Overnight Energy: 14 states sue EPA over rollback of Obama water rule | DOE to block another lightbulb efficiency rule | Greens cheer climate questions at Dem debate

WOTUS HEADED FOR SCOTUS? A coalition of 14 states sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday over its rollback of a landmark Obama-era rule stipulating which waterways are regulated by the federal government.

The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule expanded the scope of waters that farmers, manufacturers and other industries would need to ensure are in compliance with EPA guidelines.

The Trump rollback of the rule, announced in September, would relegate waterway protections to 1986 standards. A proposal for the areas that would be covered under the rule is expected sometime next year.

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The coalition of states argue that returning the U.S. to the narrower 1986 standard ignores studies showing how small bodies of water, even seasonal ones following snowmelt, connect with and impact larger bodies of water more typically targeted for regulation.

“This regressive rule ignores science and the law and strips our waters of basic protections under the Clean Water Act. Attorneys general across this nation will not stand by as the Trump Administration seeks to reverse decades of progress we’ve made in fighting water pollution,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who spearheaded the suit, said in a statement.

Critics of WOTUS argue that the 2015 rule requires grand efforts from farmers and others to protect relatively small bodies of water that run through their property, ultimately subjecting more land to federal oversight.

The EPA declined to comment on Friday’s lawsuit, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: 14 states sue EPA over rollback of Obama water rule | DOE to block another lightbulb efficiency rule | Greens cheer climate questions at Dem debate 14 states sue EPA over rollback of Obama-era water rule Overnight Energy: Greens sue over chemical safety rollback | EPA finalizes ethanol rule in face of opposition | House Dems detail environmental priorities for next year MORE said in September, when the rollback was announced, that the agency’s “proposed definition and existing state programs will provide a strong network of coverage with our nation’s water resources.”

“Thanks to the leadership of the EPA we can move forward with a water rule that protects clean water, is within the bounds of the law and doesn’t pose a threat to manufacturing in America,” Wheeler said. “We have to have regulatory certainty, clean, fair smart regulations of environmental law.”

The suit argues the rule is illegal because it fails to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act since it does not meet its objectives to restore and maintain water quality. Much of the suit also hangs on procedural grounds, arguing it does not meet the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

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“We refuse to allow the backward policies of the Trump Administration to inflict lasting damage on our nation’s waterways. There is a legal way of doing business that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMaxine Waters warns if Senate doesn’t remove Trump, he’ll ‘invite Putin to the White House’ Trump signs .4 T spending package, averting shutdown Twenty-five Jewish lawmakers ask Trump to fire Stephen Miller over ‘white nationalist’ comments MORE has so far refused to learn,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: 14 states sue EPA over rollback of Obama water rule | DOE to block another lightbulb efficiency rule | Greens cheer climate questions at Dem debate 14 states sue EPA over rollback of Obama-era water rule Overnight Health Care — Presented by Rare Access Action Project — Court ruling reignites ObamaCare fight for 2020 | Congress expands probe into surprise billing | Health industry racks up wins in year-end spending deal MORE said in a statement.

Read more on the lawsuit here. 

 

TGIF Y’ALL. Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

A programming note: We’re about to take a holiday hiatus. We’ll be back on Jan. 6. 

Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch and @thehill.

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THE LATEST BRIGHT IDEA: In its latest move to roll back energy efficiency measures, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced Friday that it would block a measure designed to require more efficient lightbulbs, arguing the policy would be too expensive for consumers. 

The announcement applies to widely-used, pear-shaped incandescent lightbulbs. Coupled with another controversial rule finalized in September, the move cements two remarkable decisions taken by the department this year to hamstring efficiency requirements for nearly every type of bulb used in America.

The announcement follows earlier messaging from the department that market forces, and not the government, should guide consumer choices.

“Today the Trump Administration chose to protect consumer choice by ensuring that the American people do not pay the price for unnecessary overregulation from the federal government,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement. “Innovation and technology are already driving progress, increasing the efficiency and affordability of light bulbs, without federal government intervention. The American people will continue to have a choice on how they light their homes.”

Blocking the standards flies in the face of congressional intent, critics say, citing a 2007 act signed into law by then President George W. Bush that requires all everyday bulbs to use 65 percent less energy than regular incandescent bulbs, which currently constitute about half of the bulb market.

Friday’s announcement follows a September decision from DOE to remove energy efficiency requirements for the other half of the market — bulbs that are not standard shaped, including those for recessed lighting and chandeliers.

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In both cases, the agency has hung its reasoning on finances, arguing American consumers shouldn’t be stuck paying more for bulbs.

But consumer protection groups and environmentalists have widely panned the measures, saying consumers will be stuck with a higher electric bill spurred by inefficient bulbs, while utilities produce more pollution in an effort to power them.

