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) PingreeShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' USDA commits to trade aid for lobster industry using coronavirus coffers US trade deal with EU a boon for lobster industry struggling under China tariffs 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 ZinkeTrump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet 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 LawrenceHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers Lawmakers call for expanded AI role in education, business to remain competitive The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep 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 ObamaDemocrats ramp up pressure on Lieberman to drop out of Georgia Senate race The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements Trump pledges to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, designate KKK a terrorist group in pitch to Black voters MORE that protected parts of the Alaska and Atlantic coasts from offshore development.

Rep. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanDemocrats smell blood with new DHS whistleblower complaint New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman wins Democratic primary 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 BecerraState AGs condemn HUD rule allowing shelters to serve people on basis of biological sex OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump casts doubt on climate change science during briefing on wildfires | Biden attacks Trump's climate record amid Western wildfires, lays out his plan | 20 states sue EPA over methane emissions standards rollback 20 states sue EPA over methane emissions standards rollback 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