Overnight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars

INTERIOR REVERSES DECISION AT HEART OF ZINKE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: The Interior Department is reversing course on an initial decision to ban two Native American tribes from building a casino, an issue at the core of an ethics investigation into former Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use Interior secretary met with tribal lawyer attached to Zinke casino dispute Zinke joins board of small gold mining company MORE.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is now granting the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes the right to build an off-reservation casino in Connecticut, a complete flip from a previous decision by Zinke in September 2017 to deny the permits.

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The tribes later sued Interior over the call, arguing that political pressure from Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International, which has lobbied heavily against the project, was responsible for Zinke's decision.

Last month, a federal judge revived the tribes' lawsuit against Zinke's call.

The new ruling, to be announced in the Federal Register Monday, essentially nullifies that suit.

According to the Federal Register notice, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is accepting amendments submitted by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in August 2017 and granting the operation of a gaming facility. Tara Sweeny, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, signed off on the decision March 15.

Reaction: Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said he was thankful for the change.

"Today is a great day for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the State of Connecticut, especially given our 400-year history together," Butler said in a statement to Politico. "Now that the approval of our Amendment is secured and our exclusivity agreement with the State of Connecticut is reaffirmed, we will move forward with construction on Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor and preserve much needed jobs and revenue."

Read more here.

 

TGIF! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow me on Twitter: @mirandacgreen, @thehill. CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

The big news in Washington today is the delivery of Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's confidential report, bringing his two-year investigation to an end. Check in at TheHill.com for the latest on this breaking story. But meanwhile there's also plenty of news on the energy front...

 

GM PLANS TO ADD 400 NEW JOBS TO INVEST IN NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLE: General Motors on Friday announced it is adding 400 jobs to and investing $300 million in a Michigan plant to produce a new Chevrolet electric vehicle.

The investment is part of the company's vow to invest $1.8 billion in its U.S. operations to add 700 new jobs and support another 28,000 jobs in six states, the company said in a statement.

"We are excited to bring these jobs and this investment to the U.S.," GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said during an announcement at the Orion Township plant. "This new Chevrolet electric vehicle is another positive step toward our commitment to an all-electric future. GM will continue to invest in our U.S. operations where we see opportunities for growth."

The company said the new vehicle is in addition to the existing hybrid Chevrolet Bolt EV. The car's release date has not yet been made public.

The new automobile had originally been slated to be produced outside the U.S. but was moved to the Orion plant because it currently builds the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle, which the new car will be based on.

Moving production to the U.S. also "supports the rules of origin provisions in the proposed United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement," the company said, referring to a revised North American Free Trade Agreement deal touted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE.

Manufacturing jobs, particularly in the Midwest, have been under renewed scrutiny since Trump began his campaign in 2015. The former businessman made bringing factory jobs back to the U.S. one of the focal points of his platform.

The political stakes: GM faced criticism from the president after it announced in November that it would cut 5,000 jobs and shutter four U.S. factories, including one in Lordstown, Ohio.

Trump in December called the move "nasty" and said the company "is not going to be treated well."

"Because the economy is so good, General Motors must get their Lordstown, Ohio, plant open, maybe in a different form or with a new owner, FAST! Toyota is investing 13.5 $Billion in U.S., others likewise. G.M. MUST ACT QUICKLY. Time is of the essence!" Trump added last week.

Read more here.

 

DEM DIVISIONS DEEPEN OVER APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE: Centrist Democrats are pushing back on the fast-paced approach to climate change legislation preferred by Green New Deal supporters, arguing instead for a more gradual manner that they think will have a stronger chance of passing and reaching across the aisle.

The pressure from members of the New Democrat Coalition and other high-ranking lawmakers illustrates two competing views within the caucus: immediate, innovative bills versus those who prefer slow, incremental legislating.

"The move is going to be gradual and we're not going to do 100 percent [renewable energy] over 10 years," Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaOvernight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change MORE (D-Va.), a leader of the New Democrat Coalition's climate change task force, told reporters last week when asked what kind of legislation the group would pursue.

It's a very different message than the one that came from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Environmentalists see victory with Green New Deal blitz MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBen & Jerry's backs Green New Deal: 'We have to act now' Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release MORE (D-Mass.), who both introduced the Green New Deal resolution in February.

Ocasio-Cortez called it a "comprehensive agenda of economic, social and racial justice," while Markey referred to the resolution as a time for the party to be "bold once again."

The party division is likely to slow work by Democrats on climate change, and advocacy groups are growing frustrated by the inaction almost three months into the new House Democratic majority.

Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to exploit the intraparty division with a Senate vote on the Green New Deal expected next week. The progressive plan, backed to some extent by every Democratic presidential hopeful in the Senate, calls for transitioning the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Speaking to reporters last week, members of the New Democrat Coalition's task force on climate change laid out their plans to introduce what they branded realistic climate change initiatives.

"The Green New Deal is aspirational, but what we plan to do is offer tangible achievable things, not just a resolution," Luria said. "The entire plan of the task force is to find ways to attack this incrementally."

The lawmakers argued it's better to take the time to draft complete, heavily vetted legislation with a clear focus than to charge forward with a bill that might have holes.

Rep. Sean CastenSean CastenLiberals surprised by tax vote vow to kill 'Free File' provision Blue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try Illinois Dems offer bill to raise SALT deduction cap MORE (D-Ill.) praised "the amount of energy" the Green New Deal has inspired but said "doing energy and environmental policy right really requires making sure you get the expertise of the folks who have been down in the trenches."

Read more on the Democratic divide here.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

Next week is shaping up to be a busy one. Early in the week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal HR 1 brings successful local, state reforms to the federal level and deserves passage MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to bring a vote on the controversial Green New Deal. The move is an effort by Republicans to highlight a Democratic party divide over the progressive climate change plan. Most Democrats however are expected to fire back by voting "present." The non-vote that won't be counted as a yay or nay for the bill is meant to signal that Democrats see the fast-tracked vote as a "sham," one senior Senate Democratic aide told The Hill.

Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Mueller report reveals Russian efforts to sow division over coal jobs | NYC passes sweeping climate bill likened to 'Green New Deal' | EPA official says agency may ban asbestos | Energy Dept. denies Perry planning exit The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report The very early, boring Democratic primary: Biden v. Bernie MORE will also make an appearance on Capitol Hill midweek to discuss his agency's proposed budget. Issues likely to come up include President Trump's zeroing out of the $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit, and cuts to energy innovation targeting the ARPA-E agency and the Energy Department's loan program.

On Thursday, the Interior Department will get its time in the sun. Acting secretary David Bernhardt is scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for his confirmation hearing. Expect Democratic Senators to hammer the former energy lobbyist with questions about his role in rolling back key Endangered Species Act protections and his plan to open up new offshore drilling in the Atlantic coast.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Republican Rep. Gaetz drafting 'Green Real Deal' climate resolution, Politico reports

US oil prices soar to four-month highs, Forbes reports

As immediate threat passes, activists say Deer Park chemical fire brings attention to persistent issues, ABC news reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Friday...

-Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal investigation

-General Motors adding 400 new jobs, invests $300M in plant for new electric vehicle

-Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat'

-Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change