Quote of the week:
In recent weeks, [Congress has] advanced a handful of legislative measures that echo and extend various presidential orders meant to boost coal, oil and gas production and set aside consideration of climate change.
“They [Congress] are … covering their bases by trying to legislate the rolling back of these safeguards because the process to repeal, undo or rewrite a regulation is as lengthy as the public process that helped establish the standard in the first place,” explained Melinda Pierce, chief lobbyist for the Sierra Club. “And, of course, any attempt to roll back environmental or public health standards can and will be challenged in court.”
Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
See below, Federal Actions, for details.
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STATE ACTION LIST:
PRIORITY ACTION: HB542 STILL TOP OF THE LIST
Only three Senate Democrats voted against throwing the DEP under the bus to gain $108 million in severance tax revenue against a $2.1 billion budget deficit.
The devil in the details:
Again State Rep. Greg Vitali (Delaware, Montgomery counties) speaks up for environmental policy good sense, this time in an editorial at Philly.com
Call your House Representative, set up a meeting if you are in Mike Sturla’s district, and tell him we need a Severance Tax on Natural Gas that doesn’t include weakening environmental protections.
Some notes from last Thursday’s phone call conference with Adam Garber of Penn Environment:
This budget bill is headed to the state House and the vote could be as early as August 21, although it may be until right after Labor Day.
It is not looking good. Some of our best allies may have to vote for it just to get the budget done and to give Wolf a win.
Our job is to create such a din of public opposition that our best allies have to prevent this bill.
Some of the results of passage of this budget will be . . .
People with close financial ties to projects will be reviewing the permits.
Under third party permit review there is no requirement that reviewers hear public comments.
These sort of sacrifices to our health and environment are of such enormous consequences that we cannot let it go through.
Legislators understand this is a bad environmental proposal and are making a political calculation. Environmental groups are looking at legal challenges if it passes
There are serious concerns it will undermine the state’s ability to meet EPA standards, but Washington cannot be depended on now to uphold those standards.
We have about three weeks to stop them.
Need to generate 1,000s of calls from concerned members
Letters to the editor; focus on how this will impact each of our lives
Set up meetings with state legislators / letters to the editor
Tell Gov. Wolf that this sort of horsetrading is unacceptable. We want clean air and clean water.
Penn Environment advised meeting with Mike Sturla to discuss these bill provisions.
MORE STATE PRIORITY ACTIONS FROM PA TOGETHER
PA Together Weekly Call to Action Plan
FEDERAL ACTION LIST / VERY LONG THIS WEEK 🙁
PRIORITY ACTION (FOURTH WEEK)
S1460 Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017
This isn’t over yet, it’s on the Senate calendar and Govtrack.up has upped the chance of this passing the Senate from 25% to 57%.
Toomey/Casey get good press for trying to establish the Susquehanna National Heritage Center through Congressional action. Unfortunately, this effort is included on page 670 of the 892-page S1460 Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017.
Tell Toomey, Casey, and Smucker that incentivizing still more fossil fuel development is 100% wrong: vote no on S.1460.
FOUR VERY BAD BILLS and A BUDGET DIRTY PLAY
A good review of environmentally devastating upcoming bills/budget issues is always hard to find. Marianne Lavelle offers just that, see summaries from her analysis below:
Waters of the U.S. Rule repeal hidden in House budget.
A rider that the GOP tucked into an $800 billion budget bill would hurry the repeal and reduce possibilities for legal challenge of the “Waters of the U.S. Rule”.
The Trump administration already has begun rescinding the rule, which was written to protect wetlands from dredge and fill material and created new permitting and reporting requirements that the oil, gas and coal industry abhor.
The budget provision passed by the House last week allows for withdrawal of Obama’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule without public notice, comment or any of the other requirements that apply to federal departments and agencies.
After a mere 10-minute debate the majority by voice vote flicked away a Democratic effort to remove the provision, which now could be folded into must-pass budget legislation for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
“That doesn’t sound like America to me,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), calling it “a very slippery slope to government by fiat.”
