Overnight Energy & Environment — American Clean Power — Supreme Court to review power plant rule case

Overnight Energy & Environment — American Clean Power — Supreme Court to review power plant rule case
© Greg Nash

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 Supreme Court taking on a major power plant case, the EPA reconsidering rules on ozone air quality standards and the Bureau of Land Management’s plans for emissions.

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.

High court to review power plant ruling 

The Supreme Court said on Friday that it will review what tools the Environmental Protection Agency can use to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. 

The petitions it granted Friday pertained to a case in which a court nixed the Trump administration’s rollbacks of Obama-era power plant rules.

The court agreed to look at that case and consider questions about whether to limit the scope of the EPA’s regulations over these pollution sources. 

The specifics: The petitions from coal companies and Republican states ask the court to look into whether the agency can make rules that apply to entire categories of polluters and whether it can do so using “industry-wide systems” like cap and trade, which seeks to put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. 

The court will also evaluate whether the agency can decide matters of “vast economic and political significance” like whether and how to restructure the country’s energy system.

So what? Environmental advocates said that if the Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the petitioners, it could worsen climate change.

"The coal industry is urging the Supreme Court to limit the solutions EPA can rely on in protecting the American people from power plant climate pollution," Vickie Patton, general counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund, told The Hill.

Read more about the case here.

A MESSAGE FROM AMERICAN CLEAN POWER

Clean energy sources like wind, solar and energy storage power American jobs and economic opportunity across the U.S. Clean energy is powering the future, and together, we are the future of power. Read more.

 

EPA to consider tighter air quality standards 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to reconsider federal air quality standards for smog after declining to tighten Obama-era rules in the final weeks of the Trump administration.

The agency, which briefed environmental groups on the matter Thursday, followed up with a filing Friday in a Washington, D.C., district court asking for a suspension of cases over the current standard. In the filing, viewed by The Hill, the agency confirmed it is currently in the process of reviewing the standard.

“While EPA cannot prejudge the outcome of its reconsideration process, litigating these consolidated cases risks wasting these resources in review of an action that may be mooted, or a record that may be  changed, through a final action that completes the reconsideration process,” the EPA said in the filing.

How we got here: In December 2020, the EPA said it would retain the existing standard for ozone, the primary component of smog, at 70 parts per billion (ppb). Then-EPA administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks 150 ex-EPA staffers ask Virginia lawmakers to oppose Wheeler nomination Overnight Energy & Environment — Virginia gears up for fight on Trump-era official MORE announced the 2015 standards would remain in place despite calls from environmental advocates to reduce the standard to 60 ppb at most. They have pointed to ozone’s status as a greenhouse gas, as well as its health hazards at the ground level.

A 2021 report from the American Lung Association indicated that more than 123 million Americans lived with hazardous levels of ozone under the existing standard in the years 2017, 2018 and 2019. Eighteen of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities are west of the Mississippi river, and 10 are in California alone. The data comes after a summer that saw extreme temperatures in much of the west and northwest U.S., as well as a worse-than-average wildfire season. In combination with particulate matter, more than 14 million people of color are at risk from ozone pollution, according to the report.

Read more about the filing here.

 

CONTRIBUTING TO NATIONAL EMISSIONS?

The federal government will consider contributions to national greenhouse gas emissions as it prepares to sell oil and gas drilling leases — and could ultimately put off selling certain parcels as a result. 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said that it will consider the contribution toward national greenhouse gas emissions for the first time as part of forthcoming environmental assessments for proposed sales that would be held in early 2022. 

It said that based on these assessments, which typically also consider impacts on air and water quality, wildlife, and nearby communities, it may defer certain parcels. 

“The BLM is committed to responsible development on public lands, including ensuring that our environmental reviews consider the climate impacts of energy development on lands and communities,” agency director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement.

In the meantime: She added that the department will continue to carry out leasing that “fulfills the Interior Department’s legal responsibilities.” 

The department said Friday that it will also consider what’s known as the “social cost” of greenhouse gases — a calculation of how much emissions cost society that can be used in climate-related decision-making. 

The announcement comes as the Biden administration is reassessing how it conducts oil and gas leasing. 

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Biden pledged to both ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, and adjust fees that companies pay to drill on federal property to account for climate change.

Read more about the announcement here.

COP KICKS OFF

The world is gearing up for the start of COP26, a major global climate change summit. 

Procedural openings for the event will begin on Sunday, and world leaders, including President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE, are expected to give speeches starting Monday. 

On the negotiating agenda will be completing the Paris Agreement rulebook — particularly the rules for carbon markets known as Article 6. Experts have said that good rules will prevent double counting as the world makes its way toward net-zero.

It’s the first COP since 2019, after last year’s event was canceled due to the pandemic.

 

A MESSAGE FROM AMERICAN CLEAN POWER

 

  

Clean energy sources like wind, solar and energy storage power American jobs and economic opportunity across the U.S. Clean energy is powering the future, and together, we are the future of power. Read more.

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

Tuesday

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on the nominations of  Geraldine Richmond to be Under Secretary for Science, Brad Crabtree to be Assistant Secretary  of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, and Asmeret Asefaw Berhe to be Director of the Office of Science, all of the Department of Energy, M. Camille Calimlim Touton to be Commissioner of Reclamation, Laura Daniel-Davis to be an Assistant Secretary, and Charles F. Sams III to be Director of the National Park Service, all of the Department of the Interior, Willie L. Phillips, Jr., to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Sara C. Bronin to be Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Thursday

  • The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold hearings to examine the potential non-electric applications of civilian nuclear energy.
  • The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing entitled “International Climate Challenges and Opportunities”
  • The House Financial Services Committee will have a hearing on “how the exploitation of natural resources funds rogue organizations and regimes”
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a series of water-related bills

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

 

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 next week. 

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