Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals'

Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals'

BLAST FROM THE PAST: A former top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adviser who helped craft some of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE's most controversial environmental policies will return to the agency as its chief of staff, according to a Friday report from The Washington Post.

Mandy Gunasekara, who ran the Office of Air and Radiation under former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' Court sides with scientists on EPA policy barring grantees from serving on agency boards Overnight Energy: Senate energy bill stalled amid amendment fight | Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown | Green groups say Dem climate plan doesn't go far enough MORE, played a key role in writing regulations to roll back pollution controls for coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions, as well as the effort to leave the Paris climate accord.

Since leaving the EPA early last year, she founded Energy 45, a nonprofit "dedicated to informing the public about the environmental and economic gains made under the Trump administration."

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A call to Gunasekara was not immediately returned, and the EPA would not confirm her selection for the role.

"Ryan Jackson is chief of staff at EPA until February 21st, at which time Michael Molina will serve as acting chief of staff," an agency spokesperson said in an email.

Jackson is leaving the EPA to work at the National Mining Association, which advocates for the coal industry among other clients.

Energy 45's webpage credits Gunasekara with being "the chief architect of the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord."

She also helped write the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Critics said if ACE is upheld, it could hamstring the agency for years, limiting EPA to only narrow pollution regulations for power plants.

Gunasekara, like Jackson and current EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Overnight Energy: Trump says global oil production could be cut by 15M barrels | Trump to rent storage space to oil producers | EPA defends move to suspend pollution monitoring EPA gives public more time to comment on 'secret science' rule MORE, previously worked for Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Overnight Defense: Stimulus bill has .5B for Pentagon | Money would be blocked from border wall | Esper orders 60-day freeze for overseas troop movements Senate panel switches to 'paper hearings' amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Okla.). 

Read more on her reported return here.

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HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY <3 Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

 

A programming note: We're off on Monday for Presidents Day, so there won't be an Overnight Energy. But we'll be back after the long weekend on Tuesday the 18th. 

 

FLYING AWAY FROM CARBON: Delta Air Lines announced Friday that it will invest $1 billion over the next decade in an effort to become the world's first carbon neutral airline.

The company said it will invest in technology that removes carbon emissions from the atmosphere, as well as wetland restoration and grassland conservation.

"The time is now to accelerate our investments and establish an ambitious commitment that the entire Delta team will deliver," Ed Bastian, Delta's CEO said.

The overwhelming majority of Delta's carbon emissions come from its aircraft, so part of the company's plan is to decrease its use of jet fuel while increasing the efficiency of flights through an "improved flight operations, weight reduction, and increased development and use of sustainable aviation fuels."

Delta did not say when it hopes to achieve carbon neutrality. The Hill has reached out to Delta for comment.

The airline's announcement comes two days after oil giant BP announced its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Progressive lawmakers in the U.S., however, have argued that action is needed much sooner to combat the effects of climate change. The Green New Deal, a proposal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal MORE (D-Mass.), aims to achieve across-the-board carbon neutrality in the U.S. by 2030.

More on Delta's plans here

 

LOW MARKS: A Democratic senator is giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a dismal rating on its progress in regulating a class of cancer-linked chemicals a year after the agency unveiled a plan on the subject.

One year ago, the EPA announced its PFAS Action Plan, which included a now-unfulfilled pledge to determine whether or not the agency would regulate a class of chemicals known as PFAS in drinking water.

The substances, also known as "forever" chemicals due to their persistence in the body and the environment, are used in a variety of products ranging from raincoats to nonstick cookware.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Trump administration rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the chamber's Environment and Public Works Committee, this week released a report card giving the agency a D-minus on its efforts to implement its action plan. 

"The Trump Administration has managed to make time for deregulatory proposals and environmental rollbacks, but key regulatory actions and other commitments made under the PFAS Action Plan still haven't been met. The fact is, PFAS Action Plan is mostly plan and very little action," Carper said in a statement. 

The senator's report card dinged the agency over parts of the plan that it said were delayed, not finalized or whose progress was unknown. 

"The Trump administration is tapping all of the agency's program offices to implement an all-encompassing PFAS Action Plan to help states and local communities address PFAS and protect our nation's drinking water," an EPA official said in a statement responding to Carper's report card.

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The official also highlighted actions that the agency has taken including announcing a new way to test for additional PFAS in drinking water and issuing interim recommendations for addressing groundwater contaminated with PFOA and PFOS, which are types of PFAS. 

Read more here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Virginia offers new migratory bird-protection plans, The Associated Press reports.

As sea levels rise, scientists offer a bold idea: Dam the North Sea, The New York Times reports.

Researchers find that Hurricane Dorian ravaged Bahamas' reefs, The New York Times reports.

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ICYMI: Stories from Friday...

Architect of controversial EPA policies to return as chief of staff: report

Democratic senator gives EPA a D-minus on implementing PFAS action plan

Delta commits to becoming world's first carbon neutral airline