Overnight Energy: Yellowstone grizzly bear taken off threatened list

Overnight Energy: Yellowstone grizzly bear taken off threatened list
© Getty

ZINKE: YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLY HAS RECOVERED: The Trump administration said Thursday it is taking the Yellowstone grizzly bear off the threatened species list because it has sufficiently recovered.

The Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the grizzly after more than four decades immediately drew rebukes from conservationists and Democrats.

Officials said that conservation efforts for the bear, a more than fourfold increase in its population and state policies designed to protect the bears show that the delisting is warranted.

The Yellowstone grizzly bear lives in and around Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.


"This achievement stands as one of America's great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of state, tribal, federal and private partners," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who represented Montana in Congress until earlier this year, said in a statement.

"As a Montanan, I am proud of what we've achieved together."

Other segments of the grizzly bear population are not affected by Thursday's regulation and will continue to be protected as before.

The bear's population is now around 700, compared with 150 when it was first listed. Its range is 22,500 square miles, more than double the range of the mid-1970s.

Republicans applauded the Trump administration's decision, saying the bear has long warranted an end to protections.

"Grizzly bears have met or exceeded recovery objectives since 2003 and have long warranted delisting," said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R), who formally asked for the delisting in 2013.

But conservationists said the move comes too soon to be able to reliably judge the Yellowstone grizzly's recovery.

"The ongoing recovery of Yellowstone grizzly bears is an undeniable example of how the ESA can bring a species back from the brink. However, we are concerned over how grizzly bears and their habitat will be managed after delisting," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

Read more here.


HOUSE REPUBLICANS SAY, 'DAM IT:' The House passed a bill Thursday designed to speed the permitting process for dams and reservoirs.

Half a dozen Western Republicans co-sponsored the bill, from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), arguing it is necessary for improving water storage in the face of severe droughts like the one that hobbled California for years.

"The fact is that we aren't not doing enough to store the water that we do get for the times when we don't get it," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, hitting what he called a "ridiculous permitting process that forces us to wait and wait and wait when we should be acting."

Most Democrats, though, opposed the bill because it doesn't invest in new dam and reservoir infrastructure.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) called it a "sham" that is "simply an environmental deregulation bill disguised as an infrastructure bill."

The legislation passed on a 233-180 vote.

Read more here.


ZINKE PUSHED ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT: House lawmakers used a Thursday appropriations hearing to push Zinke to do more to fight sexual harassment at the National Park Service.

"I am surprised personally that we have not had a hearing on this issue," said Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.). "You have declared a zero tolerance policy with the promise of updating policies including retraining requirements and new reporting procedures, but I would suggest to you that that is not enough."

McEachin and Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) pushed Zinke to hold surveys on workplace satisfaction in the many offices making up the vast Interior Department.

Tsongas cited her work on the House Armed Services Committee addressing similar issues in the military.

"As we've learned so well in the armed services and all the work done it takes both a top-down approach and a bottom-up approach," Tsongas said.

Zinke told lawmakers he was taking the issue seriously and was committed to working with Congress.

"I share your concerns about sexual harassment and intimidation in the workplace," the secretary said. "I think our overall survey of job satisfaction reflects something is wrong."

He told Tsongas that the department would hold a second round of surveys to get input from seasonal employees who did not weigh in before.

Read more here.


FRANKEN CHALLENGES PERRY ON CLIMATE SCIENCE: Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken rules out challenge against Gillibrand for Senate seat Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Minn.) pressed Energy Secretary Rick Perry on the science behind climate change in a testy exchange during a committee hearing Thursday.

Franken asked Perry to clarify his beliefs on the scientific consensus on climate change during a hearing Thursday, days after Perry said he doesn't believe carbon dioxide is the "primary control knob" behind climate change.

"I think there are some other naturally occurring events, the warming and the cooling of our ocean waters and some other activities that occur," Perry said.

"I also said in the next breath that man's impact does in fact have an impact on the climate," he continued. "What's wrong with being a skeptic about something that we're talking about that's going to have a massive impact on the American economy?"

Franken hit back, noting the preponderance of research that shows human activity is increasing the greenhouse gas emissions that are the driving force behind the warming trend across the globe.

"If you say that this is caused by the warming of the oceans, the reason the oceans are warming is because water absorbs the heat, that's why the sea level is rising," Franken said.

"There is no peer-reviewed study that doesn't say this is happening."

Read more here.


SENATE ADVANCES NUKE NOMINEE: The Senate voted 89-10 Thursday to advance Kristine Svinicki's renomination to be chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday.

The chamber is scheduled to vote on her confirmation when it returns on Monday evening.

Svinicki's term as NRC chairwoman expires on June 30, and the Senate has moved quickly to reconfirm her to the post.



A software error caused the U.S. Geological Survey to incorrectly say late Wednesday that there was a massive earthquake off the Santa Barbara, Calif., coast, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The United Mine Workers of America is concerned about a new voluntary safety training program from the Trump administration, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports.

Investors continue to pour money into renewable energy projects despite Trump's pro-fossil fuel posture, Reuters reports.



Check out Thursday's stories...

-House passes bill to speed permitting for dams, reservoirs
-Trump administration removes protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears
-Franken, Perry clash over climate change
-Lawmakers urge Zinke to crack down on sexual harassment at Interior
-'Clean coal' plant may not use coal


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