Overnight Energy: Six Interior officials under ethics investigation | EPA chief failed to disclose former lobbying client | Greens ask Wheeler to back up claim that climate change is '50 to 75 years out'
Overnight Energy: Judge halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change | Dems demand details on Interior's offshore drilling plans | Trump mocks wind power
JUDGE TEMPORARILY HALTS DRILLING IN WYOMING OVER CLIMATE CHANGE: A federal judge late Tuesday temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on thousands of acres of public land in Wyoming, ruling that the Trump administration failed to "sufficiently consider climate change."
The decision by Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of drilling on the roughly 300,000 acres by not studying how each proposed drilling project could contribute to overall U.S. carbon emissions.
The ruling marks the first time the Trump administration's energy agenda has been halted for not considering climate change.
"Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling," Contreras, an Obama appointee, wrote.
An assessment of how drilling affects the environment is required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The lack of specificity in the bureau's environmental assessment made it inadequate, Contreras said.
"Climate change, and humanity's ability to combat it, are increasingly prominent topics of public discourse. This case concerns the attention the government must give climate change when taking action that may increase its effects," he wrote in his opinion. "BLM failed to take a 'hard look' at [greenhouse gas] emissions from the Wyoming Lease Sales."
The ruling effectively blocked drilling across all Wyoming public lands until the bureau could redo its analysis of hundreds of planned extraction projects in the state.
The legal challenge was brought by two advocacy groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility. The challenge involved Wyoming oil and gas lease sales held between May 2015 and August 2016, under the Obama administration
The big picture: The monumental decision Tuesday could have reverberating consequences for the Trump administration, which has placed a strong emphasis on expanding the fossil fuel industry's access to public lands.
Tuesday's ruling comes as the Interior Department is expected to roll out a new five-year drilling plan that aims to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. The proposal is likely to receive heavy criticism from environmentalists and from governments in coastal states who largely reject federal plans to open up drilling off their shores.
Happy Wednesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Miranda Green, email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter: @mirandacgreen, @thehill.
DEMS DEMAND OFFSHORE DRILLING INFO BEFORE CONFIRMATION HEARING: A group of Senate Democrats are calling on the Interior Department to release more details about its anticipated offshore drilling plan prior to next week's confirmation hearing for acting Secretary David Bernhardt.
The group of 17 senators on Wednesday sent a letter to Bernhardt asking him to provide them a copy of the latest five-year plan currently being drafted by Interior, known as the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program.
Bernhardt is expected to testify in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee next Thursday as part of his confirmation hearing. He was nominated formally by President Trump in March to replace former Interior chief Ryan Zinke.
"The American public and their elected representatives in Congress deserve to understand your vision for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) before we consider your nomination to serve as Secretary of the Interior," the senators wrote.
The letter was signed by, among others, Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). It specifically asked Interior to provide them with prior insight into which coastal areas will be included in the draft plan.
Former Secretary Zinke first announced in 2018 that he was directing the agency to develop an offshore drilling plan. A majority of state governors and leaders resoundingly came out against the plan.
Since the announcement, states have waited anxiously to see whether their concerns have been addressed by the federal government, which controls drilling rights three to nine nautical miles offshore.
The plan to expand offshore drilling comes as the Trump administration has beefed up its energy independence push, including strides to make available more public land for oil and gas exploration.
The administration still faces a number of hurdles when it comes to tapping into offshore oil and gas reservoirs, including figuring out where exactly they are. Doing so would likely include seismic testing, which environmentalist and animal advocates have long warned could cause harm to sea animals.
Many coastal communities rejected all plans to drill and to test.
TRUMP MOCKS WIND POWER: President Trump on Wednesday mocked the idea of fostering wind power, suggesting that it would devalue property and undermine U.S. output of other energy forms.
Trump at an event in Ohio touted that the U.S. was the largest producer of crude oil and natural gas in the world. He suggested that would not have been the case had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election.
"Hillary wanted to put windmills all over the place," he told workers at a tank factory in Lima, Ohio.
Trump then mimicked a man telling his spouse to "turn off the television" when the wind doesn't blow in order to save electricity. The joke was reminiscent of a similar line he delivered earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which derided the Green New Deal.
"Put the windmills up and watch the value of your house if you're in sight of a windmill -- watch the value of your house go down by 65 percent," he said Wednesday. "Wonderful to have windmills. And solar's wonderful too, but it's not strong enough, and it's very, very expensive."
Trump campaigned on restoring coal mining jobs. Since taking office, his administration has rolled back regulations and the president has highlighted the boom in the energy industry as a sign of economic strength.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Georgia House panel passes resolution opposing offshore drilling, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
Gas prices start rising as spring officially starts, USA Today reports.
Oil hits 2019 high on biggest U.S. crude storage drop since July, Bloomberg reports
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out stories from Wednesday...
-Dem senators demand offshore drilling info before Bernhardt confirmation hearing
-Trump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television'
-California to pull National Guard troops from border to fight wildfires
-Judge temporarily halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change
-Inslee: We want world to know 'there is still intelligent life in the US'
-Advocacy group: 70 percent of US produce retains pesticide residues after being washed
-EPA head says climate change threat '50-75 years out'