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Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal

Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal
© Stefani Reynolds

HOUSE VOTES TO REOPEN INTERIOR, EPA: The House approved legislation that would fund and reopen the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service in an 240-179 vote on Friday, the latest effort by Democrats to put pressure on Republicans and President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE to end the partial shutdown.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.

It's the fourth measure approved by the Democratic-controlled House this week. Democrats are voting on a series of bills to open up the parts of the government closed since Dec. 22, which has left about 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' On The Money: Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms | Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks | Poll: Most Americans support raising taxes on those making at least 0K Nearly one-third of US adults expect to lose employment income: Census Bureau MORE (R-Ky.) has said he will not bring any of the bills up to a vote in the Senate until there is a deal between Trump and Democrats on the president's demand for border wall funding.

The Republicans voting for the bill on Friday were Reps. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisGOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus Biden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond MORE (Ill.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Divided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  MORE (Pa.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler wins reelection MORE (Wash.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' Katko announces bid to serve as top Republican on Homeland Security panel Katko fends off Democratic opponent in New York race MORE (N.Y.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight First release from Fox News Books reaches No. 2 on Amazon top-seller list MORE (Ill.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Woman tased, arrested for trespassing for not wearing mask at Ohio football game China sanctioning Rubio, Cruz in retaliatory move over Hong Kong MORE (N.J.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Cuomo reverses on in-person Thanksgiving plans with family MORE (N.Y.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGOP lawmaker to Trump: Drop election argument 'for the sake of our Nation' Pressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Republican Michigan congressman: 'The people have spoken' MORE (Mich.) and Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenMcMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment MORE (Ore.).

Trump is edging closer to declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build a wall, a step that could start a court fight with Democrats.

Negotiations between the two sides have not been fruitful. Trump stormed out of a Wednesday meeting at the White House and called it a "total waste of time."

The shutdown will become the longest in U.S. history on Saturday.

In their comments on the floor ahead of the vote, both sides dug in hard.

"Trump articulated at the White House that he would not open government until we agreed with doing what he wanted to do. That is not democracy, that's despotism," said House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerFunding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Hoyer releases 2021 House calendar Democrats eye Dec. 11 exit for House due to COVID-19 MORE (D-Md.).

He also noted that the bills being brought to the Senate floor had passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support.

Read more on the House vote here.

 

In other shutdown news...

 

DEMS QUESTION PLANNED EPA NOMINATION HEARING DURING SHUTDOWN: Senate Democrats say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might be breaking the law by having employees help with Andrew Wheeler's confirmation process to serve as the agency's administrator during the partial government shutdown.

Under federal law and the EPA's own contingency plan, just over 800 employees are allowed to work at the agency after its appropriations have lapsed.

But Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a letter to the EPA that it's not clear that the staff who are helping Wheeler prepare for his confirmation hearing before that panel next week are among those allowed to work.

"We are concerned that preparations for your confirmation hearing may be occurring using resources that are not described in or authorized under EPA's Contingency Plan," Carper wrote, along with Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year MORE (Md.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R.I.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (Md.), other Democrats on the committee.

"It is difficult to understand how preparing you for next week's confirmation hearing credibly falls within any of the categories listed in EPA's Contingency Plan, particularly the category of employee that is 'necessary to protect life and property.' Using EPA resources in this manner may also run afoul of the Antideficiency Act," they said.

President Trump this week formally nominated Wheeler, the EPA's acting administrator since July, to officially take that post, a nomination that requires Senate confirmation.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Wyo.), the environment panel's chairman, quickly scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday on Wheeler's confirmation.

The EPA says it is certain that the staff assisting Wheeler are allowed to be working.

Read more on the controversy here.

 

TGIF! The government shutdown clock is at 21 days, tied with the record for longest government shutdown in history.

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VIRGINIA DEM ADDS SUPPORT TO GREEN NEW DEAL: Democratic Rep. Don Beyer (Va.) is throwing his support behind the progressive climate change vision known as the Green New Deal, and he thinks a carbon tax should be its driving policy.

"A Green New Deal would use major infrastructure investments and policy changes to rapidly shift the U.S. economy towards clean energy solutions and away from greenhouse gas emissions in a way that grows employment in the green economy. This is an idea whose time has come, and I fully support it," Beyer said in a statement to The Hill on Friday.

"I believe that the scientific reports issued in recent months make it unequivocally clear that we need ambitious ideas to address climate change very urgently."

The lawmaker, who will soon sit on the House Ways and Means Committee -- the chief tax-writing panel -- said he hopes to use his new seat to push ambitious climate change policies to address global warming and the need to shrink carbon emissions.

