Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans

Welcome to Wednesday’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 Biden administration’s latest actions on clean energy, an EPA assessment of the biggest source of airborne lead and the Department of Homeland Security looking for climate expertise. 

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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Let’s jump in. 

 

Officials establish plans to boost clean energy

The Biden administration is announcing steps on Wednesday to boost clean energy — particularly through offshore wind, renewable energy on public lands and upgrades to the electric grid.  

Its latest moves come as the Biden administration seeks to advance clean energy deployment to achieve its climate goals — and as legislation that would help deliver climate action faces uncertainty in Congress.  

On offshore wind, the administration announced on Wednesday that it will hold a lease sale in the New York Bight — off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. 

How much could they generate? This lease sale could result in the generation of up to 7 gigawatts of clean energy, enough to power 2 million homes, according to a White House fact sheet.  

ADVERTISEMENT

The sale will offer six commercial areas for lease, which the administration says is the most ever offered, spanning 488,201 acres. 

A senior administration official told reporters that the department will incorporate limitations preventing one company from bidding on multiple leases to make sure that there’s "broad" participation.  

What’s next? Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans Biden administration announces actions bolstering clean energy  MORE told reporters on a Wednesday press call that the department expects to hold up to six more offshore wind lease sales by 2025. 

The sale that was announced on Wednesday will take place on Feb. 23.  

The administration also announced a new partnership with New York and New Jersey in which they will work together on improving regional supply chains and helping disadvantaged communities. 

Read more about the announcement here. 

 

EPA assessing health effects of leaded fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will investigate the potential negative impacts on human health from the emissions of airplanes using leaded fuel, the agency announced Wednesday.

A 2016 EPA report indicated piston-engine planes are the single largest airborne source of lead exposure. Leaded fuel from other sources was phased out in 1996 under the Clean Air Act, but it remains the only useable fuel for piston-engine airplanes, about 170,000 of which are currently airborne, according to the National Academies of Sciences. Overall airborne lead exposures in the U.S. have fallen 99 percent since 1980.

So what happens next? The agency will issue a formal proposal for public comment in 2022 before determining a final action next year, according to the EPA.

“EPA has been investigating the air quality impact of lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft near airports for years, and now we’re going to apply that information to determine whether this pollution endangers human health and welfare,” EPA Administrator Michael ReganMichael ReganOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans EPA to assess health impacts of leaded aircraft fuel Biden administration calls on agencies to better guard against political influence on science MORE said in a statement.

Lead exposure from piston-engine aircraft is a particular issue for communities in close proximity to airports that service such planes. A 2020 EPA report indicated that more than 5 million people live within 500 meters of such airports’ runways, with more than 160,000 children attending school in the same range.

Lead exposure and poisoning has been spotlighted as an environmental justice issue in recent years, particularly after the water supply in Flint, Mich., was contaminated by lead after officials changed its source from Lake Michigan to the Flint River.

ADVERTISEMENT

Read more about the EPA process here. 

DHS to recruit climate change professionals

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Wednesday that it would create a new program to recruit experts focused on climate change. 

The Climate Change Professionals Program seeks to attract recent graduates and current federal employees to work with DHS on climate-related goals, according to a press release from the department.  

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Rift grows between Biden and immigration advocates MORE said the program would be "instrumental in helping the Department adapt to our changing climate by providing hands-on experience and guidance to young professionals interested in climate adaptation and resilience." 

“This program will develop the next generation of climate experts, improve climate literacy throughout the Department, and help us execute our Climate Action Plan to remain mission-resilient while reducing our own impacts on the environment,” he added.  

The program is intended to last two years and provide opportunities to contribute to programs that have the "potential to substantially help DHS adapt to climate change and improve resilience." 

ADVERTISEMENT

As DHS grapples with various security issues, environmental concerns are expected to play a significant role in the future, especially in terms of climate-related migration. 

Read more about the program here.

 

CAPITOL HILL HAPPENINGS

  • The Environment and Public Works Committees advanced the nominations of Martha Williams to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service and Henry Christopher Frey to lead the EPA’s Office of Research and Development in 16-4 and 11-9 votes respectively.  
  • Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor reiterated that he hopes to see a “durable” rule as the administration seeks to increase water protections that were rolled back under the Trump administration. Speaking before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Connor also indicated that the administration may have to “revisit” some existing water permits. “I think there is some legal risk that may exist, not because the Corps of Engineers is going to assess legal risk, but I think permittees are looking at that,” he said, saying that this is in light of a court decision that tossed the Trump rule.  He added that he the agency believes permits issued under the Trump rules are valid, but said it may go over prior decisions “in consultation” with permittees who want to limit “legal risk.”
  • Western Caucus Chair Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseThe fates of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans Washington redistricting panel reaches late agreement on new lines MORE (R-Wash.) invoked clean energy as he made a pitch for more domestic mining. “If we’re serious about a clean energy future, and I think we can all agree that we are, we need to have domestic sources for these critical minerals,” Newhouse said during a call with reporters. On the call, Republicans particularly raised objections to the Biden administration’s October move stalling the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in Minnesota. 


WHAT WE'RE READING

  • Biden weighing cuts to 2022 ethanol blending (Reuters) 
  • Navy Agrees To Comply With Hawaii’s Order To Drain Red Hill Fuel Facility (Honolulu Civil Beat) 
  • Pipeline spilled 300,000 gallons of fuel near New Orleans last month, records show (The Guardian) 
  • EPA ramps up pressure over state pollution loopholes (E&E News) 

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Tip off 

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 on Thursday.