Overnight Energy: Trump expects to weigh in on Zinke's future soon | EPA relaxes air permitting standard | House Science panel in for big changes | Update on midterm ballot measures

Overnight Energy: Trump expects to weigh in on Zinke's future soon | EPA relaxes air permitting standard | House Science panel in for big changes | Update on midterm ballot measures
© Getty Images

TRUMP INDICATES ZINKE NEWS COMING SOON: The political future of embattled 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 may be determined as early as next week, 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 said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a White House press conference, the president said he will likely have a better sense in a week's time about Zinke's role as head of the agency that oversees public lands and endangered species management.

"We're looking at that and I do want to study whatever is being said," Trump said in response to a reporter's question. "I think he's doing an excellent job, but we will take a look at that in a very strong -- and we'll probably have an idea about that in about a week."


The president's comments come a day after Democrats took back control of the House, a change that many Zinke critics are hoping will place new pressure on the secretary.

Zinke has been shrouded by controversy following reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating a real estate deal he made with the chairman of Halliburton -- an oilfield service company -- in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Mont.

Trump for weeks has been indicating that there may be changes to his Cabinet following the midterms.

Trump on Wednesday said the changes could still come, but said he was generally happy with the Cabinet.

"You know, it's very common after the midterms. I didn't want to do anything before the midterms. But I will tell you that, for the most part, I'm extremely happy with my Cabinet," he said.

Read more.


Also on Wednesday: Trump announced the first in what could be a round of Cabinet reshuffling. He asked for, and obtained, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDemocrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment MORE' resignation.

Read more about Sessions' ouster and his acting replacement.


Happy Wednesday! 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.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.


TRUMP EPA LOOSENS AIR POLLUTION PERMITTING REQUIREMENT: The Trump administration is implementing a policy meant to make it easier for facilities that produce air pollution to make changes without going through a complex permitting process.

The policy published Wednesday changes how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines whether changes to power plants and other facilities -- like installing new equipment -- need to go through the New Source Review process. That process is an extensive analysis meant to limit emissions of air pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Under the new policy, the EPA will consider different actions to be a single project for permitting purposes if they are "substantially related." That could potentially exempt actions that increase emissions if other actions reduce them.

The policy is part of a series of actions the EPA has taken to overhaul the New Source Review process and narrow the projects that need go through permitting as if they were new construction.

"Previously, New Source Review regularly discouraged companies from employing the latest energy-efficient equipment," acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

"Our updates will remove undue regulatory barriers, provide greater certainty to America's job creators and energy providers, and incentivize upgrades that will improve air quality."

Since the EPA isn't changing regulatory text, it did not do any cost-benefit analysis of the change, including how it might increase or decrease air pollution, or how much it could save industry.

Read more.


MEET THE LIKELY NEW CHAIR OF THE HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE: Environmentalists are hoping that Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonDemocrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE (D-Texas) will bring science back to the House science committee when she takes over as chair in the next Congress.

Johnson, if elected chair, will be the first woman with a degree in a STEM field to hold the position since 1990. She was the first registered nurse elected to Congress when she won her first term in 1993, and she's served as ranking member on House Science, Space and Technology Committee since 2011.

The Democrat will represent a significant shift from the previous chairman, Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithDemocratic staffer says Wendy Davis will run for Congress Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' MORE (R-Texas).

Smith introduced controversial bills including the Secret Science Reform Act and worked in tandem with the Trump administration to introduce heavily criticized policies on science transparency to the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department.

Both the legislation that failed to make it past the House and the agency rules, aimed make it so new regulations could not be drafted using scientific studies, whose data was not open to public scrutiny. Scientists argued the idea would be extremely limiting to the number of studies that could be used, since the data in most public health studies is confidential.

"I think it will be quite dramatic," Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said of the shift.

"She wants to restore the focus of the science committee and the real culture of the committee is working in a bipartisan fashion. These things aren't inherently partisan unless someone like Lamar Smith makes them so."

Read more.


ICYMI: BALLOT INITIATIVES FAIL IN WASHINGTON, COLORADO AND CALIFORNIA: A trio of energy-related state ballot initiatives failed in Tuesday's election in Washington, Colorado and California.

Washington carbon tax: Voters in Washington state rejected a proposed carbon tax that would have been the first such levy in the nation.

The policy would have been an effort to fight climate change by mandating that companies using or selling fossil fuels pay taxes equal to $15 per metric ton of carbon, an amount that would rise in future years. The money would have paid for clean air and water projects, as well as community health initiatives.

The proposal was one of the most aggressive attempts to fight climate change on the state level. Supporters saw the vote as a crucial test of whether carbon pricing can get support in the United States.

Read more.

Colorado fracking restrictions: Colorado voters rejected a ballot measure Tuesday that would have imposed aggressive new restrictions on where oil and natural gas companies could drill and frack.

Drillers would have had to be at least 2,500 feet away from homes, businesses and other places deemed sensitive, more than double the current setback. It likely would have put large portions of the state off-limits to oil and gas development.

The failure of Proposition 112 is a major victory for drillers in the Centennial State, which ranks No. 6 in the country in both oil and natural gas production.

Read more.

California gas tax repeal: California voters Tuesday rejected a largely Republican-backed attempt to repeal a 2017 gas tax.

With 55 percent of the vote, the state ballot measure that sought to overturn the law to increase gasoline and diesel taxes by 12 and 20 cents per gallon respectively was rejected.

The measure would have also overturned a new annual licensing fee for vehicles ranging from $25 to $175.

Read more.



Montana voted down a proposal to impose new environmental standards for mining, the Montana Standard reports.

German environment minister Svenja Schulze wants to ban the pesticide glyphosate, Euractiv reports.

New York environmental conservation commissioner Basil Seggos is leaving, the Albany Times Union reports.



Check out Wednesday's stories

- All eyes on top Democrat to bring science back to science committee

- Trump suggests he'll weigh in on embattled Interior secretary's future next week

- EPA loosens air pollution permit requirements for some projects

- California rejects GOP backed effort to repeal gas tax

- Washington state voters reject carbon tax

- Colorado rejects new oil drilling restrictions