Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Feds revisit sage grouse plan | Ex-lobbyist nominated for EPA No. 2 spot | House to vote on disaster relief next week

INTERIOR TO REVIEW SAGE GROUSE PLAN: The Interior Department has begun the process of reconsidering and potentially revising a 2015 plan to protect the greater sage grouse, a Western bird that has seen its habitat dwindle.

In a notice published Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it would review land use provisions in the sage grouse conservation plan, which limits new development on some of the grouse's range in 10 western states and defines ways to expand its habitat there.

BLM is also set to reverse an Obama administration plan to block mining on 10 million acres of land in six Western states. The ban was part of the administration's efforts to protect the sage grouse.

The announcements are the latest development in the fight over how to protect the sage grouse, which culminated in the establishment of the land protection plan in 2015.

But oil, gas and ranching interests, as well as some Western conservatives, said that plan was too expansive, and the Trump administration earlier this year said it would review and potentially rewrite the protection strategy.

Read more here.


TRUMP TAPS WHEELER TO BE EPA NO. 2: President Trump is picking Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist and senior Republican congressional staffer, to be the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) deputy administrator.

The White House announced the nomination on Thursday afternoon.

Wheeler works at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, where his clients have included coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp. and uranium miner Energy Fuels Resources Inc.

He was previously registered with Congress as a lobbyist, but removed his registration in August.

"Andrew will bring extraordinary credentials to EPA that will greatly assist the Agency as we work to implement our agenda," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

"He has spent his entire career working to improve environmental outcomes for Americans across the country and understands the importance of providing regulatory certainty for our country."

Prior to his Faegre Baker Daniels work, Wheeler was a senior staffer for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), both when he was chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Before that, he worked at the EPA's toxics office.

Read more here.

EPA gets another regional administrator: The Trump administration also announced a new regional administrator Thursday.

Doug Benevento will be the administrator for Region 8, based in Denver. The office covers Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.

"Doug Benevento's personal connection to the Rocky Mountain state and experience working with environmental leaders across the region will greatly benefit the Agency's mission in protecting the environment in Region 8," Pruitt said in a statement.

Benevento has been an executive at utility Xcel Energy since 2010. Before that, he led the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Regional administrator positions are politically appointed, but do not require Senate confirmation.


AID PACKAGE TO GET HOUSE VOTE NEXT WEEK: The House will vote on legislation next week that would provide billions of dollars in disaster relief to help states and territories recovering from recent hurricanes.

The White House submitted a formal request to Congress on Wednesday for $29 billion, which includes $12.8 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $16 billion for debt relief for the federal flood insurance program. Another $576.5 million would be allotted for wildfire recovery.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday announced that lawmakers would consider the funding while laying out next week's floor schedule. He warned that Congress may have to approve more supplemental appropriations packages in the coming weeks.

"I do not believe this will be the last of the supplementals, based on the damage that has been done from the numerous hurricanes," McCarthy said on the House floor.

Read more here.


DEMS WANT SOUNDPROOF BOOTH INVESTIGATION: House Democrats are asking for a federal investigation into Pruitt's $25,000 soundproof booth.

The Thursday request from Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, comes amid growing scrutiny over spending by Pruitt and other Cabinet agency heads, including travel on charter or military aircraft.

The EPA this summer signed a contract worth nearly $25,000 to buy and have installed a soundproof booth in Pruitt's office, The Washington Post found last month. The agency said the secure facility is needed for Pruitt to discuss sensitive matters and that numerous other Cabinet secretaries have similar facilities.

The EPA already has a dedicated Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility elsewhere in the headquarters building.

Now Pallone wants the EPA's Office of Inspector General to investigate the purchase.

"The reported installation of this equipment is unprecedented and may represent yet another example of bureaucratic malfeasance by the Trump administration," Pallone wrote, along with Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Diana Degette (D-Colo.).

Read more here.


PERRY TO E&C: Energy Secretary Rick Perry is due to testify before an Energy and Commerce Committee panel next week.

Perry will speak about "Department of Energy Missions and Management Priorities" at the committee's energy subpanel on Thursday, the committee announced.



Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) is reiterating his opposition to the Pebble Mine project, KTOO reports.

Reuters investigates Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the bankrupt utility on the devastated island.

The consultant working on California's proposed Delta Tunnels project does not meet the state's legal qualifications, the Sacramento Bee reports.



Check out Thursday's stories ...

-FEMA takes down data on Puerto Rico's access to water, electricity: report

-Trump taps ex-lobbyist for EPA No. 2 jo

-Trump administration to reconsider sage grouse conservation pla

-Dems seek investigation into EPA chief's $25K soundproof booth

-House to consider disaster relief next week

-Keystone XL developer cancels two major Canadian pipeline project

-Perry took private jet day before Price resigned: report

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com and Devin Henry dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill

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