OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 21 states sue White House over rollback of bedrock environmental law | Administration faces rough week in court | Trump hits Biden on climate at convention

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 21 states sue White House over rollback of bedrock environmental law | Administration faces rough week in court | Trump hits Biden on climate at convention
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GETTING TO THE HEART OF IT: A coalition of 21 states sued the Trump administration Friday for what they called a “rule that is, at its heart, the gutting” of America’s bedrock environmental law.


The White House in July finalized a rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which for 50 years has required the government to weigh environmental and community concerns before approving pipelines, highways, drilling permits, new factories or any major action on federal lands.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) called it the Magna Carta of environmental law.

“NEPA requires something basic, but very important from the federal government,” he said. “It basically requires the federal government to look before they leap. Pretty straightforward. Look at the science, look at the impacts. What's going to happen if we go forward?

“What the Trump administration wants to do is put blinders on before the federal government leaps, so we don't know what those impacts are.”

The rewrite of NEPA removes requirements to consider climate change before proceeding on a project.

Protocols for weighing concerns from nearby communities — often communities of color — would become far more complex.

It also opens the door for more industry involvement in reviewing the environmental effects of their projects or nixing reviews entirely for some projects that receive little federal funding. President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE has repeatedly called NEPA the “single biggest obstacle” to major construction projects.


The White House, which promulgated the rule through its Council on Environmental Quality, said it does not comment on litigation.

Does this sound familiar?

The Trump administration has already faced multiple lawsuits from various environmental groups challenging its NEPA rollback.

The suit from the states offers similar arguments: The Trump administration both violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which lays out the technical process for changing rules, and undermined the very basis of NEPA itself.

“The Trump administration is impatient; the Trump administration is sloppy, and the Trump administration doesn't like to do its homework. And the result is that oftentimes before we can get to the substance of the matter, we beat them on the procedure; we beat them because they didn't go to court, or they didn't go through the regulatory process and try to implement it the right way,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump, part II The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill MORE said.

“We're able to succeed because on the substance we've got those great allies — the facts, the science and the law with us — but it also helps that these guys are just plain sloppy and impatient. And it really helps us have a record of success.”

Cue that eyeball emoji...

The suit, filed in the Northern District of California, is California’s 100th against the Trump administration, and its 51st challenging a bevy of environmental rollbacks.

It asks the court to throw out the rule entirely, arguing it undermines NEPA itself, which “prioritizes careful, informed decision making over rushed and reckless action,” the states write.

The rewritten rule would also lead to “uninformed federal decisions that adversely impact vulnerable communities,” they argue, such as the black, brown, and poor communities that are already overburdened by polluting projects ranging from factories to highways.

Read more on the suit here

IT’S NOT JUST NEPA: It’s been a busy week in court for the Trump administration

-In North Carolina… North Carolina is suing the federal government over its decision to try to locate oil and gas off its coast despite objections from the state. 

In June, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) allowed a company to move ahead with seismic testing, which uses blasts from air guns to try to detect oil and gas deposits in the ocean. 


This decision overrode an objection from the state, which opposed the testing.

The seismic testing is a step that comes ahead of offshore drilling, and NOAA's decision falls in line with the administration's goals of expanding oil and gas production. 

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, North Carolina’s government argued that NOAA did not adequately show that testing would significantly advance the national interest and also didn’t adequately show that the adverse impacts would be minor. 

Read more on that here.

-In Pennsylvania… Environmentalists won their battle challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of Pennsylvania’s air quality, with the court ruling the agency used a “pernicious loophole” when greenlighting laxer standards for coal-fired power plants.

The suit from the Sierra Club against the EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection challenged a permit governing the state’s air quality standards. The group argued power plants in the state were capable of meeting much tougher standards than what had been agreed to by the two agencies.

The court called the reasoning behind different elements of the permit “questionable individually,” adding that “joined together they are decidedly worse than the sum of their parts.”


The three judge panel for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals also took the agency to task for failing to weigh data showing five plants in the state were capable of much greater pollution reductions. 

“Even more disquieting, the EPA ignores its own Air Markets Program Data showing that all five Pennsylvania power plants noted above have actually achieved much greater reductions,” the court wrote.

Read more on the decision here.  

-And in the Southeast… The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing another suit over its rule that limits states’ ability to block pipelines and other controversial projects that cross their waterways.

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 in June, a move 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 would “curb abuses of the Clean Water Act that have held our nation’s energy infrastructure projects hostage.”

The latest suit, however, argues the Trump administration is inappropriately denying states veto power over major projects that pose risks to their waterways.

“Stripping away the states’ ability to protect local waters and strangling the voices of impacted communities are the epitome of protecting polluters instead of protecting people,” Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a release.


“For the first time, the Trump EPA’s rule denies those protections to the states and local communities, sacrificing the nation’s clean water to benefit polluting industries and their lobbyists.”

Read more on the challenge here

RNC RECAP: President Trump touted his energy record and sought to attack Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' MORE on the issue during a speech lasting more than an hour on Thursday night. 

“I...immediately approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, ended the unfair and very costly Paris climate accord and secured for the first time American energy independence,” he said. Both pipelines are currently facing court battles. 

He also went on the attack, saying that Biden "has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale and natural gas laying waste to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico, destroying those states.”

However, the former vice president’s climate plan doesn’t go as far as saying he’d terminate the production of these fuels, instead saying he wants to end new drilling on public lands and in public waters. 

Trump also took a shot at California, claiming that similar policies led to recent power outages there. 

“How can Joe Biden claim to be an ‘ally of the light’ when his own party can’t even keep the lights on?” the president quipped, referencing language from Biden’s convention speech. 

DO WE HAVE CHEMISTRY? On Monday, August 31, The Hill will hold a virtual event titled Science & American Advancement. Science and advancement go hand-in-hand. However, the way science works, not by straight lines, but sometimes by accident, can frustrate strict timelines and investment efforts. Why is continued scientific investment so important? Can science overcome many of the challenges it faces today in order to lead us to a brighter future? The Hill will bring policy-makers and thought leaders together to look at the historical contributions science has made to American advancement and the status of the scientific community today, featuring Former National Science Foundation Director France Córdova, Rep. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillTim Ryan: Prosecutors reviewing video of Capitol tours given by lawmakers before riot Calls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack Belfast's Troubles echo in today's Washington MORE (D-NJ), Rep. Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research The Hill's 12:30 Report: Presidential race tightens in key states MORE (R-IN), Energy Department Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar and more. RSVP today: https://bit.ly/2FT87wT.


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