Overnight Energy: Changing climate boosts Maine lobster industry -- for now | 2020 Dems debate climate response at Detroit debate | Dem asks for perjury investigation into Interior nominee

Overnight Energy: Changing climate boosts Maine lobster industry -- for now | 2020 Dems debate climate response at Detroit debate | Dem asks for perjury investigation into Interior nominee
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CRUSTACEAN INFESTATION: Maine's lobster industry has found itself in something of a climate change sweet spot.

The state's coastal waters are still cold enough for lobster to thrive, but warming ocean temperatures are now encouraging them to settle here, mate and eventually shed their hard shells.

That's made the past few years some of the best on record for Maine lobstermen.

But those ideal conditions may be short-lived.

As ocean temperatures rise, lobster populations have been moving steadily north, prompting concerns among politicians, scientists and fishermen that Maine lobster will eventually become Canadian lobster.

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"It's hard to wrap your head around something that has given abundance in the fisheries, that the net effect could be devastation," said Rep. Chellie PingreeRochelle (Chellie) PingreeCongress pumps brakes on Interior push to relocate Bureau of Land Management Overnight Energy: Changing climate boosts Maine lobster industry -- for now | 2020 Dems debate climate response at Detroit debate | Dem asks for perjury investigation into Interior nominee Changing climate boosts Maine lobster industry — for now MORE (D-Maine), who lives in Penobscot Bay, home to the state's most productive lobster territory.

Across the bay from Pingree's hometown of North Haven sits Stonington, on an island just south of Acadia National Park. The scenery is stunning, but instead of tour boats passing between pine-lined islands, lobster boats dominate the waters.

Fishermen in Stonington bring in more lobster by weight than anywhere else in Maine. In a town with a population of about 1,100, there are at least 400 working boats.

But that ratio also illustrates how this small town, like many others up and down the Maine coast, would be devastated by a collapse of the lobster fishery as water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine rise faster than 99 percent of the world's oceans.

"It's not like this island like this can absorb 100 new carpenters," said Carla Gunther, chief scientist at the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in Stonington.

She and other scientists have been closely monitoring the lobster settlement index, which tracks where lobster larvae settle after being carried by ocean currents. One thing that's become clear: Lobster population centers are slowly moving up the Atlantic Coast toward Canada.

"One has only to look at what has happened in Rhode Island, where the lobster fishery has virtually disappeared, to see the potential threat to Maine," Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Maine) told The Hill.

And the warming waters aren't just pushing lobsters to settle further northeast. The higher temperatures also provide more favorable conditions for predators of lobster and a shell disease that eats away at a lobster's protective exoskeleton.

"Maine has enjoyed this abundant, expanding resource but everything that comes up must come down, and that is very related to climate change because that is very related to water temperature," said Genevieve McDonald, a lobsterman and Stonington's new representative in the Maine Legislature.

During her campaign, McDonald traveled to islands up and down midcoast Maine in her lobster boat Hello Darlings II, a nod to her twins, to discuss issues affecting the commercial fishing industry.

Read our full report here.

 

HAPPY WEDNESDAY! And welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. 

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.

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WHAT'S THE HOLD UP: A Democratic senator is working to block a Trump nominee from serving as the top lawyer for the Department of the Interior and calling for an investigation into whether the nominee lied to lawmakers during his confirmation hearing about the department's public records policy.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenUS ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters MORE (D-Ore.) is requesting a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into Daniel Jorjani, currently the top lawyer at Interior who was nominated to officially take over as solicitor for the department. 

"Attempts by political appointees at the Interior Department to delay, stonewall and otherwise inhibit public and Congressional oversight are totally unacceptable," Wyden said in a statement. "I cannot allow Mr. Jorjani's nomination to proceed. I will object to any unanimous consent agreement to consider his nomination."

Jorjani's confirmation hearing was already a notable one, given that he was already connected to numerous issues being internally investigated by the Interior's Office of the Inspector General.

The man nominated to lead that office, Mark Greenblatt, testified alongside Jorjani that day. 

But during the hearing, senators became annoyed by Jorjani's responses to their questions, particularly those that inquired about a new policy at Interior that allows political appointees to review public records requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Jorjani told lawmakers, "I myself don't review FOIAs or make determinations."

That comment has already spurred a request for an investigation from one environmental group, but Wyden's letters asked both the Interior's watchdog and the DOJ to investigate. They argue that cannot be true given Jorjani's role overseeing FOIAs for the department. 

Wyden, who pressed Jorjani for details on how the review process for political appointees works, say documents from the department show political appointees were given power "well beyond the written policy Mr. Jorjani cited." 

Interior said they believed Jorjani would still be confirmed.

