Overnight Energy: Zinke feud with Dem lawmaker gets personal | Trump moves to allow offshore oil tests in Atlantic | Senate to vote on energy regulator pick

SHOT: The likely next chairman of the House committee that oversees the Interior Department called for Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeAlaska oil and gas lease sale nets .5 million Former Koch adviser to oversee Interior Department's FOIA requests The Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda MORE to resign.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (R-Ariz.) said Zinke needs to step down from his job, in a USA Today op-ed Friday, citing the Cabinet secretary's "ethical and managerial failings."

"While the secretary continues to project confidence, questions have grown since the election about his future plans, and the White House reportedly fears that he would be unable to withstand scrutiny on Capitol Hill," Grijalva wrote.

"Those fears are justified. Mr. Zinke has never even tried to offer an explanation for the sheer scope of his well-documented scandals."

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As ranking member of the House Natural Resources committee, Grijalva has led multiple inquiries into Zinke, including requesting that Interior's Inspector General (IG) office look into reports that the secretary unlawfully entered into a real estate deal with the Chairman of oil services company Halliburton. The IG's office last month referred that investigation to the Department of Justice.

"The important thing to us was that Mr. Zinke not be allowed to treat his office as a source of personal enrichment. The fact that the Justice Department was alerted is Mr. Zinke's fault, not the fault of the media or anyone else his office has chosen to blame," he wrote.

Grijalva in many other instances requested documents and details pertaining to Interior Department decisions, many of which were never provided. One example includes a request from his office for more details on an Interior Department decision to send hundreds of U.S. Park Police officers to help apprehend immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border -- a story first reported by The Hill. No response was ever given.

It's an issue that has frequently irked the congressman, who is promising to push for answers when he has more authority next year.

"This silence is insulting to the American people, and given the Nov. 6 election results it is unsustainable. Continuing in office as though nothing has changed only shows how little Mr. Zinke has learned over the past year and a half," wrote Grijalva.

Read more here.

 

CHASER: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent a jaw-dropping counterpunch to a top Democratic lawmaker Friday, saying it was hard for Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) to "think straight from the bottom of the bottle."

Zinke's statement, delivered over Twitter, was in response to an op-ed in USA Today authored by Grijalva that called for Zinke's ouster.

"It's hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle," Zinke, a former GOP lawmaker who served with Grijalva in the House, said in a tweeted statement teased with the hashtag #TuneInnForMore.

"This is coming from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior," Zinke said.

Zinke's assertion references a $48,000 settlement Grijalva entered into with a former employee on the House Natural Resources Committee who accused him of being frequently drunk and creating a hostile work environment. The 2015 deal was first reported on last year. The Tune Inn is a bar on Capitol Hill.

"He should resign and pay back the taxpayer for the hush money and the tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spend investigating unfounded allegations," Zinke's statement reads.

Grijalva released a statement responding to Zinke that said: "The American people know who I'm here to serve, and they know in whose interests I'm acting. They don't know the same about Secretary Zinke."

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.

 

TRUMP MOVES TO ALLOW TESTS FOR OFFSHORE OIL IN ATLANTIC: The Trump administration took a major step Friday toward allowing testing for offshore oil and natural gas under the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is letting five companies commit "incidental" harassment of marine mammals like whales and dolphins as part of their seismic testing to determine oil and gas deposits under the ocean floor, the agency said.

It's the first time since the 1980s that the federal government has allowed seismic testing with air guns in the Atlantic Ocean, and it could lead to the first oil and natural gas drilling there in a similar timeframe.

"We've carefully reviewed and ensured appropriate use of the best scientific information available in meeting the requirements of the [Marine Mammal Protection Act], the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act and other implementing regulations for these surveys," Donna Wieting, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service's office of protected resources, told reporters Friday.

"They require appropriate mitigation measures to reduce the impact of survey activity to marine mammals consistent with the requirements under the [Marine Mammal Protection Act]," she said. "The authorizations also require monitoring and reporting of any authorized take," she continued, using the agency's terminology for incidents of animal harm or harassment.

The announcement is an early step toward potentially allowing offshore drilling in the Atlantic for the first time in decades.

The companies that got authorizations are WesternGeco, TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co., Spectrum Geo Inc., ION GeoVentures and CGG. Testing will be limited to the mid- and south-Atlantic coast, and it must start within a year.

NOAA's approval is a key condition for the companies eventually getting permits for testing, but the Interior Department would have to make the final decisions on those authorizations.

Interior proposed earlier this year to allow drilling all along the Atlantic, as well as the Pacific and Gulf coasts. But any company wishing to drill would first do the seismic testing, which uses air gun blasts, before committing to any drilling.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

The Senate is planning to take a procedural vote Monday to move forward on confirming Bernard McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Most Democrats are vociferously opposed to McNamee's confirmation, saying that his past positions in the Trump administration and elsewhere show he cannot be the neutral arbiter that the agency requires.

Read more about McNamee here.

 

Dec. 7 is the funding deadline for most of the government, and those programs will shut down if Congress does not extend funding by then.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Expansion of a Montana coal mine owned by bankrupt Westmoreland Coal Co. got preliminary state and federal approval Friday, the Associated Press reports.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) named a replacement for the Fish and Game commissioner who resigned amid outcry after he hunted baboons in Africa, the Idaho Statesman reports.

New research says a total ban on plastics could double energy consumption, BBC News reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories ...

-EPA increases 2019 mandate for fuel made from plant and animal waste

-Zinke: Hard for Dem lawmaker to think straight 'from bottom of bottle'

-Trump moves toward offshore oil testing in Atlantic

-Dems rally for Green New Deal

-Top Dem lawmaker likely to oversee Interior calls for Ryan Zinke's resignation

-Top exec on Trump boosting coal industry: 'I don't know if it's going to happen'

-Progressives say dire climate reports point to need for 'Green New Deal'

-EPA watchdog closes two Pruitt investigations