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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.
CAN YOU BARRETT: Environmentalists are sounding the alarm over Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettNew Hampshire state representative leaves GOP over opposition to vaccine mandate Barrett: Supreme Court 'not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks' To infinity and beyond: What will it take to create a diverse and representative judiciary? MORE’s comments this week casting doubt on the science of climate change, saying her remarks should disqualify her from sitting on the Supreme Court.
During two days of questioning at her Senate confirmation hearing, Barrett called climate change a “contentious matter of public debate” and said she didn’t think her “views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge.”
Earlier, she told the Senate Judiciary Committee she did not have “firm views” on climate change.
Her comments sent ripples through the scientific community given the overwhelming evidence of human-driven climate change.
Kym Hunter, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Barrett’s conservative and originalist viewpoints don’t “automatically mean to me that she would essentially question the reality of climate change. Those things don't need to go together.”
“So her comment seemed much more ideological and much more in line with strict conservative talking points and ideology than I would expect from someone of her intellect,” Hunter added.
Vicki Arroyo, director of the Georgetown Climate Center, who like Barrett is from southern Louisiana, said lived experience alone should make it easy to answer questions on climate change without getting into specifics on cases.
“To actually say ‘I'm [certainly] not a scientist,’ as if that absolves her from having an opinion or enough knowledge to acknowledge its existence, sends a clear signal,” Arroyo said, calling climate denial a Republican talking point that’s diminishing in favor.
Arroyo said Barrett could have been as forthcoming as she was when responding to other questions about whether smoking causes cancer and whether coronavirus is infectious.
“There’s as much if not more evidence” on climate change, she said. “Any uncertainty left has been to show the impacts are more severe and happening at a faster rate than anyone who worked on this over the last 30 years predicted.”
Climate change is poised to become an increasing topic of discussion at the Supreme Court. A number of states are pursuing litigation against oil giants, seeking to hold them responsible for their role in producing climate-warming fossil fuels.
The court may also hear challenges to a number of Trump administration rollbacks, some of which would likely involve consideration of climate change. Federal courts are already hearing challenges to the administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which repealed emissions caps at coal-fired power plants, and its rollback of clean car standards and the bedrock National Environmental Policy Act.
Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law’s Environmental and Energy Law Program, warned that if the clean energy rule case made it to the Supreme Court, industry briefings on the power plant rule could lead to questions on a court precedent that established the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
“If the court decides to take up again the fundamental question that was decided in Massachusetts v. EPA, that’s where you would start to worry about her professed doubts about the science of climate change,” added Goffman, who also served as an EPA lawyer during the Obama administration.
Read more on how Barrett’s view on climate change could impact the courts here.
Meanwhile, on Twitter…
“To be fair, I don't have any ‘views on climate change’ either. Just like I don't have any ‘views’ on gravity, the fact that the earth is round, photosynthesis nor evolution…” teen climate activist Greta Thunberg wrote.
“But understanding and knowing their existence really makes life in the 21st century so much easier.”
CARBON COPY: Federal energy regulators have put forth a proposal that would accommodate state-set carbon pricing in regional electricity markets.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced the bipartisan proposal in a press release Thursday. Text of the proposal has not yet been released.
Putting a price on carbon emissions raises the cost of energy from fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide when burned. Renewable energy advocates are typically in favor of these carbon pricing policies because renewable power has to compete with fossil fuels in energy markets.
“As states actively seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their regions, carbon pricing has emerged as an important, market-based tool that has wide support from across sectors,” FERC Chairman Neil ChatterjeeNeil ChatterjeeOvernight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program Biden nominates DC regulator to federal energy commission Former GOP energy regulator regrets partisan past MORE said in a statement.
“The Commission is not an environmental regulator, but we may be called upon to review proposals that incorporate a state-determined state carbon price into these regional markets,” said Chatterjee, a Republican. “These rules could improve the efficiency and transparency of the organized wholesale markets by providing a market-based method to reduce GHG emissions.”
William Boyd, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who teaches about energy law, said he believes the proposal could result in modest reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, but that there is more that the commission can do.
“It’s good for FERC to send these signals to the states that they’re willing to work with them on this ... but is carbon pricing through the [regional transmission organization] markets going to get us where we need to go in terms of decarbonizing the power sector? No, I don’t think so,” he said.
The story is here.
INSANE AMOUNTS OF METHANE: Methane emissions have jumped so far this year even as oil and gas production has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The report from Kayrros, which analyzes methane leaks through satellite imagery, found visible methane emissions jumped 32 percent in the first eight months of 2020 when compared with the same period in 2019.
The increase in methane is concerning because of its heat trapping powers — the gas is more than 80 times more potent than carbon emissions over a 20-year period.
“Despite much talk of climate action by energy industry stakeholders, global methane emissions continue to increase steeply,” Antoine Rostand, president of Kayrros, said in a release.
The U.S., Russia, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Iran and Iraq were the largest contributors according to the company’s analysis.
Though the U.S. is a leading contributor, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August rescinded its regulations on methane emissions.
Read more on the spike here.
OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY:
How Biden would use trade agreements to fight global warming, from Politico
Parting thoughts from Republican climate hawk Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyGOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court Pricing carbon can help solve the infrastructure funding dilemma Allies of GOP leader vow to oust Liz Cheney MORE, from E&E News
Winds push Colorado wildfire to largest in state history, The Associated Press reports
ICYMI: Stories from Thursday…
EPA allows use of radioactive material in some road construction
Methane emissions up in 2020 amid turbulent year for oil and gas
Greta Thunberg mocks Barrett for not having 'views on climate change'
Environmentalists sound alarm over Barrett's climate change comments
Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets