Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden seeks to reverse Trump on Arctic drilling

Welcome to Monday’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 Biden administration seeking to reverse Trump on oil drilling in the Arctic, a grim assessment of the cost of climate disasters in 2021, and a return to increased emissions after a pandemic lull. 

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack. 

Let’s jump in.

Officials to reverse Arctic drilling rules
Biden speaks on Jan. 6

The Biden administration is taking steps to reverse a Trump move opening up more of the Arctic for drilling.  

In a statement, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it will seek to reverse a Trump administration plan that would leave more than 82 percent of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska open for drilling. 

Instead, it will seek to follow an Obama-era plan that leaves 52 percent of the area open for drilling.  

The devil’s in the details: But the BLM said that part of the Trump plan will remain, saying it intends to retain “certain more protective lease stipulations and operating procedures for threatened and endangered species” implemented by its predecessor. 

The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska is an approximately 23-million-acre area in Alaska’s north slope. 

Read more about the announcement here. 

Climate disasters killed nearly 700 last year

Last year, 688 people were killed in 20 major weather and climate disasters in the U.S., according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 

These 20 events cost a total of $145 billion, with each costing more than $1 billion. They included one drought, two floods, two hurricanes, a wildfire event and a winter storm.  

The NOAA has been measuring such disasters since 1980 and has seen an average of 7.4 events per year since then, adjusted to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). 

A closer look at the numbers: Deaths from these CPI-adjusted events have also increased in recent years. There has been an average of 361 deaths each year from billion-dollar storms overall since 1980, but an average of 904 per year over the past five years.  

The figures raised concerns from climate advocates, who said they are evidence of climate change’s increasing death toll. 

“This report underscores the reality of how the climate crisis is already affecting people’s lives and the economy,” said a statement from Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and lead economist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’s climate and energy program.   

The report comes as the future of the Biden administration’s climate and social agenda remains in jeopardy with Senate swing vote Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSALT change on ice in the Senate Clyburn knocks Manchin for arguing voting rights vote must be bipartisan Lawmakers take stock of election laws in wake of Jan. 6 anniversary MORE (D-W.Va.) digging in on his resistance to key provisions.  

Manchin, however, has signaled that the package’s climate components are one area where he and other lawmakers may be able to come to an agreement. 

The story so far: The report comes as the future of the Biden administration’s climate and social agenda remains in jeopardy with Senate swing vote Manchin digging in on his resistance to key provisions.  

Manchin, however, has signaled that the package’s climate components are one area where he and other lawmakers may be able to come to an agreement. 

Read more about the report here. 

Emissions climbed after pandemic slowdown  

New research shows that U.S. planet-warming emissions rebounded in 2021, after a pandemic-related slowdown in 2020.  

The preliminary estimate from research provider Rhodium Group shows that greenhouse gas emissions increased by 6.2 percent when compared to 2020, but remained 5 percent lower than in 2019.  

In 2020, both the economy and fuel use slowed down as people remained in their homes due to the pandemic. The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of climate change.  

This was expected, but… Both were expected to increase in 2021, as many people in the U.S. became vaccinated and began traveling more.  

But, Rhodium Group’s finding indicates that emissions rebounded a little more quickly than the economy overall — as gross domestic product grew 5.7 percent year-over-year.  

The research attributes this to an increase in the use of coal to generate power, which was up 17 percent, and a “rapid rebound” in road transportation, particularly freight. 

The 2021 coal increase marked the first increase since 2014 for a fuel that has largely been declining. 

Read more about the report here.



David Kieve is set to leave his role as public engagement director at the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, the panel confirmed Monday. 

Kieve, the husband of White House communications director Kate BedingfieldKate BedingfieldThe Memo: No more ‘the former guy’ as Biden tackles Trump head-on Biden aides offer praise for Harris after critical CNN report ‘Finally, infrastructure week!’: White House celebrates T bill MORE, was one of the Biden campaign’s point people on outreach to environmentalist and climate groups during the 2020 campaign. His departure comes days after the exit of another CEQ official, Senior Director of Environmental Justice Cecilia Martinez. 

“By having both a great understanding of policy and a knack for bringing people together and listening, David has helped ensure that the President’s climate and environmental agenda reflects the ideas and needs of people and communities whose voices haven’t always been heard,” CEQ Chair Brenda MalloryBrenda MalloryOvernight Energy & Environment: White House to restore parts of Trump-lifted environmental protections law White House proposes reversing parts of Trump rewrite of bedrock environmental law implementation White House official discusses environmental justice efforts MORE said in a statement Monday. “David has been the type of person to open the White House door a little wider, and to invite people in to the President’s vision for a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable future.” 

“David is a critical member of the Biden Administration, who has worked tirelessly on the President’s behalf since the early days of the primary campaign. His advocacy and work on climate issues has made him an important ambassador for the President to the climate community, rallying their support behind our ambitious agenda to tackle the climate crisis, the existential threat of our time.” 

Read more about the departure here. 



  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on hydropower, featuring officials from the Bureau of Reclamation and Energy Department 



  • Meet the lawyers teeing up the Supreme Court climate showdown, E&E News reports 
  • U.S. aims to double cover crop planting to address climate change, Reuters reports 
  • N.C. governor embraces environmental justice with climate change order, JournalNow reports 
  • Biden faces delays in undoing Trump’s war on efficient dishwashers, dryers and lightbulbs that made him ‘look orange’, The Washington Post reports 
  • ‘Drastic’ rise in high Arctic lightning has scientists worried, The Guardian reports 



And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Paw-stage situation 

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 on Tuesday.  

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