Overnight Energy: Dems press Interior chief to embrace climate action | Lawmakers at odds on how to regulate chemicals in water | Warren releases climate plan for military

Overnight Energy: Dems press Interior chief to embrace climate action | Lawmakers at odds on how to regulate chemicals in water | Warren releases climate plan for military
© Greg Nash

BERNHARDT PLAYS 'NOT IT' ON CLIMATE: Democratic House lawmakers on Wednesday pressured Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to commit to considering climate change in all future agency decisions, but the former energy lobbyist wouldn't take the bait.

"What's the number for how concerned you are about us hitting 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide?" Rep. Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightOvernight Energy: Coal industry seeks fee rollbacks amid coronavirus | Ex-lawyer for trophy hunting group joins Trump agency | EPA sued over reapproval of Roundup chemical Coal industry asks for financially beneficial rollbacks amid coronavirus House Democrats jam GOP with coronavirus bill MORE (D-Pa.) asked Bernhardt regarding a recent study that found carbon dioxide levels are the highest in human history.

"I haven't lost any sleep over it," Bernhardt responded.

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee grilled the newly appointed Interior Secretary over his thoughts on climate change and how the agency, which oversees drilling on national lands, should consider climate impacts as it drafts its policies.


"You have the discretion to issue oil and gas leases on federal lands. There are certain laws that require the department to take climate change into account when it's managing its land. And so Interior would have the ability to make choices that would be consistent with those goals," Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing MORE (D-Colo.) told Bernhardt at the hearing.

How Bernhardt pushed back: Bernhardt pushed back on insinuations that environmental laws bound him to ease off President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE's energy independence agenda, which includes expanding oil and gas leasing on public lands.

Emissions from drilling on public lands make up nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S, according to a federal report released last November.

"I think if you all have a view on climate change that says don't develop energy on federal lands that's fine. You have to go through a process of codifying it and providing that direction. And if you provide it, I'll faithfully execute it," Bernhardt told the lawmakers.

"Just to say from today forward, David Bernhardt says, 'No development on public lands,' I do not have that authority."

Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) challenged Bernhardt's claim that the Interior chief didn't have enough authority to make decisions on global warming without a congressional bill.

"You claim that Congress hasn't given you enough direction to address climate change," Levin said. "What type of direction would you want Congress to give you to make it clearer?"

Bernhardt said he wasn't given specific direction to stop drilling.

"Whatever you think you can do to stop it. If that's what you want to do, go for it. But that should happen in this body. That's not something the Department of Interior does with a magic wand," he said, shrugging off the obligation.

What else Dems were ticked about: Democratic lawmakers challenged Bernhardt on a range of issues during the committee hearing, his first as Interior chief. Questions revolved around reports that he signed off on policy decisions that ultimately benefited various former lobbying clients of his and that he's been stonewalling providing members with requested internal documents.

Rep. Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalHouse Democrats jam GOP with coronavirus bill Federal lawmakers finally have a real plan to fight plastic pollution — will they step up to the plate? Now is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution MORE (D-Calif.) pointed to a slide of a page of computer code sent to lawmakers among the batches of documents they requested from Interior.

"I call this the gibberish slide. I have no idea what this says, but you sent it on," Lowenthal said.

Liberal lawmakers on the committee challenged that while Interior had provided large quantities of documents, they had not provided information specific enough to their requests, which they labeled a clear attempt to obfuscate.

"There is quantitative response to the request and qualitative response to the request... The qualitative response is our point. While we have reams of paper, we don't have quality content," said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the committee.

Grijalva had previously been vocal about his frustration with Interior's lack of response to requests for documents. The testiness between the Interior Department and his committee nearly exploded into a standoff two weeks ago when Bernhardt wouldn't commit to a date to testify before it.

Read more on the contentious hearing here.


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LAWMAKERS BRING PFAS FURY: House lawmakers on Wednesday reviewed over a dozen pieces of legislation regarding the spread of harmful non-stick chemicals in drinking water, exposing the lack of agreement on how to deal with the problem.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and climate change discussed 13 different approaches to address the growing issue of the chemicals, technically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The chemicals are used on everything from Teflon pans, food packaging and stain-resistant fabrics, and as they break down they enter the water supply.

The scope of the problem is becoming clearer as a growing number of states -- currently 43 -- have some sort of PFAS contamination. But it's less clear how the government should address the problem.

Lawmakers on Wednesday said they were conflicted about how to regulate a class of chemicals that includes almost 5,000 different varieties.

"These chemicals are everywhere--in our environment and in our bodies, with new communities affected all the time," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "All the PFAS in our drinking supply came from industrial activity. They will keep showing up in our drinking water sources if we continue to produce and use thousands of different PFAS chemicals."

The big questions: There is bipartisan support for addressing PFAS in some way, and the meeting attracted members from both sides of aisle who aren't on the subcommittee but dropped in to ask questions.

But sticking points quickly arose over whether Congress should take action before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whether legislation should address the most common forms of PFAS or broadly tackle its thousands of variants, and whether legislation should so heavily focus on water when pollution stems from the creation of a number of everyday products.