To do so, he's looking to promote a bill he previously introduced that would limit carbon emissions and create a trading program.

"I think a smart way to help drive that transition would be to create an economic mechanism that would rapidly elevate wind, solar and other clean energy and phase out carbon pollution while minimizing the negative effects on American families," Beyer said.

Beyer introduced the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act last year with 36 Democratic co-sponsors. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

What the bill does: Under the bill, the Department of Transportation would cap carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants and create a carbon trading program. Fuel suppliers and processors would have to purchase carbon permits equal to the amount of CO2 they emit from the Treasury, which would auction off the permits. The revenue generated from the auction would then be distributed back to U.S. households in the form of a dividend as a type of stimulus, according to the bill.

"I have just been appointed to the Ways and Means Committee, which would have jurisdiction over any carbon pricing legislation. I plan to use that appointment to push for legislative solutions to climate change, including ideas expressed in a Green New Deal," Beyer said.

More on his efforts here.

GRIJALVA BACKS BISHOP FOR INTERIOR SECRETARY OVER ACTING HEAD: Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, on Friday said he supports the committee's ranking member Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler Bruce Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee Republicans in campaign mode for top spots on House environmental committees MORE (R-Utah), to be the new Interior Secretary, saying he was better than other candidates because "He doesn't carry the legal baggage or conflicts."

David Bernhardt is currently serving as acting secretary.

Grijalva says that while he and Bishop don't always see eye to eye, he backs Bishop because he thinks that Bishop is "ethical."

"His philosophy and ours obviously don't match up," Grijalva said to The Hill. "But, I have to put a but in there ... he's ethical. And he doesn't carry the legal baggage or conflicts -- the pretty obvious conflicts others have."

The lawmaker said those conflicts clearly existed in former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior shortlist puts focus on New Mexico lawmakers | Progressives criticize Biden transition over volunteer who represented Exxon | Trump DOJ appointees stalled investigation into Zinke: report Trump DOJ appointees stalled investigation into Zinke: report GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte wins Montana governor's race MORE, who departed the agency Jan. 2 amid multiple ethics investigations, and in Bernhardt.

Bernhardt is a former energy lobbyist. He and Bishop, who chaired the House Natural Resources Committee for the past eight years, are the reported frontrunners to take over for Zinke.

"In that sense, it would be a plus for Interior, to know you're dealing with a philosophical zealot but you're not dealing with somebody who has compromised themselves legally or ethically," Grijalva said of Bishop.

In his role as chairman, Bishop championed rolling back protections on threatened and endangered species, supported the idea of expanding oil and gas drilling on public land and believed states should have more authority to determine how federal lands were used -- all ideas that Grijalva staunchly objected.

Conversely, Bernhardt served for months as Zinke's number two often taking the lead on crafting administrative rules, including a plan to open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bishop told The Hill on Thursday he had not heard any word from the White House on the secretarial position. He wouldn't comment on whether he wanted the position.

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Grijalva's comments pointedly addressed Zinke, who remains under investigation by the Interior's Office of Inspector General for two ethics charges related to a real estate deal where he partnered with the then-chairman of oil services company Haliburton, and another instance where he decided against green-lighting a Native American tribe's plan to build a casino in Connecticut.

The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating Zinke for lying to investigators over one of those cases.

Zinke and Grijalva had an online fight at the end of last year that resulted in the secretary calling the lawmaker a drunk.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

Wheeler will head to Capitol Hill Wednesday for his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to be the EPA's official administrator.

Expect the hearing to be an examination of the Trump administration's policies at the EPA. Democrats are likely to press him on major regulatory rollbacks on air pollution, climate change and water rules, while the GOP will likely highlight his work to help businesses.

Wheeler was already confirmed last year to be the deputy administrator, and he used to be a senior staffer at the Environment Committee.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Moody's estimates that PG&E is facing at least $15 billion in liability for California's wildfires, the Mercury News reports.

Mexican fishermen allegedly attacked a boat being used by an environmental group in the Gulf of California, The Guardian reports.

New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has banned coyote hunting contests on state trust land, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories ...

-Virginia Democrat adds his support to Green New Deal

-Dems ask why EPA is preparing for Wheeler confirmation during shutdown

-House votes to reopen Interior, EPA as shutdown fight wages on

-Grijalva backs Bishop over current acting Interior Secretary

-Kerry to Trump: Forget 'fictional' border crisis, declare emergency for climate

-Nonprofit raises funds to help national parks recover from shutdown damage

-Oregon begins killing sea lions harming population of endangered trout