Overnight Energy: Lawmaker warns White House not to influence science in climate report | Trump appeals Arctic drilling decision | Officials promote natural gas exports as 'freedom gas'

Overnight Energy: Lawmaker warns White House not to influence science in climate report | Trump appeals Arctic drilling decision | Officials promote natural gas exports as 'freedom gas'
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MARKEY THROWS SHADE OVER SCIENCE REPORT: Sen. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections MORE (D-Mass.) on Wednesday warned the White House against interfering with science in its congressionally-mandated report on climate change.

"Any political interference into the climate science that underpins this report could have a chilling effect on science research going forward and could potentially put American lives and property at increased risk by understating the urgency of climate action," Markey wrote in a letter to the White House's director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The back story: The letter follows a report in The New York Times that officials in the office, which oversees the release of the National Climate Report, would no longer include data on the highest-emissions scenario.

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Such data lays out the worst-case impacts of global warming if emissions aren't curbed at current rates.

What Markey wants: Markey, who heads the Senate Climate Change Task Force formed by Democrats, said he wanted an explanation of how the administration could think of changing the scientific measurements in the report.

Such a move, Markey said, would "artificially and unjustifiably understate the risks that climate change presents to the United States, and would misinform federal and state action taken in response to this threat."

High stakes: The last climate assessment was released in November and its findings were dire. The results found that if emissions continue unabated, it would cost the country hundreds of billions in economic losses.

Read more on the controversy here.

 

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OFFSHORE DRILLING FIGHT HEADS BACK TO COURT: The Interior Department is appealing a decision from an Alaska judge that blocked President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE from rolling back offshore drilling protections for the Arctic that were put in place by President Obama.

With the Tuesday appeal, the department is fighting back against a decision that was the department's impetus for pausing the development of its five-year offshore drilling plan for both Alaska and the Atlantic Coast.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt recently told Congress the March decision made it unwise to develop a drilling plan.

"I saw the litigation playing out and saw the court decision, and I wanted to hold off to figure out exactly the best pathway forward," Bernhardt told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, adding that Interior was still evaluating "the best litigation pathway and how that affects our plan."

Interior would not comment on the case.

How we got here: Obama barred offshore oil development in the Arctic in the last full month of his presidency. Trump issued an executive order just months later that attempted to revoke it, spurring a suit from a coalition of environmental groups.

Interior appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has struck down a number of other Trump executive orders, including the travel ban for citizens from a number of Muslim-majority countries and other immigration measures.

Reaction: Erik Grafe, deputy managing attorney in the Earthjustice Alaska office, which has been fighting the case, said they would continue to battle the executive order.

"The district court in Alaska ruled that President Trump overstepped his constitutional authority by purporting to strike down oceans protections that his predecessor put in place. President Obama rightly established those protections because it is too risky to drill and would critically set us back in the global fight against climate change," he said.

Are the plans on or off? Confusion around Interior's offshore drilling plans stems from an April Wall Street Journal article that referred them as "indefinitely sidelined." Earlier this month Bernhardt reiterated the departments intent to draft the plan.

Interior is required to write a five-year plan for how to manage offshore oil leases, and the current plan runs through 2022. Crafting a new plan has already caused friction between Interior and members of both parties.

Coastal Republicans split: Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief Congress kicks bipartisan energy innovation into higher gear MORE (R-Alaska) supports drilling off Alaska's coast and recently told reporters Bernhardt was smart to delay making a plan before he knows what areas will be available for drilling.

But other Republicans, including a number of members from Florida, have asked Bernhardt to exclude their state from any future plan.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (R-Fla.) told Bernhardt at a hearing last week that "among Floridians there is virtually no support for drilling off the coast."

Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation to bar drilling along the state's coast. Democratic delegations from New Jersey and Virginia have similarly requested no offshore development along their coastlines.

Bernhardt's conversation with senators about his offshore drilling plans appeared to be key in garnering support for his nomination.

Read more here.

 

YOU GET 'FREEDOM GAS' AND YOU GET 'FREEDOM GAS': Energy officials within the Trump administration referred to natural gas exported by U.S. energy companies as "freedom gas" and "molecules of U.S. freedom" in official statements.

In a press release Tuesday, Under Secretary Mark Menezes of the Energy Department said that an expansion of natural gas exports in Texas approved by the Energy Department would aid in "spreading freedom gas throughout the world."

"Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America's allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy. Further, more exports of U.S. LNG to the world means more U.S. jobs and more domestic economic growth and cleaner air here at home and around the globe," he said in the statement.

"There's no doubt today's announcement furthers this Administration's commitment to promoting energy security and diversity worldwide," Menezes added.

A second Trump official at the Department of Energy, Steven Winberg, boasted in the press release that the export approval would cause "molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world."

"Increased supplies of U.S. natural gas on the world market are critical to advancing clean energy and the energy security of our allies around the globe. With the U.S. in another year of record-setting natural gas production, I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world," Winberg, an assistant secretary for fossil energy, wrote in the news release.

The two officials' comments were mocked online including by Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee13 states file lawsuit over Trump 'public charge' rule Harris unveils plan to combat domestic terrorism 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally MORE (D), a candidate for president in 2020, who drew comparisons between the odd nickname for natural gas and the decision by lawmakers to rename french fries as "freedom fries" in the U.S. House cafeteria during the Iraq War when France refused to support U.S. actions in the region.

Read more on "freedom gas" here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Connecticut House passes bill mandating education of human-induced climate change, we report.

Three Mile Island's closure haunts Pennsylvania's nuclear debate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Lawmakers pass bills to better fund Texas parks, historic sites -- if voters approve, The Texas Tribune reports.

Thousands of seabirds starved to death in the Bering Sea -- and scientists see evidence of climate change, The Washington Post reports.

Ohio House passes bill to bail out nuclear plants in northern Ohio, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Wednesday...

-Lawmaker criticizes White House over plans to influence science in national climate report

-Trump calls Ohio governor to offer support after tornadoes

-Watchdog group requests ethics probe for head of EPA's air office

-Ocasio-Cortez compares climate scientists to viral clip of Ohio weatherman

-Trump energy officials label natural gas 'freedom gas'

-Trump administration appeals ruling that blocked offshore Arctic drilling

-Philippine lawmakers pass bill requiring students to plant 10 trees before they can graduate

-Connecticut House passes bill mandating education of human-induced climate change