S.263 Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017
The house version of this bill passed on July 18. Both versions are designed to help EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt delay implementation of the Obama administration’s standards regulating smog emissions for a year. The House-passed legislation would give states until 2025 to comply with the revised standards and would change long-standing law to allow the EPA to revise the standards every 10 years instead of every five.
H.R. 1778 To provide that an order by the Secretary of the Interior imposing a moratorium on Federal coal leasing shall not take …
… effect unless a joint resolution of approval is enacted, and for other purposes
Under an order signed by Trump, secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke lifted the moratorium on federal coal leasing the Obama administration put in place in its final year. Obama’s order provided time to conduct the first review in decades of coal royalty rates, especially in light of coal’s role in climate change.
Zinke’s move is being challenged in court by four states, environmental groups and a Native American tribe in Montana.
Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) H.R. 1778 requires future administrations to seek Congressional permission before imposing any such moratorium—circumscribing the authority that the Interior Department has had under federal mining law since 1920.
2883 Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act
Senate bill not published yet; the House bill, passed on July 19, would ensure no future president can act to block an oil or gas pipeline or electric power project that crosses a U.S. border, as President Obama did with Keystone XL. The bill would take away presidential permitting authority and put decisions in the hands of a small independent agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has the mission of ensuring reliable energy for consumers at reasonable rates.
If enacted, the law “tips the scales in favor of massive controversial oil and gas pipeline and electric transmission projects,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), voicing futile opposition on the House floor. All Republicans and 17 Democrats voted for the bill.
H.R. 3117: Transparency and Honesty in Energy Regulations Act of 2017
This bill attacks considerations of the “social cost of carbon” calculations in regulatory decision-making. That is a method used by economists to estimate in today’s dollars the damages expected to be caused in the future by current emissions of greenhouse gases.
It’s a key concept in conducting cost-benefit calculations while keeping in mind that the harm from today’s pollution continues long into the future.
Evan Jenkins’ (WVa-R) bill mimics the wording of Trump’s March 28 executive order requiring federal policymakers to look back to guidance from President George W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on how to calculate the social cost of carbon. That approach gets around a legal problem: federal courts have made clear the costs of greenhouse gas pollution need to be weighed in regulatory decision-making. But under the 2003 OMB guidance, carbon emissions can be calculated as having zero cost or even benefits. (The guidance steeply discounts future impacts and allows for no consideration of effects outside U.S. borders.)
NRDC Legislative Director Scott Slesinger said the result is a perverse elimination of climate change from the environmental cost and benefit analysis that the law requires. “It’s like saying ‘Let’s look at the health impact of cigarette smoking, but don’t count cancer’,” he said. Jordan, of the League of Conservation Voters, called it “seeking to codify climate denial.”
CONTACT CASEY/TOOMEY/OR SMUCKER ON THESE BILLS.
TWO PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES
OFFSHORE DRILLING AND DEVELOPMENT
The Department of Interior is seeking public comments on the impacts of offshore drilling and development.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is seeking public comments on the impacts of offshore drilling and development. COMMENTS ARE DUE 17 AUGUST
COMMENT PERIOD REOPENED FOR REVIEW OF NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARIES AND MARINE NATIONAL MONUMENTS
The US Department of Commerce is reopening the comment period for its review of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments that have been designated or expanded over the past decade. The original comment period ended July 26. The reopened comment period will officially be from July 31 – August 14.
The purpose of the reopening is “to ensure the public has maximum opportunity to participate in this review process.” Comments already submitted in the original period do not need to be resubmitted.
67,452 comments have been received electronically so far, according to the comment page. The review carries the potential threats of downsizing, deregulating, or delisting the involved sites (including five monuments and six sanctuaries) in the interest of opening up more US ocean area for energy development,
Columbia Law Center Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
NEW! A comprehensive listing of pending environmental lawsuits