Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — 2021’s weather disasters cost $170B

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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 the cost of this year’s climate disasters, the passage of the NDAA and four environmental fights we’ll be watching next year.

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.

10 weather disasters cost $170B in damage

The world’s 10 costliest weather disasters of 2021 caused more than $170 billion worth of damage, according to a new report from a U.K.-based aid group. 

The group Christian Aid puts out an annual report quantifying the costs of the worst weather disasters. The 10 disasters it highlighted for 2021 were together $20 billion costlier than the 10 disasters the group highlighted in 2020. 

The group said that the costs it estimates are also based only on insured losses, meaning the actual costs of these events may be higher.

Report author Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead, said in a statement that “the costs of climate change have been grave this year.”

Climate change has been linked to extreme weather events including heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts and more extreme hurricanes. 

The report comes as policymakers — both in the U.S. and elsewhere — seek to determine how to factor in the cost of climate change-related damage, or potential savings from fewer climate impacts, into their decision making. 

The Christian Aid report found that 2021’s three most costly disasters occurred in the U.S. and Europe, but it noted that financial costs are usually higher in richer countries because they can afford insurance and because they have higher property values. 

The most expensive? Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana in August, and later made its way to the Northeast. Christian Aid said that this event cost $65 billion.

Read more about the report’s findings here.

Biden signs defense bill with PFAS provisions 

President Biden on Monday signed a sweeping $768 billion defense policy bill, setting up top lines and policy for the Pentagon, the White House announced.

Biden signed the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after Congress scrambled to pass the annual bill earlier this month.

The House passed the bill by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 363-70 vote in early December, and the Senate later passed the bill by a bipartisan 88-11 vote. 

The $768.2 billion compromise bill came after efforts to pass an earlier version of the bill in the Senate hit several snags, including failures to reach agreements on which amendments would receive floor vote.

So, what kind of energy and environment provisions are in there? Per a Senate summary, it:

  • Increases funding for cleanup by the Army, Navy and Air Force of a class of toxic chemicals called PFAS
  • Ups funding for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nationwide PFAS health assessment
  • Restricts the use of open-air burn pits for waste 
  • Prevents the Defense Department from burning PFAS until there’s department guidance or a rule from the EPA on PFAS destruction
  • Requires the consideration of climate and environmental challenges in “core processes”

Read more about the bill itself from our defense team.



While Democrats have faced recent uncertainty over the future of their sprawling climate and social spending bill, there will be plenty of climate fights to keep an eye on in the new year.
Here are four environmental fights we’ll be watching in 2022:

1. Drilling for oil and gas on federal lands and waters

One of the biggest environmental fights of 2021 is expected to spill over — whether and how to restrict leasing and permitting for oil and gas drilling on federally owned lands and in federally owned waters. 

Environmental groups are poised to oppose future sales, including a proposal to auction off ocean parcels near Alaska’s coast and an expected onshore lease sale in New Mexico, while Republicans are expected to support them. 

2. Which waters get federal protections?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected next year to propose a rule governing which waters are regulated in the U.S.

The Biden administration is expected to propose regulating more waters than the Trump administration, but its specific course of action isn’t totally clear, with saying that both Obama and Trump-era decisions  “did not necessarily listen to the will of the people.”

3. How much will power plant emissions be regulated?

The battle playing out over power plant emissions will likely play out through regulations and at the Supreme Court.

The EPA is expected to propose rules next year regulating emission from new and existing power plants, with both rules slated to be finalized in 2023. 

But in October, the Supreme Court said it would take up that case after requests from coal companies and Republican-led states. It is expected to review what tools the EPA can use to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. 

4. Will countries increase their climate commitments? 

The Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed to at the 2021 COP26 climate summit, asks countries to revisit their short-term climate commitments by the end of 2022.

It requested that the countries strengthen their 2030 targets “as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal … taking into account different national circumstances.” 

But it’s unclear which countries, if any, will actually increase their targets, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). 

Read more about these upcoming fights here.




And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: A deep dive into a different kind of scoop.

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 Tuesday.

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