Overnight Energy: Polls highlight growing worries about climate change | Watchdog asked to probe recall of furloughed Interior workers | Canada allows preliminary work on Keystone XL

Overnight Energy: Polls highlight growing worries about climate change | Watchdog asked to probe recall of furloughed Interior workers | Canada allows preliminary work on Keystone XL
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POLLS HIGHLIGHT CLIMATE WORRIES: A record high number of Americans are calling climate change a personal issue, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

More than 70 percent of respondents say the issue of climate change is personally important to them, a 9 percent increase from last March, according to the poll conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change.

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The number of respondents who believe climate change is occurring stands at 73 percent, and 62 percent believe its cause is human-related. The percentage who believe climate change stems from natural environmental changes dropped to a record low of 23 percent, the poll found.

A majority of Americans, 69 percent, are concerned about global warming, including how the weather is impacted by rising global temperatures stemming from greenhouse gas emissions, at 65 percent.

More on the poll's findings here.

Another poll Tuesday found extreme weather events like droughts and floods are pushing Americans to believe more in the science of climate change.

According to that poll, by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center, 48 percent of respondents said they found the science of human-induced climate change more convincing than when the same survey was given five years ago.

Of those respondents, three quarters said weather events like hurricanes, droughts and floods influenced their views, the most of any of the options polltakers presented.

More on this poll here.

 

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.

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The government shutdown clock is at 32 days. On Tuesday, Senate leaders struck a deal to vote on two competing proposals to reopen the federal government. But there is no guarantee either bill will get the votes to pass. The White House also asked for a walk-through of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE's State of the Union address, even as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDHS chief to Pelosi: Emergency border funding 'has already had an impact' The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Trump faces new hit on deficit MORE (D-Calif.) is urging him to reschedule it.

 

GROUP ASKS WATCHDOG TO INVESTIGATE RECALL OF FURLOUGHED INTERIOR WORKERS: An environmental advocacy group formally asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday to investigate whether the Interior Department's recall of furloughed employees during the government shutdown is legal.

Representatives for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) asked the GAO to begin an "immediate" investigation into the funding sources Interior is using to pay previously furloughed government employees to resume their work.

The request follows reports in the past two weeks that Interior has green-lit the return of staff who work on preparing environmental reviews for offshore oil and gas leasing and processing oil and gas permit applications. Another report confirmed that the agency has asked some Fish and Wildlife Service staff to return to 38 national wildlife refuges to oversee currently ongoing and upcoming hunting programs.

Why green groups are not happy: PEER says those job functions are non-essential operations under the law and should be barred from payment under a shutdown.

"Interior appears to be gaming the system to circumvent the shutdown," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. "These Interior agencies have never previously reported budget surpluses, especially excesses large enough to last well into the second quarter of the current fiscal year."

The group alleges that the staff recalls show an administration wide desire to cater to special interest groups, like the fossil fuel industry and sportsmen's groups.

"We are asking GAO to determine whether these staff re-calls represent decisions by [acting Interior Secretary David] Bernhardt to cater to the desires of certain special interests in violation of the letter and intent of the Antideficiency Act," Ruch said. "At this moment, GAO is the only official watchdog left in town."

Interior's Office of the Inspector General and Freedom of Information Act office are both currently shuttered under the shutdown.

The GAO did not return a request for comment.

More on the Interior recalls here.

Lawmakers also demanding answers: Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing MORE (D-Va.) demanded that the Trump administration provide legal justification for recalling furloughed workers during the shutdown.

Other departments, along with Interior, have instructed furloughed employees to return to work unpaid. The Department of Agriculture ordered 2,500 workers in the Farm Service Agency to go back to work to help farmers with existing loans and tax paperwork. The Treasury Department is bringing back workers to process income verifications vital to the mortgage industry and to help process tax refunds during filing season.

More on Warner's letter here.

 

CANADA ALLOWS PRELIMINARY KEYSTONE WORK: Canadian regulators are permitting the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline to carry out some preliminary work on the project.

Canada's National Energy Board said Monday that TransCanada Corp. can carry out winter clearing work, including clearing shrubs and trees, in the pipeline's path in a section of Alberta, Canada.

The section at issue is the northern part of the pipeline, stretching southward from Hardisty, Alberta.

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The oil pipeline project's fortunes in Canada contrast with the United States. A federal court last year blocked Keystone XL's permit, saying the Trump administration didn't properly justify why it reversed the Obama administration's approval.

In December, the court clarified that nearly all preparatory work for the project is also blocked within the United States.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Safari hunter with Georgia ties threatened over elephant kill pics, CBS reports.

Saudi Aramco eyes multi-billion-dollar U.S. gas acquisitions, Reuters reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Tuesday and over the holiday weekend...

-Group asks watchdog to investigate recall of furloughed Interior workers

-Poll: Record number of Americans consider climate change a personal issue

-Poll: Extreme weather events changing Americans' climate change views

-Ocasio-Cortez: 'World will end in 12 years' if climate change not addressed

-Trump cites massive winter storm to mock global warming

-National parks cautiously brace for long weekend amid shutdown

-Judge blames uninsulated power conductors for deadly California wildfires

-66 dead, dozens injured, missing after explosion outside Mexico City