Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — FEMA to review floodplain building codes

Welcome to Monday'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 potential changes to building codes under the National Flood Insurance Program, a new study finding PFAS at tens of thousands of sites and new pressure from an environmental group on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. 

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.

FEMA floats changes to building standards in flood-prone areas

The White House on Tuesday announced a series of new proposals for climate initiatives, including potential new building standards for structures in flood-vulnerable areas.

In the fact sheet, the Biden administration announced a request for information for an update to the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) standards for floodplains. The last major update to the standards took place in 1976. A request for information by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeks information for what updates and revisions are necessary to existing codes. Any new requirements would be added to the standards that communities must meet as a condition of federal flood insurance.

"Specifically, FEMA is seeking input from the public on the floodplain management standards that communities should adopt to result in safer, stronger, and more resilient communities," FEMA said in the request. "Additionally, FEMA seeks input on how the NFIP can better promote protection of and minimize any adverse impact to threatened and endangered species, and their habitats."

So what could these changes look like? Specifically, the disaster agency asks whether it should base any standards changes on future risks based on climate projections. 

It also asks whether sellers and lessors should be required to report flood risks, what steps it can take to reduce financial impacts for properties that have faced multiple floods and whether the agency should develop higher standards for critical infrastructure. 

NPIF makes flood insurance available for places that adopt specific rules aimed at preventing flood risks. 

Read more about the announcement here.



ExxonMobil plans to offer certified or "differentiated" natural gas.

ExxonMobil's plan to offer certified gas will help give customers information they need to purchase lower-emission products.

The emerging market, on top of methane regulations, could help accelerate emissions reductions. 

Study finds tens of thousands of 'forever chemical' sites in US

Toxic chemicals known as PFAS exist in almost 42,000 sites around the U.S., according to research released on Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group.

The research published in the American Water Works Association's journal Water Science found tens of thousands of potential point sources for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances contamination around the country. Researchers analyzed data collected between August 2016 and March 2021. They found numerous previously unknown PFAS sites in samples of water downstream from manufacturing facilities.

"We don't as of yet have great information on how frequently these different sources are contributing to the PFAS contamination we're finding in surface water and drinking water," lead study author David Andrews told The Hill.

Andrews said that a case study in Michigan highlighted in the report illustrated "how there's an incredible range of different industries [that] have been identified ... as sources of PFAS contamination."

"Overall, I think it really highlights how much work needs to be done in identifying where this contamination is coming from, so we can actually stop ongoing pollution into our water, ultimately," he added. "It's a broad overview but also provides a framework for moving forward."

So what does he think will mitigate the problem? Additional treatment, widespread testing, and a more robust permitting apparatus have led to major reductions in PFAS levels in Michigan, demonstrating the need for such an approach nationwide, Andrews said.

At the federal level, Andrews said steps taken by the Biden Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are encouraging. He called proposed EPA rules on collecting data about PFAS sites "a critical step to identifying this contamination."

Read more about the research here.


Green group pressures Sinema to spell out climate agenda 

A climate advocacy group is calling on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to spell out exactly what she thinks of Democrats' climate proposals for their major spending bill. 

In a statement first shared with The Hill, Sierra Club Arizona Chapter director Sandy Bahr called on the senator to elaborate on her position. 

"In order for Arizonans and all Americans to have greater clarity on exactly how Senator Sinema proposes to cut, add or modify climate provisions and funding in the Build Back Better Act, we respectfully request that the Senator either make public her support for full funding of the entire suite of climate and clean energy programs in the bill, or make clear which policies she thinks Arizonans can do without as the urgency of the climate crisis deepens," Bahr said. 

The senator expressed support for climate action in an interview with the Arizona Republic last month. 

"In Arizona, we're all too familiar with the impacts of a changing climate ... from increasing wildfires to the severe droughts, to shrinking water levels at Lake Mead, damage to critical infrastructure - these are all the things that we're dealing with inArizona every day," she said. "We know that a changing climate costs Arizonans. And right now, we have the opportunity to pass smart policies to address it -looking forward to that." 

But the new pressure comes after the senator's office denied a recent New York Times report, which claimed that the Democrat wanted to cut $100 billion in climate spending.

Read more here.


More than 100 Democrats are backing a proposed tax credit for electric vehicles made by union workers that could be part of their party's major spending bill.

Under a proposal recently advanced by the House Ways and Means Committee last month, most electric vehicles would qualify for a $7,500 tax credit, but union-built electric cars made in the U.S. would get an extra $4,500.

While Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, Chrysler's parent company, would benefit from the extra incentive, as union workers assemble most of their EVs in U.S. plants. The proposal effectively leaves other automakers, including Tesla, the nation's main EV manufacturer, at a $4,500 per vehicle disadvantage.

The lawmakers called for the credit to remain "as-is" when the bill hits the House floor in a new letter. 

"We strongly support leveling the playing field between non-union and unionized workforces by including the added $4,500 incentive to support union-made EVs," the lawmakers wrote in a letter led by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.). 


Exxon says union removal vote to go forward at Texas refinery hit by lockout, Reuters reports

Great Salt Lake's demise spurs water emergency for Utah, E&E News reports

The environmental justice fight to block the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, Grist reports


ExxonMobil supports action on methane emission regulations

ExxonMobil believes achieving broad reductions in methane emissions requires uniform regulations supported by technology advancements. Learn how we are investing in new and better ways to reduce methane emissions.


And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Enjoy this video of some tiger cubs!

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.