Energy & Environment — What happens in a ‘climate emergency’?


Today we’ll look at the implications of a potential national climate emergency declaration.

Plus: A key Senate panel deadlocks again on Laura Daniel-Davis’s Interior Department nomination, and heat advisories hit more than 100 million people.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Subscribe here.

What declaring national climate emergency would do

Facing mounting pressure to act on climate change and little hope of passing major legislation, President Biden may soon declare a national climate emergency.

  • The White House has said that such a move won’t come this week but is still on the table.
  • Experts told The Hill that declaring a national emergency could open up additional avenues to fight climate change, but also comes with political risks.

What would it mean? Mark Nevitt, a professor at the Emory University’s School of Law, described the declaration as a “skeleton key” that “unlocks the door” to other powers.

“It’s not a silver bullet. It could create a backlash,” he added. “The question is, does it outweigh the political risk?”

  • The declaration would empower Biden to use the Defense Production Act, which could provide loans that could bolster clean energy deployment.
  • It would also allow him to use the International Economic Emergency Protection Act, which Nevitt said could prohibit the imports of “harmful climate products” such as chemical compounds that warm the planet and illegally harvested timber from the Amazon.

That’s not all: Nevitt said that Biden could deploy military construction powers to build renewable energy projects near military bases or other energy security projects.

Elizabeth Goitein, senior co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, said a climate emergency could enable the Biden administration to take actions like halting crude oil exports and suspending offshore oil leases. However, she noted, the government would have to compensate companies that are leaseholders.

  • She also said that statutes that give the president emergency power over transportation and some financial transactions from overseas could be interpreted creatively.
  • “I’ve heard people selling that the president use this power to essentially lock any buying or of fossil fuels,” she said.

Whatever steps Biden potentially decides to take, declaring climate change an emergency could also be symbolically important, publicly conveying the magnitude of the problem.

Nevitt said it could give the president some political leverage with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who recently backed away from congressional climate talks over concerns about the inflationary impact of additional government spending.

However, Goitein said she was concerned about the precedent of using an emergency declaration in lieu of tackling the climate crisis through Congress.

“My concern is that declaring a national emergency to address climate change would do little to address the actual problem, but would essentially validate the use of emergency powers to address long-standing policy problems,” she said.

Read more about the ramifications here.

Senate panel deadlocks on Biden nominee, again

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday deadlocked 10-10 on a long-delayed vote for a key Interior Department post, setting the stage for a Senate-wide vote on the nomination.

Laura Daniel-Davis, President Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of the Interior for land and minerals management, already faced the panel in November, when it deadlocked on her nomination along party lines.

So what happened? President Biden renominated her in January, and committee Chairman Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) sparked umbrage in March by scheduling a rare, but not first, second hearing for Daniel-Davis at the request of ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo. ).

  • Barrasso has been a frequent critic of Daniel-Davis’s views on oil drilling and on Thursday accused her of “enthusiastically implementing”[ing] the Biden administration’s punishing energy policies.”
  • The Wyoming Republican also took aim at the Interior Department’s recently released draft five-year oil and gas leasing plan, which included an option for no new leases.

Although Manchin voted for Daniel-Davis’s nomination with the rest of the panel’s Democrats, he also expressed displeasure with the current conditions of federal leasing programs while conceding “this is not her fault, and I believe that Ms. Daniel-Davis is incredibly qualified.”

In his own remarks, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), one of the senate’s most vocal critics of the Biden administration’s energy policies, countered, “Maybe it’s not Ms. Laura Daniel-Davis’s fault, but at some point you’ve got to register your complaint, and she becomes the point of complaint.”

Daniel-Davis was originally set to receive a second vote from the panel earlier this year. However, in March Manchin announced a delay on the vote after the second hearing, citing energy concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read more about the hearing here.

More than 100 million under heat advisories in US

More than 100 million people remain under heat advisories or excessive heat warnings Thursday as temperatures across the country hit triple digits.

  • The National Weather Service’s (NWS) Weather Prediction Center tweeted that 60 daily high temperature records have been tied or broken, and additional records will likely be set next week.
  • The Washington Post reported that about 60 million people in at least 16 states will experience high temperatures at or above 100 degrees, and a half dozen other states could reach the upper 90s.

The NWS website shows advisories in place in states like New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas and excessive heat warnings in place in states like Mississippi, Arizona and Nevada.

The NWS said on Thursday that dangerous heat is continuing to hit the southwestern, south-central and eastern United States, and above-normal temperatures will remain for much of the country through the end of the week.

Temperatures will surpass 110 degrees in the southwest and only drop into the 80s at night, and the heat indexes in the southern plains to the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys will top 100 degrees for the next couple days.

Read more about the heatwave here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Federal lawmakers want FERC to back Mountain Valley Pipeline completion (MetroNews)
  • Shell places US Gulf of Mexico assets up for sale –sources (Reuters)
  • The amount of Greenland ice that melted last weekend could cover West Virginia in a foot of water (CNN)
  • Carbon removal is moving full steam ahead. So is climate change. (The Washington Post)

🐓 Lighter click: Game of chicken

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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