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Overnight Energy — Presented by Job Creators Network — House votes to block Trump from exiting Paris deal | Trump rolling back Obama drilling safety rules | Dems grill Interior lawyer alongside nominee who would investigate him

Overnight Energy — Presented by Job Creators Network — House votes to block Trump from exiting Paris deal | Trump rolling back Obama drilling safety rules | Dems grill Interior lawyer alongside nominee who would investigate him
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HOUSE SAYS OUI TO PARIS: House Democrats passed the first climate bill in nearly a decade Thursday in what they see is a "first step" to building a strategy to fight global warming.

The House voted 231-190 to pass the Climate Action Now Act, which seeks to block the Trump administration from exiting the Obama-era Paris climate agreement, among other actions. Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.

What's next: The legislation now heads go to the Republican-led Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop aide: Biden expected to visit Georgia in push to boost Ossoff, Warnock Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' MORE (R-Ky.) has said it "will go nowhere."

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Why it's a big deal for Dems: Democrats embraced the legislation while acknowledging its limited scope, with a number of progressive lawmakers and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates pushing for a more robust plan to combat climate change.

"I think we need to support whatever action on climate that we can get. I certainly think that we need to do more, and it's not about any one bill," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez defends Harry Styles wearing dress on Vogue cover: 'It looks wonderful' Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-N.Y.), who has been pushing the Green New Deal, the House's other major climate measure that has not been brought up for a vote or had a hearing.

"I mean H.R. 9 is a resolution as well. I'm really just eager and looking forward to legislation that has teeth to it," she said, referring to the bill passed Thursday.

Several Democrats have stressed that the legislation championed by House Democratic leadership should be viewed as a jumping off point for additional climate bills.

"It's one of the first. I don't think it can be the only one," said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Calif.), one of the bill's co-sponsors. "We're going to need a lot of bills, to tackle climate change, so this is a good start."

 

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The details: The House-approved legislation would force President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE to keep the U.S. in the landmark Paris climate agreement and direct the executive branch to figure out how to make the country hit the emissions goals laid out in the international accord.

Trump announced months after taking office in 2017 that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord negotiated under his predecessor, though the U.S. cannot officially pull out of the agreement until 2020.

The president has argued that the 2015 agreement is "very unfair at the highest level to the United States" and announced plans to withdraw despite many other nations deciding to remain in the agreement.

 

Even if House Democrats develop a plan, it's not going anywhere in the Republican-led Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that the Senate will not take up a House bill that would force President Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement.

"This futile gesture to handcuff the U.S. economy through the ill-fated Paris deal will go nowhere here in the Senate," McConnell said from the Senate floor. "We're in the business of actually helping middle-class families, not inventing new obstacles to throw in their paths."

McConnell's comments underscore that the bill is dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Read more on the House vote here and more on McConnell's response here.

Happy Thursday! 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 and Rebecca Beitsch, rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @mirandacgreen, @rebeccabeitsch and @thehill.

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TRUMP ROLLS BACK OFFSHORE DRILLING SAFETY RULES: The Trump administration on Thursday announced final plans to ease oil and gas drilling rules that were originally established as a response to the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

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The change will remove some of the safety mandates placed on the oil and gas industry under former President Obama, which industry members argued were too burdensome and cost prohibitive.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the rule revision in Port Fourchon, La., a major location for offshore drilling near the Gulf of Mexico.

At the event, Bernhardt called the rule change an elimination of "unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore," the Associated Press reported.

Proposed safety changes to the Interior Department's Well Control Rule include loosening requirements for real-time monitoring of offshore drilling operations and easing requirements for companies to hold third-party certifications of easy access emergency equipment, to be used in the case of explosions or oil and gas leaks from wells.

How we got the rules: The requirements tweaked under the new rule were finalized in 2016 as a response to the BP oil spill, the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The safety mechanisms were established over the course of six years by investigators who looked into BP's well failure.

The historic oil spill killed 11 workers in 2010 and led to the spewing of more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a total of 87 days.

The oil industry and its allies, including most congressional Republicans, have long complained that parts of the rule were unnecessarily burdensome and sought to have them overturned. Many of those provisions would be undone with the Trump final rule.

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Read more here.

 

INTERIOR LAWYER GRILLED ALONGSIDE NOMINEE WHO WILL INVESTIGATE HIM: Senate Democrats had tough questions Thursday for the nominee to lead the Department of Interior's legal department and the inspector general nominee who would start the job by investigating him.

Seated together at the witness table at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing were Daniel Jorjani, the Department of Interior's main legal advisor, and Mark Lee Greenblatt who has been nominated to take over the office responsible for sorting through a number of potential ethical lapses from Interior's highest-level employees.

The committee's Republican members were largely absent from the meeting as Democrats narrowed in on a variety of ethical issues that have come up at Interior under Jorjani, who been formally nominated to be Interior's solicitor but is already serving in the position.

"The way Interior has acted under the Trump administration is the textbook definition of a political cartel, using state resources to help the special interests," said Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans The FCC is trying to govern content moderation: It doesn't have the authority MORE (D-Ore.). "It sure looks like Mr. Jorjani has been a key member of the cartel."

"Mr. Greenblatt, if you're confirmed, you're going to have your work cut out for you," Wyden said later. "I want to know what you're going to do to maintain your independence and avoid an appointee like Mr. Jorjani attempting to interfere with your work."

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The hearing provided an interesting look at two roles that are often in conflict.

"It's certainly not a sleepy office, let's put it that way," Greenblatt told The Hill. "There are emerging issues that are of intense public debate."

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT 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 Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (D-W.Va.), the top Democrat on the panel, told The Hill he expects both men to be confirmed.

Greenblatt would take over an Inspector General office with a heavy workload. Both 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 and current Secretary David Bernhardt are under investigation by the office, along with six other high-level officials.

Many environmental groups say Jorjani is at the center of a number of ethical missteps and controversial decisions that have become a focus for investigation.

 

The hearing included plenty of sharp exchanges.

Sen. Angus KingAngus KingLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump Republicans start turning the page on Trump era MORE (I-Maine) started off his remarks by saying he would support Greenblatt even as he continued to grill Jorjani on past comments he made about the office.

"'OIGs love travel investigations -- they're easy to document and spin in a negative way,'" King said reading from one of Jorjani's emails.

"What the hell do you mean by that?" King asked. "Doesn't that imply disrespect for the Office of the Inspector General?"

"I can only say I have the highest level of respect for the Office of the Inspector General," Jorjani said.

"I can only say that's inconsistent with what you said in your email," King replied.

Read more on the hearing here.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGES: Warren Buffett's purchase of Occidental could determine further deals down the road, argues Bill Arnold, a professor in the practice of energy management at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Oregon blaze grows to 400 acres, marking third large wildfire of season, The Statesman Journal reports.

San Francisco Bay has a new plan to combat sea level rise, The Mercury News reports.

Maine governor proposes climate council to pursue emissions, energy goals, the Portland Press Herald reports.

Costs for California's high-speed rail project may increase by $1.8 billion, the Los Angeles Times reports.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Thursday...

UK Parliament declares 'environment and climate emergency'

O'Rourke signs pledge not to accept fossil fuel money

Youth climate group walks back criticism of O'Rourke's climate plan: 'A great start'

House votes to block Trump from exiting Paris climate accord

McConnell: Senate won't take up bill preventing US withdrawal from Paris deal

Trump administration eases Obama-era offshore drilling safety rules

Dems grill top Interior lawyer alongside nominee who will investigate him