FEATURED:

Overnight Energy: Zinke removes Florida from offshore drilling plan | Dem AGs want Pruitt recused from climate rule repeal | Coal exec wants regulators fired for rejecting Perry plan | EPA staffing falls to Reagan levels

Overnight Energy: Zinke removes Florida from offshore drilling plan | Dem AGs want Pruitt recused from climate rule repeal | Coal exec wants regulators fired for rejecting Perry plan | EPA staffing falls to Reagan levels

ZINKE REMOVES FLORIDA FROM DRILLING PLAN: Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeHUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy Overnight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Interior Department sued over withholding details on trophy permits, endangered species MORE said Tuesday that he won't allow offshore drilling in waters near Florida through 2024.

The decision came after Zinke met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) in Tallahassee earlier in the day to discuss the governor's objections.

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice," Zinke said in a statement.

"I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and it's coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver," he continued.

"As a result of discussion with Gov. Scott's and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."

Interior Department Spokeswoman Heather Swift said that both the eastern third of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to Florida would be taken out of consideration for the plan that covers drilling rights sales from 2019 to 2024.

Scott had quickly come out in opposition to drilling off Florida's coasts last week when Zinke announced the Trump administration's proposal to consider oil and gas drilling in nearly every area off the nation's coasts, including the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts and around Alaska.

Drilling has long been banned around Florida, with strong bipartisan support from the state's politicians.

Read more here.

 

DEMS: PRUITT'S BIAS SHOWING: A coalition of Democratic attorneys general want Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports MORE to recuse himself from all matters related to the repeal of the Obama administration's climate change rule for power plants.

The 12 attorneys general, led by California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: US greenhouse gas emissions fell in Trump's first year | EPA delays decision on science rule | Trump scolds California over wildfires EPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Public charge rule is a cruel attack on children MORE, say Pruitt's criticisms of the Clean Power Plan and his attempt in his previous job as Oklahoma's attorney general to fight it make him irreparably biased against it.

Becerra led his colleagues and the top law enforcement officials of six cities and one county in submitting a formal request to the EPA outlining their objections.

"He has made a name for himself as someone who will do everything in his power to axe this important environmental policy, and he cannot credibly claim to have an open mind about it. His words speak for themselves," Becerra said in a statement Tuesday.

"The Clean Power Plan would reduce coal and gas-fired power plant emissions by 16 percent by 2030, while avoiding 3,500 premature deaths per year. This is what Administrator Pruitt is against," Becerra said. "He ought to do his job and protect our environment instead of catering to the fossil fuel industry."

The 30-page comment argues that the public's "constitutional and statutory rights to due process and fairness in an administrative rulemaking proceeding are violated" when a decision-maker like Pruitt acts in such a closed-minded and prejudicial way.

The Tuesday filing may be a preview of a legal argument the attorneys general plan to use when they inevitably sue the EPA for repealing the rule.

Read more here.

 

BOB MURRAY: FIRE FERC COMMISSIONERS: The CEO of the nation's largest privately held coal mining company says President Trump should fire four of the five commissioners who rejected Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Political appointee taking over as Interior IG | Change comes amid Zinke probe | White Houses shelves coal, nuke bailout plan | Top Dem warns coal export proposal hurts military The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump, Stormy Daniels trade fire on Twitter | Three weeks to midterms | Pompeo meets Saudi king White House shelves rescue plan for coal, nuclear: report MORE's plan to help coal and nuclear power plants.

Bob Murray, head of Murray Energy Corp, said the members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent agency, "defaulted" on their duties by rebuffing the plan to stop coal and nuclear plants from closing. Supporters said the reliability of the electric grid was at stake.

"I believe that the Trump administration, with the exception of Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeePartisan politics at independent agency draws bipartisan rebuke Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Journalists take a trip down the rabbit hole at CNN's 'Alice in Wonderland'-themed brunch MORE, picked three bad appointees for FERC. And they should all be fired," Murray told The Hill Tuesday.

Murray is an outspoken advocate for coal. He accused former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaRepublicans bail on Coffman to invest in Miami seat Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Live coverage: Heitkamp faces Cramer in high-stakes North Dakota debate MORE of being the "nation's greatest destroyer" and said last year that Obama should be charged criminally for actions toward the coal industry.

He's also a close ally of Trump, having met with him on multiple occasions to push for pro-coal policies.

Trump nominated all of the FERC commissioners, except Democrat Cheryl LaFleur, last year, and the Senate confirmed them.

Murray said LaFleur and fellow Democrat Richard Glick opposed Perry's proposal because they oppose coal, but Republicans Kevin McIntyreKevin J. McIntyrePartisan politics at independent agency draws bipartisan rebuke Lots of conservatives hate Trump’s coal and nuclear bailout — that’s a big political problem Overnight Energy: White House 'looking into' reports Pruitt sought used Trump Hotel mattress | Fund for black lung victims at risk | Park Service wants to move office out of San Francisco MORE and Rob Powelson "did not follow what should have been done in this case."

FERC on Monday declared that Perry's proposal could not be legally implemented because it didn't identify problems with current electricity policies that warrant action under the Federal Power Act.

Perry wanted electric grid operators to pay coal and nuclear plants more for their power than other sources, likely increasing electricity costs, on the grounds that the power they provide is less likely to be interrupted than other sources.

Chatterjee, a Kentucky native who used to work for Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' Nikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump MORE (R-Ky.), has been outspoken as an advocate of taking some kind of action to save coal and nuclear plants from closing.

Murray said Chatterjee "apparently was overwhelmed by the other four."

Read more here.

 

EXXON FIRES BACK AGAINST CALIFORNIA LAWSUITS: Exxon Mobil Corp. is firing back against lawsuits that seven cities and counties in California have filed against major oil companies over climate change.

Exxon made a filing in a Texas court late Monday against the municipalities, threatening a lawsuit of its own. It's also saying that the information they released for bond investors contradicts the claims they made about the impacts of climate change on their jurisdictions.

"Through abusive law enforcement tactics and litigation in California, respondents and others are attempting to stifle ExxonMobil's exercise, in Texas, of its First Amendment right to participate in the national dialogue about climate change and climate policy," the company said in the court filing.

The filing highlights investor disclosures from the municipalities that show uncertainty about the impacts of climate change like sea level rise, arguing that they are being disingenuous in their lawsuits about such impacts.

"In those lawsuits, each of the municipalities warned that imminent sea level rise presented a substantial threat to its jurisdiction and laid blame for this purported injury at the feet of energy companies," Exxon wrote.

"Notwithstanding their claims of imminent, allegedly near-certain harm, none of the municipalities disclosed to investors such risks in their respective bond offerings, which collectively netted over $8 billion for these local governments over the last 27 years."

The Union of Concerned Scientists accused Exxon of intimidation.

"ExxonMobil's strategy to intimidate these communities by threatening lawsuits is just another effort to evade accountability for its decades-long campaign to deceive the public about climate science and block policies that could have limited the climate impacts that California residents are now facing," Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the group, said in a statement.

 

EPA STAFF DOWN TO REAGAN LEVELS: The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) staffing is now lower than it was in former President Reagan's final year in office.

An EPA spokeswoman said Tuesday that, as of Jan. 3, the agency had 14,162 employees, down from about 15,000 at the beginning of last year.

That's even lower than the 14,400 employees the agency had in fiscal year 1988, Reagan's final year.

The figures come after President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to shrink the size of the federal government to save money and reduce regulatory burdens.

"We're proud to report that we're reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment," Pruitt said in a statement.

If every EPA employee eligible to retire by 2021 does so, the EPA would have less than 8,000 employees by the end of Trump's term, a cut of nearly half.

The reductions have come from employees voluntarily leaving without being replaced, including through early retirements and buyouts.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY: The House Natural Resources Committee will debate and vote on six bills in its jurisdiction, on federal land and marine mammal protections.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Tesla Inc. said Tuesday it's started producing its solar roof tiles in its Buffalo, N.Y, plant, Reuters reports.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) laid out details Tuesday of his proposal for a state tax on carbon dioxide emissions, the Seattle Times reports.

Authorities in South Africa are now using rhinoceros DNA to track poachers, The New York Times reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

Tom Sanzillo of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis argues that this year will demonstrate more than ever how affordable clean energy is.

Isabel Munilla of the Transparency in Extractive Industries at Oxfam America says congressional efforts to repeal international energy payment transparency would fuel corruption.

Daniel Cohan of Rice University says Trump is falsely arguing that the environment and the economy are in competition.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check Tuesday's stories ...

- Zinke to take Florida out of offshore drilling plan

- Coal mogul: Trump should fire energy officials for rejecting Perry plan

- Dem AGs ask Pruitt to recuse himself from climate rule repeal process

- Four lawmakers join House Climate Solutions Caucus

- Oil lobby wants pipelines in Trump's infrastructure push

- EPA staffing falls to Reagan-era levels

- Interior memo says grants should promote Trump priorities: WaPost

- Lewandowski slams 'deep state' regulators for rejecting Perry coal plan

- Trump drilling boost could boost Nelson's chances in Fla.