Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water | Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions | Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections

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Today we're looking at the report for how administration officials want to reach President Biden's 30 x 30 conservation goals, an internal watchdog raising questions about the adequacy of EPA's standards for a carcinogenic chemical and the Interior Department's latest step toward reversing a Trump rollback of bird protections. 

TURNING 30: Biden admin endorses reaching 30 percent land and water conservation goal through voluntary, local efforts

Biden administration officials on Thursday released a new report detailing how they want to achieve the president's goal of conserving 30 percent of the country's lands and waters by 2030, focusing on voluntary and locally led efforts instead of a nationally mandated program. 

The report, released Thursday by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, laid out priorities to achieve the conservation goal. 

Those include: creating parks in areas that lack access to nature, supporting tribal priorities, conserving fish and wildlife habitats and increasing outdoor recreation access. 

While the report lacked some detail as to what the federal government would do in order to make sure the goals are met, White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy called it a "kickoff," saying a plan would be developed.

"This is really the kickoff of an interagency working group that's going to be developing a plan and that plan is going to look at the areas that we already know we're conserving, what those efforts are, how we look at expanding our protected area database and using science to really tell us what kind of baseline we have and what we're hoping to accomplish to ensure that we meet this goal," McCarthy said.

Read more about the latest conservation goal here.

IN NEED OF SOME GENERAL INSPECTING? Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions

An internal government watchdog on Thursday questioned the adequacy of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards for an air pollutant that the agency considers carcinogenic and another that it says is likely carcinogenic.

A report from the EPA's inspector general's office said that there are "potentially unacceptable risks from chloroprene and ethylene oxide emissions in some areas of the country."

It added that the agency can't "provide assurance" that its current standards regulating emissions of the chemicals are protective. 

The watchdog said that this is because the agency hasn't included new risk evaluations for the substances into a relevant review process for the types of facilities that emit the chemicals. 

A stat: It also analyzed EPA data to find that more than 464,000 people live in census tracts where peoples' cancer risks are greater than 100 in one million and where ethylene oxide or chloroprene are the major drivers of this risk. 

Read more about the report here.

MIGRATING BACK TO WHERE THINGS WERE BEFORE: Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections

The Biden administration is proposing a revocation of its predecessor's rule that removed industry penalties for accidental or incidental bird deaths, taking the first step to repeal the rule.

The Interior Department announced the proposed revocation in a statement on Thursday, citing "significant concerns" from the public and international partners, as well as court challenges. 

The Trump administration's actions were a significant rollback to the implementation of a more than 100-year-old law called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). It acknowledged at the time that its actions may result in companies deciding not to carry out best practices to limit incidental bird deaths. 

In the proposed rule, which won't formally be published in the Federal Register until Friday, the Biden administration argued that the Trump rule doesn't reflect the "best reading" of the law's text, purpose and history, and that it is "inconsistent with the majority of relevant court decisions addressing the issue."

Read more about the proposal here.

THE WIND (AND SUN) BENEATH MY WINGS: Granholm backs wind and solar in Biden bid to decarbonize electricity

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm backed wind and solar energy as likely to give the biggest "bang for your buck" as part of the Biden administration's bid to decarbonize the electric sector during a House hearing Thursday. 

During an Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday, which was slated to examine the Biden administration's proposal for the Energy Department's budget, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) asked what would be the most cost-effective clean energy technology and if the department planned to prioritize specific energy sources. 

"You love all of your children, all of your renewable energy and clean energy technologies, but I do think in terms of the biggest bang for your buck, I think research will demonstrate that it still is in solar and wind," Granholm responded. 

She also talked nuclear: During the hearing, Granholm also expressed openness to subsidizing nuclear energy plants. 

"We're not going to be able to achieve our climate goals if our nuclear power plants shut down, we have to find ways to keep them operating," she said.

Read more about the hearing here.

CHINA PATTERN: China emitted more greenhouse gases than rest of developed world combined in 2019

China's 2019 greenhouse gas emissions exceeded those of the U.S. and other major developed nations combined, according to a report by research firm the Rhodium Group released Thursday.

The report put China's proportion of worldwide emissions at 27 percent in 2019, followed by the U.S. with 11 percent, India with 6.6 percent and the European Union with 6.4 percent.

But...While China's emissions must be viewed in the context of its population, per capita emissions have also nearly tripled over the past two decades to 10.1 tons, according to the report. Despite the increase, Chinese per capita emissions remain well below that of the U.S., which has the world's highest per capita level. 

Read more about the findings here.

WHAT WE'RE READING:

Ex-Hill aides launch firm to promote clean energy tech, E&E News reports

U.S. solar jobs fell 7% in 2020 on pandemic, efficiency gains, Reuters reports

Analysis shows solar and wind's competitiveness over coal is accelerating, Energy News Network reports

Andrew Wheeler, Former EPA Boss, Charts a New Course, Bloomberg Law reports

A "lithium gold rush" is underway, The New York Times reports

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday (and Wednesday night)...

Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions

Granholm backs wind and solar in Biden bid to decarbonize

45,000 apply for 12 spots to shoot Grand Canyon bison

Heirs to Rockefeller fortune launch effort to slow oil and gas growth

Chicken sandwich wars, labor shortage send poultry prices higher

UN report: 40-45 percent cut to methane emissions could avert major warming

China emitted more greenhouse gasses than US, developed world combined in 2019: analysis

Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water

Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections

Argentina launches 'Green Mondays' campaign to cut greenhouse gases

OFF-BEAT AND OFFBEAT: Fangs for the memories

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