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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Climate change a factor in most of the 7,000 natural disasters over last 20 years: UN report | Contentious pipeline can resume construction, regulators decide | California investigators seize PG&E equipment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Climate change a factor in most of the 7,000 natural disasters over last 20 years: UN report | Contentious pipeline can resume construction, regulators decide | California investigators seize PG&E equipment
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IT’S MONDAY! 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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JARRING STATISTICS: There were more than 7,000 extreme weather events since 2000, a major increase over the previous 20 years due in part to climate change, according to a Monday report from the United Nations.

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From 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major recorded disasters claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people, “many on more than one occasion” and causing approximately $2.97 trillion in global economic losses, according to the report.

There were 4,212 such events from 1980 to 1999, which took 1.19 million lives, affected 3.25 billion people and resulted in approximately $1.63 trillion in economic losses. 

“Much of the difference is explained by a rise in climate-related disasters including extreme weather events: from 3,656 climate-related events (1980-1999) to 6,681 climate-related disasters in the period 2000-2019,” according to the report, which was released ahead of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

"It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people," Mami Mizutori, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, wrote in the report's forward.

Flooding and storms were the most prevalent events, together comprising 72 percent of all major natural disasters. The number of major floods doubled between the two time periods.

The story is here

PEAKS AND VALLEYS: Energy regulators are allowing resumed construction of an interstate gas pipeline project, which had previously been halted. 

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted 2-1 to allow the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) Project’s construction to proceed in light of a new assessment of its impacts on certain species. 

The approximately 300-mile project is expected to cross Virginia and West Virginia. It’s been opposed by environmentalists who argue that it’ll harm the environment but supported by industry which says it will be important in distributing energy. 

In 2019, a federal court halted a government assessment of the project’s potential impacts on animal species, criticizing that assessment’s discussion of the possible effects on certain bats. 

In light of the court stay, FERC then ordered construction on the pipeline to pause. Since that time, the federal government has issued a new assessment. 

Late Friday, FERC’s two Republican commissioners, Neil ChatterjeeNeil ChatterjeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump takes major step toward Alaska wildlife refuge drilling opposed by Biden | Grijalva backs Haaland for Interior Secretary | Obama alumni considered top picks for Biden Energy secretary MORE and James Danly, allowed pipeline construction to continue. 

“Based on staff’s review of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, we agree that completion of construction and final restoration ... where permitted, is best for the environment and affected landowners,” they wrote. 

However, Democratic Commissioner Richard Glick disagreed, arguing some construction is still awaiting federal permits and that it’s not worth doing so until it’ll be guaranteed that the project can fully proceed. 

“Especially given the troubled history of MVP’s various federal authorizations, I do not believe that we should be restarting construction when the Project lacks the permits necessary to cross vital portions of the planned route,” Glick wrote. “MVP may eventually receive permission to cross the Jefferson National Forest. But, by allowing it to recommence construction before doing so, the Commission has put the cart before the horse.”

Read more about the project, which is being challenged in court, here. 

WILDFIRE INVESTIGATION: California fire investigators have seized Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) equipment as part of a probe into the cause of a deadly wildfire in Northern California, according to the Associated Press.

PG&E said the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection seized electrical equipment in connection with the Zogg Fire, which began in late September. The fire, which began amid high winds, led to the deaths of at least four people and has burned more than 88 square miles, according to the AP. The fire was nearly entirely contained as of Friday.

A 12,000-volt PG&E circuit services the area where the fire began. PG&E said in a filing that its automated equipment “reported alarms and other activity between approximately 2:40 p.m. and 3:06 p.m.”

PG&E said in the filing it does not yet have access to the materials that the fire protection agency has collected in its investigation.

The utility, the largest in America, previously confessed to responsibility for the deaths of 84 people in recent wildfires. Outgoing CEO Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Climate change a factor in most of the 7,000 natural disasters over last 20 years: UN report | Contentious pipeline can resume construction, regulators decide | California investigators seize PG&E equipment California investigators seize PG&E equipment in search for cause of deadly wildfire PG&E pleads guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter in 2018 Camp Fire MORE pleaded guilty to nearly 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a November 2018 fire, which nearly destroyed the entire town of Paradise. The utility went bankrupt in early 2019 and has only recently emerged from it.

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Fires connected to PG&E equipment have killed more than 100 people and burned more than 27,000 residential and commercial buildings in 2017 and 2018, according to the AP.

The story is here.

OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY:

Inside the climate battle quietly raging about US homes, The Guardian reports

EPA hired consultants to counter staff experts on fluoride, E&E News reports

Florida sees signals of a climate-driven housing crisis, The New York Times reports

Spain sets a $10.5 billion goal for green hydrogen, Bloomberg reports

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ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend…

Hurricane Delta makes landfall in Louisiana as Category 2 storm

Appeals court blocks further construction on Trump border wall

California investigators seize PG&E equipment in search for cause of deadly wildfire

Climate change a factor in most of the 7,000 natural disasters over last 20 years: UN report

Contentious pipeline can resume construction, regulators decide