“The Trump administration just thumbed its nose at Congress, America’s families and businesses, and the environment,” Noah Horowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Center for Energy Efficiency Standards, said in a release. “This law should have saved U.S. households more than $100 annually, on average, and avoided 38 million additional tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide pollution every year. NRDC will be exploring every option, including legal action, to fight this illegal rollback.”

The incandescent bulbs targeted in Friday’s announcement, first invented by Thomas Edison, use just 10 percent of their energy to create light, while the other 90 percent is released as heat.

“You wouldn’t use a phone from the 1870s, so why use Edison’s 1870s light bulb,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Read more on the latest rollback here. 

 

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LOBBYIST TRAINING CAMP: A mining company worked closely with Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) to push the Trump administration for a reversal of an Obama-era restriction on a mine, CNN reported Friday.

The network, citing documents it obtained, reported that Pebble Limited Partnership ghostwrote letters for Dunleavy and gave his office strategies on how to lobby for action sought by the firm.

The network’s report pointed to one letter sent by Dunleavy to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that was nearly identical to a draft sent to his office by a company official. 

The Obama administration had blocked the development of a gold and copper mine over concerns about wild sockeye salmon that are native to the area. In July, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would reverse the blockage following a June meeting with Dunleavy and President Trump, according to CNN. 

The Hill has reached out to Dunleavy and the EPA for comment.

A Pebble official defended the move in a statement to CNN.

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“It is not unusual for interested parties to suggest language to elected officials that may be helpful in contesting poor public policy. What an administration chooses to do with the suggestion is entirely up to them,” the company official told the network.

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The governor also told CNN that “it is common practice for an administration to request briefing materials on a specific project.”

Read more here. 

 

DEBATE: Last night’s debate offered a little something different in the environmental realm: for the first time, the portion on climate change wouldn’t be described as blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. 

Cries for a climate-focused debate from major environmental groups appear to have dwindled, but the debate somewhat delivered, devoting time to climate alongside other important issues like health care and the economy.

One group even penned a quick thank you.

“Finally! It’s so refreshing that the climate crisis was front and center in the first hour of tonight’s presidential debate,” the League of Conservation Voters wrote in a statement. “Kudos to Politico and PBS NewsHour for giving climate change the attention it needs and deserves. We urge future debate hosts to follow their lead.”

The climate questions centered on whether to relocate communities expected to be continually ravaged by the effects of climate change. Another question asked candidates whether controversial nuclear power must remain in the energy mix as a way to get to 100 percent clear power.

A few key moments:

-Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClaire McCaskill: Young girls ‘are now aspiring’ to be like Warren, Klobuchar after debate Booker releases list of campaign bundlers Klobuchar raises more than M in online donations since debate MORE (I-Vt.) used the opportunity to say funding for weapons should instead be devoted to fighting climate change: “Maybe, just maybe, instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year globally on weapons of destruction, maybe an American president — i.e. Bernie Sanders — can lead the world and instead of spending money to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change,” he said. 

– Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenClaire McCaskill: Young girls ‘are now aspiring’ to be like Warren, Klobuchar after debate Booker releases list of campaign bundlers Klobuchar raises more than M in online donations since debate MORE (D-Mass.) explained how she would handle nuclear energy: “We need to keep some of our nuclear in place. I will not build new nuclear. I want to put the energy, literally, and the money and resources behind clean energy.”

 

FORMALDEHYDE: If you’ve been following the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s battle with the EPA, the decision to move formaldehyde through the Toxic Substances Control Act process may have raised eyebrows.

The move comes after the committee subpoenaed the agency last month following questions about conflicts of interests from EPA employees that slowed further study of the health impacts of formaldehyde.

EPA officials called the subpoenas “reckless and unjustified” in November.

In December 2018, the EPA removed formaldehyde and nine other chemical assessments entirely from its program outlook. It was later reported that David Dunlap, a top EPA official overseeing the agency’s research office, failed to recuse himself from overseeing the study despite his prior role as a chemicals expert for Koch Industries.

Emails showed Dunlap, who leads the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, continued to participate in conversations about formaldehyde despite his previous ties to companies that produce it, and despite alerting ethics officials he planned to recuse himself. 

Read more here. 

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-People Have A Fundamental Right To Be Protected From Climate Change, Netherlands Supreme Court Ruling Says, Buzzfeed reports.

-The Guardian: Canadian police were prepared to shoot indigenous protesters protecting land from pipeline, The Guardian reports.

-Switzerland shuts down 47-year-old nuclear power plant in live broadcast, the Associated Press reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from Friday…

Mine company worked closely with Alaska governor to push for restriction rollback: report

DOE announces another lightbulb efficiency rollback

The Guardian: Canadian police were prepared to shoot indigenous protesters protecting land from pipeline

EPA pursues stricter regulation of formaldehyde amid House subpoena

14 states sue EPA over rollback of Obama-era water rule

Sanders: Instead of weapons funding we should pool resources to fight climate change

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