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Overnight Energy & Environment — EPA green-lights California car standards

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today we’re looking at the EPA giving California back control over its clean car standards, Georgia’s plan to suspend the gas tax and the secretary of State’s response to increased UAE oil production.

Let’s jump in.

California’s authority on emissions restored

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Wednesday it would reinstate California’s authority to set its own clean car standards after the state’s authority was revoked by the Trump administration.

The standards, which have been adopted by other states, have been more stringent than federal standards and are expected to push the market toward electric vehicles.

So what does this mean? the EPA’s actions allowed California to once again set its own limits on how much planet-warming gases cars can emit and mandate a certain amount of electric vehicle sales.

The EPA also reinstated the ability of states to use the California standards instead of the federal standards.

“Today we proudly reaffirm California’s longstanding authority to lead in addressing pollution from cars and trucks,” EPA Administrator Michael ReganMichael ReganOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden pushes to curb truck pollution Pentagon shutting down fuel tank facility in Hawaii that leaked into drinking water Second Joint Base Andrews intruder at large after search MORE said in a statement.

He added the move reinstates “an approach that for years has helped advance clean technologies and cut air pollution for people not just in California but for the US as a whole.”

The story so far: In 2019, the Trump administration revoked a waiver that allowed California to set its own vehicle standards and argued that having one standard for the whole country provided more certainty for the automotive industry.

At that time, the industry was divided, with some automakers siding with the Trump administration in litigation and others inking a deal with California to undercut Trump-era clean car rollbacks.

On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomNewsom proposes rebate for California to counter surging gas prices Overnight Health Care — Presented by Alexion — Manchin pitch sparks Democratic exasperation Newsom unveils plan for California mental health courts to help homeless MORE (D) celebrated the decision.

“I thank the Biden Administration for righting the reckless wrongs of the Trump Administration and recognizing our decades-old authority to protect Californians and our planet,” Newsom said in a statement.

“The restoration of our state’s Clean Air Act waiver is a major victory for the environment, our economy, and the health of families across the country that comes at a pivotal moment underscoring the need to end our reliance on fossil fuels,” he added.

And the EPA argued that the Trump administration’s move was “inappropriate,” saying that the waiver didn’t contain factual errors, so it shouldn’t have been revoked, among other arguments.

Read more about the announcement here.

Blinken touts UAE support for producing oil

Secretary of State Anthony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — More help headed Ukraine’s way Poland says it’s transferring MiG fighters to US base amid Ukraine pleas for help UN human rights chief says China trip will include stop in Xinjiang MORE on Wednesday welcomed statements from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that the country supports increasing oil production to offset rising prices as the US and its allies seek to alienate Russia from the oil market over its invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken called it “important” for OPEC+, a grouping of oil-exporting nations, to increase oil production to “stabilize global energy markets, to make sure that there remains an abundant supply of energy around the world.”

UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba reportedly said shortly before Blinken’s remarks that Abu Dhabi favors “production increases and will be encouraging OPEC to consider higher production levels,” according to the Financial Times.

The remarks from the Emirati envoy follow those made by Blinken on Tuesday speaking with his counterpart in the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, with the secretary saying they had “spent a fair bit of time on the phone.”

A readout of the call provided by the State Department said that Blinken “reiterated the value of close coordination on Ukraine and the importance of building a strong international response to support Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty following Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked and unlawful invasion. The Secretary also underscored the US commitment to help the UAE bolster its strong defensive capabilities against threats from Yemen and elsewhere in the region.”

How we got here: The US, which is not part of OPEC+, has for months pushed for a faster rate of supply increases to combat high gasoline prices, though the countries had previously not looked into the issue.

During the pandemic, OPEC+ cut supply in response to decreased demand for oil as fewer people were traveling and commuting. As economies reopened and demand bounced back, the group has stuck to steady increases of 400,000 barrels per day.

In recent weeks, oil prices have risen even higher amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, putting an additional strain on consumers in the US and worldwide.

Read more from Rachel Frazin and The Hill’s Laura Kelly.

GEORGIA PLANS TO HALT GAS TAX

Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempFox News poll: Kemp leads Perdue in Georgia GOP governor primary Kemp drops millions on ad buy ahead of Georgia primary The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden goes after Putin, stresses unity MORE (R) on Wednesday announced that he and the state’s General Assembly would work to temporarily halt state gas taxes, citing drastically rising fuel prices.

In a press release, Kemp’s office noted that average gas prices in Georgia have risen more than 50 percent in the past year. The tax suspension would take effect when Kemp signs the legislation, which he said in to Twitter post he is working with the Georgia House and Senate to “quickly move,” and last through the end of May.

“Because of our strong, fiscally conservative approach to budgeting, Lt. Governor [Geoff] Duncan [R]speaker [David] ralston [R]and I can confidently propose a state motor fuel tax suspension to curb sky-high gas prices while also returning money back to hardworking Georgians through a tax refund and an income tax cut,” Kemp said in a statement.

“With this latest measure, we are making it even more clear that in Georgia we are going to empower families to keep their money in their own pockets,” he added.

Kemp also sought to place blame for the high prices on President BidenJoe BidenBiden phones family of American detained in Russia Susan Collins praises Biden’s Supreme Court pick after meeting Former Bernie Sanders press secretary: proposed defense budget includes excessive amount for private contractors MOREthough experts say that presidents have only a limited impact on the global market.

Read more from The Hill’s Joseph Choi.

AIR PRESSURE

Nearly 50 million Americans are exposed to higher levels of air pollution as a result of discriminatory “redlining” policies decades after the practice was officially outlawed, according to research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

Black and Latino Americans across income levels live in areas with higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, according to the research. A major factor in these findings is the practice of redlining, or classifying minority neighborhoods as riskier for investment, thereby restricting residents’ access to loans or insurance.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley compared Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) maps from the 1930s to 2010 air pollution levels in 202 cities comprising 75 percent of US city-dwellers. They found a high correlation between air pollution levels and worse HOLC grades, with nitrogen oxide 50 percent higher in neighborhoods receiving a “D” grade than in those receiving an “A.”

The researchers also found racial and ethnic disparities within the grades as well, with white residents at less risk for exposure to both fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide than Black and Latino residents. This suggests that while redlining played a role in the disparities, other racially discriminatory practices, possibly more recent ones, also contributed to the environmental inequalities.

Read more about the study here.

OMNIBUS FOR THE REST OF US

The new compromise omnibus bill provides modest increases in funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Interior Department and Energy Department.

The EPA will get a nearly 4 percent bump and Interior will get an approximately 6 percent increase. Not including emergency funds from last year, the Energy Department will get an approximately 7 percent bump.

The funding came as part of a $1.5 trillion bipartisan deal to fund the government.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • US officials reverse course on pesticide’s harm to wildlife (The Associated Press)
  • Ukraine sees risk of radiation leak at Chernobyl, IAEA sees ‘no critical impact’ on safety (Reuters)
  • Russia crisis may drive US natural gas surges (E&E News)

ICYMI

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Squid vicious

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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