Overnight Energy: Dems seek answers on Trump climate policies | Trump officials want changes to forest management after wildfires | UN environment chief resigns

DEMS PROBE EPA CLIMATE ROLLBACKS: Leading House Democrats, weeks away from taking over the majority in the lower chamber, are demanding records and information from the Trump administration's rollbacks of numerous climate change policies at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE (D-N.J.), slated to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler seeking answers as to why the agency is weakening or eliminating rules meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, cars, and oil and natural gas drillers.

The letter is likely an opening salvo to more extensive investigations that the Democrats are planning after Jan. 3, when the new Congress is sworn in and they have the majority of the seats.

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The majority will give Pallone the committee gavel, as well as the ability to set the agenda, compel witnesses to testify and demand documents with subpoenas.

For now, however, Pallone and the top Democrats on two subcommittees -- Reps. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers 'highly toxic' to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting 'forever chemicals' | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE (N.Y.) and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — White House withdraws controversial rule to eliminate drug rebates | Grassley says deal on drug prices moving 'very soon' | Appeals court declines to halt Trump abortion referral ban MORE (Colo.) -- are just asking questions.

Despite dire climate warnings like a recent United Nations report, "EPA has engaged in the systematic dismantling of critical climate initiatives and public health protections," they wrote.

"Furthermore, EPA continues to champion policies that would result in massive increases in greenhouse gas emissions with no regard for the associated climate or public health impacts," the lawmakers continued.

"Combined, the administration's rollbacks willfully turn a blind eye to the dangers of climate change, putting American communities at risk and diverting EPA's mission to protect human health and the environment."

An EPA spokesman said the agency would review the letter and respond through the proper channels.

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PERDUE, ZINKE SEEK FOREST MANAGEMENT PROVISIONS IN FARM BILL: The Trump administration is pointing to the deadly California wildfires to renew its call for Congress to boost the administration's ability to remove more brush and trees from federal forests.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkePuerto Rican police fire tear gas at crowds protesting governor Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade Trump officials gut DC staff as public lands agency preps to move out West MORE and Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueAgriculture Department's relocation of ERS and NIFA: A solution in search of a problem This is not the way to move USDA agencies out of Washington American farmers can't afford this administration's climate apathy MORE told reporters Tuesday that the fires, which have killed more than 80 people so far, should spur lawmakers to adopt more "active forest management" policies -- a term that refers to increased logging, removing brush, conducting planned burns and other activities.

"The issue, really, right now is: What are we going to do about it?" Perdue said. "These are disasters that we can do some things about. We need to be about doing things that we can do, but we need the authority to do that."

"This is fixable," Zinke added. "It is absolutely a situation that can be mitigated, but we need to act. It's unsustainable and unacceptable that we have the devastation, the loss of life, the expense."

Zinke renewed his denunciation of "radical environmentalists." He blamed them for the extreme fires, claiming greens repeatedly sue to stop forest management activities like prescribed burns.

"When lawsuit after lawsuit, by, yes, the radical environmental groups that would rather burn down the entire forest than cut a single tree or thin the forests," he said.

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UN ENVIRONMENT CHIEF RESIGNS AMID TRAVEL SCANDAL: Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Program, resigned Tuesday amid ongoing controversy over his official travel expenses.

The Guardian reported that Solheim quit after UN Secretary-General António Guterres asked him to do so.

In a statement, Solheim said his decision came after he read an audit into his official travel.
"It is my most sincere hope that this proves to be in the best interest of UN Environment and the wider UN," he said.

The Guardian first reported in September that Solheim had spent nearly $500,000 on air travel and hotels in less than 22 months on the job and had been on travel for 80 percent of the time he was working.

The audit said Solheim had "no regard for abiding by the set regulations and rules."

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

A California lawmaker is considering legislation to help PG&E absorb the liabilities from wildfires it might be responsible for, causing the company's stock to rise, Bloomberg reports.

The United Kingdom is planning an auction in May for 60 million pounds worth of renewable energy subsidies, Reuters reports.

Oil prices plummeted Tuesday to their lowest point in 13 months, CNN Business reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

- Trump officials cite California fires in renewing call for forest logging policies

- Nature film crew abandons 'interference rule' to help dying penguins

- Dead whale found with 13 pounds of plastic in its stomach

- House Dems demand records on Trump's climate rollbacks