Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit

Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit
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IT IS WEDNESDAY, MY DUDES. Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day’s energy and environment news.

Today the EPA pledges a new focus on environmental justice, Republicans want answers on the firing of Trump-appointed environmental advisers and the Biden administration says an amended climate change lawsuit from children should be tossed a second time.

Please send tips and comments to Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com . Follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin . Reach Zack Budryk at zbudryk@thehill.com or follow him on Twitter: @BudrykZack . Signup for our newsletter and others HERE


THE NEEDS OF THE  MANY: EPA to step up enforcement in overburdened areas

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Wednesday it would boost enforcement of environmental laws in areas that face disproportionate impacts from pollution as part of several actions the Biden administration plans to take to advance equity.

The EPA also said it would look at the impacts of potential regulations on underserved, overburdened and tribal communities and consider options that most benefit them, as well as engaging with these communities.

Officials said they will further prioritize benefits to underserved communities in the grant process “to the extent allowed by law.”

“Too many communities whose residents are predominantly of color, Indigenous, or low-income continue to suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels and the resulting adverse health and environmental impacts,” EPA Administrator Michael ReganMichael ReganDC set for jam-packed Earth Day as Biden announces Paris emissions goal Overnight Energy: Biden will aim to cut US emissions in half by 2030 | Oil and gas leasing pause on public lands will last at least through June EPA administrator: We don't plan to return 'verbatim' to Obama-era water regulation MORE said in a message to all agency staff, according to an EPA press release.

“We must do better. This will be one of my top priorities as Administrator, and I expect it to be one of yours as well,” he added.

What prompted the move?: The EPA said its actions were part of a response to a January executive order that directs agencies to “work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.”


Studies have shown that that low-income communities and communities of color face greater pollution impacts.

Read more about the announcement here.


WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT: Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers

Two Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee said Wednesday that they are looking into the Biden administration’s decision to reconstitute two key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory groups, dismissing 40 appointees of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: LeBron James's 'racist rants' are divisive, nasty North Carolina man accused of fraudulently obtaining .5M in PPP loans Biden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies MORE.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Reps. James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerTop House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border House committee approves DC statehood bill Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit MORE (Ky.) and Ralph NormanRalph Warren NormanFemale Republicans 'horrified' by male GOP lawmaker's description of Cheney: report Hillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech MORE (S.C.) criticized the move as an apparent “political purge.”

“We are conducting oversight of your decision to abruptly fire all Trump administration appointed members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and Science Advisory Board (SAB),” Comer and Norman wrote.

“The midterm firing of science advisory board members within the first months of a new Administration demonstrates a deeply troubling partisan political agenda,” they added. 

CASAC advises the agency on technical aspects of its air quality standards, and SAB reviews scientific information used by the agency in rulemaking.

What answers are Republicans seeking?: In their letter, the lawmakers asked for documents related to the decision, including any communications with the White House on it. 

“As such, we request documents and information about the decision to fire these officials, including the process used for this unprecedented decision,” they added.

Read more about the letter here.


ARE YOU KIDDING?: Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit


The Biden administration on Tuesday called on a U.S. district court to reject a second attempt by a group of children to sue the U.S. government over climate change.

The original lawsuit, filed in 2015 by 21 children and their allies, sought to force the government to phase out fossil fuel emissions. In 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.

The 21 plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States filed a request in March to file a narrower, amended complaint. In its Tuesday filing, the government argued the proposed new filing would still lack standing under the 2020 ruling.

What does the government say is the issue?: “[T]he proposed amendment would be futile in this case because Plaintiffs’ new requests for declaratory relief are not materially different from their old ones,” it states. The filing notes that both the dismissed complaint and the proposed amendment cite the Declaratory Judgment Act and request that the court rule the government has violated the plaintiffs’ rights to due process.

“Because the Ninth Circuit has already determined that Plaintiffs’ request for declaratory judgment ‘is not substantially likely to mitigate the plaintiffs’ asserted concrete injuries,’ and thus fails the first prong of the redressability test … Plaintiffs’ proposal to assert a substantially identical request for relief must be denied as futile,” the filing states.

Read more about the filing here.



MAKING THE PITCH: Biden invokes Flint water crisis in infrastructure pitch

President BidenJoe BidenBiden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies Overnight Defense: Top general concerned about Afghan forces after US troops leave | Pentagon chief: Climate crisis 'existential' threat to US national security | Army conducts review after 4 Black soldiers harassed at Virginia IHOP Feds expect to charge scores more in connection to Capitol riot MORE invoked the lead exposure disaster in Flint, Mich., in a Wednesday speech pitching his infrastructure plan, saying there are "hundreds" of similar crises waiting to happen across the country.

"Everybody remembers what happened in Flint, there's hundreds of Flints all across America," he said when discussing the part of his plan that aims to eliminate all of the country’s lead pipe and service lines in drinking water systems. 

Biden’s remarks come as Democrats and Republicans feud over the size and scope of the infrastructure package, with some GOP lawmakers arguing that the $2.25 trillion proposal goes beyond infrastructure in the strictest sense. 

"How many of you know when you send your child to school, the fountain they're drinking out of is not fed by a lead pipe?" Biden asked. "How many of you know the school your child is in still has asbestos in the walls and lacks the ventilation? Is that not infrastructure?”

What’s the backstory?: In 2014, the Michigan city began to get its water from the Flint River, but the water was corrosive, causing lead from pipes to get leached into the drinking water.

Lead exposure can damage children’s brains and nervous systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are an estimated 6 million to 10 million lead service lines in the country.


Read more about the president’s pitch here.


WHEELERS UP: Wheeler, Bernhardt join Pence advocacy group

Trump administration Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Trump EPA administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Biden reportedly will pledge to halve US emissions by 2030 | Ocasio-Cortez, Markey reintroduce Green New Deal resolution EPA staff warned of factual, legal issues in Trump vehicle climate rollback, watchdog says The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes MORE have joined the advisory board of a new political advocacy organization spearheaded by former Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceIf Trump runs again, will he be coronated or primaried? Hispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting Simon & Schuster rejects employees' call to drop Pence book deal MORE

Pence said that the group, called Advancing American Freedom, will aim to defend conservative values and oppose the Biden administration.

Read more about the group here.


JPMorgan secretly emailed the Trump administration about bailing out the oil industry, Mother Jones reports

Marine species increasingly can’t live at equator due to global heating, The Guardian reports

Brazil's Bolsonaro says he could change Petrobras fuel pricing policy, Reuters reports

In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, proposed utility sale rekindles energy debate, Energy News Network reports


ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday...

CO2, methane emissions surged in 2020 despite pandemic: NOAA

EPA and union reach tentative agreement to restore 2007 contract protections

Biden invokes Flint water crisis in infrastructure pitch

Indian prime minister assures Kerry country committed to Paris climate pledges

Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers

Saks Fifth Avenue phasing out animal fur

Biden nominates Interior deputy as department's top lawyer

Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit

EPA to step up enforcement in overburdened areas


FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES: Loose-fit infrastructure can better account for climate change


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