Overnight Energy: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires

Overnight Energy: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires
© Greg Nash

MONDAY AGAIN.  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 congressional action on that Exxon tape, the Biden administration’s latest move on water regulations, and how climate change can exacerbate man-made wildfires.

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TALE OF THE TAPE: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are asking an Exxon Mobil lobbyist to testify in a recorded interview after he appeared on tape saying that the company “aggressively [fought] against some of the science” on climate change. 

In a Monday letter requesting the testimony, Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyOvernight Defense & National Security: US-Australian sub deal causes rift with France Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Oversight Republicans seek testimony from Afghanistan watchdog MORE (D-N.Y.) and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Dems demand accounting from Big Oil Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Democrats call for oil company executives to testify on disinformation campaign MORE (D-Calif.) asked lobbyist Keith McCoy for an interview “regarding efforts by ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies to mislead the global public and Members of Congress about the dangers of fossil fuels and their role in causing global climate change.”

“Your statements raise serious concerns about your role in ongoing efforts by ExxonMobil and the fossil fuel industry to spread climate disinformation, including through the use of ‘shadow groups,’ in order to block action needed to address climate change,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The lawmakers gave McCoy until Friday to say whether he would voluntarily participate in an interview that would take place next month.

The story so far: The request marks the latest step in an ongoing effort to have representatives from Exxon Mobil and other major oil companies testify before Congress. 

Khanna has weighed a subpoena for Exxon Mobil for weeks — prior to McCoy’s comments — but the lobbyist's remarks have put a spotlight on the issue.

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Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee have separately indicated to The Hill that they would consider a subpoena to compel testimony from major oil companies.

Read more about the request here

 

WATER GATE: Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022

The Biden administration will take aim at a Trump-era rule that critics argued would allow dangerous substances including arsenic and mercury to leach into waterways from coal-fired power plants. 

The EPA said in a notice published Monday on its website that in the fall of 2022, it will propose a rule to consider more stringent protections but will keep the current rules in place for the time being. 

In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael ReganMichael ReganFormer EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center Overnight Energy & Environment — Effort to repeal Arctic refuge drilling advances EPA seeks protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay, undercutting mining project MORE defended the action, saying that the agency “determined that moving forward with implementing the existing regulations would ensure that water resources are protected now, while we quickly move to strengthen water quality protections and further reduce power plant pollution.”

Not everyone’s happy with the pace of things: Meanwhile, some environmental critics said they wished the EPA would move to get rid of the Trump rule more quickly. 

"The promise to start rulemaking over a year from now ... leaves this entire 'commitment' pretty hollow," Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said via email. 

Read more about the announcement here

 

FIRE IN THE HOLE: Humans are the cause of most wildfires. Climate change will make that worse

Climate change is exacerbating wildfire dangers across the West, creating the perfect conditions for the main culprits to start damaging fires: human beings.

People are the driving force behind the changing climate, and they are also the driving force behind most fires.

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Data from the National Interagency Coordination Center indicates that the vast majority of wildfires, 88 percent on average, were ignited by human sources from 2016 to 2020.

As recently as last week, utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) said in a disclosure to the California Public Utilities Commission that it believes its equipment was connected to the ignition of the Dixie Fire, which has reached 40,500 acres as of Wednesday.

How else do humans start fires?: Fires are also regularly started by people going about their lives.

In one of the more unusual cases, a couple on Tuesday was charged with involuntary manslaughter after their gender reveal party ignited a 2020 wildfire in San Bernardino County, leading to the death of a firefighter.

The year before, officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) determined that the October 2019 Kincade Fire was caused by downed PG&E transmission lines. The Sonoma County fire displaced nearly 100,000 people and burned 374 homes.

A 2018 report by the California State Senate Energy Committee determined electrical power was the third-most common cause of wildfires in the state, ahead of arson, lightning and campfires.

Read more about the trend here

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WHAT WE’RE READING:

Toyota Led on Clean Cars. Now Critics Say It Works to Delay Them, The New York Times reports

Climate change: Researchers begin discussions on vital report, BBC News reports 

Interior Department IGs seek subpoena clout, E&E News reports

Red tide is expected to intensify, and scientists point the finger at Piney Point, The Bradenton Herland reports

Development In A Wealthy Montana Boom Town Is Fouling A World-Class Trout River, HuffPost reports

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ON TAP TOMORROW:

 

ICYMI: Stories from Monday (and the weekend)...

Judge finds former environmental lawyer who won billions in Chevron case guilty of contempt

Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022

Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes

​​5 firefighters in stable condition after burn injuries battling Montana blaze

Humans are the cause of most wildfires. Climate change will make that worse

At least 130 dead as severe flooding hits India

Thousands evacuated in Philippines due to flooding

Brood X is gone, but larger cicadas that 'like to scream' are emerging

 

OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: Better late than never