Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale

TGIF! 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 at @BudrykZack

Today we're looking at Biden's climate agenda in Europe, a new White House decision on protections for the Tongass National Forest and the administration's first proposed offshore wind lease.

UPHILL CLIME: In Europe, Biden seeks to reassert U.S. climate leadership

President Biden is seeking to reassert U.S. leadership on tackling climate change during his trip to Europe, working to convince friends and foes alike that his commitments will stick regardless of who succeeds him.

Allies are looking at Biden's statements with care, wondering about his ability to pass climate legislation through a divided Congress - and about the possible return of former President Trump.

Samantha Gross, a former director of the Energy Department's Office of International Climate and Clean Energy, said the flip-flop on climate from the Obama, to Trump, to Biden administrations naturally raises doubts.

"They've seen this happen and that raises concerns that in four years or eight years we'll completely flip," the former Obama administration official told reporters Thursday.

Biden is seeking to move an infrastructure bill through Congress that would include climate provisions, but ended talks this week with a key Republican, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.).

Progressive senators are worried a separate deal worked out by a bipartisan Senate group does too little on climate, and Biden is sure to face questions in Europe about the prospects.

"I'm sure the question will be asked: 'Can you please tell us how you're viewing the current discussions around the infrastructure bill, how does that affect your plans for getting to 50 percent?' " said Nathan Hultman, who worked on international climate issues in the Obama White House.

Read more here.

YOU'RE EITHER FOREST OR AGAINST US: Biden to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass forest

The Biden administration has indicated that it will "repeal or replace" a Trump administration decision to expand logging in the nation's largest old-growth forest.

The government's regulatory agenda indicates that the move follows an Agriculture Department review of a decision from last year that removed protections for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. 

The Trump move in question created an exemption from a Clinton-era prohibition on road construction and timber harvesting on many Forest Service lands that is known as the "roadless rule."

The change was expected to impact nearly 9.4 million acres of roadless land in the Tongass. 

Read more here.

RUN LIKE THE WIND: Biden administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale

The Biden administration has revealed that an area between the coasts of New York and New Jersey will be the location of its first proposed offshore wind lease sale, and the federal government's ninth overall.

The Interior Department announced the competitive sale Friday. Companies will be able to place bids on tracts of water with the goal of building an offshore wind farm.

It estimated that up to 7 gigawatts of energy could be generated in the areas the federal government is trying to lease - enough energy to power more than 2.6 million homes.

"Climate change poses an existential threat - not just to our environment, but to our health, our communities, and our economic well-being. The Biden-Harris administration recognizes the urgency of this moment, and the development of renewable energy resources is an important piece of addressing this reality," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Where will the leases be located? The areas being auctioned off would be located in the New York Bight, which is between Long Island and New Jersey. 

In a notice announcing the sale in the Federal Register, the department outlined potential stipulations that could be attached to the sale, including attempts to boost underserved communities through workforce training and contracting with minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Read more about the announcement here.

A THROUGH LINE: Keystone defeat energizes anti-pipeline activists

Anti-pipeline activists feel energized after the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline announced it would terminate the project following a more than decade-long battle.

The news that the fight over that pipeline ended in victory for environmental and Native advocates left opponents of another major pipeline feeling optimistic.

Keystone's termination came amid an intensifying fight over Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, which likewise pits some Indigenous and environmental groups against a Canadian firm.

"Activism is the only thing that works. If people don't get plugged in and step up and stand up, then they wouldn't even be talking about this on the news. They wouldn't be talking about KXL," said Frank Bibeau, who has represented some of Line 3's opponents in court.

Read more about how advocates are feeling and what's still to come here.

QUOTE OF NOTE: Sanders calls climate provisions in bipartisan infrastructure deal 'inadequate'

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) fired a shot at the emerging deal Thursday afternoon, declaring it falls far short of what the nation needs.

"The problem is this country faces enormous issues that have been ignored and neglected for a very long period of time," he said. "Even if you look at infrastructure from the narrow perspective of roads and bridges, it's inadequate. That's not me talking, that's the American Society of Civil Engineers."

Sanders said the climate provisions in the bipartisan deal are "totally inadequate."

Read more about what he and other Democrats had to say here.

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

On Tuesday:

  • Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee to testify on her department's proposed budget
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on supporting coal communities through the energy transition. 
  • The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on lessons from the federal response to the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a series of bills aiming to get national heritage designations for certain places

On Wednesday:

  • Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify on her department's proposed budget
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on Biden EPA nominees Jeffrey Prieto and Jane Nishida to be general counsel and assistant administrator for international and tribal affairs respectively, as well as Alejandra Castillo for a Commerce Department role
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on bills relating to public lands and forests

On Thursday:

  • Forest Service chief Victoria Christiansen will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on her department's proposed budget
  • The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Progra

WHAT WE'RE READING:

The chipmaking factory of the world is battling Covid and the climate crisis, CNN reports

Volkswagen U.S. CEO meets with EPA administrator on EVs, Reuters reports

Keystone XL is dead, but oil sands are waking up, E&E News reports

Cornwall, home of the climate-themed G-7 summit, is embracing a push toward renewable energy, CNBC reports

Pritzker energy plan proposes $694M for Exelon nuclear plants, closing Prairie State coal plant, The Chicago Sun-Times reports

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

In Europe, Biden seeks to reassert U.S. climate leadershipBiden administration proposes its first offshore wind lease saleHaaland calls on US to address legacy of Native American boarding schoolsBiden to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass forestKeystone defeat energizes anti-pipeline activistsAl Gore lobbied Biden to not scale back climate plans in infrastructure deal

OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: G.O.A.T.

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