Overnight Energy: Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked standoff | EPA takes step to replace Obama climate rule | Pruitt's lead spokesman out at EPA

Overnight Energy: Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked standoff | EPA takes step to replace Obama climate rule  | Pruitt's lead spokesman out at EPA
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TRUMP PARDONS RANCHERS WHO INSPIRED REFUGE TAKEOVER: President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE on Tuesday pardoned a pair of Oregon ranchers whose arson convictions became a focus for opponents of federal government land ownership.

Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted in 2012 and sent to prison on arson charges. They had set a series of fires on their ranch that spread to federal land.

The Hammonds' case became the inspiration for the 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. The organizers wanted to protest federal land ownership.

The Hammonds distanced themselves from the violent occupiers and didn't endorse the action.

In a statement Tuesday announcing the pardon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized uncertainties in the case and the prison terms and fines the Hammonds had already paid.

"The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds' responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges," the White House said. "The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency."

Both men are currently in prison on five-year sentences, thanks in part to a 1996 antiterrorism law that imposed a mandatory minimum sentence on certain crimes on federal land. The length of their prison terms, in part, fueled outrage at their convictions.

Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill GOP turns its fire on Google Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon MORE (R-Ore.), who represents the area that includes the Hammonds' ranch, cheered Trump's pardon as a win against federal overreach.

"Today is a win for justice, and an acknowledgment of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West," he said in a statement. "As ranchers across eastern Oregon frequently tell me, the Hammonds didn't deserve a five year sentence for using fire as a management tool, something the federal government does all the time."

On the other hand: Conservation groups slammed the pardon and said it amounts to an endorsement of violent extremism.

"Pardoning the Hammonds sends a dangerous message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers," Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities said, adding that Trump "has once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans."

Read more.


Happy Tuesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill.


EPA TAKES STEPS TOWARDS REPLACING OBAMA CLIMATE RULE: The Trump administration is taking a big step forward in its effort to replace the Obama administration's climate change rule for power plants with a more industry-friendly alternative.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that on Monday it sent a proposed rule to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

The OMB review, an internal process that checks for compliance with various laws and administration priorities, is the final step before the rule can be released publicly and made available for public comment. The EPA hasn't revealed the contents of the proposal. The Trump administration in December requested public input on ideas for a replacement. The rule would replace the Clean Power Plan, the main pillar of former President Obama's climate change agenda that sought a 32 percent cut in carbon emissions from the country's power sector by 2030. States were allowed to decide how best to accomplish that goal. The Obama rule was put on hold by the Supreme Court in 2016 as a result of litigation led in part by then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog says agency failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools| Watchdog won’t investigate former Superfund head’s qualifications| Florence causes toxic coal ash spill in North Carolina White House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report Trump’s EPA chooses coal over the American people MORE. Pruitt went on to become EPA administrator before resigning last week under the cloud of numerous scandals. Pruitt and President Trump prioritized repealing the Clean Power Plan, and Pruitt formally proposed undoing it last year, an action that has not yet been made final.

Read more here.


EPA SPOKESMAN WHO CALLED REPORTER 'PIECE OF TRASH' OUT AT AGENCY: One of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) top communications officials is leaving the agency, days after former Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned.

Jahan Wilcox, whose official title was strategic communications adviser, established a reputation for his passionate defenses of Pruitt and the EPA and his often abrasive interactions with reporters.

"It's been a privilege to advance President Trump's agenda of environmental stewardship and regulatory reform," Wilcox said in a statement.

The departure comes less than a week after Pruitt left the agency following months of scandals involving the administrator's ethics, taxpayer-funded spending decisions, allegations he had staff complete personal tasks for him and other issues.
Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler took over Monday as the acting head of the agency.

Read more here.


Where you may remember him from...

In June, Wilcox reportedly derided a reporter from The Atlantic as he ended a phone call with her after she asked him questions pertaining to an article she was planning to publish.

"You have a great day, you're a piece of trash," Wilcox said, according to Eliana Plott, who broke the resignation of Pruitt's scheduler.

Read more on the comment.



-The House will take up a vote on H.R. 200, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

-The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to examine the long-term value to U.S. taxpayers of low-cost federal infrastructure loans.

-The Senate Natural Resources committee's subcommittee on National Parks will hold a hearing to discuss a bill focused on fixing the National Park Service's maintenance backlog



Three suspects accused of starting a Colorado wildfire have been arrested, the Denver Post reports.

A federal judge will let key witnesses testify in a lawsuit against Monsanto Co. claiming its Roundup pesticide causes cancer, Bloomberg News reports.

Tesla Inc. is planning to produce cars in a China factory within three years, the Los Angeles Times reports.



Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-DC council member introduces bill to ban plastic straws

-EPA spokesman to leave agency

-Pompeo leaves door open to waivers on Iranian oil imports

-EPA takes next step toward replacing Obama-era climate rule

-Trump pardons Oregon ranchers at center of 40-day standoff

-In Emirates, Pompeo knocks Iran's 'bad behavior'