BORDER WALL HITS ANOTHER WALL: Three groups are suing the Trump administration over a plan to allocate an additional $3.8 billion in Department of Defense (DOD) funding for the border wall.
“The president is doubling down on his unlawful scheme to raid taxpayer funds for a xenophobic campaign promise that is destroying national treasures, harming the environment, and desecrating tribal lands,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The ACLU, along with the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), filed the suit in federal court in California on Friday.
Background: DOD notified Congress this month that it would transfer an additional $3.8 billion to be used for the wall.
The notice to Congress said that the money would come from weapons programs like the F-35 fighter jet and would go toward the “support of higher priority items.”
It said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “has identified areas along the southern border of the United States that are being used by individuals, groups, and transnational criminal organizations as drug smuggling corridors, and determined that the construction of additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border is necessary in order to impede and deny drug smuggling activities.”
Why the groups are suing: The new lawsuit claims that the administration has “acted to circumvent Congress’s exclusive control over appropriations” and that its action “will have devastating effects on the environment.”
“The Trump administration’s illegal transfer of billions of dollars for wall construction has created a disaster in the borderlands,” said Sierra Club managing attorney Gloria Smith in a statement.
“The destruction of cultural sites, Tribal burial grounds, endangered species, protected cacti and water resources shows that Trump will stop at nothing for this wall — not irreplaceable resources nor the Constitution,” Smith added.
Last year, President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE declared a national emergency and announced that he would reallocate Defense Department funds to construction of the border wall after Congress did not allocate as much money as he wanted for the project in the federal budget.
Following that move, several groups accused the president of overreach. The Sierra Club, ACLU and SBCC previously sued the Trump administration over that decision.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that the administration could start using military funds for construction at the border, overturning a prior ruling that halted the use of those funds while litigation continues.
HAPPY FRIDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.
NEW LEASE ON LIFE: A federal judge on Thursday voided five oil and gas leases on public lands that amounted to nearly a million acres, arguing that the Trump administration wrongly excluded public input.
The Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity argued in court that a 2018 Trump administration policy for handling oil and gas leasing on land where sage grouse can be found unlawfully restricted public participation.
Federal Judge Ronald E. Bush ruled in their favor. Bush voided the five lease sales and required that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) change its procedures for oil and gas lease sales that are wholly or partially within sage grouse habitat management areas.
The BLM in 2018 issued an instruction memorandum that allowed the agency to determine that public comment is not required for a certain part of the leasing procedure. The change aimed to “expedite the offering of lands for lease.”
Agency spokesman Derrick Henry told The Hill in a statement on the court’s decision that the BLM remains “committed to a simpler, more effective leasing process.”
“We have been working within our legal authorities to alleviate or eliminate unnecessary and burdensome regulations, while at the same time upholding public health and environmental protections, including sage-grouse conservation,” Henry said.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, touted the ruling as a victory.
“The judge confirmed that it’s illegal to silence the public to expand fossil-fuel extraction. It’s a win for millions of acres of our beautiful public lands and a major blow to the Trump administration’s corrupt efforts to serve corporate polluters,” said Taylor McKinnon, a senior campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.
“The court wasn’t fooled by the agency’s efforts to disguise its intention to provide greater influence to extractive energies, and the sage grouse and 350 other sagebrush-dependent species will benefit from today’s win,” said a statement from Western Watersheds Project attorney Talasi Brooks
Sage grouse can be found in the Western U.S. Male birds put on a famously elaborate mating ritual, puffing out yellow-green sacs in their chest to attract females while making a highly distinctive sound.
NOT A BAN FAN: Presidential hopeful Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergBloomberg: ‘I’m going to stay right to the bitter end’ of Democratic primary race The Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Bloomberg defends Muslim surveillance policy post-9/11 MORE would not reinstate the oil export ban, the campaign told Reuters Friday.
The ban, which started in the 1970s as energy prices soared, prevented the U.S. from shipping any oil overseas.
Bloomberg told the outlet that reinstating the ban, as other 2020 contenders have proposed, would hurt the U.S. economy while boosting Saudi Arabia and Russia as they filled the market void.
“Mike will not reinstate the ban,” Bloomberg spokeswoman Daphne Wang told Reuters in an email.
“After President Obama lifted the ban, for the first time in decades, the world became less dependent on Middle East and Russian oil and gas. Mike would be reluctant to take actions that could upset that balance.”
Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBloomberg: ‘I’m going to stay right to the bitter end’ of Democratic primary race The Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Sanders holds 13-point lead in Fox News poll MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersBloomberg: ‘I’m going to stay right to the bitter end’ of Democratic primary race The Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE (I-Vt.) and fellow hopeful Tom SteyerTom Fahr SteyerSanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary South Carolina poll: Biden leads Sanders by 4 points Bloomberg outspends field in Facebook ads ahead of Super Tuesday MORE have called for reinstating the ban, while former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary Sanders holds 13-point lead in Fox News poll MORE, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBloomberg: ‘I’m going to stay right to the bitter end’ of Democratic primary race The Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Delegate count unchanged after Iowa caucus recount completed MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders holds 13-point lead in Fox News poll Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win Bloomberg outspends field in Facebook ads ahead of Super Tuesday MORE have not publicly stated their position.
BLENDING IN: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday announced it would provide $100 million grants to promote higher blends of ethanol into the fuel supply.
The U.S. market currently caps out with fuels that are 15 percent ethanol, E15, though many gas stations only offer gasoline with a 10 percent blend.
USDA announced last week that it would seek to promote a 30 percent blend as part of an effort to reduce the environmental impacts of the ag industry.
The announcement follows other wins for the ethanol industry, including a decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled the EPA would have to reconsider waivers given to three refineries exempted from adding ethanol to their products.
But the USDA grants could reignite a familiar battle with the oil industry, which has resisted mandates to blend a certain amount of ethanol into fuel.
The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents refineries, said the grants, which could help fund infrastructure needed to bring higher blend fuel to the market, aren’t necessary.
“If there was a strong consumer market for E15, retail stations would invest in the infrastructure themselves,” the group said in a statement.
MAILBAG: A coalition of major environmental groups alongside green energy industries is asking lawmakers to pass a number of tax incentives for various forms of clean energy.
“Updating and extending tax incentives for clean energy, energy storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles is essential for addressing climate change, and we cannot afford further delay,” the groups, which included the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council along with industry groups for renewables.
The letter to both House Finance and Ways and Means committee lawmakers came shortly after many environmental groups criticized a new energy bill introduced in the Senate for relying too heavily on research and development over financial incentives for green technology that already exists.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK:
On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the role of nuclear in a clean energy future.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider the nomination of James Danly to be a FERC commissioner.
Afterwards Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette will stop by as the committee considers the Energy Department budget.
On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will review Interior’s budget.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on reforming recycling.
House Appropriations will hold a hearing on the National Nuclear Security Administration budget.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold hearing on a number of national parks bills.
On Thursday the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear from the International Energy Agency.
OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY:
Ski racing community starts to back away from toxic wax, the Associated Press reports.
Trump wants prime-time climate science challenge, E&E News reports.
Can you really negate your carbon emissions? Carbon offsets, explained by Vox.
Oregon House Democrats vote to subpoena missing Republicans on climate change bill, The Oregonian reports.