump’s reversal of protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off of Cape Cod.

“There isn’t a boat in this harbor worth $2 million that could go out there and compete,” Weed said, pointing out to Stonington’s horseshoe-shaped cove, home to the state’s most productive lobster port.

Most of Maine’s lobstering takes place within three miles of shore, and even those with a federal license don’t typically travel more than 30 miles offshore.

Trump’s pronouncement in June marked his latest overture to an industry that has been hit hard by tariffs in his trade war with China.

ADVERTISEMENT

As November nears — and as polls show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Biden campaign sells 'I paid more income taxes than Trump' stickers Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose MORE with a double-digit lead over Trump in Maine — Trump has floated a number of proposals, including financial aid for the lobster industry, to undo what he says was damage done by former President Obama.

But Maine lobster hauls steadily increased during the Obama administration. The real turmoil for the industry came in 2018, when the Chinese market vanished under a 35 percent tariff on lobster.

Tom Adams, a lobster wholesaler who founded Maine Coast, recalled when he first heard about the tariffs.

“I read that news, and when my wife got home later that evening, I told her about the tariffs and how it could potentially impact the Maine coast and our family and I spent a weekend kind of feeling bad for myself,” Adams told The Hill. 

After the tariffs hit, Maine lobster trade with China dropped 48 percent.

Adams was heavily invested in China at the time — his sales there dropped 80 percent — and said his company worked hard to find new markets so their sales wouldn’t plummet, a challenge he still faces today.

“It’s remained a struggle in that sense to get ourselves sorted,” he said.

Shortly after Trump’s June visit, the White House announced it would offer lobstermen the same type of aid the Department of Agriculture gave to Midwest farmers as the Chinese markets for corn, soybean and pork collapsed during the trade war.

But it’s not clear who would get the aid or when it will arrive.

Read more on Trump’s lobster policies here.

HAND OVER THE DOCS: More than 50 Democratic lawmakers are asking the Trump administration to turn over documents after the White House directed agencies to create a shortlist of construction projects that could be fast tracked to boost the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A June executive order from President Trump expedites the permitting of construction projects and energy projects overseen by several federal agencies, using emergency authorities to skirt environmental regulations with little public notice.

Agencies had 30 days to report which projects will be expedited under the order, but there was no requirement for that list to be publicized.

“By keeping these reports from the public, this administration is concealing its own response to the economic crisis brought on by the COVID pandemic. If the administration is confident that this Executive Order can legally and legitimately provide economic relief, it should disclose which projects and decisions it is advancing under the auspices of the order,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the White House spearheaded by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons Democrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report MORE (D-Del.), House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioCentrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote House Democrats to include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package Anxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid MORE (D-Ore.), and House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). 

The order would slash the requirements in a number of landmark environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires rigorous environmental review before building new infrastructure like highways or pipelines.

A key issue here?

But the lawmakers warn the White House is subject to “a myriad of federal laws that require transparency and public accountability” that it cannot legally sidestep.

“These reports contain information on how billions of taxpayer dollars will be spent on projects impacting the health and safety of their communities. How these taxpayer dollars are spent should be subject to taxpayer scrutiny,” they wrote.

Read more on the letter here.  

A TVA 180: The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federally owned utility provider, is reversing course on outsourcing jobs after outcry from the White House.

“The Tennessee Valley Authority is immediately rescinding a decision to lay off Information Technology (IT) workers as part of the restructuring process announced earlier this year,” the corporation said in a statement Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier this year, reports indicated that TVA planned to outsource 20 percent of its technology workforce to foreign companies and that some workers had already been laid off.

TVA said Thursday that in addition to canceling the planned layoffs, it would review companies it contracts with to make sure that they comply with a new executive order from President Trump.

Trump this week issued an order — partially in response to the TVA situation — that aims to prevent government agencies from outsourcing jobs to foreign workers.

SUIT UP: A coalition of environmental groups on Thursday filed suit against the Trump administration, challenging its rollback of a bedrock environmental law.

The suit, spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of eight other groups, is the third to contest the July rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which for 50 years has required thorough environmental reviews before major projects like pipelines and highways could be approved.

“Countless unnecessary environmental harms—including deadly air pollution in residential communities already overburdened by environmental hazards; the individually small but cumulatively devastating climate change impacts of dirty fuels; and the piecemeal destruction of the habitat of species on the brink of extinction—have been identified, disclosed, and often avoided, simply because NEPA requires federal agencies to think before they act,” the groups wrote in their suit.

But the Trump rewrite of the rule “will eliminate environmental reviews for entire classes of projects that may have devastating cumulative or indirect impacts on people and the environment,” they said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Read more about the suit here

EMINENTLY QUOTABLE: “I would certainly listen to both sides. My son has some very strong opinions and my son is very much of an environmentalist,” President Trump told reporters at a press briefing after his son Donal Trump, Jr. expressed opposition to the Pebble Mine Project.

“I will look at both sides of it. I had heard about it. I understand they’ll be doing a briefing sometime over the next 48 hours,” he added. 

Read more on Trump’s approach here

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

EPA fired Interior official's son-in-law for 'misconduct', E&E News reports

The fertilizer that might have caused the Beirut explosion is all over the us. It’s unevenly regulated, The Center for Public Integrity reports.

NOAA hurricane forecast predicts record number of storms in 2020, we report

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday...

NOAA hurricane forecast predicts record number of major storms in 2020

Watchdog finds agencies using outdated standards for gas export facilities

Harris, Ocasio-Cortez push climate equity bill with Green New Deal roots

Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat

Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA

Trump pledges to look at 'both sides' on Pebble Mine

White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus

Federally owned utility reverses on outsourcing after White House outcry