OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate Democrats map out climate change strategy | Green groups challenge Trump plan to open 82 percent of Alaska reserve to drilling | 87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate Democrats map out climate change strategy | Green groups challenge Trump plan to open 82 percent of Alaska reserve to drilling | 87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations
© Getty Images

HAPPY 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.

PLANNING AHEAD: Senate Democrats on Tuesday released a more than 200 page climate plan that they’re billing as a roadmap for what they’ll do if they can take back the majority after this year’s election. 


The top lines:

The sprawling report has the broad goals of increasing federal spending on climate action to 2 percent of GDP each year, creating 10 million new jobs, and for the whole world to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

The plan also calls for 40 percent of federal climate investments to boost low-income communities and communities of color. And it includes proposals for reducing emissions from the electricity, transportation, agricultural and industrial sectors.

“We have the opportunity to build more and better jobs for the American people, jobs that’ll help re-stimulate the economy and aid in our transition to clean energy,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

“When Democrats retake the majority in the Senate, we will unify to move swiftly on legislation to tackle the climate crisis. Passing climate legislation will be a top priority for Senate Democrats and for me,” he added.

Democrats need to pick up either three or four Senate seats to gain control of the chamber, depending on who wins the presidency. A number of races, many of which have Republican incumbents, are considered toss-ups by election forecasters. 

The report came out of the Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, which is typically quieter compared to its bipartisan House counterpart. 


House Democrats on that committee released their own plan earlier this year. 

Hit me with those deets...

The Senate report also calls for the implementation of a federal clean energy standard, emission standard, carbon price or other “market mechanisms” in order to reach clean electricity. 

To take on emissions from transportation and industry, the report calls for vehicle and industrial emissions standards, among other provisions. Its agricultural goals are more focused on financial incentives and participating carbon markets. 

The plan also calls for increased funding for local public transportation and increasing access to zero-emissions vehicles, including making public vehicles zero-emissions. 

The framework contains a section on incorporating climate change considerations in foreign policy decisions, including national security, humanitarian aid and international development investments. 

The report also discusses investment in renewables, but it’s not clear what role – if any – that fossil fuels would play under this framework. 

Asked about the role of natural gas, which some Democrats see as a “bridge fuel” on the way to renewable energy, the senators didn’t give a direct answer. 

“Our focus is on renewable energy generation, our focus is on conservation and efficiency, our focus is on making sure that our farms are more profitable, more productive, and play a constructive role in solving the climate crisis,” said Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCDC causes new storm by pulling coronavirus guidance Overnight Health Care: CDC pulls revised guidance on coronavirus | Government watchdog finds supply shortages are harming US response | As virus pummels US, Europe sees its own spike Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE (D-Hawaii). 

“There is an ongoing conversation about how quickly to transition to a totally carbon-free electricity generation portfolio across the country, but it is not our desire to be using fossil fuels indefinitely,” he added. 

The Democrats also want to achieve their goals through a variety of mechanisms, including using financial and regulatory tools. They call on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to update how public companies should disclose climate risks and incorporate that into its rating methods. 

Read more about the plan’s details here.

NOT OK WITH DRILLING IN AK: Two separate coalitions of green groups are suing the Trump administration to challenge plans that would open 82 percent of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve to oil drilling.

The plan, unveiled in late June, would allow for 18.7 million acres of the approximately 23 million-acre area to be leased to oil and gas companies.

It also brings development to some 7 million acres within so-called Special Areas inside the petroleum reserve, which were designed to be hands-off in order to protect habitats for wildlife.

“The agency has buckled under political pressure and is throwing away protections for these special areas, completely erasing important nesting habitats for some of the world’s most iconic birds and fragmenting critical habitat for caribou,” Natalie Dawson, executive director of Audubon Alaska, said in a release.

Between the two suits, the Department of the Interior is facing challenges from 10 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity, among others.

The suits come just one day after environmental groups filed similar lawsuits to block drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the petroleum reserve’s neighbor to the west, where the administration has pushed to open up 1.6 million acres to drilling. 

