Overnight Energy: House energy panel to address climate change at first hearing | DOJ investigating whether Zinke lied to watchdog | Landmark greenhouse gas agreement takes effect

HOUSE ENERGY PANEL TO DEDICATE FIRST HEARING TO CLIMATE: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold its first hearing under the chamber's new Democratic majority on climate change.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who became the panel's chairman Thursday when the new Democratic-majority House was sworn in, said climate will come before other major issues within Energy and Commerce's broad jurisdiction, including health care and technology.

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Pallone said dedicating the first hearing to climate is meant in part to highlight how Democrats believe Republicans ignored the issue during their eight years in the majority.

"Part of the reason why we want to deal with climate change first is because of the necessity, because of what's happening, the acceleration of global warming," he told reporters.

"But it's also the fact that we haven't been able to have any hearings on that issue, because the Republicans wouldn't allow it."

Pallone said GOP leaders "were all climate deniers," and that the party consistently blocked Democratic attempts to prioritize climate change in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The panel said in a statement that the hearing will focus on "assessing the environmental and economic impacts of climate change."

Pallone said it's unclear when the hearing will take place, but it will likely be about a week after the committee's organizational meeting.

 

Dems at odds on how to address climate change: How to address the issue of climate change in the majority has divided the House Democratic caucus. Pallone has been an outspoken critic of creating a special select committee on climate change. Energy and Commerce is the main committee with jurisdiction over environment and climate policy, and a new select committee may step on that jurisdiction.

House leaders, including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' On The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (D-Calif.), proposed setting up a special climate panel but with features that address many of the concerns from Pallone and other chairmen of standing committees. The would include giving it no power to pass legislation or issue subpoenas.

Pallone has faced sharp criticisms from progressives for his stance on the select committee.

But he denied that making climate the focus of his first hearing is meant to push back on the select committee.

"Every time I've ever talked to anybody who's progressive or a Democrat, they've said that they understand that we take it very seriously," he said.

Read more on Pallone's plans here.

 

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DOJ PROBING WHETHER ZINKE LIED TO INTERIOR INVESTIGATORS: The Justice Department is probing former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Major California utility PG&E filing for bankruptcy after wildfires | Zinke hired at investment firm | Barclays to avoid most Arctic drilling financing Zinke takes job at investment firm Trump taps Commerce watchdog to be new Interior inspector general MORE, who left the agency Wednesday, over whether he lied to investigators, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The department's public integrity section is looking into whether Zinke lied to the Interior Inspector General's Office, which was looking into various inquiries having to do with Zinke.

Upon his departure, the inspector general was investigating a land deal Zinke entered into with the chairman of oil services company Haliburton, as well as a decision Interior made to not sign off on a proposal from two tribes to run a commercial casino off reservation land in Connecticut.

It was first reported in October that the inspector general referred a case on Zinke to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ, which typically does not discuss ongoing investigations, has not announced which case is under investigation. The Post reported that it was unclear what potential lie Zinke is being investigated for , but sources said it was not about the land deal he struck.

An Interior spokesperson refused to comment citing the government shutdown. Zinke's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Zinke submitted his resignation in December on the heels of the various investigations. In a statement he released on Twitter, Zinke blamed the media -- and expensive legal fees -- for his reason to leave Washington.

"After 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations," he wrote.

More here.

 

INTERNATIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS COMMITMENT TAKES EFFECT: The United Nations is cheering a first of its kind international climate pact to curb the use of a potent greenhouse gas that went into effect on January 1.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, negotiated under the Obama administration in 2016, went into effect at the beginning of the year and binds the 65 countries who ratified the amendment to dramatically decrease their hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) emissions.

Restricting ozone depleting pollutants was a main tenant of the Montreal Protocol signed in 1987. HFCs are organic compounds often used in air conditioners and refrigerators as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances. While they don't directly harm the ozone layer, HFCs are hundreds of times more potent as greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.

"The world has taken an important step on the road to drastically reduce the production and consumption of powerful greenhouse gasses known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and limit global warming," the U.N. said in a press release Thursday.

Under the amendment, countries are expected to reduce their production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years.

It's estimated that if adopted by all governments globally, the agreement can help avoid up to 0.4°C temperature increase due to climate change by the end of this century.

Those in support of the pact include the European Union, Japan, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

 

Trump's stance: Despite the Obama administration's integral part in negotiating the deal, the Trump administration has remained undecided on its support. Last February, George David BanksGeorge (David) David BanksOvernight Energy: House energy panel to address climate change at first hearing | DOJ investigating whether Zinke lied to watchdog | Landmark greenhouse gas agreement takes effect Novel international greenhouse gas commitment goes into effect White House nominating new science adviser with extreme-weather background MORE, Trump's adviser for international environmental policy, said that he and his colleagues were still analyzing the 2016 pact to see if they'd recommend the president support it.

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"We understand that there's broad industry support. But we really want to understand, in a more concrete way, a few things: how this benefits U.S. companies, how it preserves and creates U.S. jobs and how it can help the trade balance and help foster exports to other countries," Banks said at a gathering at the time.

Banks said that if Trump were to support the agreement, he would first submit it to the Senate for ratification, which would require a two-thirds majority vote.

Read more on the landmark agreement here.

 

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FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

OPEC's influence is diminishing, argues Carolyn Kissane, academic director of global affairs at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU School of Professional Studies.

Increasing the gas tax is the answer to a reliable, sustainable, long-term funding source for the Highway Trust Fund, argues Bennett E. Resnik is Assistant Counsel and Manager of Government Relations for Cardinal Infrastructure, LLC.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check Thursday's stories ...

-House energy panel to dedicate first hearing to climate change

-GOP commissioner on federal energy panel dies

-DOJ probing whether Zinke lied to Interior investigators: report

-Senate confirms Trump's pick for EPA international office

-Novel international greenhouse gas commitment goes into effect