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In This List

US EPA shakes up clean air advisory board; Senate OKs top environmental lawyer

Essential Energy Insights - September, 2020

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US EPA shakes up clean air advisory board; Senate OKs top environmental lawyer

US EPA's response for evidence to support Pruitt's climate views lacking

After a judge ordered it to do so, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered no evidence supporting its former administrator's claim that human activity is not the main cause of climate change, according to a federal government employee advocacy group.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, sued the EPA for documents that informed Scott Pruitt's conclusions. PEER said the EPA provided 11 records related to climate change. All of the records were different versions of the same document, which contained EPA's answers to questions posed by members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works following Pruitt's testimony in front of the panel on Jan. 30. The EPA declined to address the questions directly.

Researcher: Draft DOE report downplays onsite fuel's role in grid resilience

Onsite fuel storage at power plants does not play a critical role in grid resilience, according to the head of a research group that helped prepare a draft report on a study requested by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Michael Webber, who heads the University of Texas-Austin's Webber Energy Group, said in an Oct. 12 tweet that the organization wrote a draft report on grid resilience with the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory. One of the main findings in that report was that "on-site fuel storage (e.g. coal) isn't a critical factor for resilience, rather it's one of many factors." Despite the significance of the finding in light of the DOE's resilience concerns, Webber said the report "hasn't seen the light of day, yet."

US EPA makes major changes to key air pollution advisory committee

Acting U.S. Environmental Protection Administrator Andrew Wheeler has made a flurry of changes to a key scientific advisory committee that helps set national air quality standards.

Wheeler on Oct. 10 placed five new members on the agency's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, which has traditionally provided independent recommendations to the EPA administrator. The seven-member committee is required under Section 109 of the Clean Air Act, and it gives critical advice related to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, for six air pollutants that are considered harmful to the public and environment, including how the standards should be set with an adequate margin of safety.

PJM official tells lawmakers FERC should act now on resilience

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should quickly offer some direction on the issue of resilience, including fuel security and system restoration after a blackout, PJM Interconnection President Andy Ott told lawmakers Oct. 11 at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The hearing focused on blackstart, which is the process for returning energy to the power grid following a systemwide blackout. "To our friends at the White House and DOE who are continually arguing only a coal-based system is secure, I would offer two facts," Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell of Washington said. "One: without blackstart capability, onsite fuel won't matter when the system is down. And two: clean energy resources can provide resilience, including blackstart capability," she said, citing hydroelectric blackstart facilities in her state.

Senate approves Trump pick to lead Justice Department's environmental division

The U.S. Senate voted Oct. 11 to confirm Jeffrey Clark as Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice's Environmental and Natural Resources Division. The upper chamber voted 52-45 in favor of his nomination, with support divided largely along party lines.

As the federal government's top environmental lawyer, Clark will be the lead attorney on litigation involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's policies and regulations. Clark previously served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's environmental division from 2001 to 2005 during the George W. Bush Administration, where he supervised roughly 75 lawyers and staff across the Appellate and Indian Resources sections. During that time, he argued numerous cases in federal appeals courts and worked on every environmental case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.