Overnight Energy: Trump threatens to stop FEMA funding for California fire relief | Wheeler officially nominated to be EPA head | Wildlife refuges to get staff during shutdown

Overnight Energy: Trump threatens to stop FEMA funding for California fire relief | Wheeler officially nominated to be EPA head | Wildlife refuges to get staff during shutdown

TRUMP THREATENS CALIFORNIA FEMA FUNDING: President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE said Wednesday morning that he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to withhold funding for California unless the state improves its forest management to prevent wildfires.

"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest (sic) fires that, with proper Forrest (sic) Management, would never happen," Trump tweeted.

"Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money," he added, calling it a "disgraceful situation in lives & money."

Trump later retweeted the statement with "forest" correctly spelled.

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FEMA has not responded to a request for comment, nor did the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which FEMA is a part.

FEMA and DHS are currently without funding amid a partial government shutdown that has lasted 19 days and counting.

 

Background: Trump has at least twice before threatened to withhold disaster funding from California for its wildfires and pressed the state to fix what he sees as major flaws with its forest management practices that cause or exacerbate fires.

Local officials and fire experts, meanwhile, have criticized Trump for ignoring the impact that climate change is having on the length and severity of fires -- and denying climate change science -- while giving too much credit to forest management.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who was sworn-in on Monday, responded to Trump via Twitter, telling the president that Californians "should not be victims to partisan bickering." Newsom said he's already moved to modernize the state's forest management and emergency response practices.

"We have been put in office by the voters to get things done, not to play games with lives," he said.

California passed a comprehensive law last year aimed at wildfires. Among other changes, it puts new resources into clearing out brush, dead trees and other biomass that contributes to fires.

A majority of forest land in the state, however, is owned by the federal government.

Wildfires ravaged the state in 2018, with the Camp Fire in Northern California killing at least 85 people and destroying thousands of buildings. The wildfire was the deadliest in the state's history and racked up an overall damage cost of $16.5 billion, according to reinsurance firm Munich Re, which on Tuesday named it the costliest disaster of 2018.

As the Camp Fire raged in November, Trump threatened to withhold federal payments to the state unless officials addressed forest management. The president ultimately issued a disaster declaration for California that freed up federal funding. Read more on the controversy here.

 

Pelosi: Threat is an insult to fire victims: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNYT's Friedman repeatedly says 's---hole' in tirade against Trump on CNN GOP lawmaker: Trump's tweets 'obviously not racist' On the USMCA, Pelosi can't take yes for an answer MORE (D-Calif.) soon lashed out at Trump, saying the president's words insult Americans who died in last year's wildfires.

"Trump's threat insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes," Pelosi said on Twitter.

"[House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThis week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump MORE (R-Calif.)] must join me to condemn & call on POTUS to reassure millions in CA that our govt will be there for them in their time of need." Read more.

 

Harris and Feinstein hit back: California Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Judd Gregg: Counting the costs of Democrats' desires Buttigieg: 'Medicare for all,' free college tuition are 'questionable on their merits' MORE and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip Senate confirms Trump's 9th Circuit pick despite missing blue slips MORE also slammed Trump for his tweet.

"Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state's history last year. We should work together to mitigate these fires by combating climate change, not play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster," Harris said.

"It's absolutely shocking for President Trump to suggest he would deny disaster assistance to the victims," write Feinstein. "This empty threat is based on groundless complaints, and candidly isn't worth the time of day."

Read more here and here.

 

A Republican lawmaker also pushes back: Rep. Doug LaMalfaDouglas (Doug) LaMalfaGOP moves to block provision banning use of Defense funds for border wall Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill MORE, a GOP congressman from northern California and Trump ally, said the tweet "came out of left field" and "didn't really help."
"So now we're working to make sure our constituents know -- and I will be remind them -- that he made the promise [to them] when he came to visit Paradise, which is greatly appreciated, and that FEMA has been great so far in helping," he said.

LaMalfa, like Trump, has been angered by the state's forestry policies. But he said Trump shouldn't conflate those policies with the real victims of the fires.

"I share the same frustration with the land management … but don't make it about FEMA and the fire victims," he said.

Read more.

 

Happy Wednesday! The government shutdown clock is at 19 days. Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

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WHEELER GETS OFFICIAL TRUMP NOD: Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler got Trump's formal nomination for to lead the agency Wednesday, after more than six months on the job.

The White House said Wednesday that Trump had sent Wheeler's nomination to the Senate, making good on a promise he made in November.

"I am honored and grateful that President Trump has nominated me to lead the Environmental Protection Agency," Wheeler said in a statement.

"For me, there is no greater responsibility than protecting human health and the environment, and I look forward to carrying out this essential task on behalf of the American public."