Though the lands of the petroleum reserve were more specifically set aside for drilling, green groups say the Department of the Interior did not fully consider the effects on wildlife who rely on the lands set aside in the Special Areas. That includes the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, a 22-mile lake that serves as important grounds for many animals within the reserve. 

“At a time when the world is grappling with a grave climate crisis, we cannot allow the oil industry to continue to expand its grip on America’s Arctic, where it will drill and destroy one of our most extraordinary, yet fragile, natural treasures,” Rebecca Noblin, a staff attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement.

Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of four groups. 


“The plan is environmentally irresponsible and indefensible.”

The Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which oversaw the environmental analysis of the drilling plans, will still need to make a final decision on the drilling plan before it can proceed.

“Responsible exploration and development of the NPR-A is vital to our nation’s energy independence and economic security. The Department’s commonsense actions are lawful and based on the best available science, and we will continue to implement President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE’s agenda to create more American jobs, protect the safety of American workers, support domestic energy production and conserve our environment," Interior spokesman Conner Swanson said in an email to The Hill.

Read more about the new litigation here. 

YOU’VE GOT MAIL: A coalition of 87 House lawmakers is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its latest rules rescinding standards for methane emissions in the oil and gas industry.

“Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change — 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release,” the members wrote in the letter, which was signed by 85 Democrats and two Republicans. 

“This anti-science approach to rule making at the EPA is unacceptable," they added.


The EPA earlier this month finalized two different rules that rescind methane standards, something the agency’s own analysis finds will increase methane emissions through the end of the decade by 400,000 tons and 450,000 tons, respectively.

EPA said it would respond to the letter through the appropriate channels. 

The agency said earlier this month that its rule would be a help to oil and gas companies, who were expected to monitor and prevent methane leaks throughout the course of the drilling process.

“Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses," EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: California seeks to sell only electric cars by 2035 | EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities | House energy package sparks criticism from left and right EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities The conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons MORE said in a statement. "Today’s regulatory changes remove redundant paperwork, align with the Clean Air Act, and allow companies the flexibility to satisfy leak-control requirements by complying with equivalent state rules."

But major oil companies have opposed the new rules.

“Direct federal regulation of methane emissions is essential to preventing leaks throughout the industry and protecting the environment,” BP America Chairman and President David Lawler told The Hill in a statement shortly after the new rules were released. 

“We strongly believe that the best way to tackle this problem is through direct federal regulation, ensuring that everyone in the industry is doing everything they can to eliminate methane leaks," he said.

Rescinding the methane standards could make it harder for future administrations to fight climate change, not just because of the release of heat-trapping gases, but by eliminating an avenue for EPA to regulate similar greenhouse gases. 

The new agency rules set the stage for rollbacks to other pollutants by arguing that the EPA under former President Obama did not sufficiently define what constitutes a “significant” contribution to climate change under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA intends to put forth another rule with a definition for "significant," with the methane rule stating that it could apply its new criteria in future decisions.

Read more about the letter here.


Presidential candidate 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 knocked the Trump administration over waivers for Renewable Fuel Standards, which require a certain amount of biofuels be blended into petroleum-based fuels like gasoline.

“Instead of standing with those who till our land and sow our fields, we have a president who has sold out our farmers by undercutting the Renewable Fuel Standard with the granting of waivers to Big Oil,” the former vice president said in a statement. 


Night two of the Republican National Conventions starts at 8:30 p.m.


The FBI chased imagined eco-activist enemies, documents reveal, The Intercept reports Disasters are driving a mental health crisis, The Center for Public Integrity, The Texas Tribune and Mother Jones report

Heat, Smoke and Covid Are Battering the Workers Who Feed America, The New York Times reports

Redwoods survive wildfire at California’s oldest state park, The Associated Press reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday (and Monday night)...

500,000 ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Laura strengthens in Gulf

Laura classified as hurricane, headed for Gulf Coast

Park Service anniversary finds government working to implement new funding

Texas GOP lawmaker calls for 'carbon neutral' but 'energy dominant' future

87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations

Senate Democrats map out climate change strategy

Green groups challenge Trump plan to open 82 percent of Alaska reserve to drilling


Republicans should pledge to protect the environment, writes Quill Robinson, the vice president of Government Affairs at the American Conservation Coalition.