Overnight Energy: Trump officials propose tough rules on protests | EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked 'offensive'| Dems push Zinke to rescind 'open science' order

Overnight Energy: Trump officials propose tough rules on protests | EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked 'offensive'| Dems push Zinke to rescind 'open science' order
© Greg Nash

PARK SERVICE PROPOSES NEW RULES ON PROTESTS: The Trump administration is proposing to overhaul rules for protests in front of the White House and at other iconic locations in Washington, D.C., in an effort that opponents say is aimed at shutting down free speech.

The National Park Service's (NPS) proposal, for which public comments are due by Monday, would close much of the sidewalk north of the White House to protests, limit the ability for groups to have spontaneous protests without permits in that area and on the National Mall and open the door to potentially charging some demonstrating groups fees and costs for their events.

The plan was released in August with little fanfare. But civil rights groups have been sounding alarm bells in recent days as the comment period comes to a close.

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The administration's side: In making the proposal, the NPS cites its mandate to protect land, saying that it wants to "provide greater clarity to the public about how and where demonstrations and special events may be conducted in a manner that protects and preserves the cultural and historic integrity of these areas."

But opponents see a connection to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE's disdain for protesters, and congressional Republicans' denunciations of recent demonstrations against new Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell has 17-point lead over Democratic challenger McGrath: poll Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Kavanaugh urged Supreme Court to avoid decisions on Trump finances, abortion: report MORE as "mob rule."

What those groups are saying: Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said that while most recent administrations have tried to crack down on protests covered by the NPS unit known as the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Trump effort is more significant.

"This administration's come in with the most bold and consequential overhaul. The consequences are enormous," Verheyden-Hilliard told The Hill.

Read more here.

 

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

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WHEELER CALLS FACEBOOK POST HE LIKED 'OFFENSIVE': Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler disavowed a racist Facebook post he had liked in the platform, calling the meme "absolutely offensive."

At an event in California Thursday, Wheeler told reporters that he didn't remember liking the 2013 post that showed then-President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGraham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' 'This already exists': Democrats seize on potential Trump executive order on preexisting conditions Biden's immigration plan has serious problems MORE and his wife, Michelle, looking at a banana, according to E&E News.

"I don't remember doing it. At all. I believe it was probably on accident," E&E reported Wheeler as saying.

"You know, 90 percent of my Facebook is done on my iPhone, just scrolling through it. It was not on purpose. I find it offensive. In fact, when I was shown the picture by my staff, I said, 'What the hell is this,' and they said, 'It's from your Facebook,' and I said, 'No, it's not.'"

HuffPost first reported earlier this week that left-wing group American Bridge 21st Century had found the post and Wheeler's "like" of it.

Wheeler's social media record also included liking a tweet from right-wing documentary filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza that cast doubt on Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault accusations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and liking a tweet from Paul Joseph Watson, an editor at the conspiracy site InfoWars.

Wheeler previously said that he did not recall liking the racist meme, but agreed with the content of other posts he has liked.

"Over the years, I have been a prolific social media user and liked and inadvertently liked countless social media posts. Specifically, I do not remember the post depicting President Obama and the First Lady. As for some of the other posts, I agreed with the content and was unaware of the sources," he said in a statement.

Read more here.

 

DEM LAWMAKERS ASK ZINKE TO RESCIND ORDER ON PUBLIC SCIENCE: Democratic lawmakers are asking Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog MORE to rethink his secretarial order "Promoting Open Science," fearing it will do just the opposite.

Four House Democrats, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to Zinke on Thursday urging him to rescind the Sept. 28 order that they worry will lead to gagging scientists.

"We have little trust in the Department's current leadership to faithfully adhere to principles of scientific integrity," the lawmakers wrote. "Political decision-makers should never be given as much unilateral authority over scientific data as the Promoting Open Science order would."

The order, issued by Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, mandates that officials only use scientific studies or findings whose underlying data are publicly available and reproducible, with few exceptions. The approach is similar to a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that would require agency regulations to be based off transparent scientific data.

Critics of the EPA rule call it the "secret science" rule and argue that it would exclude consideration of a number of important scientific studies whose evidence can't be made fully public due to patient privacy concerns.

The lawmakers raised that concern in their letter to Zinke.

"Both policies threaten the suppression of scientific information not aligned with this administration's agenda under the auspices of improving science based decision making," the Democrats wrote.

The secretarial order is not the first time Interior political officials have made strides to influence the way science is used and spoken about at the department.

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Read more here.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

Mike Carr, the executive director of New Energy America, argues that Administration officials are in denial about the effects of climate change

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Opponents of federal land ownership in the West are organizing a conference this weekend in Whitefish, Mont., Montana Public Radio reports.

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A judge rejected a lawsuit that Exelon Corp. filed against Maryland over the state's demands that the utility take steps to reduce the flow of pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The United Kingdom would be excluded from the European Union's emissions trading system in a "no-deal" Brexit, Reuters reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories ...

-Trump administration proposes tough rules on protests

-EPA to kick off comment period for methane pollution rule rollback

-EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked 'absolutely offensive'

-Dem lawmakers request Interior chief rescind order on 'open science'