The nomination came despite the ongoing partial government shutdown, which has brought the EPA down to a skeleton staff.

Wheeler, a former lobbyist for coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp. and other energy companies, has been the EPA's acting head since July, when Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittSenior Trump administration official to leave post next week For Big Pharma, the revolving door keeps spinning Acosta defends Epstein deal, bucking calls for resignation MORE resigned due to growing ethics and spending scandals. The Senate confirmed him as deputy administrator in April.

Trump said in November that Wheeler had "done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him."

If the Senate confirms Wheeler to head the EPA, his responsibilities and abilities wouldn't change. But without the confirmation, he may have been limited to 210 days as acting chief.

The Senate currently has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats, so his confirmation is a near certainty.

Read more on Wheeler's nomination here.

 

Hearing one week away: Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoHouse passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' GOP senator: US should 'reevaluate' long-term relationship with Saudis Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, wasted little time in moving forward to get Wheeler confirmed.

He announced hours after Trump sent the nomination that the panel would hold a hearing next Wednesday at 10 a.m.

That's a quick turnaround for any nominee. But Wheeler is largely a known quantity to the Senate, having served at EPA for the better part of a year and already being confirmed as deputy administrator.

Barrasso said he'd work for a quick confirmation process.

"Acting Administrator Wheeler has done an outstanding job leading EPA and is well qualified to run the agency on a permanent basis. I will work with committee members to get him confirmed," he said in a statement.

Wheeler was spotted making the rounds in advance of his hearing late Wednesday, with a meeting with Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThis week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (R-Okla.), his former boss.

 

WILDLIFE REFUGE STAFF DIRECTED BACK TO WORK: The Trump administration plans to restaff 38 wildlife refuges during the government shutdown in order to keep providing "opportunities, including hunting," according to an internal email obtained by The Hill.

Margaret Everson, principal deputy director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), announced to employees Tuesday that some furloughed employees will be brought back to staff refuges and in some instances open visitor centers at key refuges to protect jeopardized natural resources.

"While many of our refuges have remained accessible, but not staffed, the extended lapse in federal appropriations is impacting both our ability to serve the public and to protect natural resources under our care in some places," Everson wrote in the email first reported by The Associated Press.

Barbara Wainman, assistant director for external affairs at FWS, said the decision will fund the paychecks of 244 FWS employees to return to refuges in order to continue maintenance backlog projects, oversee scheduled upcoming hunts and prepare for the upcoming fire season.

Wainman said the agency will pull from previously appropriated funds under fiscal 2018 they call carryover, as well as some entrance fee revenue. She said the agency will not be "moving money around" in order to fund the services. They estimate that the total of $2.5 million in venue will be able to fund the refuges for 30 days.

Read more on the decision here.

 

CALIFORNIA DEMS INTRODUCE AGGRESSIVE CLIMATE BILL: Reps. Ted LieuTed W. LieuTed Lieu: Trump a 'racist ass' House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Members to have little time to question Mueller MORE (D-Calif.) and Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezLawmakers call for 'time out' on facial recognition tech Amazon shareholders vote down limits on facial recognition software WHIP LIST: The 83 House Democrats backing an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Calif.) introduced climate change legislation Wednesday that would require that all electricity sold in the United States be generated by renewable sources by 2035.

The two members heralded the bill as the one of the boldest climate bills in Congress.

The legislation aims to encourage the increased use of renewable energy in the U.S. It would also require greenhouse gas emissions to hit 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The bill, they said, would create a national energy efficiency standard.

"There is no threat greater to our nation's security than climate change. Failing to protect our planet will endanger the lives of millions, hurt our economy and jeopardize our children's future," said Lieu in a statement.

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"My bill is bold because we need to be bold on climate change. Now that Democrats are in the majority, we can and will be more aggressive on curbing the impact of climate change and creating a sustainable future for generations to come."

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

A federal judge struck down an Iowa "ag gag" law, which made it illegal for journalists and advoacates to go undercover at agricultural or animal operations, as unconstitutional, the Des Moines Register reports.

European regulators are considering implementing "right to repair" policies in the name of fighting climate change, BBC News reports.

Saudi Aramco plans to issue bonds later this year and comply with the reporting requirements to do so, Reuters reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

- House chairman says Trump should close parks during shutdown

- Trump administration to restaff key wildlife refuges to continue hunts

- Trump formally nominates Wheeler to head EPA

- Feinstein blasts Trump's 'empty threat' to withhold FEMA funding from California

- Pelosi: Trump FEMA threat insults memory of Americans killed in wildfires

- Kamala Harris pushes back on Trump threat: Don't play politics with FEMA funds

- Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires