Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden keeps Trump-era aircraft emissions rule

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

Today we’re looking at the Biden administration's decision to retain Trump-era aircraft emissions standards, an EPA finding that two types of "forever chemicals" are more toxic than previously thought and tomorrow’s offshore oil and gas lease sale. 

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.

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Let’s jump in.


EPA sticks to Trump-era airplane standards 

A flag of the Environmental Protection Agency is seen outside their headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 3

The Biden administration in a court filing Monday night indicated it will continue Trump-era regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from aircrafts.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made the filing Monday in a multi-state lawsuit brought in the waning days of the Trump administration. In the lawsuit, the EPA indicated it would not begin a new rulemaking process for the rule, proposed in July 2020.

In a statement, the EPA defended the move and said it understood the need for further action to reduce emissions from aviation.

“That is why the U.S. will press for ambitious new international CO2 standards at the upcoming round of ICAO negotiations, why in September the Biden Administration announced a series of actions aimed at boosting the development of sustainable aviation fuel, and why earlier this month the Biden Administration released the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan at COP26,” the statement said.

The agency added that it would explore possible other actions it can take under the authority of the Clean Air Act, which is independent of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

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The Trump administration rule, which would implement standards from the ICAO, has been sharply criticized by environmental advocates, who note it would do little to meaningfully reduce aviation emissions. The agency itself wrote in 2020 that it was “not projecting emission reductions associated with today’s proposed GHG regulations.”

Read more about the decision here.

 

'FOREVER CHEMICALS' MORE TOXIC THAN FIRST THOUGHT: EPA

New draft reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have found that two “forever chemicals” are more toxic than previously thought, and that one is likely carcinogenic to humans. 

The drafts found the safe levels of ingestion for chemicals PFOA and PFOS are much lower than the agency had found in prior assessments. 

The agency also found that PFOA is “likely” carcinogenic to humans. This is a step up from before, as it has previously said that there is “suggestive” evidence that the substance can cause cancer. 

Both PFOA and PFOS can be found in drinking water, as well as other substances. PFOA has been used in nonstick cookware, flame repellants and cosmetics. PFOS has been used in water-resistant and stain-resistant products. 

The latest findings come as part of an EPA effort to regulate the substances, with the agency saying that it will aim to finish drinking water limits for PFOA and PFOS in 2023. 

Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, told The Hill that the stronger toxicity finding is a sign that the agency will issue strong regulations. 

“There's no turning back. The evidence is now overwhelming, that PFAS is toxic at very low levels and that tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of Americans have unsafe levels of PFOA in particular in their drinking water,” Faber said. 

Read more about the new drafts here.

Interior gears up for drilling lease sale

 

The Biden administration on Wednesday will hold its first sale for new oil and gas leases since implementing a now-reversed pause on lease sales earlier this year. 

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The sale will auction off more than 15,000 blocks in the Gulf of Mexico. The department is holding in response to a court decision halting its leasing moratorium after Republican-led states sued the administration over it. 

Nevertheless, the sale is receiving pushback from environmentalists and some Democrats, who argue that if the lease sale is going to happen at all, it should do so under more stringent regulations. 

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) lamented what he described as “lax” environmental and safety standards the leases would be operating under. 

But, he said, he’d prefer the Biden administration hold off entirely while the department appeals the court decision rather than just do a modified sale. 

“I think it should remain on hold,” he told The Hill. 

Asked for comment, Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz declined to directly address the criticism. But she noted in a statement that the government is appealing the court decision and highlighted other efforts the department is taking to limit emissions related to future lease sales.

“The Department is complying with a U.S. District Court’s decision regarding Sale 257 while the government appeals the decision. At the same time, Interior is conducting a more comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas impacts from potential oil and gas lease sales than ever before,” Schwartz said. 

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She particularly highlighted the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to consider cumulative greenhouse gas emissions — or how these emissions will impact the country’s national emissions targets overall — and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s use of updated emissions models.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Martha Williams to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on nuclear fusion energy research

 

Check out our virtual event on America's Economic Recovery — Thursday, November 18 at 1:00 PM ET 

Rising consumer prices, product shortages and labor inconsistencies are rattling the U.S. economic recovery. Yet, the economy has created over four million jobs this year and wages continue to rise. What role will consumers and businesses play in economic recovery and how will they emerge from the downturn? What is the domestic growth forecast for next year? Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-Ariz.), ADP Chief Economist Dr. Nela Richardson and Princeton economist Janet Currie join The Hill's Steve Clemons for a discussion on the new economic landscape and the changing labor force. RSVP today.



WHAT WE’RE READING

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  • Flooding and Nuclear Waste Eat Away at a Tribe’s Ancestral Home, The New York Times reports
  • Clean energy backers fear tax plan could hurt growth, E&E News reports 
  • German regulator puts brake on Nord Stream 2 in fresh blow to gas pipeline, Reuters reports
  • Top U.S. environmental regulator to visit Houston neighborhoods where Black and Latino residents bear brunt of pollution, Houston Public Media reports
  • Environmental groups plan to sue Florida city over sewage discharges, WTSP reports


ICYMI

Duckworth touts drinking water infrastructure funds in bipartisan bill

And finally, something offbeat and offbeat: Arma-geddon


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.