Overnight Energy: Smoke from wildfires has reached Europe | EPA postpones environmental justice training | UN report: Countries have failed to meet a single target to protect wildlife in last decade

Overnight Energy: Smoke from wildfires has reached Europe | EPA postpones environmental justice training | UN report: Countries have failed to meet a single target to protect wildlife in last decade
© getty:A Pacific Gas and Electric firefighter walks down a road as flames approach in Fairfield, California during the LNU Lightning Complex fire on August 19, 2020.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY! 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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BLOWING SMOKE: Smoke from the wildfires in the West is spreading across the United States and has even reached Europe, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

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Satellite images show the smoke hovering above the United Kingdom moving into Northern Europe, a nearly 5,000 mile journey.

“The scale and magnitude of these fires are at a level much higher than in any of the 18 years that our monitoring data covers,” Mark Parrington, CAMS senior scientist and wildfire expert, said in a release.

Read more on the fires here

TRAINING DAY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will postpone training on environmental inequity faced by communities of color and low-income communities following a White House order calling for agencies to stop training involving what it described as “anti-American propaganda.”

EPA spokesperson James Hewitt confirmed to The Hill that the agency would put the training “on hold” until it receives “greater clarification” from The White House. 

Politico first reported that the training would be halted, noting that the agency put off a virtual event that was slated for Tuesday and was part of a series on “Structural Racism and Environmental Justice."

In announcing the postponement, EPA official Charles Lee cited a White House memo, according to the news outlet. 

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The memo in question, issued earlier this month by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget's Russel Vought, said that unspecified “press reports” indicated that taxpayer dollars were being spent on training where employees “are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism.’”

The memo further said that federal agencies should “cease and desist” from using taxpayer funds on such training and ordered the agencies to identify contracts or spending relating to any training on topics such as white privilege. 

That’s a big departure from recent promises from EPA...

The EPA’s action follows a speech by Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Smoke from wildfires has reached Europe | EPA postpones environmental justice training | UN report: Countries have failed to meet a single target to protect wildlife in last decade EPA postpones environmental justice training after White House memo OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' MORE in which he outlined his vision for a second term and said that the agency needs to center its efforts on environmental justice for communities overburdened by pollution. 

Studies have shown that low-income communities and communities of color face greater impacts from pollution. 

However, the Trump administration has also taken actions that advocates say will harm these communities, like no longer requiring environmental analyses to consider how a construction project’s pollution will interact with existing sources of pollution in a community. 

Environmentalists criticized the decision to postpone the training. 

“Agencies like the EPA have a responsibility to center Environmental Justice in all of its work, in order to effectively carry out its mission to ‘protect human health and the environment,’” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “The postponement of an anti-discrimination series at the behest of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE’s racist directive is an outrage and proves, yet again, just how hollow Andrew Wheeler’s words are. 

The story is here. 

MISSING TARGETS: The United Nations said the international community is not doing enough to adequately protect biodiversity and wildlife after determining that countries have not achieved any of the goals in a list of targets laid out 10 years ago. 

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, which was published Tuesday before a UN summit on the issue later this month, said the world has failed to meet any of the 20 objectives that the world agreed to at a 2010 summit in Japan that was intended to compile ways to slow the decay of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems.

Among the goals were eliminating, phasing out or reforming “incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity,” halve “the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests” by 2020 and reduce pollution “to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.” 

“Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intensifying. None of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets will be fully met, in turn threatening the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and undermining efforts to address climate change,” Tuesday’s report read.

“At the global level none of the 20 targets have been fully achieved, though six targets have been partially achieved.”

The report specifically found that natural habitats are still disappearing, several species are still threatened with extinction and hundreds of billions of dollars in environmentally damaging government subsidies have yet to be eliminated, among other things.

The world did not meet the goals of protecting 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 percent of marine habitats, but some progress has been made on targets regarding protecting other ecosystems, including having 44 percent of vital biodiverse areas falling under protection a boost from 29 percent in 2000.

Read more about the report here

SOUND FAMILIAR? A coalition of environmental and tribal groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its rollback of two rules meant to limit the amount of methane emitted by the oil and gas sector. 

The lawsuits, announced late Tuesday, target two rules promulgated by the agency last month. Under one rule, the agency rescinded standards that specifically regulate the emissions of methane, and the other rolled back industry requirements for detecting and repairing methane leaks.

Together, the two changes were expected to cause an increase of 850,000 tons of methane emissions over 10 years. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is significantly more powerful than carbon dioxide. 

This is the second suit this week challenging the methane rollback...

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The groups will argue that the EPA’s actions violate the Clean Air Act and that it must reinstate methane emissions standards issued by the Obama administration, according to a statement from the Sierra Club.  

“With a rapidly warming planet and the most devastating global pandemic in 100 years, the Trump administration has somehow seen fit to worsen both of these crises by attacking safeguards that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clean up the air we breathe,” said Sierra Club attorney Andres Restrepo in a statement. 

Read more on the suit here

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on titled “Examining the Barriers and Solutions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Department of the Interior”

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Federal charges brought against former head of company that hopes to begin search for oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, The Anchorage Daily News reports

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Toxic exposure risks lurk in menstrual products, E&E News reports

Forecasters Are Running Out of Names This Hurricane Season. What Then? The New York Times asks

Is California serious about environmental justice? This water fight is a test, The Los Angeles Times reports

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday (and Tuesday night)…

Smoke from Western wildfires has reached Europe

EPA postpones environmental justice training after White House memo

Senators offer disaster tax relief bill

Green groups sue EPA over methane rollbacks

UN report: Countries have failed to meet a single target to protect wildlife in the last decade