Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation | House passes major public lands package | Biden administration won't defend Trump-era relaxation of bird protections

HAPPY FRIDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at @RachelFrazin.

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EXPENSIVE TASTE (IN GREENHOUSE GASES): The Biden administration announced Friday that it will temporarily return to an Obama-era method for calculating benefits to the climate when it makes regulatory decisions. 

A blog post on the White House's website says that it is replacing the prior administration's estimates for the "social cost of greenhouse gases" with those developed "prior to 2017."

This will give much greater weight to the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when the agency completes regulatory cost-benefit analyses. 

The Obama administration determined that the social cost of carbon is $50 per metric ton, while the Trump administration valued it at $7 per metric ton. 

The blog post, attributed to Council of Economic Advisers member Heather Boushey, noted that it will also adjust for inflation. 

President Biden reestablished the team, called the Interagency Working Group, and charged it with publishing final social costs of carbon, nitrous oxide and methane by January 2022. 

Read more about the decision here.


STICK THE LAND-ING: The House on Friday passed a sprawling conservation bill 227-200 aimed at preserving land and water in Arizona, Colorado, California and Washington state.  

The legislation, called the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act, combined eight bills that had previously been introduced.

The bill aims to provide extra protection to about 1.5 million acres of public lands by designating them as wilderness. 

It would also prevent new oil, gas and mineral extraction on more than 1.2 million acres of public land and preserve 1,000 river miles by adding them to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. 

The bill is backed by the White House but could face an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. 

Read more about the bill here.


FOR THE BIRDS: The Biden administration has formally dropped a case seeking to uphold a Trump-era memo easing penalties for companies that accidentally kill birds.

By withdrawing the prior administration's appeal, an August decision striking down the 2017 memo will go unchallenged. 

The memo in question scaled back the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which 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 legal opinion from former Department of the 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 August decision from U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni began with a quote from "To Kill A Mockingbird" before determining that "the Jorjani opinion's interpretation runs counter to the purpose of the MBTA to protect migratory bird populations."

Read more about the decision here. 


AN IDLE THREAT: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) sent a letter to Capitol Police Friday asking the department to enforce the prohibition against engines idling for more than three minutes at the Capitol complex.

Congressional staff often sit outside the Capitol, waiting for members to exit the building, a practice Norton said often goes beyond the few minutes allowed.

"Idling creates air pollution, which can cause asthma and respiratory illnesses, heart and lung diseases, and contributes to climate change," Norton wrote. "Idling not only risks the health of Members, staff, employees and visitors to the Capitol complex, it also risks the health of my constituents in the immediately surrounding community."



"I think the country would welcome Texas being at least connected to the national grid in some way, shape or form that allows for its neighbors to help," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told NPR. "Now, I know that Texas has its own grid...However, we all plan for redundancies and backups in our lives. And this might be just a backup that Texas might want to consider at this time."



On Wednesday

  • Brenda Mallory, Biden's nominee to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, and Janet McCabe, the nominee to serve as the deputy administrator of the EPA, will appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee 

On Thursday:

  • David Turk, Biden's nominee to be second-in-command at the Department of Energy, will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a draft bill on climate change planning, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience 



Ted Cruz open to mandates for grid improvements after Texas power crisis, The Washington Examiner reports

More than 25M drink from the worst US water systems, with Latinos most exposed, The Guardian reports

Many rural Texas counties currently left out of federal disaster aid eligibility for winter storm, The Texas Tribune reports


ICYMI:Stories from Friday...

House passes major public lands package

Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland

Parcels of Brazilian rainforest listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace: report

Biden administration won't defend Trump-era relaxation of bird protections

UN: Emission reduction plans 'fall far short'

Biden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation