IT’S 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.
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ALL PART OF THE PLAN: The Trump administration is prepared to step up its efforts to change how science and climate benefits are calculated in rulemaking if the president is reelected.
The EPA has proposed rules that would make these changes, which critics fear could undermine the ability of future administrations to take regulatory action.
Another major piece of Trump’s agenda that hasn’t yet been finalized and could fall to a second term is a plan for offshore drilling.
Environmentalists argue that in light of this, the environmental stakes for Tuesday’s election are huge.
Read more about what 2021 could bring here.
NO FRACKIN WAY: President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump in survey of Texas voters from left-leaning pollster On The Trail: Making sense of Super Poll Sunday Trump rebukes FBI for investigating supporters accused of harassing Biden bus MORE this weekend directed his administration to put together a report on what the effects would be of putting a ban or tighter restrictions on fracking, a controversial oil and gas extraction method he’s sought to emphasize his support for on the campaign trail.
The president on Saturday issued a memo directing Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to submit reports within 70 days on both the economic and national security implications of banning or restricting fracking.
The order comes as President Trump has sought to differentiate himself from his Democratic opponent, Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump in survey of Texas voters from left-leaning pollster On The Trail: Making sense of Super Poll Sunday Trump rebukes FBI for investigating supporters accused of harassing Biden bus MORE, on the issue and has continued to falsely say that Biden wants to ban fracking.
While Biden has said he does not want to get rid of fracking — except for the issuance of new fracking permits on public land — he said during a recent town hall that it has to be “managed very, very well.”
He also has called for carbon neutrality by 2050, which would likely require reduced dependence on fossil fuels.
Fracking is a method of extracting oil and gas from rocks that is used by industry in states such as Pennsylvania, an important battleground in the presidential election. It’s controversial because it has been linked to water contamination.
Read more on the order here.
STAFF UP: A dwindling number of Environmental Protection Agency lab inspectors for studies supporting pesticide re-approval is prompting industry calls for more government oversight.
The EPA has just five inspectors tasked with evaluating the laboratory practices of hundreds of labs that conduct studies surrounding pesticide regulations, marking a steady decline over the past 25 years for the officials in charge of inspecting compliance with the agency’s Good Laboratory Practice Standards.
Those standards were adopted decades ago after major issues in private lab testing were uncovered by investigators. Now, inspectors review reports deemed suspicious and carry out spot inspections that function much like an IRS audit and are seen as a way to prevent fraudulent research.
CropLife America, a major industry group whose members include companies like Bayer CropScience, John Deere and PepsiCo., is among those pushing the EPA for more lab inspections.
Read more here.
Wastewater… A coalition of nine environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday over its move to weaken regulations governing wastewater from coal-fired power plants.
In August, the EPA finalized a rule loosening requirements for treating discharges of toxic pollution from power plants that were set by the Obama administration. It also delayed the implementation of the requirements and exempted some plants.
Groups suing the agency argued that the rule is bad for water quality.
“Trump’s EPA is propping up a dying industry that has put our health at risk for decades, and fueled the climate crisis, by giving them a free pass to continue to dump deadly pollution into our water. This rule puts the most vulnerable communities at further risk,” said a statement from Clean Water Action’s Water Programs Director Jennifer Peters.
An EPA spokesperson declined to comment, saying that the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Read more on the suit here.
Oversight for our environmental agencies… The Supreme Court on Monday heard a case likely to have implications for whether federal agencies can withhold from the public documents showing the government’s internal deliberations.
The case was brought by the Sierra Club after it was denied documents associated with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water intake regulation that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) initially determined would be harmful to endangered species.
The EPA took that draft opinion under advisement, ultimately drafting a rule the service found would not adversely affect protected species.
At stake in the case are the deliberations that took place at FWS and whether the government is obligated to turn over documents that can show heated debates over government policies.
Read more on the arguments here.
ON TAP TOMORROW:
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Putting a pipeline through a forest: a foregone conclusion? asks The Roanoke Times
Trump rolled back more than 125 environmental safeguards. Here’s how, The Washington Post reports
More than 700 acres of ancestral land returned to Penobscot Nation, The Portland Press Herald reports
FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:
Trump’s energy plan will cost the nation trillions, writes Shahir Masri, an air pollution scientist at the University of California at Irvine.