Overnight Energy: Michigan agrees to $600M Flint settlement | Sierra Club knocks DNC over dropped fossil fuel subsidies language

Overnight Energy: Michigan agrees to $600M Flint settlement | Sierra Club knocks DNC over dropped fossil fuel subsidies language
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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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Today, the United States is the world's leading oil and natural gas producer. The transition, from an importer of oil to that of a net exporter has pushed the country toward energy independence. A position that not only has the capacity to power economic growth but can also play a key role in strengthening national security. On the sidelines of the 2020 Republican Convention, The Hill will host a discussion with Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresPatient Protection Pledge offers price transparency Texas GOP lawmaker calls for 'carbon neutral' but 'energy dominant' future OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden calls climate change one of America's four major crises | National parks chief says coronavirus staff shortages shouldn't prevent access | Trump hits California officials over wildfires MORE (R-TX) and energy experts about the strategic importance of America’s energy independence. RSVP today!

A SETTLEMENT FOR FLINT: The state of Michigan has reached a preliminary $600 million agreement with Flint residents after lead levels in their drinking water spiked following a switch in water sources.

Nearly 80 percent of the funds will be given to children in Flint, the majority being routed to those under 6 at first exposure — the highest risk group for the damaging effects of lead poisoning. Another nearly 20 percent will go to the city’s adult residents.

The agreement, one of many legal battles fought by residents since lead-tainted water began flowing through their pipes in 2014, follows 18 months of negotiations.

“The residents of Flint were victims of horrendous decisions by the state, its employees, and other defendants that have resulted in tragic and devastating consequences,” Ted Leopold, one of the court-appointed interim co-lead counsels for city residents, said in a statement.

“This public health disaster was the product of a complete disregard for the health and well-being of ordinary citizens. While we can never undo the damage that occurred to the citizens and community of Flint, we are pleased that today we were able to secure a measure of justice for the proposed class and the Flint community, and will continue to seek justice against the remaining defendants.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerCoronavirus lockdowns work Michigan resident puts toilet on front lawn with sign 'Place mail in ballots here' Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election MORE (D) acknowledged that the settlement “may not completely provide all that Flint needs.”

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“Many will still feel justifiable frustration with a system and structure that at times is not adequate to fully address what has happened to people in Flint over the last six years. We hear and respect those voices and understand that healing Flint will take a long time, but our ongoing efforts and today’s settlement announcement are important steps in helping all of us move forward,” she said in a statement.

Flint residents began complaining about water quality issues shortly after the city switched its water source in April 2014, but city and state officials denied any problems until studies from Virginia Tech University researchers and Hurley Medical Center in Flint showed high lead levels in both water and children’s blood. Lead exposure has been tied to brain damage.

Criminal and civil cases have accused Michigan and Flint officials of being responsible for the crisis, but broader suits against other officials and agencies have been slowly proceeding.

The new settlement, which still must be approved by the court, is open to any Flint resident who consumed the tainted water for at least 21 days of the month any time after April of 2014. There were roughly 100,000 city residents during the time of exposure, including about 30,000 minors.

“Because the amount to be paid to each claimant will in part depend upon how many filed claims are verified, the precise amount to be paid to each claimant will not be known until the claims process is completed,” a summary of the settlement said, noting that those who can show they had elevated blood lead levels may receive larger payments. 

Residents who accept compensation will waive their right to sue the state, its agencies and current and former employees, but residents may also opt out if they prefer to pursue their own litigation.

The settlement includes special set asides, including $12 million for the city’s schools to provide extra assistance for students struggling after lead exposure.

It also sets aside $35 million in a trust for children whose parents don’t apply for the settlement now to do so on their own behalf once they reach adulthood.

“We’re very proud of that feature and it’s going to be very beneficial to many of the children,” Michael Pitt, another one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, said on a call with reporters.

Read more about the settlement here. 

DNC FACES PUSHBACK ON FOSSIL SUBSIDIES: The Sierra Club, one of the country’s most prominent environmental groups, is pushing back against the Democratic National Committee for dropping language from its platform that would have called for eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. 

