Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden EPA asks Justice Dept. to pause defense of Trump-era rules | Company appeals rejection of Pebble Mine | Energy pick Granholm to get hearing Wednesday

TGIF! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environmental 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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FREEZE FRAME: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is asking the government to pump the brakes in its defense of Trump-era environmental rollbacks in court.

In a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) obtained by The Hill, EPA’s acting general counsel Melissa Hoffer asks government lawyers to hit pause on cases where the previous administration has been challenged by environmental groups.

“This will confirm my request on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seek and obtain abeyances or stays of proceedings in pending litigation seeking judicial review of any EPA regulation promulgated between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021,” she writes.

The move is a way for the Biden administration to disavow the Trump rollbacks, buying time as they signal that they plan to issue their own regulations.

The Trump administration scaled back more than 170 environmental regulations while in office, according to a tally from The Washington Post, easing regulations on vehicle emissions and methane leaks from the oil and gas industry, and limiting how the EPA weighs public health data.

Hoffer’s request references two recent orders from Biden, one ordering a review of existing environmental regulations, and another that freezes all Trump-era rules that have not yet taken effect.

The reversal of stance in court comes as the Justice Department under Biden takes over a dizzying number of suits, with many rules facing multiple suits from both attorneys general and various environmental groups.

Some may have progressed too far to secure the immediate pause the EPA now wants.

“For a case where an abeyance or stay of proceedings is not feasible, we request that DOJ seek extensions of time that are of sufficient duration to allow this review,” Hoffer writes.

Read more about the letter here.


TRYING TO MAKE THE MINE APPEALING: The company behind the controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska has appealed the government’s rejection of a permit for the proposed project.

In a statement on Thursday, the Pebble Limited Partnership said that it had recently submitted a request to appeal the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision last year.

In the statement, Pebble CEO John Shively argued that the conclusions reached in the department’s Record of Decision “are not supported by the record established in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project.”

He also argued that the government did not give due consideration to the company’s plan to mitigate issues that were raised, rejecting it just a few days after it was received. 

The company did not make a copy of the appeal available. 

The gold and copper mine is controversial due to its proposed location in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. Among its opponents are environmentalists and the fishing industry. 

A reminder on the backstory: 

Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed the project. That decision was reversed under the Trump administration. 

In a July impact statement, the government determined that the mine would not affect salmon harvests in the area, reversing an Obama-era determination that it would. Many believed that this determination would clear the path for the mine’s approval. 

However, after several prominent conservatives including Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News host Tucker Carlson came out against the mine, the Army Corps required Pebble to submit a plan to mitigate impacts such as discharges into wetlands, waters and streams.

The agency said it would review the plan to decide if it was “sufficient to offset the identified unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources and overcome significant degradation at the mine site.”

Ultimately, the Corps said it “determined that the applicant’s plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest.”

Read more about the appeal here.


SEE YOU SOON: The Senate will consider President Biden’s nomination of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to lead the Energy Department on Wednesday.

Granholm will face questions from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is led by Democrat Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Republican John Barrasso (Wyo.), though it’s unclear how many senators will be joining the hearing in person amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Biden announced last month that he was nominating Granholm to the position, which oversees a broad portfolio ranging from energy production to national security. He emphasized her experience on clean energy and jobs, particularly as governor during the Great Recession. 

Since her nomination, Granholm stressed the economic opportunity in fighting climate change, echoing similar statements from Biden.

“Every country is going to be buying solar panels and they’re going to be buying wind turbines and they’re going to be buying electric vehicles and the batteries and they’re going to upgrade their electric grids,” she said in December. 

“We could be producing that material, those products here in the United States, and stamping the Made in America and exporting them around the country. We need to be the leader, rather than passive bystanders or otherwise we’re going to allow other countries like China and others who are fighting to be able to corner this market,” she added.

In recent days, Granholm has faced some scrutiny over her position on the board of directors of and stock options in an electric vehicle technology manufacturer.  

She said in an ethics filing that upon confirmation, she will resign from the board and will divest from or forfeit her stock options. 

Read more here.



On Tuesday:

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold its formal organizational meeting, where it will adopt rules and subcommittees 

On Wednesday 

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Granholm’s nomination
  • The Biden administration will devote Wednesday to taking a range of climate actions including an “omnibus” domestic and international climate executive order, according to a document obtained by The Hill.  



Trump loyalists burrow into cushy jobs abroad, E&E News reports

DuPont, Chemours in $4 Billion ‘Forever Chemicals’ Cost Pact, Bloomberg Law reports

Gov. Tim Walz pushes again for carbon-free electricity in Minnesota to avert climate crisis, The Star Tribune reports

Tags Donald Trump Jennifer Granholm Joe Manchin John Barrasso Tim Walz Tucker Carlson

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