Overnight Energy: Trump order to trim science panels sparks outrage | Greens ask watchdog to investigate Interior's records policies | EPA to allow use of pesticide harmful to bees

Overnight Energy: Trump order to trim science panels sparks outrage | Greens ask watchdog to investigate Interior's records policies | EPA to allow use of pesticide harmful to bees
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OUTRAGE OVER TRUMP ORDER ON SCIENCE PANELS: Former agency heads and environmentalists are blasting a new executive order issued late Friday evening as a stealthy means to remove scientific oversight from agency rulemaking.

Previous heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department say President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE's directive last week for all agencies to cut at least a third of their advisory committees by September would weaken the science-based regulations process that the administration has pushed back against since Trump took office.

"The decision is disappointing to anyone who cares about evidence-based policy making, scientific review or the truth," said Carol Browner, the sole EPA administrator under former President Clinton, in an email to The Hill on Monday.

What Trump's order would do: Trump's executive order directs all federal agencies to cut by at least one-third the number of boards and advisory committees that weigh in on government regulations and other agency decisions. That means 462 committees are potentially on the chopping block when excluding agencies that are mandated by law.


At EPA and Interior, advisory committees provide scientific and technical expertise from people who are considered to be at the top of their field.

Why former agency chiefs are worried: "The things you are worried about are that complex decisions deserve to have the best experts and scientists convening," said Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy Department proposes showerhead standards rollback after Trump complaints | Interior memo scaling back bird protections is 'contrary to law,' court rules | Former EPA chiefs call for agency 'reset' Former EPA chiefs call for agency 'reset' Azar arrives in Taiwan amid tensions with China MORE, EPA chief under former President Obama, in a phone interview Monday. "While the agencies have terrific people, they don't necessarily have the breadth of expertise they need."

She said Trump's move "is just another way of diminishing the need for the federal government to consider science and expert opinions on issues most critical to the American public."

We've got more on the controversy here.


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GROUPS CALL FOUL OVER INTERIOR NEW FOIA RULE: A number of conservation groups are asking the Interior Department's internal watchdog to investigate reports that political appointees are improperly interfering in the release of public records.

Two separate complaints filed Monday by Earthjustice and the Campaign for Accountability say officials are using an "awareness review" policy to unlawfully delay the release of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and demand Interior's Office of Inspector General (OIG) look into the situation.

Earthjustice's letter, dated June 14, claims the department's FOIA process "has been subject to political interference by political appointees and non-career staff" since 2017.

The letter follows reports earlier this month that the Interior Department's FOIA office allowed its political appointees mentioned in FOIA requests to weigh in on whether or not materials set to be released to the public should be withheld. The new process was deemed an "awareness review."

The group argues that the policy violated the Freedom of Information Act by preventing the agency from issuing timely responses to requests and caused the agency to miss litigation deadlines in FOIA lawsuits.

Earthjustice asks acting Inspector General Gail Ennis to investigate whether Interior "improperly influenced the FOIA response process" in a way that resulted in unwarranted delays or the withholding of information that would have been otherwise released.

An OIG spokesperson said the office was reviewing the request.

The Campaign for Accountability, along with Western Values Project and other conservation groups, sent a separate letter to Interior's OIG claiming that Interior is allowing political appointees "to opine on the substance of FOIA releases and potentially, to illegally delay the production of records and withhold documents from the public."

Read more on the complaints here.


BEES: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Monday it will allow states to use a pesticide that is harmful to bees.

The agency made an emergency exception for 11 states to use sulfoxaflor on cotton and sorghum crops.

Green groups blasted the decision.

"The only emergency here is the Trump EPA's reckless approval of this dangerous bee-killing pesticide," Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "It's sickening that even amid the current insect apocalypse, the EPA's priority is protecting pesticide industry profits."

A study published in Nature last year found sulfoxaflor inhibited bumblebee reproduction.

According to the center, the emergency declaration has been used for four consecutive years in most of the states.

Sulfoxaflor's use was temporarily barred after a lawsuit from beekeepers in 2015, but in 2016 the EPA changed its instructions for how to use the pesticide in a way designed to reduce impact on bees. Cotton and sorghum were not included in the directive.

The EPA's Office of Inspector General wrote in a report last year that the agency did not have processes in place to determine how its emergency measures impact human and environmental health.

The EPA did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Read the full story here.


OH, BABY: The world's population is expected to virtually stop growing by 2100, according to research released by Pew Research Center on Monday.

Pew analyzed data from the United Nations indicating falling global fertility rates will lead to a population of about 10.9 billion people at the end of the century, with what analysts said is annual growth of less than 0.1 percent.

It's a steep decline from past patterns, Pew notes. The world population grew by about 1 to 2 percent between 1950 and today, increasing the number of people by about 5.2 billion.

Global fertility rates are expected to drop from an average of 2.5 births per woman today to 1.9 births per woman by 2100, according to the research.

But the pattern is not consistent across all world regions. Africa is the only region to show signs of "strong population growth," while the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are expected to see growth throughout the end of the century to lesser degrees, Pew reports.

In North America, especially the United States, the primary driver of continued population growth is expected to be migration, according to the report. Data indicates the immigrant population of the United States will see a net increase of 85 million between 2020 and 2100, which is expected to be roughly equal to the combined total of the next nine highest countries.

Reported data suggests Europe and Latin America are expected to have declining populations by 2100, and Asia is expected to increase around 2055 and then begin to decline.  

Half of babies born worldwide are expected to be born in Africa, with the region projected to have five of the 10 most populated countries by 2100, according to the analysis.

Pew also noted data indicates India will surpass China as the most populous country by 2027.  

Read more on the Pew forecast here.



Arkansas governor vexed by water release as flood tactic, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Ireland to unveil bold plan to tackle climate emergency, The Guardian reports.

Blackout in South America raises questions about power grid, the Associated Press reports.

Electric car chargers in state don't need regulation, the Associated Press reports.



On Tuesday, the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources committee will look at the recurring deferred maintenance needs on federally management lands under the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

The House Rules Committee will consider fiscal 2020 appropriations to the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice and science agencies that include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).



Stories from Monday and over the weekend…

-Green groups ask Interior watchdog to investigate agency's public records policies

-Pew: World population expected to virtually stop growing by 2100

-More than 600 divers set world record cleaning up debris from the ocean floor

-At least 279 dolphins have been stranded along the Gulf Coast since February, scientists say

-Top Africa wildlife preserve goes a year without elephant poachings

-Trump directs agencies to cut advisory boards by 'at least' one-third

-Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals'

-Oregon officials start work removing barrels labeled with Agent Orange chemicals from bottom of lake