Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Sanders introduces bill to ban fracking | Trump officials propose rolling back law protecting migratory birds | Green groups threaten to sue EPA over airplane pollution

NO FRACKING WAY: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week introduced a bill that aims to ban hydraulic fracking. 

The bill was introduced on Tuesday and is titled “a bill to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes,” according to the Library of Congress, though the text of the legislation was not available on the site. 

Sanders has called for a ban on fracking while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, as has rival candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Sanders tweeted about the bill, which he said was also worked on by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.) on Thursday. Merkley was listed as a co-sponsor. 

So how did word get out on the textless bill? The tweet included a video of actor Mark Ruffalo talking about a potential federal ban fracking. 

“Mark Ruffalo just spoiled Bernie and AOC’s bill to ban fracking,” the video said. 

Read about it here.


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COMING SOON: A new regulation set to be unveiled by the Interior Department would end most federal protections for migratory birds, allowing companies that accidentally kill such animals to not face punishments.

The New York Times reported that a rule change set to be announced by the agency as soon as Thursday would codify a legal opinion issued by the Interior Department in 2017 that found that laws established to protect migratory birds should not be applied in situations where animal deaths are accidental.

When in effect, the rule change would allow companies that do not establish safeguards to prevent the deaths of migratory birds to avoid facing penalties, as only deliberate killings would now be considered actionable. The change would come as the agency has already largely stopped investigating such deaths under the Trump administration, according to the Times.

The proposed change was immediately criticized by environmental groups, who said that it would allow companies to get away with not taking action to prevent accidental deaths.

“They’re trying to entrench this as much as they can, and get stuff locked into place,” said Bob Dreher of the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife. “We’re going to fight it.”

Read more on the regulation here


POLLUTION, PLANE AND SIMPLE: Environmental groups on Thursday threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over what they view as the agency’s failure to act on aircraft emissions. 

“Ambitious, technology-forcing regulation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants from aircraft are long overdue and urgently needed,” said a notice of intent to sue from the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Earthjustice. 

“Over three years after finding that aircraft greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare, EPA continues to neglect its duty to regulate global warming pollutants from aircraft emissions,” it added. 

The groups intend to sue the agency in 180 days, according to the notice. 

Aircrafts account for 3 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 12 percent of all transportation greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA’s website

The EPA’s Fall 2019 regulatory agenda says that the agency “anticipates adopting domestic [greenhouse gas] standards that would be at least as stringent” as standards adopted by the  International Civil Aviation Organization in 2017.  

The “EPA is working to address this issue in 2020,” an agency spokesperson told The Hill in an email.

More on the threatened lawsuit here


EPA PUSHBACK: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pushing back against allegations from the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the agency slow-walked its ethics obligations.

In a letter to the agency earlier this month, the House committee argued EPA let political appointees take months to sign required ethics pledges and compile recusal lists, allowing leaders to work on issues where they had substantial conflicts of interest, the panel argued.

But the EPA disputed that Thursday in a letter to the committee, saying many of the employees targeted by the committee for not having ethics recusals were not required to do so under the executive order, given that they were not political appointees and were instead hired under another mechanism used to bring on temporary staff.

“These allegations display a complete lack of understanding of ethics obligations and what is required under current rules or federal law,” the EPA wrote in their letter.

MRead more about the letter here


SPECIAL GUEST: Obama-era EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be attending President Trump’s State of the Union address next week as the guest of House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Chair Cathy Kastor (D-Fla.). 

McCarthy, now the head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, has been highly critical of Trump’s environmental policies.

“Evidence so far suggests that today’s EPA is not focused on the agency’s mission but is instead focused on specific results which will deliver on President Trump’s campaign promises to dismantle the EPA,” she said at a hearing last year



Florida Senate passes bill to block local bans on sunscreen, the Associated Press reports. 

Work begins to cap Central Texas oil well after deadly blowout, KWTX reports.

Pennsylvania governor floats plan to attack lead, asbestos in schools, the Associated Press reports.


ICYMI: Stories from Thursday…

Sanders introduces bill to ban fracking

Green groups threaten to sue EPA over airplane pollution

EPA pushes back on Oversight review of ethics program

Trump administration proposes rolling back law protecting migratory birds 

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Darren Soto Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Gina McCarthy Jeff Merkley

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