Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Texas sues power provider Griddy, alleging deceptive advertising and marketing | More states follow California's lead on vehicle emissions standards | Financial regulators home in on climate risks

HAPPY 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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GRIDLOCK: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Monday sued Griddy LLC, arguing the energy provider violated the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act by hiking customers' bills to cover its own failure to prepare for extreme winter weather.

"During times of stability and low demand on the grid, Griddy was able to purchase electricity cheaply and pass those savings to consumers. But instability in the market can expose its customers to enormous risk, resulting in massive losses to consumers," the lawsuit states. "Despite that very real risk, Griddy's marketing persistently misled its customers about the nature and extent of this risk and the costs consumers could expect when utilizing Griddy's services."

The complaint alleges Griddy, which charges customers based on the wholesale power market rather than fixed prices, has a history of such behavior, saying it similarly increased rates amid an August 2019 heat wave to as much as $9 per kilowatt hour, the same rate it charged during the February winter storm. Despite customers being "surprised and angered" at the unexpected increase in 2019, the company made no changes to its advertising after the incident, according to the lawsuit.

During the storm, Griddy told customers to switch to another power provider rather than be hit with wholesale power market rates that were skyrocketing amid the power shortage.

Griddy said in a statement on its website that the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, the grid's operator, has effectively shut the company down and suggested it was scapegoated.

"On the same day when ERCOT announced that it had a $2.1 billion shortfall, it decided to take this action against only one company that represents a tiny fraction of the market and that shortfall," Griddy stated.

Read more on the suit here.

CALIFORNIA KING: An increasing number of states are looking to follow the precedent set by California and adopt stricter vehicle emissions standards as the Biden administration appears poised to green light those efforts.

The Virginia legislature this past week passed legislation to toughen its emission rules, and similar proposals are in the works in Minnesota and Nevada.

If successful, those states would join the 13 others, plus Washington, D.C., that have adopted California's vehicle tailpipe emissions standard. During the Trump era, that standard was taken out of play.

For years, California was allowed by the federal government to set its own standards. The Trump administration revoked that authority, sparking a legal battle that's yet to be resolved.

But as the Biden administration appears poised to reverse the Trump policy, states are laying the groundwork for implementing their own vehicle regulations.

"We're seeing now that there's almost a critical mass of states that have started to adopt these standards, and so it is going to provide a strong market signal that that's the direction we need to go in order to reduce air pollution and to meet our state as well as national climate targets," said Matthew Goetz, a senior associate at the Georgetown Climate Center.

Read more on the trend here.

EITHER WAY IT'S ALL ABOUT THE GREEN: Financial regulators are putting their environmental agenda into action as the Biden administration expands the ways the federal government will fight climate change.

After years of pressure from environmentalists and advocates for tighter financial rules, leaders at the Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Treasury Department are laying out how the companies they regulate will be expected to respond to the climate-related risks facing the financial sector.

"I think we've come a long way in a very short period of time, and that was necessary because we were starting from behind," said Gregg Gelzinis, senior policy analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress.

The SEC on Wednesday began the process of rewriting - and likely tightening - its guidelines for how publicly traded companies must disclose the way climate change affects their finances and outlook. The commission is also expected to boost its climate enforcement efforts after years of indifference from both Democratic and Republican chairmen.

At the Fed, officials are mulling how to gauge the climate-related threats facing major banks and recently created a committee to study the issue. And Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to bring on a climate czar to coordinate the department's fight against what she calls an existential threat.

"Eighteen months ago we weren't talking about this issue. Yet today, I think everyone would acknowledge that it's going to be a top priority for financial regulators for the foreseeable future," Gelzinis said.

Read more on the plans here.   

OUT OF RANGE: The Department of the Interior is reversing a last minute decision made under the Trump administration to grant grazing permits for two men pardoned by President Trump.

A permit given by former Interior Secretary David Bernhard on the administration's last full day in office would allow Hammond Ranches to graze on lands in southeast Oregon. The ranch is operated by father-son duo Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were convicted of setting fire to public lands in 2012. 

The BLM subsequently revoked their grazing privileges in 2014 - a move that caught the eye of Ammon Bundy, escalating to a 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

The Biden administration is now reconsidering the January permit issued under the Trump administration, arguing the prior administration didn't follow proper protocol in issuing it. 

When such permits are issued, the public is given 15 days to protest the matter with the Bureau of Land Management.

Read more on the move here


Meet Stefanie Feldman, Biden aide and climate negotiator, E&E News reports

A Texas city had a bold new climate plan - until a gas company got involved, The Guardian reports

Wolf Tracked Near Yosemite for First Time in 100 Years, The Associated Press reports

ICYMI:Stories from Monday and over the weekend...

Biden climate adviser says Texas storm 'a wake-up call'

Ice berg size of NYC breaks off in Antarctica near British outpost

Financial regulators home in on climate risks

More states follow California's lead on vehicle emissions standards

Texas sues power provider Griddy, alleging deceptive advertising and marketing

Citigroup sets goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050


What happened in Texas is only the beginning, writes Michael E. Webber, the Josey Centennial professor of Energy Resources at The University of Texas at Austin.