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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Major offshore wind project update | Biden to propose revocation of Trump bird rule | 12 states sue Biden over 'social cost' of greenhouse gases

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Major offshore wind project update | Biden to propose revocation of Trump bird rule | 12 states sue Biden over 'social cost' of greenhouse gases
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IT’S MONDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. If you noticed we were absent from your inboxes for a couple days last week, thanks for missing us.

Please send tips and comments to Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

Also welcome Zack Budryk to the beat and the newsletter! Reach him at zbudryk@thehill.com or follow him on Twitter: @BudrykZack.

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Rebecca Beitsch now covers national security for The Hill and you can still follow her @RebeccaBeitsch.

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WINDING UP: Massive project clears a key hurdle

The Interior Department moved one step closer Monday to allowing for the construction of the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project. 

Interior released a Final Environmental Impact Statement, the last step before it issues a decision on whether it will approve or deny the request to build the 800-megawatt project 12 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

If approved: The Vineyard Wind 1 project, a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewable, would be expected to be completed in 2023.

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It is much larger than the country’s existing offshore wind farms, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm and the 12-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. 

According to the Vineyard Wind website, the proposed project is expected to produce the amount of energy used by more than 400,000 homes. 

Supporters say: “This is truly a significant step forward in the process for moving toward more offshore wind development,”  Amanda Lefton, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told reporters. 

Read more about the project here.

 

FLYING AWAY: Biden to rollback another Trump environmental policy 

The Biden administration will propose a new rule taking aim at its predecessor's rollback of protections for migratory birds, an Interior Department spokesperson said Monday.

After a one-month delay, the Trump administration rule, which removed penalties for companies that accidentally or incidentally kill migratory birds, went into effect Monday. 

The administration's plan: “In the coming days, Interior will issue a proposed rule to revoke the corresponding rule that is going into effect today,” the Interior spokesperson said in a statement. 

The spokesperson also said that it was rescinding a Trump-era legal opinion backing up its interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which argued that the law did not apply to accidental or incidental harm to birds.

“Interpreting the MBTA to apply to incidental or accidental actions hangs the sword of Damocles over a host of otherwise lawful and productive actions,” said the now-rescinded 2017 opinion. 

The Biden administration said that this opinion “overturn​ed decades of bipartisan and international consensus and allowed industry to kill birds with impunity.”

Read more about the Biden administration’s plans here.

 

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SUIT UP: The difficulty of quantifying "social" costs 

Twelve states are suing the Biden administration for trying to establish a "social cost" of greenhouse gases to use in agency rulemaking.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, the states argued that a January executive order directing officials to figure out the “social cost of greenhouse gases” was an overreach, exercising a “quintessentially legislative power.”

“Setting the ‘social cost’ of greenhouse gases is an inherently speculative, policy-laden, and indeterminate task, which involves attempting to predict such unknowable contingencies as future human migrations, international conflicts, and global catastrophes for hundreds of years into the future,” said the suit. 

Some background: The Biden administration’s executive order directed an interagency group to try to figure out social costs of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. 

But he’s not the first president to do so, with former President Obama setting the social cost of carbon at $50 per metric ton, while the Trump administration valued it at $7 per metric ton. 

Read more about the lawsuit here.

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HOWDY! GOP stumbles give Democrats new hope in Texas

The power grid failure during a rare polar vortex that led to a humanitarian crisis last month drew attention to the GOP’s leadership in a state that has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in nearly a quarter century.

The power and water outages from the storm created a political and humanitarian disaster in Texas. There was an effort on the right to blame the Green New Deal and windmills that froze, even though natural gas and thermal power failures are believed to be the primary culprits behind the outages.

Republicans say most of the blame is now falling on the leaders of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the independent organization that runs the electrical grid.

Read more on how recent events, including the power issue, are impacting Texas politics here.

 

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RESCUING YOU FROM HAVING TO READ THE 600 PAGE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN:

A number of energy and environment-related provisions were included in the recently Senate-passed 1.9 trillion COVID-19 package, which is slated for a House vote this week. 

Assistance: The legislation allocates an extra $4.5 billion to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income people pay their energy costs and $500 million in grants for states and tribes to help low-income households pay for drinking water and wastewater services. 

Aiming to prevent pandemics via wildlife: The bill provides $20 million to address wildlife trafficking, $30 million for purposes including care for rescued and confiscated wildlife and care of endangered species and $45 million for research to respond quickly to wildlife disease outbreaks and monitoring to detect when diseases can jump to other species and pose health risks. 

Clean air: It includes $100 million toward tackling air pollution through grants, including grants aimed at low-income communities and communities of color. 

 

ON TAP THIS WEEK:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on whether to advance the nomination of David Turk to be second-in-command at the Energy Department
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will also have a hearing on electricity reliability, resiliency, and affordability
  • The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee will have a hearing called “Farmers and Foresters: Opportunities to Lead in Tackling Climate Change”

 

WHAT WE’RE READING:

Far from White House, Caribbean refinery to test Biden's promises on poverty and pollution, Reuters reports

Axios reports on Manchin's next power play, 

Global heating pushes tropical regions towards limits of human livability, The Guardian reports

Trump Emboldened Extremists. They Could Spell Trouble For Biden’s Interior Department, HuffPost reports

 

ICYMI:Stories from Monday and the weekend…

EPA investigates toxic 'forever chemicals' in pesticides

Energy Department announces $76 million toward carbon capture, industrial assessment centers

February 2021 was coldest for US in more than 30 years: report

12 states sue Biden over 'social cost' calculation of greenhouse gases

Interior moves closer to approving first US commercial-scale offshore wind project

Average Arctic Ocean temperatures in February warmer than past two decades

Biden administration to propose revocation of Trump bird rule

GOP stumbles give Democrats new hope in Texas