Overnight Energy: Trump plan could open Alaska's Arctic region to drilling by next summer | States sue over offshore drilling tests | Lawmakers fail to pass lands bill this year

TRUMP MOVING TOWARD ARCTIC DRILLING: The Trump administration rolled out a long-awaited proposal Thursday that could open up oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic as early as next summer.

Interior's announcement is the second stage in a first-of-its-kind bid to allow fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) -- actions Congress mandated in a vote last December.

The plan is being trumpeted as a key cog in the president's push towards increased energy independence.


"An energy-dominant America starts with an energy-dominant Alaska, and among the scores of accomplishments we have had at Interior under President Donald J. Trump, taking these steps toward opening the 1002 section of Alaska's North Slope stands out among the most impactful toward bolstering America's economic strength and security," said outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report MORE in a statement.

"For decades, Alaskans on both sides of the aisle have overwhelmingly supported opening the 1002 to energy exploration and development. I commend the President for giving Alaskans a voice again in how their public lands are used and for his commitment to responsible development of the Coastal Plain."

The details: The proposal offers four options to fossil fuel production that Interior officials said will allow for "a range of leasing alternatives" in the remote area of Alaskan wilderness, and includes methods to avoid impacts on polar bears, caribou and migratory birds.

Interior officials say they believe at least one leasing option will be finalized.

"There is, for baseline purposes, a no action alternative. But realistically, Congress has told us to have this sale. So, in that regards, practically speaking, we will be moving forward here in implementing the law," said Joe BalashJoseph (Joe) BalashTop Trump Interior official joins oil company in Alaska after resignation Interior official threatens to withhold jobs in lawmakers' districts after opposition to BLM move 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 MORE, Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management at Interior, on a call with reporters Wednesday night.

Balash, who before joining Interior last December worked for Alaskan Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack Senate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary MORE (R), said the administration expects the fossil fuel industry will react positively to their suggestions.

"We expect specific industry interest in finding out what's there and being in a place for first production, if in fact the potential for what we think is there comes up," he said.

The timeline: The proposal will appear in the Federal Register next Friday, kicking off a 45-day comment period. If everything moves according to plan, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could hold its first lease sale in the area as early as next summer, according to Balash.

How much land are we talking?: Interior's press release promised that after the final rule is passed, no fewer than 400,000 acres will but up for bid.

Read more on the administration's plans here.


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STATES SUE OVER OFFSHORE OIL TESTING: Nine states along the East Coast have joined a lawsuit challenging a key move by the Trump administration that could allow offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

The states' Democratic attorneys general are objecting both to the possible harm to marine life from the administration-approved seismic testing and to the potential offshore drilling that could result from the testing.

The states filed a motion to join a lawsuit environmental groups filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.

"Seismic testing will have dangerous consequences for hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, including endangered species," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D), who is leading the multistate effort, said in a statement Thursday.

"While the administration continues to place the interests of the fossil fuel industry ahead of our precious natural resources, attorneys general up and down the Atlantic coast will continue to fight these and other efforts to open the waters off our shores to drilling for oil and gas."

Frosh announced his lawsuit at Baltimore's National Aquarium in an effort to highlight what he says would be the damage to marine life from both the testing and any drilling.

Other states joining Maryland in the effort are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, a unit of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, authorized five companies this month to potentially harm marine mammals when they conduct airgun testing to determine oil and gas potential in the sea floor of the Atlantic.

Read more.


HEARING ON COAL PLANT RULE ROLLBACK SET FOR JAN. 9: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning a public hearing on its rollback of greenhouse gas standards for newly built coal-fired power plants for Jan. 9.

The hearing, required under the Clean Air Act, will be at EPA headquarters, the agency said in a notice due to be published Friday in the Federal Register. The EPA will limit speakers to five minutes.

The proposed rule, announced earlier this month, would increase the allowable carbon dioxide emissions from newly-built coal-fired power plants to 1,900 pounds per megawatt-hour, from the 1,400 pounds the Obama administration had set.


CONGRESS FAILS TO PASS LANDS BILL: The Senate failed to come to an agreement on a final version of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, pushing the bill to next year. The land bill, which has already expired, is a vital source of funding for public land use including hiking trail, monument and battlefield upkeep.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (R-Alaska) and a bipartisan group of senators tried to get consent to move the package, which temporarily delayed passage of the short-term spending bill, but Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Haaland on drilling lease moratorium: 'It's not going to be a permanent thing' Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-Utah) objected.

Lee said he wanted two words "for Utah" to be included in the Antiquities Act, which would prevent a president from creating or expanding national monuments without state approval in Utah.

"This bill creates 1.3 million acres of wilderness, about half of which is in my state," Lee argued, referring to the lands package. "Coming from a state where two-thirds of the land is owned by the federal government, where we can't do anything without leave from the federal government, this hurts."

Lee added that he received the text of the lands package, which would also reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, saying that he had tried to obtain an outline of the bill from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), but could only get a summary from a lobbyist.

"I've made what I consider a very reasonable offer, and I ask that it be accepted. It involves two words. I want the inclusion of two words to this bill, two words. Add the words 'for Utah' to the Antiquities Act," Lee said.

The delay comes as the country faces a government shutdown, which could close down a number of high occupancy national parks countrywide during the holidays.

Read more about the delay here.

Environmentalists aren't happy: The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks said the failure means the administration "squandered a historic opportunity" to protect public lands.

"Congress' failure to permanently reauthorize and fund the bipartisan LWCF jeopardizes the multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry and lets down millions of Americans who rely on this critical program to experience the great outdoors, in local communities across the United States," the group said in a statement.



Poland signs 20-year deal to buy natural gas from the U.S. (The Washington Post)

Adani's Carmichael mine faces another potential setback, as opponents lobby insurers not to provide cover (ABC)

EU temporarily suspends UK carbon permit processes ahead of Brexit (Euractiv)



Check out Thursday's stories ...

-Latest Trump plans would open Alaskan Arctic to drilling by next summer

-East Coast states sue to challenge Trump's offshore oil move

-Senate poised to kick land bill fight to January