Overnight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules

Overnight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules
© Greg Nash

CLIMATE CHANGE UP TO CONGRESS? Interior Secretary David Bernhardt defended his position on climate change and record on ethics while speaking before lawmakers Tuesday to discuss his agency's proposed budget.

In his first hearing since being sworn in as secretary, the Trump administration official frequently put the onus on lawmakers for responding to global warming. He said that while he believes in climate change, Congress has not directed him to respond to it.

"Isn't this your job?" Bernhardt asked Rep. Chellie PingreeRochelle (Chellie) PingreeHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move to Kansas City MORE (D-Maine) when pushed to share his views on climate change during a subcommittee hearing for the House Appropriations Committee. "You're a political leader right now that we are counting on."

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Bernhardt told the committee that there are more than 600 instances in current laws where the secretary is directed that he or she "shall" do something.

"You know what there's not – is a 'shall' for 'I shall manage the land to stop climate change' or something similar to that," he said.

Ethics questions: Some of the hearings most heated exchanges came in response to questions over Bernhardt's ethics records.

Many of the ethics investigations from Bernhardt's predecessor, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkePuerto Rican police fire tear gas at crowds protesting governor Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade Trump officials gut DC staff as public lands agency preps to move out West MORE, are still underway, and Bernhardt himself is being investigated along with six other Interior staffers.

Democrats have requested interviews with a number of Interior officials, and Rep. Brenda LawrenceBrenda Lulenar LawrenceHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Lee Zeldin responds to Ilhan Omar accusing him of 'bigotry' Ilhan Omar: Endorsement of Black-Jewish Caucus 'isn't an endorsement of Zeldin's bigotry' MORE (D-Mich.) said Bernhardt has refused to schedule those interviews, sending documents instead.

"We as Congress asked them to come and last I check you don't determine how we get our information," Lawrence said.

 

But the hearing also told us more about Interior's offshore drilling plans…

 

FROM THE SIDELINES TO THE FRONTLINE: Bernhardt said the department will complete development of a five-year offshore drilling plan, despite earlier comments that plan had been put on hold.

Responding to questions from Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) in reference to a Wall Street Journal interview in which he said the plan had been indefinitely sidelined, Bernhardt said the department still has a few more years to complete its plan before a new one is required in 2022.

Pingree, who referred to offshore drilling as universally opposed in Maine, pushed Bernhardt to take it completely off the table.

The Interior chief assured her that state concerns would be paramount in making a determination.

"I'm not aware of a single lease that was ever developed over the opposition of a state," he said.

Bernhardt said he paused the development of the five-year plan while the courts weigh designations from former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE that protected parts of the Alaska and Atlantic coasts from offshore development.

Rep. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Racial politics roil Democratic Party Harris hops past Biden in early race for Black Caucus support MORE (D-N.J.) questioned why Interior was continuing to process permits for seismic exploration of underwater oil reserves, particularly given the risks the process poses to marine life.

"We shouldn't be afraid of information. If we can do it properly and it can be done responsibly, the data itself is not something we should be afraid of," he said.

 

It's Tuesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

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JUDGE RULES EPA MUST ENFORCE OBAMA-ERA LANDFILL POLLUTION REGS: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must begin enforcing pollution regulations that were set for landfills under the Obama administration.

Haywood Gilliam Jr., a U.S. district judge in Northern California, sided with California and seven other states late Monday, ordering the EPA to begin reviewing state plans for reducing pollution from landfills.

Landfills are the third largest source of methane pollution in the U.S., releasing the highly heat-trapping gas into the air as landfill contents decompose.

Gilliam, an Obama appointee, said the EPA was long overdue in meeting its obligations and ordered the agency to review state proposals and begin promulgating regulations by fall.

"Once again, we've held the EPA accountable for its failure to perform its mandatory duties under the Clean Air Act, and for its unwillingness to protect public health," California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTrump drops bid to add citizenship question to 2020 census Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Appeals court appears skeptical of upholding ObamaCare mandate | Drug pricing deal faces GOP pushback | Trump officials look for plan B after court strikes drug TV ad rule Democratic group hits GOP attorneys general in six-figure ad campaign on ObamaCare MORE (D) said in a statement. "We celebrate this ruling requiring EPA to fulfill its long-overdue mandatory duties to control emissions from landfills."

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The House Transportation Committee will look into the vulnerability of maritime infrastructure in a changing Arctic, while the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife takes up a bunch of legislation the committee has referred to as the nine oceans bills that enjoy bipartisan support.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change will hold a hearing on banning asbestos.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGES: Nuclear should complement wind and solar -- not compete, argues Daniel Cohan, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

In 'new era' of oil and gas regulation, Colorado communities write own rules, the Denver Post reports.

U.K. sets record for life without coal, Bloomberg reports.

Fourth of July fireworks to return to Mount Rushmore in 2020, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.

Pipeline spills 80K gallons of produced water spill on North Dakota farm land, the Associated Press reports.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Tuesday...

Pompeo says shrinking Arctic sea ice presents 'new opportunities for trade'

Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama-era landfill pollution regs

U.S. refused to sign Arctic agreement over climate change wording: report

Powell told Congress Fed is preparing for economic 'damage' from climate change

Interior chief says offshore drilling plan not 'indefinitely sidelined'

Trump Interior chief says climate change response falls on Congress