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EPA to deny pleas to review Clean Power Plan; Trump urged to drop CPP defense

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EPA to deny pleas to review Clean Power Plan; Trump urged to drop CPP defense

Protecting Obama's legacy, EPA moves to deny requests to review Clean Power Plan

The U.S. EPA for the most part intends to deny 38 petitions for review of the Clean Power Plan, reserving complaints about how the carbon-cutting rule handles biomass and waste-to-energy facilities to be addressed at another time. The agency also brushed aside 22 petitions for an administrative stay of the rule.

"Now that EPA is changing hands, there is a legitimate concern by the current EPA leadership that the petitions would be granted by the Trump administration so the Obama administration is acting now," Elizabeth Gore, a policy director for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, said. "There is nothing nefarious about this. The EPA and other agencies are working to protect the current administration's policies and are using all of their legal and administrative tools to accomplish that."

Senate GOP leader urges Trump to drop Clean Power Plan defense, overturn rules

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked Donald Trump to drop the government's legal defense of the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule and rescind those and other regulations for the energy sector once the president-elect enters office.

McConnell's letter took aim at frequently targeted Obama administration rules that Republicans hope to repeal through congressional or direct executive action with Trump as president. The lawmaker said getting rid of those regulations could help level the playing field for the U.S. coal industry, which he asserted has declined largely due to "President Barack Obama's War on Coal."

Foes, allies offer last word as Trump EPA pick prepares to face Congress

Scott Pruitt will face questions from Congress Jan. 18 in his quest to become the next administrator of the U.S. EPA. The hearing follows weeks of divisive commentary from environmental groups, industry members and members of Congress casting doubt or raining praise on the Oklahoma Attorney General.

"He doesn't have a single environmental achievement to his name, doesn't believe in the agency's mission, and has made a career out of suing the EPA to try to block it from doing its job as the guardian of our environment and health," Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh wrote in a blog post.

In contrast, industry stakeholders have been voicing their support of Pruitt. The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a coalition of energy companies that oppose the Clean Power Plan, told the EPW committee leaders in a Jan. 17 letter that Pruitt is "highly professional, thoughtful and effective" at representing his state.

Democrats to scrutinize Pruitt's industry ties at EPA confirmation hearing

Senate Democrats promised to take a close look at U.S. EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt's relationship with the fossil fuel industry and his work to block mercury and climate regulations as part of a Jan. 18 confirmation hearing.

"A lot of these controversial nominees have been rammed, jammed and stacked through the Senate in unprecedented ways," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said. "So I do think it's important for us as an institution to slow down that process and make sure that FBI background checks, financial disclosure requirements and the ethics agreements between incoming nominees and their agencies have all been worked through and we have a chance to ask questions about that."

Green groups seek to intervene in Utah counties' suit over coal lease moratorium

Five environmental groups filed a motion Jan. 13 to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit filed by two Utah counties seeking to reverse a moratorium on federal coal leasing.

WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra Club, the Western Organization of Resource Councils, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Center for Biological Diversity are petitioning the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division to allow them to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24.

Westerners stand to lose from DOI's coal lease review, coal advocates say

Westerners in states like Montana and Wyoming stand to lose the most from changes suggested in a new federal coal lease review released by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the last days of the outgoing administration.

"Despite my efforts to ensure Montanans' voices were heard in a meaningful way, the Obama administration has denied their input and put forth ideas for reforms to the federal coal program that would jeopardize good-paying jobs and tax revenue that support our schools, roads and essential services for our rural communities, including the Crow Tribe," Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said in a statement.

Federal watchdog finds coal companies getting special deal with self-bonding

A new report by a federal watchdog agency has found that surface coal mining companies are allowed special bonding provisions that no other type of mining and energy companies can access.

"Surface coal mining is the only activity we reviewed for which federal requirements allow real property — collateral in the form of real estate — or self-bonding," said a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office publicly released Jan. 17 ahead of the confirmation hearing of Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., the pick of the incoming Trump administration to lead the Department of the Interior.

Court sets July 1 deadline for EPA to weigh damage to coal sector

A U.S. District Court judge ordered the U.S. EPA to evaluate the loss and shifts in employment in the coal industry and other affected sectors by July 1.

The Jan. 11 order requires the EPA to identify facilities that its regulations put at risk of closure or reductions in employment as a result of its rules. It also requires identifying the potential loss and shifts in numbers employed, identifying affected communities "and the reasonably foreseeable impacts on families and industries reliant on coal."

Jewell says onus is on coal communities to hold Trump administration to account

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell says that it will be up to local communities in coal country to hold the incoming administration to account for putting people back to work with sustainable jobs.

"Let's be honest about that. Let's talk about the very real needs in these communities. Let's talk about healthcare and pensions for miners with companies that are going bankrupt because the industry is not economic," she said at a forum at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy on Jan. 11.