"Dan Jorjani has a solid record of honorably serving the American people," spokeswoman Molly Block said in a statement to The Hill. "The U.S. Department of the Interior is the only Department who has never had a Senate confirmed lawyer under the Trump Administration. Given this fact, we're confident the Senate will prioritize the confirmation of this highly qualified individual who has been leading transparency efforts at the Department when they return in September." 

Jorjani is not just in hot water for his comments at the hearing but also for written responses he sent afterward, which repeatedly directed Wyden to get in touch with Interior's congressional liaison for more information. 

Read more on the nomination here.

 

REINDEER SLAYED: Two hundred reindeer starved to death last winter on a remote Arctic archipelago, with researchers in Norway saying that climate change contributed to their starvation.

The Norwegian Polar Institute said changes in the Arctic led to the reindeer starving, Norwegian news outlet NRK reported. The institute has been studying the subspecies of reindeer, home to the Svalbard archipelago, which lies between the Norwegian mainland and North Pole, for decades.

"In the last 30 to 40 years, we have seen that the climate changes faster than natural reasons alone seem to be able to explain. Svalbard is among the areas that mark climate change most, which gets consequences for the animals living here," said one of the institute's researcher's, Ashild Onvik Pedersen, in a Facebook post, according to the website's translation. "It's scary to find so many dead animals."

The institute said this was the deadliest winter for the animals -- due to heavier and more frequent rain, The New York Times reported. 

"Once you get the rain on the top of the snow, most often it completely freezes to solid ice that completely covers the plants," Pedersen told the Times. 

The frost prevents the animals from reaching the usual vegetation. 

Longer and warmer summers, another impact of climate change, has also increased the reindeer population, making for greater competitions of food and leading to further risk of starvation, the Times reported.

Pedersen and other researchers have been warning of the impact climate change would have on Svalbard's wildlife as far back as 2013, the Times noted, citing an article published in Science.

See the piece.

 

CLIMATE DEBATE: It took last night's Democratic Primary debate nearly an hour before the first question on climate change came out. 

Here's what happened:

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeAuthorities seize weapons from alleged neo-Nazi leader under 'red flag' law Super PAC seeks to spend more than million supporting Yang Krystal Ball rips media for going 'all-in' on Buttigieg's debate performance MORE (D-Texas) said that "we don't have more than 10 years" to address the climate crisis and that we can't do so with "half-steps or half-measures" at the debate in Detroit.

But that timeline isn't consistent with the climate plan O'Rourke proposed earlier this year.

In April, O'Rourke released a $5 trillion climate plan that called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The plan initially spurred backlash from the Sunrise Movement, one of the backers of the Green New Deal, though the group later walked back that criticism, calling it "a great start." 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez says endorsing Sanders early is 'the most authentic decision' she could make Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders MORE (D-N.Y.), one of the sponsors of the Green New Deal, also criticized O'Rourke's timeline.

"Personally, I think we need to have more aggressive timelines than that to be honest," she told The Hill in April.

"I think that the science and the IPCC [report] shows exactly what we need, and our legislation needs to be in line with that," she added, referring to the climate assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy MORE to Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' Warren says she will unveil plan to finance 'Medicare for All' Ocasio-Cortez says endorsing Sanders early is 'the most authentic decision' she could make MORE: 'You don't have to yell'

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sparred over the role of cars and fossil fuels in curbing greenhouse gas emissions during Tuesday's Democratic debates.

Ryan was asked to weigh in on a proposal from Sanders that would eliminate new gas-powered auto sales by 2040.

Ryan responded with his plan to boost electric vehicle production in the U.S., as well as batteries -- a market currently dominated by China. But Sanders said the U.S. can't ignore the pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry. 

"I get a little tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas," Sanders said. "Please don't tell me that we cannot take on the fossil fuel industry. Nothing happens unless we do that. ... What do you do with an industry that knowingly, for billions of dollars in short-term profits, is destroying this planet?"  

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-37 people injured from explosion at ExxonMobil plant in Baytown; shelter-in-place lifted, The Houston Chronicle reports

-California may be first to force water suppliers to notify customers of myriad toxic 'forever chemicals', The Palm Springs Desert Sun reports

Decades of greed, neglect, corruption, and bad politics led to last year's Paradise fire, The California Sunday Magazine reports.

Two dozen cities are banning diesels over the next decade, a problem for residents, Bloomberg reports.

Californians' concerns about worsening wildfires at record high, KQED reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday...

-Scientists say 200 Arctic reindeer died last year due to climate change

-Democratic senator vows to fight Trump Interior nominee after requesting perjury investigation

-Changing climate boosts Maine lobster industry -- for now

-Tim Ryan to Bernie Sanders: 'You don't have to yell'

-Beto: 'We don't have more than 10 years to get this right'