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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Federal officials press concerns about proposed mine near Georgia swamp, documents show | Trump falsely claims Green New Deal calls for 'tiny little windows' | Interior appeals migratory bird ruling

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Federal officials press concerns about proposed mine near Georgia swamp, documents show | Trump falsely claims Green New Deal calls for 'tiny little windows' | Interior appeals migratory bird ruling
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SWAMP THING: Federal officials are continuing to express concerns about the potential environmental impacts of a proposed titanium mine near the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia while the company behind it has allegedly pushed back against the idea of a major government assessment of those impacts. 

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In documents newly obtained by Defenders of Wildlife and shared with The Hill, officials say that the mine may pose environmental risks to the swamp and express doubt over an assessment by the company, Twin Pines Minerals LLC. 

Although officials have previously raised concerns about the project, the new documents show continued concern after Twin Pines submitted a proposal to reduce the size of the area that would be mined. 

And in additional documents that were previously reported, a governmental official says that Twin Pines alleged that a government environmental impact statement (EIS) on the mine would be bad for business and offered an alternative. 

Twin Pines President Steve Ingle said in a statement provided to The Hill that studies have shown that the project will not impact water levels.

He added that the company would welcome an "environmental review" but said that an EIS would be extremely costly and time consuming. 

In a comment dated May 28, Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) field supervisor Donald Imm wrote that the mine could harm the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. 

“We have concerns that the proposed project may pose risks to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (OKENWR) and the natural environment due to the location, associated activities, and cumulative effects of similar projects in the area," he said. "We opine that the impacts are not sufficiently known and whatever is done may be permanent." 

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Imm’s letter raised concerns about the impacts to both the environment and animal species and noted the importance of the swamp on the area's tourism economy. 

And an assessment dated July 17 by an FWS hydrologist raised what it described as “errors in conclusions drawn concerning the impact of proposed mining on swamps to the west of the 2020 proposed mining area.”

Meanwhile, an Army Corps of Engineers official said in a previously reported email from January that “the applicant was adamant that doing the EIS right now was unacceptable for his business, but did not necessarily dispute the fact that one was likely necessary at some point.”

“Instead, they offered the option of reducing the project such that it would be a 2-3 year ‘demonstration project’ which would allow some work to commence and collect data in support of the larger overall project,” the email said. 

The company had initially proposed mining 1,450 acres in 2019, but withdrew that permit application in February, just weeks after the email saying it had offered the option of the reduced project. 

And in March it submitted an application for a permit for a “demonstration mining project for a reduced mining area of approximately 898 acres.”

In response to the documents, Ingle said in a statement that "questions have been raised, but they have been answered."

"Extensive studies have demonstrated conclusively that the proposed mine will have no impact on water levels in the Okefenokee Swamp. The original study was performed by Dr. Robert Holt, world-renowned hydrogeologist and professor of geology and geological engineering at the University of Mississippi, and it was confirmed by hydrologists and geologists at the University of Alabama," Ingle said. 

"Dr. Holt has also addressed the questions presented by FWS. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reviewed the study and stated that it agrees with Dr. Holt’s conclusions," he added. 

Ingle also said that the company would welcome "environmental review" but said that formal environmental impact statements are "bureaucratic exercises that cost millions of dollars and take many years to complete."   

"EIS is rarely required for activities on private land," he said. "There was no reason why an EIS should have been required even for the original project."

He added that the Army Corps "acknowledged that an EIS was not required" for the downsized project. 

Read more about the project and new documents here.

WINDOW PAINS: President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE bashed the Green New Deal during a phone interview Thursday evening, incorrectly telling Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityPalin responds to Obama: 'He is a purveyor of untruths' The evolution of cable TV news — after Donald Trump Fox News wins ratings week, while MSNBC touts daytime figures MORE that it would require builders to use “tiny little windows.”