"EPA has given us little reason for confidence that they will act with the urgency that impacted communities know is needed," said subcommittee Chairman Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoAs we face coronavirus battle, we must ensure critical supplies of respirators for health care workers Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget MORE (D-N.Y), lamenting that it would be years before the agency would be able to set a drinking water standard. "One thing is clear: we cannot wait for EPA to act."

The EPA has been under pressure to set a drinking water standard for PFAS after several states have done so in the absence of agency action. The agency says it will determine by the end of the year whether it will undertake setting such a level.

Several committee Republicans shared Tonko's view and asked why EPA was not present at the hearing. Tonko said they were invited but declined due to scheduling conflicts.

Michael Abboud, an EPA spokesman, said the agency was unable to prepare for the hearing in time but plans to return for a June hearing on PFAS.

What about the bills?: Among the legislation reviewed by the committee are bills that would require EPA to set a drinking water standard for PFAS, allow Superfund cleanup funds to be used to deal with PFAS contamination, a ban on new PFAS chemicals, and another to provide funding to clean up water that is already contaminated.

Read more on the hearing here.


WARREN RELEASES PLAN TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE THREATS TO MILITARY: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men MORE (Mass.) on Wednesday released a plan to prepare the military for climate change, including requiring the Pentagon to achieve net-zero carbon emissions on noncombat bases by 2030.

"In short, climate change is real, it is worsening by the day, and it is undermining our military readiness. And instead of meeting this threat head-on, Washington is ignoring it --  and making it worse," Warren wrote in a post on Medium.

"Nibbling around the edges of the problem is no longer enough  --  the urgency of the moment demands more," she added.

The 2020 angle: Warren, who unveiled the plan in both the blog post shared by her campaign press office and a bill to be introduced in the Senate this week, has been working to stand out from the 20-plus other Democrats running for president by releasing detailed policy proposals on a number of issues.

On military issues, she previously released a plan to address substandard housing provided by private contractors.

Pressuring the Pentagon: Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has zeroed in on climate change in her questions to witnesses at hearings this year.

Military leadership has for years recognized threats posed by climate change, but their acknowledgment of it has become a touchier subject under President Trump, who has often questioned the reality of climate change.

In her Wednesday post, Warren highlighted that Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska have been battered by storms in the last couple of years and require billions of dollars to be rebuilt.

She also cited the military's characterization of climate change as a "threat multiplier" that exacerbates issues that lead to conflict.

A companion bill to Warren's is being introduced in the House by Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica Escobar20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate MORE (D-Texas) with co-sponsorship from Reps. Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE (D-Calf.), Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillGaetz accuses Burr of 'screwing all Americans' with stock sale Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate This week: House eyes vote on emergency coronavirus funding MORE (D-Calif.), Deb HaalandDebra HaalandWe must demand our government decrease emissions from federal public lands Asian Pacific American Caucus vice chair 'shocked and dismayed' GOP leader referred to 'Chinese coronavirus' Native American leader denounces destruction of sacred sites for border wall construction MORE (D-N.M.) and Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoLawmakers highlight flights back to DC for huge coronavirus vote Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate MORE (D-Ariz.).

Warren called the "ambitious goal" of achieving net-zero carbon emissions on noncombat bases by 2030 "consistent" with the Green New Deal, a climate plan championed by progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Energy: Court upholds Trump repeal of Obama fracking rule | Oil price drop threatens fracking boom | EPA eases rules on gasoline sales amid coronavirus Ocasio-Cortez blasts coronavirus stimulus package as 'shameful' on House floor Oil price drop threatens US fracking boom MORE (D-N.Y.) that has been backed by several Democratic presidential candidates.

In addition to the net-zero goal for the bases, Warren's plan would require contractors who haven't achieved net-zero carbon emissions to pay a fee of 1 percent of the value of the contract. The fee would go into a fund to adapt the military to climate change.

Read more on her plan here.



On Thursday, a House Natural Resources subcommittee will look into how oil and gas development impacts above and below ground water pollution.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing to examine carbon capture and energy storage programs at the Department of Energy and discuss S.1201, a bill to amend the fossil energy research and development provisions of the Energy Policy Act.



Volvo signs long-term agreements with CATL, LG Chem for EV batteries, CNET reports.

Twin Metals wins renewal of federal mining leases in northeastern Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports.

Mexico City's residents are engulfed in a thick haze of air pollution, NBC News reports.

PG&E's infrastructure sparked the Camp fire, the Los Angeles Times reports.



Stories from Wednesday...

-Mnuchin says carbon capture tax credit guidance will be out soon

-Interior chief dismisses climate concerns in first Natural Resources hearing: 'I haven't lost any sleep over it'

-Lawmakers at odds over how to tackle spread of harmful chemicals in water

-'Swamp creatures' follow Interior head into second hearing

-Warren releases plan to tackle climate change threats to military

-Interior's border surge puts more officers in unfamiliar role

-House votes to extend flood insurance program