Overnight Energy: Justices reject Exxon appeal in climate case | Interior to use entrance fees to keep national parks open | Dems question legality of move | Hearing on water rule postponed due to shutdown

JUSTICES WON’T BLOCK EXXON PROBE BY MASSACHUSETTS: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up a case in which Exxon Mobil Corp. is trying to stop Massachusetts’s demand for company documents in a climate change investigation.

The announcement in the case, Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Healey, came without explanation, as is the court’s usual practice. Four of the high court’s nine judges would have had to vote in favor of taking the case for it to be put in the docket.

ADVERTISEMENT

Exxon Mobil, the nation’s largest oil company by production volume, wanted the court to stop Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) from compelling it to produce decades of records about how it has dealt with the threat of climate change to the world and to its businesses.

What this means for Exxon: The Supreme Court’s rejection appears to be the last step Exxon Mobil could take to stop the investigation, and the company now must likely comply with the civil investigative demand, a document akin to a subpoena.

Healey is probing whether the company lied to the public or investors about how much it knew about the threat of climate change, the role of its fossil fuel products and how climate policies would hurt its businesses.

How we got here: The probe, launched in 2016, is part of a larger move by Democrats and environmentalists to hold Exxon Mobil accountable for allegedly sowing doubt about climate science while internally knowing the true extent of the problem. Exxon Mobil has denied the allegations.

Massachusetts’s top court ruled for Healey in April, after which Exxon Mobil asked the Supreme Court to step in.

“The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court compelled compliance with sweeping investigatory requests by the state’s attorney general for decades’ worth of documents concerning petitioner’s knowledge of, and the relationship of petitioner’s products to, climate change,” Exxon Mobil wrote in its September 2018 petition to the high court.

Reaction: Healey’s office cheered the ruling as a major victory.

“The law is clear. The Attorney General’s Office has the authority to investigate Exxon’s conduct toward consumers and investors, and we are proceeding,” Chloe Gotsis, a spokeswoman for Healey, said in a statement.

“The public deserves answers from this company about what it knew about the impacts of burning fossil fuels, and when.”

Read more on the legal fight here.

 

Happy Monday! 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.

 

INTERIOR TELLS PARKS TO DRAIN VISITOR FEE FUNDS: New acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is directing the National Park Service (NPS) to drain their funds collected from entrance fees "until they’ve reached a zero balance," in order to keep parks open, according to an internal memo obtained by The Hill.

The secretarial memo sent from Bernhardt to NPS Deputy Director Dan Smith on Saturday directed the agency to “immediately utilize” the money they’d collected through fees to address “restrooms and sanitation, trash collection, road maintenance, campground operations, law enforcement and emergency operations, and staffing entrance gates.”

“These operations shall be maintained until such funds have reached a zero balance,” the memo read.

Bernhardt in the memo said the government shutdown “highlighted some significant challenges” the agency faces as it sought to both save park resources and provide public enjoyment.

“We must provide opportunities for people to access and enjoy our wonderful parks, and we must do so in a way that ensures the same opportunity for future generations to enjoy,” he wrote.

“The extended lapse in appropriations has highlighted some significant challenges the service faces as it strived to appropriately balance this dual mission.”

Read more on the plan here.

 

Democrats are questioning the legality of the move: The House Natural Resources Committee intends to investigate the Trump administration’s decision to dip into visitor fees to keep parks open, the panel's chairman warned Sunday.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said that his committee — which oversees Interior — has plans to look into the legality of the decision, saying the shutdown has done “terrible damage” to the U.S.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE and his advisors apparently just woke up to the fact that the shutdown they created several weeks ago has done terrible damage to our country,” Grijalva said in a statement Sunday.

“This is not how a rational president behaves, and the Natural Resources Committee will demand answers about whether these moves are legally justified.”

More on their concerns here.

 

WATER RULE HEARING POSTPONED: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers have postponed a planned public hearing on the Trump administration’s proposal to reduce the waterways protected by the federal government.

The agencies said in a statement that the ongoing partial government shutdown, which has furloughed most EPA employees, compels them to cancel the planned Jan. 23 hearing in Kansas City, Kan.

The hearing is meant as an effort to gather more public input on the plan, which would cause some wetlands and streams to lose federal protections.

The shutdown is also delaying publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. Although the administration released the proposal publicly in early December, it hasn’t been in the Federal Register yet, which will officially kick off the 60-day public comment period.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY:

American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers will give the group’s annual State of American Energy speech, which is meant to set the policy agenda for the year.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA signed a deal with a company partly owned by a Florida Republican aimed at increasing the Venezuelan company’s oil output, Reuters reports.

ADVERTISEMENT

In his inaugural address, new California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) pledged to keep up the Golden State’s fights against the Trump administration over climate change, the Sacramento Bee reports.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamTrump jokes after rallygoer suggests migrants be shot Conserving wildlife migrations is part science, part policy Republicans target voter registration drives with new state laws MORE (D) tapped James Kenney, a former EPA official, to lead the state’s Environment Department, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and the weekend ...

- Interior chief directs staff to use all funds collected from visitor fees amid shutdown

- Supreme Court rejects Exxon Mobil appeal in climate case

- House panel to 'demand answers' on Interior's move to use visitor fees to keep parks open

- National parks taking unprecedented move to support operations during shutdown with entrance fees