Energy & Environment — Biden expands VA benefits for burn pit victims

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expanding disability compensation for people with nine cancers it says are linked to burn pit exposure, and Democrats are going on offense over gasoline prices in a key House race.

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. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 


The Biden administration is shrinking the amount of land eligible for drilling at an oil reserve in the Arctic. 

The administration announced on Monday that it would return to an Obama administration plan that would enable the government to lease up to 52 percent of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas exploration. It reverses a Trump-era plan that would have opened up 82 percent of the reserve. Read more.

More vets could get burn pit exposure compensation

The Biden administration is expanding benefits to veterans with rare types of respiratory cancers because of their links to exposure to toxic burn pits.  

The Veterans Affairs (VA) Department said Monday it would issue a final interim rule that adds the cancers to the list of presumed service-connected disabilities. 

This enables people with the cancers in question to get disability compensation. 

“With these new presumptives, Veterans who suffer from these rare respiratory cancers will finally get the world-class care and benefits they deserve, without having to prove causality between their service and their condition,” – VA Secretary Denis McDonough

The military has used burn pits — open air areas where trash is burned — to get rid of its waste in places including Iraq and Afghanistan.  

The VA on Monday said that it determined that there is “biological plausibility” between “airborne hazards” and respiratory tract cancers. It said the illnesses’ rarity and severity make it difficult to develop additional evidence.  

The agency will process disability compensation claims for veterans who served in Southwest Asia starting in August 1990 through the present, or who served in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti between September 2001 and the present.

President Biden also commented on the issue, saying in a statement that “we can and must do more to address the harms that come from hazardous exposures, which have gone unaddressed for far too long.”

The nine cancers in question:

  • squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx
  • squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea
  • adenocarcinoma of the trachea
  • salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea
  • adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
  • large cell carcinoma of the lung
  • salivary gland-type tumors of the lung
  • sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
  • typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung

Read more about the issue from The Hill’s Jordan Williams.

Democrats go on offense over gasoline prices

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) launched a billboard in Kansas targeting Republican House candidate Amanda Adkins over rising gas prices in an apparent attempt to flip the script on the issue. 

Politico was the first outlet to report on the billboard located in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).  

The billboard reads, “Pain at the pump? Amanda Adkins opposes has tax cuts.”  

The district’s House race, which will likely be between Davids and Adkins, has recently been defined by the debate over gas prices and the gas tax.  

Davids has called for suspending the federal gas tax in an effort to decrease gas prices, which have skyrocketed in recent months. In March, Davids ran a radio ad highlighting the issue and hitting Adkins for not supporting a gas tax holiday.  

Adkins’ campaign called the federal gas tax holiday “political theater” in a statement to The Hill. 

“Kansans are paying almost $4 per gallon at the pump and an extra $5,000 per year on goods and services,” the statement read. 

“Kansas families want relief, not a publicity stunt. As of March 8, the day Sharice Davids voted against American energy independence, gas prices were up $0.55 from the past week. Removing the $0.18 federal tax still leaves Kansans paying too much at the pump. Sharice doesn’t want to face voters with her record of catastrophic inflation and killing American energy independence.” 

The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC) fired back against the billboard in a statement to The Hill on Monday.  

“Kansans know Sharice Davids and Joe Biden’s anti-energy policies caused the record-high prices they are paying at the pump,” said NRCC spokeswoman Maggie Abboud. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Julia Manchester.


U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said Monday that American power providers should be working to convince members of Congress to take action on climate change. 

“I think one of the things you could really help us with is the Congress of the United States,” Kerry told Warner Baxter, the executive chairman of Ameren and the vice chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, during the 6th Global Electrification Forum.  

“There are still too many deniers, there are too many doubters, there are people who don’t often see the economic upside,” – U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on efforts to combat climate change.

Few members of Congress have outright denied the reality of climate change, but Republican members have frequently downplayed it as an existential threat or presented the economic fallout of aggressive action as the greater threat.

Some, like Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), have also falsely claimed it does not exist or pose a threat.   

Industry leaders, Kerry told Baxter, “have particular credibility, because you’re huge employers. You create new products and you’re keeping the engine of our economy moving.”  

“I think if you will speak to the brightness of the future on the other side of this, that would have a profound impact on our ability to get the production tax credit, investment tax credit, to do the things we need to do,” he added. “And who knows, maybe even ultimately, there’ll be a conversation about pricing carbon, which would have a profound impact on our ability to leap forward.” 

Read more about his remarks here.


The Hill’s Sustainability Imperative—Wednesday, April 27 & Thursday, April 28—2:00 PM ET/11:00 AM PT daily

Sustainability is not optional—it’s imperative, and everyone has a role to play. On April 27 and 28, The Hill will host its second annual festival convening policy leaders and practitioners in the sustainability ecosystem, featuring interviews with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, actress Sigourney Weaver and moreRSVP today to save your spot.


  • Rising sea levels, climate change putting beloved New England lighthouses at risk (WCVB5) 
  • N.J. air quality among worst in U.S. But efforts to cut diesel emissions paying off, report says ( 
  • Russia’s War Is Turbocharging the World’s Addiction to Coal (Bloomberg) 
  • Man Behind Earth Day Says There’s Too Much Greenwashing (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Slovenia’s populist PM loses election to environmentalist party-election commission (Reuters) 

   And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Elon Musk buys Twitter.  

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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