Overnight Energy: Judges remove remaining barrier to Keystone XL construction| House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse| Inspector general rules Park Service employee violated regs in complex art deal

Overnight Energy: Judges remove remaining barrier to Keystone XL construction| House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse| Inspector general rules Park Service employee violated regs in complex art deal
© Getty Images

KEYSTONE GETS THE GREENLIGHT: A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel nullified a key barrier to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing that it no longer applies after the Trump administration replaced a permit earlier this year.

The court ruled Thursday night in favor of the Trump administration and TransCanada Corporation’s motion to dismiss.

The ruling sided with arguments that the old permit for the pipeline, which was replaced by the Trump administration in March, is no longer valid and therefore the injunction associated with it also no longer applies.

ADVERTISEMENT

The action hands a victory to the Trump administration, which has long fought to finish construction of the international pipeline. It also opens up the door to restarting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was halted in courts in the fall in part due to failure to properly account for the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from the construction.

Trump in May signed a presidential permit as a way to jump-start the delayed construction of the 1,179-mile pipeline. The order superseded a March 2017 order.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I hereby revoke that March 23, 2017, permit,” Trump wrote in the order.

Read more here.

TGIF indeed. And welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. We’ll be picking up the newsletter again on Tuesday.

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.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

WHEN ANIMAL RIGHTS ORGS LEAD TO HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES: Leaders on the House Natural Resources Committee want the Interior Department to provide more information on grants it has given to organizations that have been accused of human rights abuses.

The letter comes after BuzzFeed News reported in March that local rangers and other groups associated with the World Wide Fund for Nature in nations in Africa and Asia had been involved in human rights abuses against indigenous communities while carrying out conservation efforts.

In the letter dated Thursday to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and ranking member Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopThe House Republicans and Democrats not seeking reelection in 2020 Texas GOP lawmaker Conaway announces retirement Texas GOP Rep. Conaway won't seek reelection: report MORE (R-Utah) said their panel is reviewing allegations that organizations backed by the U.S. government have “played a role in funding and equipping forces abroad that have committed a range of human rights violations.”

The letter does not mention the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The two lawmakers asked Bernhardt to provide a briefing on the international conservation grants awarded and overseen by the Department of the Interior and the agencies under its jurisdiction.

“Among the victims of these alleged abuses are indigenous peoples living near protected areas,” they wrote. “Despite the importance of protecting wildlife and endangered species from extinction, the United States must not be party to violations of basic human rights.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature has since started an independent review after the allegations were detailed in the BuzzFeed story.

Read more about the panel here.

AN ARTFUL CRIME: A National Park Service (NPS) official who bought art for the visitor center at South Carolina’s Kings Mountain National Military Park orchestrated the purchase so that the artist would avoid having their wages garnished to pay back taxes.

The transaction centered around a $39,000 painting of the park by a local artist and was flagged in a Friday report from the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General for not following the agency’s procedures.

Rather than buy the painting directly from the artist, the park purchased it from an outside association tied to the park, the Battle of Kings Mountain Brigade of Friends.

“After conflicting statements and denials about his role in the purchase, the official told us during his second interview that he created the entire process by which the painting was purchased through the friends group,” the report says.

“He said that it was his idea to use the friends group as the ‘purchase broker’ so that the NPS would buy the painting from the friends group rather than from the artist,” the report continued. “He developed this plan after the artist told him that he was unwilling to sell the painting directly to the NPS due to his tax predicament.”

The artist didn’t want to sell the painting through regular channels after 40 percent of his wages were garnished in a 2014 painting sale.

Under the agreement, the Brigade of Friends would keep $4,000 for their role in the transaction, the artist would get $30,000, and the remaining $5,000 would be paid to another group to settle a prior debt owed by the artist.

Read about the sale here.

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee kicks off the week hosting four former EPA administrators who will weigh in on the direction of the agency.

Also that day is are hearings on space exploration, resiliency in federal building construction, and how climate change will affect the federal budget. Financial Services will mark up the National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.

On Wednesday, acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor will appear before the House Homeland Security Committee, while Energy and Commerce’s energy subcommittee will hold a hearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission members. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing on natural disasters in the wake of climate change.

In the Senate, Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on the Waters of the U.S. rule.

On Thursday, House Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing on storing spent nuclear fuel. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife will hold a hearing on a number of bills, including the Migratory Bird Protection Act. The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on renewables.

In the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will discuss wildfire management programs.

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Oil rises nearly 2% as Saudi Arabia signals OPEC deal extension, Reuters reports.

Heat Waves Could Kill Thousands of People in U.S. Cities If Climate Goals Aren’t Met, The Smithsonian reports.

In an energy-hungry world, natural gas gaining the most, Axios reports

ICYMI:

Stories from Friday…

Judges remove remaining barrier to Keystone XL construction

House committee asks Interior to detail grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse

Inspector general rules Park Service employee violated regs in complex art deal

Bloomberg pledges $500 million to close coal-fired power plants

Top automakers warn Trump about plan to rollback emissions standards