Overnight Energy: Trump taps park service chief | First grizzly bear hunt in 40 years blocked by judge | Watchdog to probe how EPA handles science

Overnight Energy: Trump taps park service chief | First grizzly bear hunt in 40 years blocked by judge | Watchdog to probe how EPA handles science
© Getty

TRUMP TAPS NEW DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE plans to nominate the current chief of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park to lead the National Park Service (NPS), the White House announced Friday.

The appointment of Raymond David Vela will fill the agency's top position, which has been vacant since Jonathan Jarvis, who was director throughout the Obama administration, left the post in Jan. 2017.

Vela is a veteran of the park service, having worked 28 years at the agency and most recently serving as superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. He previously worked in a senior position at NPS headquarters.

If confirmed, Vela would become the 19th director of the service and its first Hispanic director.


"David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for, and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job," said Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior gains new watchdog The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks BLM issues final plan for reduced Utah monument MORE in a statement Friday. "Our extraordinary national parks will be in the best of hands with David at the helm."

Vela would be taking over an agency with a number of unique challenges. The park service is responsible for over 400 parks as well as other sites and faces an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.

The Trump administration is focused on using increased revenues from energy production under the Interior Department to cut down on that backlog, a plan which has bipartisan support in Congress.

Read more here.


Another appointment of note...

The president additionally officially announced his intent to nominate Alexandra Dapolito Dunn to head the agency's Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Office. Dunn currently serves as EPA Region 1 Administrator, whose duties span six states in New England.

Nominated to head the region in November, Dunn previously worked for a number of nonpartisan environmental groups including as executive director and general counsel for the Environmental Council of States and work at the Association of Clean Water Administrators.

Her nomination will replace that of Michael Dourson, who in December withdrew his name from consideration for the post after three Republican lawmakers voiced their opposition to his appointment. 

Read more here.


TGIF! 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.


JUDGE BLOCKS GRIZZLY HUNT: A federal judge in Montana issued a court order late Thursday temporarily blocking the first trophy hunt of grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park in more than 40 years.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen issued a 14-day restraining order, siding with environmentalists and native American groups who oppose the hunt.

The order came two days before Wyoming and Idaho were scheduled to allow licensed grizzly hunts that could lead to as many as 23 bears being killed for sport in the two states.

"The threat of death to individual grizzly bears posed by the scheduled hunt is sufficient" to demonstrate the threat of "irreparable injury," Christensen wrote.

He added that the groups raised "serious questions going to the merits" of their case, the low bar necessary for a restraining order.

The decision is part of a case in which the conservation and indigenous groups are seeking to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections for the Yellowstone grizzly, and to overturn the Trump administration's decision to remove protections. The litigants argued that the hunt slated to start Saturday would cause irreparable harm to the grizzly bear species.

Read more.


EPA WATCHDOG TO PROBE SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY: The EPA's internal watchdog is auditing how the agency deals with issues of scientific integrity.

In a notice released Friday, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said it would launch research into how the EPA implements and adheres to its scientific integrity policy.

The audit was launched voluntarily by the office, so it is not connected to a specific request from a lawmaker or complaint.

But critics of the Trump administration have nonetheless criticized the agency for what they see as attempts to undermine science at the EPA, including downplaying the harms from climate change and air pollution, and censoring scientists.

Read more.


ON TAP NEXT WEEK: Congress comes back to Washington, D.C., next week, but the bigger news could come out of the EPA's OIG.

Inspector General Arthur Elkins plans on Tuesday to release a long-awaited audit of the EPA's security details for administrators, including former chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections MORE.

Pruitt broke with EPA precedent by having a security detail that followed him 24 hours a day, including on personal trips, like ones home to Oklahoma and to the Rose Bowl game. The detail also spent taxpayer money on costs like a new SUV for him and tactical pants, and reportedly ran errands for him, like picking up his dry-cleaning.

The OIG started its research in September 2016, before Pruitt's arrival. But as the various scandals arose, it agreed to look into matters like the cost of the detail -- which exceeded $4 million -- and the fact that officers went with him on personal trips.

Capitol Hill, meanwhile, will be dominated by Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court.

On the House side, the Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on environment will hold a hearing Thursday on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The chemicals have been discovered in recent years in the drinking water supplies for numerous cities, and the EPA has started work to figure out whether it should take stronger action to protect people from them.

Two subcommittees of the House Natural Resources Committee are planning legislative hearings. The water, power and oceans panel will meet Wednesday to discuss two title transfer bills, and the federal lands panel will meet Thursday to discuss five bills in its jurisdiction.



Join us Thursday, Sept. 6, for "Partnerships & Progress: Driving Climate Solutions," featuring Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHouse Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Ensuring quality health care for those with intellectual disabilities and autism House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad MORE (R-Pa.) and Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Senate GOP pledges to oppose any efforts to 'pack' Supreme Court MORE (D-R.I.). Editor in Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with the headliners to discuss how the public and private sectors can balance environmental progress with healthy economic growth. RSVP eere.



China's legislature passed a law Friday aimed at reducing soil pollution, the state-run Xinhua reports.

Texas environmental regulators have only just started cracking down on companies responsible for air and water pollution during and after last year's Hurricane Harvey, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Oil analysts polled by Reuters reduced their oil price forecasts for the first time in nearly a year.



Check out Friday's stories ...

-EPA watchdog to probe scientific integrity

-Trump taps new chief for National Park Service

-California passes bill to ban controversial drift net fishing

-Federal judge blocks first trophy hunt of Yellowstone grizzlies in 40 years