Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog to weigh probe of Trump advancements on Pebble Mine | Interior finalizes public lands HQ move out West over congressional objections | EPA to issue methane rollback: report

HAPPY MONDAY!! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@digital-stage.thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@digital-stage.thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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POSSIBLE PEBBLE PROBE: A Defense Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) watchdog will consider probing the Trump administration’s moves to advance the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska following congressional requests on Monday. 

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) wrote to Defense Department Inspector General Sean O’Donnell, who also serves as an EPA watchdog, and Army Inspector General Leslie Smith asking for an investigation into a recent assessment finding that the proposed mine would not have a significant impact on a nearby salmon fishery. 

They also wrote to O’Donnell at the EPA, asking him to look into that agency’s reversal of an Obama administration determination to preemptively veto the Pebble Mine. 

Spokespeople for O’Donnell with both the EPA and the Pentagon confirmed that he would review the requests. 

The Army Corps last month published an environmental impacts assessment of the proposed Alaska copper and gold mine, bringing it one step closer to construction. 

The proposed project is controversial due to its proximity to the Bristol Bay area, the world’s largest commercial sockeye salmon-producing region. 

The Army Corps determined that “there would be no measurable change in the number of returning salmon,” and that the project “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.” 

It did say that the mine will likely impact between 2,226 and 2,261 acres of wetlands and other waters, including between 104.1 and 105.8 miles of streams.

In the Monday letter, the Democratic lawmakers, all of whom serve on the House Oversight Committee, raised concerns about the timeline and thoroughness of the findings. 

“The Committee is concerned that the Army Corps expedited the Clean Water Act permitting and [National Environmental Policy Act] review process at the expense of a thorough scientific review. It appears that this timeline is inappropriate for a hardrock mine of this scale, complexity, and potential regional and state environmental, social, and economic impacts — especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Read more on the subject here

THAT’S A WRAP: Grand Junction, Colo., officially became the headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Monday, capping a move that has cost the agency nearly 70 percent of its D.C.-based employees.

An order signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt “completes the process of relocating the federal agency headquarters closer to both the land it administers and to its employees,” BLM said in a release.  

The move to the new headquarters leaves just 61 of the agency’s 10,000 employees in Washington, D.C., as part of a plan to move about 25 employees to the Colorado office while scattering roughly 200 at existing offices across the West.

However, most of BLM’s D.C.-based employees opted not to make the move, and public lands groups argued the relocation was designed to dismantle an agency that at times can stand in the way of energy development and ranching interests.

The Hill learned in June that just 68 — or about 30 percent — of the roughly 225 workers designated to move had accepted their new assignment.

“The people that make the field decisions have always been in the field, and the 3 percent of the workforce in the nation’s capital are there for a reason: because their function revolved around interacting with Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, the NGO’s. That’s the function of the director of the department, the assistant director and their key staff and advisors,” said Steve Ellis, who retired from the top career-level post at BLM in 2016 after 38 years with the bureau. 

“They will not be able to do that effectively from Grand Junction, Colorado, and on top of that they lost a lot of people. A lot of good, seasoned career people are gone.”

Read more about the relocation here

INSANE IN THE METHANE: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will sign and issue new rules this week that will get rid of certain methane gas emission requirements for oil and gas producers, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. 

Unidentified administration officials told the newspaper that the new rules will include getting rid of requirements for producers to have systems and processes to find methane leaks. They will also end EPA oversight of smog and emissions from pipelines and storage sites and lessen monitoring and reporting requirements for certain pollutants, the Journal reported. 

The new rules have most of the major elements of proposals from 2018 and 2019, according to the newspaper. 

An EPA spokesperson told The Hill that the rule is “still under interagency review” when asked for comment on the report.

In 2019, the agency proposed eliminating requirements for oil and gas companies to install technology for monitoring methane emissions from pipelines, wells and facilities.

In 2018, it proposed reducing the frequency of monitoring methane emissions of oil and gas wells to every two years and compressor stations that help transport natural gas to just once a year. 

However, the Journal reported Monday that the administration would forgo the measures that would have reduced the inspection frequency due to difficulty in justifying them legally. 

Read more on the coming rule here 

WHERE THEY STAND: Former Vice President Joe Biden this weekend announced he would shut down a number of controversial projects being considered by the Trump administration, including mining near the Grand Canyon and Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

“I can’t believe I have to say this, but we can’t let Donald Trump open up the Grand Canyon for uranium mining,” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, tweeted late Friday.

Biden later made similar comments on Trump’s consideration of the Pebble Mine, a project that was nixed under the Obama administration over environmental concerns.

“Bristol Bay has been foundational to the way of life of Alaska Natives for countless generations, provides incredible joy for recreational anglers from across the country, and is an economic powerhouse that supplies half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. It is no place for a mine,” Biden wrote in a statement.

Read more about Biden’s comments over the weekend here

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Wyoming’s relationship with oil predates the state’s founding. So what happens when the new drilling stops? The Casper Star Tribune asks 

Big-name oil firms owe North Dakota millions in old royalties, state says, The Fargo Forum reports 

Citrus flavoring is weaponized against insect-borne diseases, The New York Times reports

Mauritius must brace for ‘worst case scenario’ after oil spill, says PM, Reuters reports

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend…

Puerto Rico’s remote areas fear telecom breakdown

World’s most trafficked mammal gives Trump new way to hit China on COVID-19

Groups threaten to sue Energy Department over 26 delayed efficiency standard updates

Sierra Club endorses Biden for president 

Biden vows reversal as Trump eyes mining near Grand Canyon, Bristol Bay

Interior finalizes public lands agency HQ move out West over congressional objections

Watchdog to weigh probe of Trump administration advancements of Pebble Mine

EPA to issue methane rollback: report

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:

Heat waves to heighten energy and water insecurity during COVID-19, writes Andrea K. Gerlak,  a professor in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona.

EVENT

On Thursday, August 13, The Hill Virtually Live hosts a virtual event, Breaking Through: U.S. Businesses Powered By Global Exports. Global trade is messier today than years ago — a pandemic is creating unforeseen challenges, sanctions are back, and the WTO is wobbly. But global trade is still thriving in many sectors. While nations may be squabbling, businesses are finding ways to deliver their products to consumers. Rep. Rick Larsen, former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and more join The Hill’s Steve Clemons. RSVP here today.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Donald Trump Harley Rouda Jackie Speier Joe Biden Rick Larsen

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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