Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — EPA to merge two key science offices | House panel approves bills to ease endangered species protections | Interior teams with DEA on drug sting

Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — EPA to merge two key science offices | House panel approves bills to ease endangered species protections | Interior teams with DEA on drug sting
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EPA TO MERGE TWO SCIENCE OFFICES, CLOSE A THIRD: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will merge two key science offices as part of an overhaul of the Office of Research Development (ORD), the EPA confirmed to The Hill Thursday.

ORD leadership announced to staff Wednesday that it will move forward with plans to reorganize multiple offices housed under ORD, the scientific research arm of EPA.

Offices with "similar functions" will be funneled into two new offices: the administrative focused Office of Resource Management and the science focused Office of Science Integration and Policy, an EPA spokesperson told the Hill.

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The new science office will combine the agency's Office of Science Policy and the Office of the Science Advisor into one, which environmentalists fear will shrink the voice of scientists at EPA.

The EPA official said the mergers will "reduce redundancies in our operations, streamline management oversight, and better align our structure with the resources we have."

The Office of the Science Advisor, as described on EPA's website, provides leadership across the agency on science policy development and implementation issues It is currently lead by EPA Science Advisor Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, who has been at EPA since 1981.

The Office of Science Policy focuses on incorporating ORD's own science and technology into the EPA's regulatory actions. It's headed by Fred Hauchman, who has worked at EPA for over 30 years.

An ORD spokesperson said Orme-Zavaleta was out of town and not available for comment Thursday. A voicemail box for Hauchman said he'd be out of town until October 1 and to contact the directory in his absence.

Additionally, the reorganization would disband the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), a federal environmental office that works to test the effects of chemical exposure on adults and children.

Read more here. 

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HOUSE COMMITTEE VOTES TO EASE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROTECTIONS: A House panel passed four GOP-backed bills Thursday to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA), making compliance easier for industries, states and landowners.

The Natural Resources Committee bills would give priority to science submitted by state and local governments when federal officials decide whether to protect species, require the Interior Department to consider conservation actions that could happen in the future when making ESA decisions and let Interior prioritize or discharge petitions for species protections under some circumstances.

Taken as a whole, the bills would represent the biggest changes to the ESA in decades.

Republicans on the panel, led by Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopWalden retirement adds to GOP election woes Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden won't seek reelection MORE (R-Utah), said the changes would make the ESA work better for industry and landowners, as well as the imperiled species themselves.

"We cannot allow the fear of challenging the status quo to prevent us from taking a hard look at the ineffective policies put in place decades ago that have failed to meet the goals of the underlying statute," said Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonDemocrats, GOP dig in for public phase of impeachment battle Conservative Republicans unveil latest ObamaCare replacement plan Top Democrat holds moment of silence for Cummings at hearing MORE (R-La.).

Johnson's Weigh Habitats Offsetting Locational Effects Act of 2018, or WHOLE Act, would require that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) take into account conservation efforts that might happen in the future when deciding whether a species needs protections. It passed, mainly along part lines, 20 to 11.

Democrats said the legislation would be disastrous and make it harder for the federal government to protect species.

Read more here.

 

INTERIOR TEAMS WITH DEA ON DRUG STING ON INDIAN RESERVATION: A drug sting lead by Interior Department law enforcement officers this week resulted in the arrest of 75 individuals and the seizure of 248 pounds of heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and marijuana on Indian land.

The operation, conducted over the course of several months in North Carolina is part of the administration's push to thwart the opioid drug trade, an effort that's been called the President's Joint Opioid Reduction Task Force.

Interior law enforcement officers operating in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Police Department and other agencies seized the narcotics, along with seven guns, through an undercover operation that began in March, according to Interior officials.

The most recent series of arrests began Monday.

"First and foremost, bravo zulu to the dozens of law enforcement professionals who are on the front lines and putting their own lives at risk to take these deadly drugs off the streets," Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE said in a statement. "President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE and I could not be prouder of their work."

Zinke announced the drug seizure in Asheville, N.C., on Thursday morning. He said this week's law enforcement action gets the administration closer to its goal of ending the opioid crisis.

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"It's heartbreaking to see the scale of the problem, and rather than further stigmatizing victims, we are cracking down on the dealers who are selling out our children, selling out our communities, and selling out our nation," Zinke said.

Interior announced this month that one of its law enforcement officers had successfully nabbed 17 pounds of heroin and methamphetamine on an Indian reservation in New Mexico. An officer in the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Office of Justice Services found the drugs during a traffic stop on the San Felipe Pueblo Indian Reservation, north of Albuquerque.

Read more here.

 

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OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Thursday ...

-EPA to merge two key science offices and disband office focused on science grants

-House committee votes to relax Endangered Species Act

-Trump officials ease offshore safety rule

-Interior Department sting results in several opioid arrests in North Carolina

-Thousands of scientists send Trump letter defending Endangered Species Act

-UN report: World 'nowhere near on track' to meet key climate change goal

-Electric carmakers turn to Congress as tax credits dry up