The Senate will consider a reform to energy permitting in exchange for Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) support for the reconciliation bill, a chemical lobbying group sues over the EPA’s forever chemicals moves and the federal government will end a Trump-era drilling plan for central California.
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Senate to take up environmental permitting reform
Democratic Senate leadership and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have reached an agreement to reform federal energy permitting in exchange for Manchin’s support for a larger social spending package, according to a summary obtained by The Hill.
According to the agreement, first reported by The Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Senate leaders will take up a bill to fast-track the permitting process. The deal would set a two-year ceiling on the environmental review process for major energy projects and place interagency reviews under the authority of a single lead agency.
It would set a statute of limitations for legal challenges to new energy projects and, in cases where a court throws out a permit for such projects, set a “reasonable schedule and deadline” of no longer than 180 days.
What else? It also includes completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that has been a pet project for the West Virginia senator. In March, months after Manchin seemingly torpedoed an earlier climate bill, he floated the idea of President Biden invoking the Defense Production Act to complete the project.
But: The report comes nearly one week after Manchin announced he will back the Inflation Reduction Act, a climate, tax and drug spending package, shortly after seemingly walking away from talks on the matter.
The side deal would not be part of reconciliation, the legislative process Democrats plan to use for the new bill, which only requires a simple majority. This would mean the 50-50 Senate would need the support of multiple Republican senators to pass the measure.
Although a number of factors contribute to gas prices, congressional Republicans have frequently assailed the Biden administration as throwing up roadblocks to energy production. The administration has defended itself by pointing to factors like unused leases currently held by energy companies and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which sent prices skyrocketing earlier this year.
Chemical trade group sues EPA
A trade group representing American chemical manufacturers has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over new nonbinding advisories for so-called toxic “forever chemicals.”
In the complaint, announced Saturday, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said new EPA advisories governing two forms of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contravene the agency’s own scientific integrity practices.
“ACC supports the development of drinking water standards for PFAS based on the best available science. However, EPA’s revised Lifetime Health Advisories (LHAs) for PFOA and PFOS reflect a failure of the Agency to follow its accepted practice for ensuring the scientific integrity of its process,” the trade group said in a statement.
“While they are ‘non-regulatory levels,’ LHAs will have sweeping implications for policies at the state and federal levels. Getting the science right is of critical importance and we have an obligation to challenge these advisories based on the underlying science and the flawed process,” the statement continued.
How we got here: The two types of chemicals were the subject of a November draft announcement from the EPA indicating that both were hazardous at far lower levels than previously thought, and PFOA in particular is “likely” a carcinogen in humans.
Both substances are found in drinking water, while PFOS has been detected in water- and stain-resistant products and PFOA has been found in cosmetics and nonstick crockery.
The Biden administration has not announced any legally binding action on the chemicals, but the EPA under Administrator Michael Regan has identified PFAS regulation as a priority, and the EPA has announced a goal of 2023 for broader regulations on the two substances.
Feds agree to reverse Trump-era drilling decision
California officials on Monday announced a settlement reversing a Trump-era decision opening central California to new oil and gas drilling on public lands.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) and a trio of state agencies against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2020. Newsom and Bonta joined the state Air Resources Board Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Water Resources in a challenge to BLM plans to allow drilling on more than 1 million acres of public lands.
The officials alleged the plan would open up the lands without a proper environmental review or an analysis of its impact on local residents.
The terms of the Monday settlement include a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing while the BLM conducts a more thorough review. The agency specifically agreed to conduct a new supplemental environmental impact statement before holding any new lease sales. The California officials will also reserve the right to dispute or challenge the replacement statement, according to Bonta’s office.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Climate deal’s CO2 cuts swamp fossil fuel emissions: analysis (Axios)
- Wildfire Pollution May Play a Surprising Role in the Fate of Arctic Sea Ice (Inside Climate News)
- Texas power use to break records again this week – ERCOT (Reuters)
- Sewage sludge contaminated with toxic forever chemicals spread on thousands of acres of Chicago-area farmland (The Chicago Tribune)
- Northern California’s McKinney wildfire grows to 51K acres
- Biden expedites aid to Kentucky flooding survivors as search and rescue continues in state
- Kentucky governor says he’s worried officials will find bodies ‘for weeks to come’ after floods
- House passes 48-bill wildfire-protection package
Lighter click: This is why we have editors.
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