Overnight Energy: Biden admin backs Trump approval of major Alaska drilling project | Senate Republicans pitch $928 billion for infrastructure | EPA to revise Trump rule limiting state authority to block pipelines

Overnight Energy: Biden admin backs Trump approval of major Alaska drilling project | Senate Republicans pitch $928 billion for infrastructure | EPA to revise Trump rule limiting state authority to block pipelines
© Greg Nash

IT’S THURSDAY!!! 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 the Biden administration’s backing of the Willow Project, the latest on infrastructure and the EPA’s plans to revise a Trump-era rule that limited state and tribal authority to block pipelines. 

 

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WILL-OW THEY OR WON’T THEY: Biden administration backs Trump approval of major Alaska drilling project

The Biden administration says in a new court filing it is standing behind the Trump administration’s approval of a massive drilling project in Alaska.

In a court filing on Wednesday, the new administration defended the approval of the Willow Project, which could extract 100,000 barrels of oil per day from Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. 

It argued that the environmental and indigenous groups challenging the project are trying to stop the project by “cherry-picking” records of federal agencies to suggest their analyses violate environmental laws.

“To the contrary, Federal Defendants complied with the requirements of these statutes and other applicable legal requirements, and Plaintiffs’ claims should be rejected,” the legal brief stated. 

Read more about the support here.

 

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INFRASTRUCTURE “WEEK” IS FEELING LIKE A MISNOMER: Senate Republicans pitch $928 billion infrastructure offer

Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a $928 billion infrastructure proposal that includes $506 billion for roads, bridges and major projects and $98 billion for public transit systems.

The latest offer is substantially more than the $568 billion infrastructure framework the group led by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBiden to return to pre-Obama water protections in first step for clean water regulations The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-W.Va.) introduced in April, but it’s still far short of the $1.7 trillion counteroffer that White House officials came back with last week.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Hunter Biden blasts those criticizing price of his art: 'F--- 'em' MORE said the increased funding level was “encouraging.”

But...the two sides still seem pretty disparate on energy and environment issues. 

Psaki said in her statement that “we remain concerned that their plan still provides no substantial new funds” for removing lead service lines and creating clean energy jobs. 

The Republican proposal did include funding for electric vehicle infrastructure, but their $4 billion pitch is just a small fraction of the White House’s $174 billion proposal. 

They also went lower than President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE on resilience, proposing $14 billion compared to his $50 billion. 

TLDR: Negotiations will carry on, but it doesn’t look like there will be a deal by Memorial Day (Monday), with Psaki saying “the President called Senator Capito thank her for the proposal, and to tell her that he would follow-up after getting additional detail...we will work actively with members of the House and Senate next week, so that there is a clear direction on how to advance much needed jobs legislation when Congress resumes legislative business.”

Read more of The Hill’s coverage of the infrastructure package here and here. 

 

IN THE REGULATORY PIPELINE...EPA to revise Trump rule limiting state authority to block pipelines

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Thursday that it will revise a Trump-era rule that set limits on state and tribal authority to block projects that could impact their waters, such as pipelines. 

Under the Clean Water Act, projects that run through waterways — which can include pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure — are essentially subject to state veto. 

This power had come under criticism from Republicans, who argued that it could be used to stall important infrastructure, though its proponents say states need to be able to stop risky projects. 

The Trump rule in question sought to limit the scope of what’s evaluated and also made it so that approvals for projects could take less time. 

In order to undo the Trump rule, the EPA will have to put forward a new one in its place. As part of that process, during which the Trump rule will remain active, the agency is planning to hold listening sessions with stakeholders next month.

Read more about the move here.

 

...AND SPEAKING OF PIPELINES: TSA formally directs pipeline companies to report cybersecurity incidents

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a security directive Thursday to strengthen federal cybersecurity oversight of pipelines, weeks after a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline led to fuel shortages in multiple states. 

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The directive will require pipeline companies to report cybersecurity incidents within 12 hours of them occurring to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). 

The directive will also require pipeline owners and operators to designate an individual who is available 24/7 to coordinate with officials at both TSA and CISA in the event of a cyber incident, and for owners and operators to carry out assessments of existing cybersecurity practices to identify potential gaps and report their findings to TSA and CISA within 30 days. 

A DHS official told reporters Wednesday night that the directive applied to around 100 critical pipelines across the nation, and that financial penalties would be imposed, to ramp up on a daily basis, for companies that did not comply with the directive. 

Read more about the directive here.

 

NOT HOLDING ANY HOLDINGS: Granholm divests from electric vehicle manufacturer

Energy Secretary Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmEnergy chief touts electric vehicle funding in Senate plan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Western wildfires prompt evacuations in California, Oregon| House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Granholm announces new building energy codes Granholm announces new building energy codes MORE has divested from electric vehicle manufacturer Proterra following scrutiny from Republicans over her ties to the company. 

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“Secretary Granholm has acted in full accordance with the comprehensive ethical standards set by the Biden Administration and has completed her divestment well ahead of the time required by her ethics agreement,” an Energy Department spokesperson said in an email. 

Read more about her divestment here.

 

MORE NOM NEWS: 3 Interior nominees advance

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced three Biden nominations:

  • Robert Anderson, to be the top Interior Department lawyer, in an 11-9 vote
  • Shannon Estenoz, the nominee to be Interior’s assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks by a voice vote
  • Tanya Trujillo, the nominee to be Interior’s assistant secretary for water and science by a voice vote

 

WHAT WE’RE READING:

The Texas Winter Storm And Power Outages Killed Hundreds More People Than The State Says, BuzzFeed News reports

First-ever Colorado River water shortage is now almost certain, CNN reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday....

Senate panel deadlocks on energy tax credits bill

EPA to revise Trump rule limiting state authority to block pipelines

Granholm divests from electric vehicle manufacturer

Biden administration backs Trump approval of major Alaska drilling project

Giant tortoise considered extinct found in Galapagos Islands

TSA formally directs pipeline companies to report cybersecurity incidents in wake of Colonial attack

 

OFF-BEAT AND OFFBEAT: Some ‘Friends’ memes for those watching the reunion.