Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior withdraws Trump rule loosening Arctic drilling regulations | Court ruling paves the way for Minnesota to adopt clean car standards | Idaho governor signs bill allowing culling of wolves

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Today we're looking at another Biden withdrawal of a Trump environmental rule, a new Idaho law allowing the killing of more wolves and a ruling that could pave the way for new Minnesota emissions standards.

OIL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL: Interior withdraws Trump rule loosening Arctic drilling regulations

The Interior Department announced Friday it will withdraw a rule proposed in the final months of the Trump administration to lift safety restrictions on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

The initial rule, published in December 2020, would have undone regulations on oil, gas and sulfur drilling in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf that were instituted in 2016, during the Obama administration.

Regulations undone in the Trump-era rule included a regulation requiring oil operators in the region to show they can promptly begin containment operations in the event of a spill. It would also have eliminated a requirement that oil operators submit thorough plans for any new drilling operations. The rule was one of a flurry of late-stage Trump administration rules on energy in the region and was never finalized.

"The Department of the Interior is committed to a careful, responsible approach in managing America's offshore resources," an Interior Department spokesperson said in a statement Friday. "The Arctic exploratory drilling regulations released in 2016 are critical to ensuring adequate safety and environmental protections for this sensitive ecosystem and Alaska Native subsistence activities."

The story so far: The announcement is the latest of several moves by the Biden administration to undo Trump-era rollbacks of environmental protections. In a separate executive order in 2017, then-President Trump reversed the Obama administration's permanent prohibition on offshore Arctic Ocean oil and gas drilling. Two years later, an Alaska district court ruled the rollback was unauthorized, which an appeals court upheld in April.

President Biden also signed an executive order upon taking office that temporarily blocked all oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Separately, Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would block further drilling by designating the ANWR as wilderness.

Read more about the reversal here.


MINNESOTA CLEAN: Court ruling paves the way for Minnesota to adopt clean car standards

A court ruling on Friday has paved the way for Minnesota to adopt California's clean car standards. 

In her Friday ruling, Judge Jessica Palmer-Denig approved the state's adoption of the standards, which are expected to increase the share of electric vehicles that are required to be sold in the state.

"The [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] established it has the statutory authority to adopt the proposed rules, it complied with all procedural requirements of law and rule, and that the proposed rules are needed and reasonable," the ruling said.

What's next?: Next, the issue heads back to the state's government for a few final steps, but with Friday's ruling, Minnesota is poised to become the first Midwest state to adopt the standards.  

The state agency has estimated that under the rules, electric vehicles will need to comprise between 6.2 and 7.4 percent of light-duty vehicle sales in the state between the years 2025 and 2034.

Read more about the ruling here.


WOLF UPROAR: Idaho governor signs bill allowing culling of wolves

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) this week signed a measure that would eliminate most limits on hunting wolves in the state.

Under the law, which will take effect in the months ahead, private contractors and hunters in the state will be authorized to kill more than 90 percent of wolves in Idaho. The measure also nearly triples the budget for the state Wolf Depredation Control Board from $110,000 to $300,000.

The bill passed the GOP-dominated state legislature largely along party lines. Under a 2002 conservation agreement, the state is required to allow at least 150 wolves and 15 packs to live in the state. The current number of wolves is estimated at around 1,500. Wolves were delisted from the state's endangered species list in 2011.

Environmental groups sound off: Environmental groups have blasted the decision and called for Little to veto it before he signed it Wednesday.

"Backed by an array of misinformation and fearmongering, the state legislature stepped over experts at the Idaho Fish and Game Department and rushed to pass this horrific wolf-killing bill," Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

"And Republican lawmakers have promised that this is just the beginning, even though the new measure would doom 90% of Idaho's wolves. We're disappointed that Gov. Little signed such a cruel and ill-conceived bill into law."

Amanda Wight, program manager of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, called the bill "a death warrant for hundreds of Idaho's iconic and beloved wolves."

Read more about the bill here.



On Tuesday:

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to examine equity in transportation infrastructure

On Wednesday:

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold hearings to examine the nominations of Shannon Aneal Estenoz to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife, and Radhika Fox, of California, to be an Assistant Administrator and Michal Ilana Freedhoff, to be Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances for the Environmental Protection Agency
  • The House Committee on Agriculture's Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry will hold a hearing on exploring climate smart practices

On Thursday:

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider the nomination of Tommy P. Beaudreau, of Alaska, to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine offshore energy development
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on environmental justice in Native American communities



'Canary in a coal mine': Scientists test alligators for PFAS chemical compounds, The Fayetteville Observer reports

After another leak, EPA probes whether St. Croix refinery poses 'an imminent risk to people's health,' The Washington Post reports

Internal doc: Trump admin overrode scientist on owl habitat, E&E News reports

Union offered Exxon 6-yr deal with no raise first year -sources, Reuters reports

Wisconsin environmental groups sue Corps of Engineers over power line permit, The Wisconsin State Journal reports

New Mexico Environment Department proposes new ozone rules, The Albuquerque Journal reports

Warren says there's "There's a real issue" with environmental impact of bitcoin, Yahoo reports



ICYMI: Stories from Friday...

Interior Department withdraws Trump rule loosening Arctic drilling regulations

Idaho governor signs bill allowing culling of wolves


OFF-BEAT AND OFFBEAT:  Like a sturgeon, caught for the very first time