Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Biden doubling FEMA funds for extreme weather preparations | Supreme Court backs Guam’s bid to get payments from US for hazardous dumping| Interior Department says it has returned to Obama-era enforcement of offshore drilling waiver rule


CASE OF THE MONDAYS. Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day’s energy and environment news.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

Today we’re looking at increased funds for FEMA’s weather-preparedness program, a Supreme Court decision on hazardous dumping in Guam and a return to Obama-era offshore drilling waiver procedures.

THE FEMA OF THE SPECIES: Biden doubling FEMA funds for extreme weather preparations

The Biden administration will direct $1 billion toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) fund for extreme weather preparation, a 100 percent increase over existing funding levels, the White House announced Monday.

The budget increase will go to the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, which provides support for local, state and tribal government preparation efforts. The increase, and the program in general, are part of an effort to “categorically shift the federal focus” from responding to individual disasters on a case-by-case basis to “research-supported, proactive investment in community resilience,” the White House said.

“As climate change threatens to bring more extreme events like increased floods, sea level rise, and intensifying droughts and wildfires, it is our responsibility to better prepare and support communities, families, and businesses before disaster — not just after,” the administration said in a statement. “This includes investing in climate research to improve our understanding of these extreme weather events and our decision making on climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation. It also means ensuring that communities have the resources they need to build resilience prior to these crises.”

President Biden said at a briefing at FEMA headquarters Monday that officials want “to make sure the men and women of FEMA have everything they need, because they’ve got an incredibly difficult job.”

“It’s not about red states versus blue states, it’s about having people’s backs,” he added.

Storms have sharply increased in recent years: The additional funding comes after a sharp increase in major hurricanes in 2020, with a record high of 30 named storms and a dozen hurricanes or tropical storms that made landfall in the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is projecting a heavier-than-average hurricane season in 2021. Between 13 and 20 named storms are likely, with six to 10 becoming full hurricanes and three to five becoming major hurricanes, according to NOAA. These numbers would constitute the sixth above-average storm season in a row.

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement last week.

Read more about the announcement here

DOWN IN THE DUMPS: Supreme Court backs Guam’s bid to get payments from US for hazardous dumping

The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision Monday backed Guam’s bid to pursue payment from the U.S. government for hazardous waste dumping by the Navy at the territory’s Ordot Dump.

The ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, reversed a decision by a lower court that found a prior settlement had adequately “resolved Guam’s liability” for the dump.

At issue in the case is whether a 2004 settlement between the U.S and Guam under the Clean Water Act should prevent the U.S. territory from pursuing payment under another law that deals with hazardous waste cleanup known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

What did the ruling say?: Monday’s ruling said Guam can pursue U.S. payments under the hazardous waste law. 

The court said that just because the U.S. and Guam had reached an agreement under a different environmental law, namely the Clean Water Act, that does not mean Guam can’t pursue additional payments under CERCLA.

During oral arguments, an attorney representing the federal government argued that what counts as a “response action,” under CERCLA isn’t specific to actions taken under the waste law.

The Navy for years dumped waste at Guam’s Ordot Dump, where the territory also dumped municipal waste.

Read more about the ruling here

YOU KNOW THE DRILL: Interior Department says it has returned to Obama-era enforcement of offshore drilling waiver rules

The Biden administration on Monday said it will return to Obama-era practices for granting waivers of offshore drilling safety regulations after environmental groups alleged the Trump administration relied on criteria that were not available to the public.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said in a letter that it remained committed to the Obama-era practice of approving waivers on a case-by-case basis. In a 2019 lawsuit, conservation group Healthy Gulf accused the Trump administration of unlawfully switching to a waiver approval process that relied on unpublished standards that were not made available to the public.  

Upon receiving a waiver request, “BSEE adjudicates the request on a case-by-case basis based on the existing regulatory criteria and its experience evaluating similar requests,” BSEE Acting Director Scott Mabry said in the letter.

Environmental group drops lawsuit: In a statement, Healthy Gulf Executive Director Cynthia Sathou said proper enforcement of the regulations was necessary to avert incidents such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Well Control Rule was one of the few safety measures implemented after the BP Drilling Disaster that would prevent another catastrophic blowout. The Trump administration was frequently waiving this important rule,” Sarthou said in the statement. “We’re glad that the Biden administration has agreed that the rule should be enforced to protect our workers and communities.”

Healthy Gulf has voluntarily withdrawn its lawsuit in response to the letter.

Read more about the letter here

SPARE CHANGE: Trump officials changed scientific analyses in pesticide re-approval: watchdog

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists told the agency’s internal watchdog that scientific analyses were changed in favor of top officials’ policy choices in the 2018 re-approval of a pesticide, according to a new report.

The inspector general’s office said in a report published Monday that scientists in the Office of Pesticide Programs gave examples of such actions in interviews in the re-approval of the pesticide dicamba.

Multiple scientists said, and emails also showed, that after a senior management review, the assistant administrator’s office gave scientists an outline for rewriting an impact analysis document that removed several sections of the original, the watchdog said.

Read more about the watchdog report here


The Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Hackers Had a Secret Weapon: Self-Promoting Cybersecurity Firms, Pro Publica reports

Inside Barrett’s family ties to Big Oil, E&E News reports

Okefenokee Swamp a Battlefield in Epic Trump Waters Rule Fight, Bloomberg reports

Oil and gas funding complicates New Mexico’s clean energy transition, Searchlight New Mexico reports

Texas House goes further than Senate to protect state’s main power grid as time to agree on bills winds down, The Texas Tribune reports


  • The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on legislation to ensure drinking water is safe
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the status of drought conditions throughout the Western U.S.

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend….

Environmentalists see infrastructure as crucial path to climate goals

Interior Department says it has returned to Obama-era enforcement of offshore drilling waiver rules

Ammon Bundy files to run for Idaho governor

Biden doubling FEMA funds for extreme weather preparations

Supreme Court backs Guam’s bid to get payments from US for hazardous dumping

Trump officials changed scientific analyses in pesticide re-approval: EPA watchdog



Tags Clarence Thomas Gina Raimondo Joe Biden

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