Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today we're looking at a UN report on a return to pre-COVID emission levels, the first step toward reversing Trump-era gray wolf protection rollbacks and a House committee asking oil execs for answers.

For The Hill, we're Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Let's jump in.


UN report: Coronavirus emissions drop a 'temporary blip' 


Declines in greenhouse gas emissions seen during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic were a "temporary blip" and emissions are rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels, according to a United Nations-backed report released Thursday.

The World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) "United in Science 2021" report found that while emissions reductions last year likely resulted in lower annual growth of greenhouse gas concentration, the drop was no more than natural fluctuations.

The WMO also found that overall, the concentration of all major greenhouse gases increased in 2020 and the first half of 2021. In the first seven months of 2021, emissions reached at least the same level or higher as the same period in 2019 in the energy and industry sectors. Emissions specifically from road transportation were 5 percent lower in the same period, according to the report. Other than aviation and sea transport, global emissions averaged the same levels during that seven-month period.

What's the solution? The WMO says nations that are party to the Paris climate agreement must get back on course to achieving the deal's goals - "this does not reduce the need for strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gases," the WMO said in a statement.

President Biden in June signed bipartisan legislation that rolled back looser Trump-era rules on methane emissions. On Friday, the president is set to meet virtually with other world leaders, where he is expected to urge them to sign on to methane-emission reduction goals.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that nations are "significantly off-schedule" from the Paris agreement's goals Thursday at the launch of the report.

Read more about the report here.


Gray wolf may be relisted as endangered after Trump removed protections

The Interior Department will review the Endangered Species Act status of the American gray wolf after the Trump administration delisted it as endangered, the department announced Wednesday night.

In a statement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said it received two petitions in June and July, both of them requesting the relisting of gray wolves. The petitions "present substantial, credible information indicating that a listing action may be warranted," which prompted the review, according to the FWS.

The petitions concern specific geographical populations of wolves, with the first listing those in the northern Rocky Mountains.

"The Service finds the petitioners present substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S.," the FWS said. "The Service also finds that new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat. Therefore, the Service finds that gray wolves in the western U.S. may warrant listing."

The story so far: Several environmental groups, including EarthJustice and the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the Trump administration for delisting the wolves last year, prompting a letter in February in which the FWS defended the decision.

"Our delisting action recognizes the successful recovery of one of the most iconic species," FWS wrote at the time. The wolves had been on the list for nearly five decades before their delisting. After at one point falling to around 1,000 wolves, the population has since rebounded to some 6,000.

Read more about the move here:



Democrats call for oil execs to testify 

Two leaders on the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday called on the CEOs of several major energy companies to testify in October about whether the companies suppressed information about their roles in climate change.

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) sent a copy of the letter to the chief executives of ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell, as well as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Chevron and Exxon both confirmed receipt of the letter to The Hill.

The letter invokes a recording made by undercover environmental activists of Keith McCoy, an Exxon lobbyist, who said the company has "[fought] against some of the science" on fossil fuels' role in climate change. However, Khanna said the committee is seeking information on possible similar activity by all of the companies and organizations in question.

"We need an accounting, and the reason we need that is they're telling their board of directors one thing, they're telling the American public one thing. They're saying they're for sustainability. ... They can't be misleading the board of directors and the public," Khanna told The Hill in an interview.

He added the companies in question have a "record of climate disinformation, much of it maybe before the tenure of the current executives ... but they need to be honest about what they have done." He added that the committee is also seeking information about the companies' history of lobbying against climate legislation, both personally and through think tanks and nonprofits that have put out research understating the threat of climate change.

Read more about the letter here:



Los Angeles County's board of supervisors on Wednesday voted 5-0 to end new oil and gas drilling and phase out existing drilling infrastructure, potentially closing nearly 2,000 sites.

The unincorporated L.A. County area contains some 1,600 active and idle wells, according to the motion. Most of these are part of the Inglewood Oil Field, the biggest urban oilfield in the U.S.

The motion specifically cites community health problems associated with proximity to oil drill sites. It points to a June study published in the journal Environmental Research, which found living near active or inactive oil wells in the county correlates with major reductions in both pulmonary and lung functions. Separately, it cites a 2018 report by the county Department of Public Health indicating these adverse effects can persist as far as 1,500 feet away.

In the motion, Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl pointed to the outsized impacts on people of color as a result of these health issues. Of those residents living in close proximity to an active or dormant oil well in the county, 73 percent are people of color, according to the motion. The Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw area, the location of the Inglewood Oil Field, is nearly three-quarters Black, according to an analysis by The Los Angeles Times.

Read more about the vote here:



President Biden met face to face with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Wednesday, stepping up his involvement in the effort to unify congressional Democrats behind a $3.5 trillion spending package.

Democratic lawmakers are hailing Biden's personal attention as a game-changing development at a critical moment.

"The ones who are negotiating publicly, I think it is fair to say, they're the toughest votes to get," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said of Manchin and Sinema.

"This is really important for the Biden administration, and so it's all on deck," he added of the efforts to get the two holdouts to support the reconciliation package. 

Kaine noted that Biden "has a strong personal relationship with Manchin."

"Both Joe and Kyrsten really want [Biden] to be a successful president. (A) It's good for the country. (B) It's good for their states. (C) It's good for their own politics," Kaine added.

Read more about the negotiations here:





British Airways operates carbon-neutral flight using recycled cooking oil

Former EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center

Ford adding jobs to produce electric pickup truck

Lawmakers lay out arguments for boosting clean energy through infrastructure

Southern Hemisphere's ozone hole now bigger than Antarctica

Jobless claims rise in wake of Hurricane Ida

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Clawsome.


That's it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill's energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We'll see you tomorrow.