Overnight Energy: Democrats decry use of park fees for Trump July 4 event as 'slush fund' | Rick Snyder withdraws from Harvard fellowship | Moody's Analytics predicts climate change could cost $69T by 2100

Overnight Energy: Democrats decry use of park fees for Trump July 4 event as 'slush fund' | Rick Snyder withdraws from Harvard fellowship | Moody's Analytics predicts climate change could cost $69T by 2100
© Greg Nash

PARK FEES FUNDING TRUMP'S FOURTH: Democratic lawmakers and environmental activists are sharply criticizing plans by the Trump administration to reportedly use $2.5 million in National Park Service maintenance funds to help cover the cost of President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE's "Salute to America" event on Independence Day.

The Washington Post on Tuesday cited two individuals who said Park Service recreation fees had been diverted that day, and critics are saying the move may be an illegal use of funds that are generated through national park entrance fees.

Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumProgressives ramp up scrutiny of US funding for Israel Overnight Defense: Groups use Afghanistan withdrawal to push for defense budget cuts | Confederate renaming effort could affect 'hundreds' of military assets | Progressives see 'historic' moment to shift US-Israel relations Groups urge Congress to use Afghanistan withdrawal to cut defense budget MORE (D-Minn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees Interior Department spending, said using the fees without congressional consent was akin to establishing a "slush fund."


"These fees are not a slush fund for this administration to use at will. They are meant to improve our national parks, keep them safe and protected for Americans to enjoy, and are clearly not to be used for a political rally," McCollum said in a statement Wednesday.

How the fees work: Recreation fees are collected by national parks through admissions fees. The funds typically go toward park maintenance as well as seasonal hiring, such as for additional fire fighters. The National Park Service (NPS) system is facing a nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog and the Trump administration has routinely suggested cutting the agency's budget. 

Why Dems aren't happy: Some Democrats have raised concerns that the park fees are being used to bolster the spectacle surrounding Trump's Thursday evening speech from the Lincoln Memorial, which they fear will serve as a campaign-style rally, with VIP seating for top campaign donors, and politicize a national holiday that has otherwise been apolitical.

"Trump is stealing National Park Service resources and using the military as a political prop to turn the Fourth of July into a rally for his wealthiest donors," said Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFour states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes Hydrogen isn't as clean as it seems MORE (D-Ore.) in a statement Wednesday. "This is the stuff of authoritarian regimes, exactly what patriotic Americans were fighting against in 1776. Congressional Republicans who shrug at this will be complicit when Trump takes his authoritarian ambitions to the next level."

Trump's July 4 event on the National Mall, which the White House has said will not be political, is designed to showcase the U.S. military and will feature tanks and flyovers. It has been heavily criticized from the start, in part for appearing to indulge Trump's ego, but also for the costs that are expected to come with moving military equipment and organizing flyovers.

Trump pushes back: Trump on Wednesday defended the costs amid allegations from Democrats that the event will essentially be a campaign rally with taxpayers footing the bill.

The president asserted that the cost of the event "will be very little compared to what it is worth."

"We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel," Trump tweeted. "We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!"

Some Democrats have said they plan to call for an investigation into the spending surrounding the spectacle.

"The true costs and details are still a mystery, because the Trump administration refuses to be up front with Congress or the American people about where this money is coming from," said Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallSenate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin Study: Chemical used in paint thinners caused more deaths than EPA identified Oregon senator takes center stage in Democratic filibuster debate MORE (D-N.M.) in a statement Wednesday. "The American people are fed up with this egregious self-serving behavior at the taxpayer's expense. There must be accountability and I plan to call on for an investigation into how much is actually being spent and whether any laws have been broken."

Read more on the funding controversy here.


HAPPY IT'S-ALMOST-THE-FOURTH WEDNESDAY! And welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Programming note: Overnight Energy is taking the Fourth off! We'll be back on Monday, July 8.

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SNYDER NIXES HARVARD: Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is turning down a Harvard research fellowship amid public backlash over the university choosing the governor, who was widely criticized for his handling of the Flint, Mich., water crisis. 

Snyder tweeted Wednesday that he notified the Harvard Kennedy School of his decision. 

"It would have been exciting to share my experiences, both positive and negative; our current political environment and its lack of civility makes this too disruptive," Snyder tweeted. "I wish them the best."

Doug Elmendorf, dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, confirmed Snyder has withdrawn from the fellowship. 

"I believe the Kennedy School needs to study both failures and successes of government, and we anticipated that students would have learned from engaging with and questioning Governor Snyder about his consequential role in decisions regarding Flint and many other issues during his eight years in office," Elmendorf said. "We appreciate Governor Snyder's interest in participating in such discussions in our community, but we and he now believe that having him on campus would not enhance education here in the ways we intended."

He added that he has been "deeply moved by the personal and thoughtful messages" he received from Flint residents. 

Elmendorf said the school will continue to search for ways to address failures of government in Flint and elsewhere. 

Harvard was criticized last week after it announced Snyder would be a fellow. 

Read more about it here


THAT'S QUITE A PRICE TAG: Moody's Analytics estimates climate change impacts will cost the global economy up to $69 trillion by the end of the century, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. 

The consulting firm predicts rising temperatures and extreme weather events will disrupt productivity and damage infrastructure, hitting the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa the hardest. 

The $69 trillion estimate is derived assuming warming hits the 2 degree Celsius threshold, which is seen as the limit to stem climate change's most dire effects, according to the Post.

A lesser warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, would reportedly cost $54 trillion in damages by 2100.

Moody's said an increase above the 2 degree threshold could "hit tipping points for even larger and irreversible warming feedback loops such as permanent summer ice melt in the Arctic Ocean," according to the Post. 

Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told the newspaper that the impact won't be an immediate "shock to the economy," describing it more "like a corrosive" that gets "weightier with each passing year."

Climate change impacts will harm human health, labor productivity, crop yields and tourism, leading to the overall future costs, according to the report. 

For example, "water- and vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever will likely be the largest direct effect of changes in human health and the associated productivity loss," the report says. And rising temperatures will allow mosquitoes, ticks and fleas to move to new areas, resulting in more sick days, according to the Post. 



-Japan, hit by torrential rains, orders over 1 million to evacuate, Reuters reports.

-A startling spike of methane on Mars, The Atlantic reports. 

-Baked Alaska: Record heat fuels wildfires and sparks personal fireworks ban, The Guardian reports.

-Harvard says fighting climate change is a top priority. But it still won't divest from fossil fuels, The Washington Post reports.

-US produces far more waste and recycles far less of it than other developed countries, The Guardian reports.


THE HILL OPINION: From the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center, Lee Beck, a Women Leaders in Energy fellow, and David Livingston, the center's deputy director for climate and advanced energy, look at the California climate policy no one is talking about.



Stories from Wednesday...

Moody's Analytics predicts climate change costs up to $69 trillion by 2100: report

Rick Snyder withdraws from Harvard fellowship

Top Democrat warns Trump against using Park Service fees for July 4 event

Democrats decry use of park fees for Trump's July 4 event as 'slush fund'