Overnight Energy: Trump officials halt plans to expand offshore drilling | Giraffes move closer to endangered species protections | Renewable energy groups look to protect research funding | House to vote on climate bill next week

Overnight Energy: Trump officials halt plans to expand offshore drilling | Giraffes move closer to endangered species protections | Renewable energy groups look to protect research funding | House to vote on climate bill next week

TRUMP OFFICIALS HALT PLANS TO EXPAND OFFSHORE DRILLING: The Trump administration is hitting pause on its ambitious and controversial plans to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

Newly confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the agency has indefinitely sidelined its exploration of offshore drilling options as it grapples with a recent court order that blocks similar drilling in the Arctic.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Thursday, Bernhardt said the department has decided to wait on the outcome of appeals to the March case before deciding whether to move forward with additional drilling plans.

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"By the time the court rules, that may be discombobulating to our plan," Bernhardt told the Journal. "What if you guess wrong? ... I'm not sure that's a very satisfactory and responsible use of resources."

How we got here: In March, a federal judge in Alaska reinstated a ban on drilling in the Arctic originally implemented under the Obama administration. The ruling halted hotly debated plans to open up the area to offshore drilling. It also invalidated an earlier executive order from President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE overturning the Obama-era ban.

Now, that ruling means Interior may have to wait until the case goes through a likely lengthy round of appeals before deciding how to move forward on its Atlantic drilling plans.

"Given the recent court decision, the Department is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the President," an Interior spokesperson told the Hill in a statement.

What about the states? There also remains the question of ongoing pushback from coastal states. The majority of lawmakers and governors for coastal Atlantic states have vocally opposed any drilling, including seismic testing needed to determine where oil deposits are located.

The Interior Department has handed out personal assurances to some state representatives, including those from Florida and Maine, that drilling will not affect their states. Critics have challenged those promises as cherry-picking.

We've got more on the decision here.

 

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GIRAFFES MOVE CLOSER TO ENDANGERED SPECIES PROTECTIONS: Giraffes, long favored by hunters for their compelling spots and long limbs, are one step closer to obtaining federal protections that would likely deter international hunting.

A Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) notice posted Thursday found that animal rights groups who petitioned for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the giraffe "present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted."

What's next: The federal government now has 12 months to decide whether to list giraffes under the ESA.

The ruling marks the first step toward listing the animal as threatened or endangered under the ESA and triggers a review of the species to determine how threatened the animal is in the wild.

The numbers: Giraffes are commonly found throughout Africa, but their numbers have dropped in recent years by nearly 40 percent according to the Giraffe Conservation Fund. Experts largely blame an expanding human habitat as the main source of the species demise.

There are fewer than 100,000 giraffes left in Africa, fewer than the number of elephants, according to conservationists.

The ruling comes after various wildlife groups petitioned the federal government in April 2017 to include the giraffe under the ESA as at least a threatened species.

They argued that the species was "in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range." Four of the groups later sued the Trump administration in 2018 to force a response on the petition for the giraffe, which they argued the FWS failed to do within its 90-day deadline.

Reaction: Wildlife groups cheered Thursday's ruling as a first step in the right direction to provide protections for the animal.

"This is a big step toward protecting giraffes from the growing use of their bones by U.S. gun and knife makers," said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's disgusting that it took a lawsuit to prompt the Trump administration to act. Saving everyone's favorite long-necked animal from extinction should have been the easiest call in the world."

Read more no the decision here.

 

RENEWABLE ENERGY GROUPS WANT TO KEEP RESEARCH FUNDING: An assortment of renewable energy industries are pushing Congress to fight budget cuts that would dramatically scale back support for renewable and energy efficiency research.

The Trump administration has proposed an 86 percent cut to such programs within the Department of Energy's budget.

The groups, ranging from wind to solar to biomass producers, say funding should not be cut "at a time when global competitors are dramatically increasing research and development for renewable energy technologies."

Their call may fall on sympathetic ears. Congress has previously rejected the administration's proposed cuts to such programs. Republicans, in calling for innovation to tackle climate change have nodded at support of some government-funded research and development efforts.

 

HOYER ANNOUNCES HOUSE VOTES ON CLIMATE BILL, DISASTER AID: House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (D-Md.) on Thursday announced that lawmakers in the coming weeks will consider top items on the Democratic legislative agenda.

A vote on a climate bill: Hoyer said that the House will first vote next week on legislation to ensure the U.S. abides by the Paris agreement on climate change, from which President Trump withdrew in 2017.

And a vote on disaster aid: During the week of May 6, the House is expected to take up a disaster aid bill. Efforts to pass legislation have stalled in the Senate in recent weeks over Trump's opposition to providing assistance to Puerto Rico.

More on what to expect in the House here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-37 hurt, including 7 critically after Chicago-area gas leak, the Associated Press reports

-400 firefighters battle Germany forest fire amid spring heat, UPI reports

-Oil prices fall, pulling back from the week's six-month highs, CNBC reports

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Stories from Thursday...

-Trump officials halt plans to expand offshore drilling

-Hoyer announces House votes on climate bill, disaster aid

-Researchers say world's second-largest emperor penguin colony has been wiped out

-Giraffes move closer to endangered species protections

-Climate activists target London Stock Exchange, other sites