Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington

Welcome to Friday'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 the return of the Bureau of Land Management to Washington, the U.N. raising some concerns about countries' climate pledges and the EPA's rescission of a Trump-era water pollution guidance. 

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.

Interior returns BLM HQ to DC, but keeps Colo. office as 'Western headquarters' 

The Interior Department will restore the Washington, D.C., headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management, which was moved to Colorado during the Trump administration, while maintaining the Colorado office as its "Western headquarters," the agency said Friday.

What each side has to say: The Trump administration shifted its headquarters from Washington to Grand Junction, Colo., in what critics saw as an attempt to drive out career officials. The Trump administration had argued that it was putting officials closer to the land that they managed.

Data released by the Biden administration earlier this year indicated that more than 87 percent of the agency's employees based in D.C. left the agency after the previous administration's announcement.

Some stats: Just 41 agreed to move while 287 either retired or left the agency by the end of last year. 

The Grand total: The department said Friday that just three people moved to Grand Junction. 

More specifics: According to the department, the bureau director and other "key leadership positions" will be in the Washington headquarters, while "additional senior personnel" would work out West.

The announcement did not provide specifics as to who fell into each category, but said that except for "core leadership positions," it does not plan to require any employees to relocate. 

Read more about the move back here.

UN says country targets will fall short of Paris Agreement goals  

Plans submitted by nearly 200 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would still fall short of the Paris climate accord target of limiting warming to 2 degrees, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The planet would see a 2.7-degree increase in temperature by the end of the 21st century based on the targets submitted by the 191 parties to the compact, according to the report.

So do you want the good news... The body determined that recent, more ambitious updates to 86 countries' and the European Union's goals would result in a 12 percent decrease in their emissions by 2030 compared to 2010. Moreover, 70 of those countries outlined goals of net-zero emissions by the middle of the century.

...or the bad news? However, the report also projected that current plans would result in 16 percent more emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 among all parties to the agreement.

Read more about the report here.


EPA rescinds Trump guidance that created exceptions to water pollution protections 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is rescinding Trump-era guidance that established exceptions to certain water pollution protections.

The EPA announced this week that it was nixing the Jan. 14 guidance, which established exceptions to which types of facilities would require agency permits to discharge pollutants in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling.

So why'd they make the guidance? In December, when it released a draft of the guidance, the Trump administration argued that its decision would help industry understand when they need permits. 

And why'd it get pushback? Critics said at the time that it could end up leaving out facilities that ultimately pollute protected waters.

The history: Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that a permit is required not only for direct discharges of pollutants into federally regulated waters but also for discharges into groundwater that are the "functional equivalent" because they eventually also make their way into regulated waters. 

Following that decision, the EPA under then-President Trump issued the now-rescinded guidance stating that if the pollution became diluted or otherwise changed between when it was discharged and when it reached the regulated water, it may not require a permit. 

It also said that facilities are "less likely" to require permits if they're designed in a way that mitigates their discharges. 

Read more about the rescission here.


President Biden on Friday confirmed a goal of reducing global methane emissions 30 percent by the end of the decade while speaking at a White House summit and touted congressional infrastructure packages as vital to achieving domestic climate goals.

Meeting the methane target "will not only rapidly reduce the rate of global warming, it will also produce a very valuable side benefit like improving public health and agricultural output," the president said while hosting a summit of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.

The attendees of the forum, including the U.S., make up about 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The president did not specify what the U.S. contribution to the methane reduction target would be, and American options to compel international cooperation on the goal are limited.

What did POTUS have to say? "We believe the collective goal is both ambitious but realistic ... and we urge you to join us in announcing this pledge," Biden said.

He emphasized the need for contributions beyond simply those of the U.S. to the targets in his remarks, saying, "I look forward to continuing this work together, and hearing how you plan to contribute to the climate ambition the world so desperately needs."

A party is only as good as its guest list. Virtual attendees at the summit included leaders of the U.K., South Korea, Argentina, Bangladesh, the European Union, Indonesia, Mexico and the United Nations.

Special Climate Envoy John Kerry also chaired a ministerial session with China, Germany, India, and Russia, according to the White House. 

A readout of the gathering from the White House said that the following topics were addressed: further commitments and actions to be done in the weeks before the U.N.'s COP26 climate summit, possible participation to be launched in the weeks before the summit and plans to leverage the Major Economies forum as a launchpad for increasing climate action. 

Read more about the announcement here.


On Tuesday:

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the nominations of  Laura Daniel-Davis to be Interior's Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Camille Touton to be Commissioner of Reclamation and Sara Bronin to be Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

On Wednesday:

  • The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on the benefits of electrifying U.S. homes and buildings

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on the nominations of Jeffrey Prieto to be the EPA's top lawyer, and Stephen Owens, Jennifer Sass and Sylvia Johnson to be members of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

  • The Senate EPW Committee will also hold a hearing titled "The Circular Economy as a Concept for Creating a More Sustainable Future"

On Thursday: 

  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on advancing Earth system science and stewardship at NOAA. Agency administrator  Richard Spinrad is slated to appear.

  • The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on voluntary carbon markets in agriculture and forestry



  • A historically Black town stood in the way of a pipeline - so developers claimed it was mostly white, VPM and Floodlight report
  • Minnesota says Enbridge broke law, must pay over $3 million for construction mistake, the Star Tribune reports
  • Pennsylvania Continues To Export More Energy Than Any Other State, WESA reports
  • Va. Republican warns of 'blackouts and brownouts' if he loses, E&E News reports



Facebook's new climate change misinformation effort falls short, advocates say

AP Fact Check finds Biden made exaggerated claims on jobs, gasoline

Prince William announces finalists for environmental Earthshot Prize

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: New prehistoric penguin just dropped


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 Monday.