“We demand that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) immediately reinstate the language ... calling for the end of tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies,” the green group’s president and vice president said in a letter to DNC Chair Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE.

“Instead of reassuring the American people that the Democratic Party is committed to putting public health over corporate polluters, the DNC has quietly endorsed [President] Trump’s recklessness,” they added. 

HuffPost had reported this week that party officials added an amendment to the platform in July saying that “Democrats support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels, and will fight to defend and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy." 

However, that language does not appear in the final version of the party’s platform. 

A DNC spokesperson told The Hill that the amendment was incorrectly included in a group of provisions during the platform's development.

The Biden and Sanders campaigns and the amendment’s submitters agreed to withdraw it, the spokesperson said. 

However, the amendment’s sponsor, John Laesch, pushed back on that assertion, telling Politico that he gave “no consent” to remove the approved language. 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Fox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio MORE has said he wants to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

Read more on the pushback the DNC is receiving here. 

CLIMATE AT THE CONVENTION:

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamBiden pick creates furor, underscoring bitterness over Obama immigration policy Buttigieg, former officials added to Biden's transition team No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden MORE (D) made an environmental case for electing Joe Biden during the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. 

“We have the chance this November to end two crises: the Trump presidency and the environmental annihilation he represents,” she said.

“We have the chance this November to attack the climate crisis, invest in green 21st century jobs and embrace the clean energy revolution our country, our young people are crying out for and the leadership the rest of the world is waiting for,” Lujan Grisham added. 

The party’s climate segment also featured activists and an electrical union worker endorsing Biden on climate and clean energy. 

And other speakers, like the party’s 2016 nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio Trump, Biden court Black business owners in final election sprint The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE, also gave Biden climate nods. 

“Let’s vote for the jobs that Joe’s plan will create, clean energy jobs to fight climate change,” Clinton said.

PENDLEY LITIGATION UPDATE: The office of Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Pence seeks to boost Daines in critical Montana Senate race MORE (D), who has challenged the continued tenure of William Perry Pendley as the head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) without Senate confirmation, on Thursday asked the court for an expedited review of the case. 

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His office argued in court that Pendley’s “continued service has and continues to cause the State of Montana ongoing harm.”

In a support briefing, the governor’s office discusses succession orders signed that was May and obtained recently by The Hill in which Pendley essentially gave himself the authority to lead the agency. The briefing objects to the fact that the order has no time limit. 

RIGHT OF WAY FOR THE RIGHT WHALE: A U.S. District Court has ordered the Department of Commerce to outline protections for the North Atlantic right whales no later than May 31, 2021.

The endangered whale, once a large source of whale oil, has seen its numbers dwindle to about 400 as they continue to be killed in shipstrikes and entanglements in lobster gear.

While the decision forces Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service to enact protections, James E. Boasberg stopped short of ordering lobstermen to withdraw their rope, as requested by environmentalists.

“Vertical lines are what lobster fishermen use, so plaintiffs’ proposed injunction would effectively ... institute a year-round closure,” of fishing areas, he wrote.

“The judge has given the agency clear marching orders, and there’s no more time to waste. The National Marine Fisheries Service must respond quickly with strong new regulations that prevent right whale entanglements,” Kristen Monsell, the Center for Biological Diversity attorney who argued the case in court earlier this month, said in a release. 

“This amazing species can’t withstand more harmful entanglements in lobster gear.”

Lobster industry groups have argued against protections that would require removing fishing gear and have pushed the U.S. to work harder to protect the whale alongside the Canadian government, as many whales have died on the northern side of the border.

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Revealed: how the gas industry is waging war against climate action, The Guardian reports

Lawsuit targets federal plan that would allow more drilling on public lands in southwest Colorado, The Denver Post reports

Can California handle this many wildfires at once? Crews and equipment already ‘depleted,’ the Sacramento Bee reports

Dams played key role in limiting sea level rise, The BCC reports

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday (and Tuesday night)…

Analysis: Greenland ice sheet lost a record amount of ice in 2019

Sierra Club knocks DNC over dropped fossil fuel subsidies language

Michigan agrees to $600M settlement with Flint residents