Overnight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’

POWER TO THE STATES AND PEOPLE: President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to review and potentially change previous national monument designations.

At a Wednesday signing ceremony, Trump framed the order as a way to return power to states and individuals after former President Obama and his predecessors blocked development on hundreds of millions of acres of federal land and water by creating monuments.

"Today I'm signing an executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs," Trump said before signing the order at the headquarters of the Interior Department, which oversees most monuments and will be responsible for the review.


"Today, we are putting the states back in charge. It's a big thing," Trump continued.

The order is aimed primarily at the highly controversial Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.3 million-acre site in Utah that Obama designated in December. His action protected areas sacred to American Indian tribes but also prevented any potential development, like oil and gas drilling.

Trump said the designation happened "over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah."

The review covers all monument designations over 100,000 acres going back to 1996, which includes more than three-dozen monuments.

That was the year President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, a highly controversial monument that shut down proposed mining.

Under the Antiquities Act, presidents have nearly unlimited power to create national monuments on land the federal government already owns.

Read more here.

Dem pledges fight: Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallRubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees Senate confirms Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay MORE (D-N.M.) is pledging to fight Trump's executive order on monuments to whatever extent he can.

Udall said he doesn't believe Trump has the authority to roll back any monuments.

"If he attempts to do so, I will fight him every step of the way," Udall promised in a Wednesday statement.

"Today's order represents yet another broken promise from President Trump. On the campaign trail, the president pledged to carry on the conservationist legacy of Teddy Roosevelt," he said. "But today he is beginning the process of going where no president before him has."

Udall was a driving force behind Obama's 2014 creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico.

Democrats are also likely to resist any effort to change the Antiquities Act legislatively, another goal of Trump's order.

House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said to expect "intense and almost unanimous" Democratic opposition to potential changes to the law. He said the committee's Democrats would meet with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday to discuss Trump's order.

Read more here.

YUCCA MOUNTAIN FIGHT HEATS BACK UP: A House committee on Wednesday kicked off a fresh fight over the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility in Nevada.

Members of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee heard testimony on a draft bill to give the federal government the power to issue the permits necessary for the facility, despite the wishes of Nevadans, most of whom oppose the project.

Nuclear power supporters say the bill is necessary for restarting the approval process of Yucca after years of delay. But four members of the state's congressional delegation told the committee they would resist the project.

"The federal government has already spent decades and wasted billions of dollars to design and permit Yucca Mountain without any rational hope that Nevada would consent to the project," Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerNevada becomes early Senate battleground Nevada governor Sisolak injured in car accident, released from hospital Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada MORE (R-Nev.) said. "And Nevada never will."

Heller said he and Nevada Democratic Reps. Ruben Kihuen, Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen would introduce a bill requiring states, local governments and tribes to all agree on a long-term host site for nuclear waste before allowing construction on such a facility.

That bill would effectively nix Yucca, meaning it's unlikely to move forward at a time when it appears the Trump administration and some in Congress are looking to jumpstart the project.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said the proposed bill "would enable the resumption of the licensing process and provide the opportunity for the state's technical objections to be adjudicated in the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] process."

"This would benefit all parties involved and could, in fact, strengthen the ultimate license for a repository," he said.

Read more here.

LETTERS FROM PARIS: The White House received at least two letters on Wednesday advocating the U.S. stay in the Paris climate deal.

Several companies, including foreign oil giants BP and Shell and tech firms Google and Intel, sent Trump a letter saying the Paris deal benefits U.S. companies by ensuring the country's involvement in future climate work.  

"We believe that as other countries invest in advanced technologies and move forward with the Paris agreement, the United States can best exercise global leadership and advance U.S. interests by remaining a full partner in this vital global effort," the companies wrote, echoing the message from other industries that support the deal.

Meanwhile, four Republicans signed a letter from the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus that said leaving the deal would undermine the U.S.'s ability to influence future discussions.

"It is imperative that we maintain our seat at the table in global discussions of how to address the threats posed by climate change," the members' letter said.

White House officials are scheduled to meet on the status of the Paris deal Thursday.

Read more about the business letter here, and the House lawmakers' letter here.    

ON TAP THURSDAY I: Progressive Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE (Vt.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Lawmakers call on Olympic committee to press China on human rights abuses Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO MORE (Ore.) will roll out their proposal to get the United States to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Guests will include environmental activists Bill McKibben and Mustafa Ali.

ON TAP THURSDAY II: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's consumer protection subcommittee will hold a hearing on the impact of the outdoor recreation industry. Lawmakers will hear from executives from companies such as REI and Columbia Sportswear, among others.

Rest of Thursday's agenda ...

A subpanel of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on recovering from natural disasters and mitigating their damage.


Ryan Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, is suing the federal government over the body searches he is undergoing in prison, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports.

Bankrupt solar company Suniva is asking the Trump administration for a 100 percent tariff on imported solar panels, Greentech Media reports.

Some of the needed repairs to California's Oroville Dam can't even start until after next winter, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Crappy news: A biomass plant in Minnesota that burns turkey poop is set to close, Minneapolis Public Radio reports.


Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Four Republicans sign letter urging Trump to stay in Paris deal
-Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreGOP becoming a cult of know-nothings Man seen with Pelosi lectern on Jan. 6 pleads guilty Judge says Gore, unlike Trump, 'was a man' and accepted election loss MORE: Trump climate moves 'a shame'
-Dem vows to fight Trump 'every step of the way' on national monuments
-Draft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight
-Trump signs order to end 'egregious abuse' of national monuments
-Oil, tech giants tell Trump to stay in Paris deal

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