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The climate change-fighting resolution sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBiden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration Maloney vows to overhaul a House Democratic campaign machine 'stuck in the past' Ocasio-Cortez defends Harry Styles wearing dress on Vogue cover: 'It looks wonderful' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Mass.) has been a favored line of attack for Republicans, who often point to policy proposals not actually included in the legislation.

“I mean they literally want to take buildings down and rebuild them with tiny little windows, OK, little windows so you can’t see out, you can’t see the light,” Trump said. 

“Our country will be a Ninth World country, not a Third World country” if the plan is implemented, he added.

The president also said the deal was conceived of “by not smart people — AOC plus three.”

Windows are never mentioned in the 14-page Green New Deal, which is more of a vision for fighting climate change and spurring economic growth than a specific prescription. 

“In case anyone was worried, tiny windows are not a part of the Green New Deal,” Sunrise Movement, a youth climate group that backs the effort, wrote on Twitter.

“We are anti-tiny window.”

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The Green New Deal does call for making buildings — a major consumer of energy — more efficient.

The U.S. should upgrade “all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification,” the resolution states.

Read more about Trump’s comments here

IN LEGAL NEWS: 

Struck down… A federal court on Thursday struck down an Obama-era regulation targeting methane leaks from drilling on public lands, arguing that it went beyond the scope of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which promulgated the rule. 

The 2016 rule required oil and gas companies to cut a practice called flaring, in which natural gas is burned, by half, inspect their sites for leaks and replace old equipment that released too much methane. 

The court argued that although the rule’s stated purpose was to reduce waste, it was essentially used to regulate air quality, which is not the job of the BLM. 

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“Although the stated purpose of the Rule is waste prevention, significant aspects of the Rule evidence its primary purpose being driven by an effort to regulate air emissions, particularly greenhouse gases,” wrote Judge Scott Skavdahl, an Obama appointee. 

Skavdahl particularly noted that the rule’s cost-benefit analysis only showed the rule to be beneficial “if the ancillary benefits to global climate change are factored in."

Read more details on the late Thursday ruling here

Appealing... The Department of the Interior plans to appeal a court ruling saying its memo justifying their ability to scale back projections for migratory birds was “contrary to law.”

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) has for over 100 years offered protections to 1,000 different types of birds, instigating penalties for companies whose projects or infrastructure harm them.

But a 2017 legal opinion from now-Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani advised punishing the oil and gas industry, construction companies and others only if their work intentionally kills birds, ending the practice of punishing companies that “incidentally” kill birds.

“The opinion freezes the MBTA in time as a hunting-regulation statute, preventing it from addressing modern threats to migrating bird populations,” a judge wrote in a decision vacating the opinion, calling it “an unpersuasive interpretation of the MBTA’s unambiguous prohibition on killing protected birds.”

Friday’s filing offers no details on Interior's legal argument, but the department criticized the court’s decision at the time, saying it “undermines a common sense interpretation of the law and runs contrary to recent efforts, shared across the political spectrum, to de-criminalize unintentional conduct.”

The youths… More than 600 law students pledged to boycott the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP until it drops its client ExxonMobil. 

“We won’t work for you as long as you’re working for ExxonMobil — and literally hundreds of students from your top recruitment schools have made the same pledge. If you want our generation’s talent, stop helping to destroy our generation’s future,” William Rose, a second-year student at NYU School of Law, said in a release.

OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY:

With new letter, Alaska GOP Gov. Dunleavy stands alone in Pebble’s defense, Alaska Public Media reports

Federal scientists want to study how the virus interacts with wildlife—but they say a Trump appointee is stopping them, Wired reports

Trump's EPA claimed 'success' in Superfund cleanups — but climate change went unaddressed, report NBC NewsInsideClimate News and The Texas Observer

ICYMI: Stories from Friday…

Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling

Trump falsely claims Green New Deal calls for 'tiny little windows'

Federal officials continue to raise concerns about proposed mine near Georgia swamp, documents show

Duke Energy seeks net-zero methane by 2030