Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Energy Dept. unveils new lightbulb efficiency rules

Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Energy Dept. unveils new lightbulb efficiency rules

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 new Biden lightbulb rules, a reversal on a water pipeline and a blizzard in an unlikely place.

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.

Administration proposes lightbulb efficiency rule


The Biden administration late Friday proposed a rule that would impose a lightbulb efficiency standard after the Trump administration declined to do so.

If implemented, the Energy Department proposal would establish a “backstop” barring the sale of lightbulbs that don’t meet a minimum efficiency requirement.

The move is expected to shift the market toward more efficient LED light bulbs and away from incandescent bulbs.

How we got here: The Biden administration argued that the move would both benefit consumers and provide climate benefits. 

Proponents of such changes have argued that lower energy consumption will cut emissions from lighting uses and that consumers will save money on their electricity bills because they’ll be using less energy to light their homes. 

In fact, energy efficiency advocates have found that every month, delaying the lightbulb standards could cost consumers $300 million in lost savings and 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

The Biden administration cites a requirement in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to finalize a rule considering a 45 lumens per watt standard. If it doesn't do so, the law directs the department to “prohibit the sale of any general service lamp that does not meet" such a standard.

What did the Trump administration do? In 2019, the Trump administration declined to set the standard. It said that this backstop had not been triggered because it made a “predicate determination” not to change standards for a subset of bulbs that includes LED bulbs. 

It also said at the time that adding the standard would stick consumers with more expensive light bulbs.

Read more about the announcement here.



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Biden pulls Trump-era water pipeline approval 


Justice Department lawyers on Friday began the process of reversing a Trump-era approval of a Southern California water pipeline, calling the approval process rushed.

In January, the outgoing Trump administration approved Cadiz Inc.’s repurposing of a disused oil and gas pipeline in the Mojave Desert to carry groundwater from aquifers beneath into new developments.

“The Court should remand [Bureau of Land Management’s] decision to grant rights-of-way to Cadiz for purposes of transporting water across federal land,” Biden administration lawyers wrote in the filing.

“BLM rushed the approval process and, in doing so, short-circuited necessary reviews and violated the procedural requirements of the [National Environmental Policy Act] and the [National Historic Preservation Act],” they added. 

The story so far: The National Parks Conservation Association and the Native American Land Conservancy had sued over the project, saying it was undertaken without proper consideration of environmental impacts or tribal consultation. The National Congress of American Indians also adopted a resolution in November opposing the project.

The lack of required reviews, the new filing states, means the Bureau of Land Management did not have enough information when it determined allowing the rights-of-way would not violate the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

The Trump administration decision was itself a reversal of a 2015 determination by the Obama administration, which had said the project must undergo the federal review and permitting process.

Read more about the decision here.


Regulator allows St. Louis pipeline to continue

Federal energy regulators will allow a pipeline that carries natural gas to the St. Louis area to operate through winter amid an legal battle over the pipeline’s authorization.

The pipeline’s authorization certificate was revoked following a court challenge from the Environmental Defense Fund in November. A temporary certificate allowed the pipeline, operated by Spire, to operate in the meantime but was set to expire next Monday.

In a Friday order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the commission granted a new temporary certificate that will allow the pipeline to operate while its ultimate fate is resolved.

“[T]he record demonstrates that without a temporary certificate, Spire’s customer, Spire Missouri, will experience a loss of gas supply potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of homes and business during the winter heating season,” FERC said in the order. “Therefore, we find that an emergency exists and will issue Spire a temporary certificate.”

Spire affiliates Spire STL and Spire Missouri had entered a contract for nearly 88 percent of the energy carried by the pipeline. EDF argued the company was self-dealing in challenging it in court.

A federal appeals court sided with the environmental group in June and ordered further federal review of the pipeline.

In a statement Saturday, EDF said Spire had misrepresented the threat of St. Louis residents going without power if the pipeline was not allowed to continue operating.

“EDF has consistently told regulators that the pipeline should be allowed to operate to ensure reliable service. FERC’s action provides clarity for St. Louis customers and rectifies the confusion and fear created by Spire’s misleading campaign,” EDF Senior Director and Lead Counsel Natalie Karas said in a statement. “As FERC carries out a comprehensive review in accordance with the law, it has a duty to protect Spire’s customers from improper costs and to protect the landowners and communities impacted by the construction and operation of the pipeline.”

Read more about the order here.



  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on R&D for addressing PFAS
  • The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on equity in distribution of disaster benefits
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on bills relating to national museums, monuments and historic sites.





Gambling ‘America’s Amazon,’ CNN reports

A Texas intel bulletin on a New Yorker podcast with a fringe environmentalist raises concerns over defining domestic terrorism, Politico reports

A toxic neighbor: Grand Prairie Latinos want answers about hazardous waste site, KERA News reports

Utah Attorney General’s office selects law firm in legal challenge over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments, The Salt Lake Tribune reports


And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Some new fossils (that are not fuels).

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.


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