Overnight Energy: Greens scoff at Trump claim he's an 'environmentalist' | Endangered animals get new protections globally | Fires, climate on centerstage at G-7 | BLM's move west gets complicated

Overnight Energy: Greens scoff at Trump claim he's an 'environmentalist' | Endangered animals get new protections globally | Fires, climate on centerstage at G-7 | BLM's move west gets complicated
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GREENS SCOFF AT TRUMP CLAIM HE'S AN 'ENVIRONMENTALIST': Trump's statement that he is an environmentalist is provoking a backlash from critics who say his policies have hurt environmental protections and the fight against climate change.

Trump's assertion Monday that he is a friend of the environment came at the conclusion of the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in France, after he skipped the climate portion of the summit and a discussion on Brazil's raging forest fires. 

The president's words, coupled with his actions, prompted swift criticism from environmental advocates.

"It's detached from reality, just like everything he has ever said about climate and renewable energy," said Mitch Jones, climate and energy program director at Food & Water Action. "For this president to claim he's an environmentalist is one of the most absurd jokes on mankind ever been played. And it's not funny."

What Trump said: Trump's absence from the environment-focused portions of the annual meeting of world leaders also renewed questions among his critics about whether he believes in man-made climate change.

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"I'm an environmentalist. A lot of people don't understand that," Trump said at Monday's press conference. "I think I know more about the environment than most people."

Trump's record: Trump has played a major role in scaling back environmental regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency has rewritten regulations for coal-fired power plants, vehicle emissions and methane in ways that will weaken protections and significantly add to pollution, environmentalists argue.

The White House side: When reached for comment, the White House pointed to a July speech in which the president hailed his administration's environmental leadership alongside its oil and gas production. But that speech was blasted by scientists and conservationists.

Read more here.

 

More on Trump and the G-7 below...

 

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

A programming note: During August recess we'll be publishing our recaps once a week. Keep an eye out for Overnight Energy on Wednesdays until Congress returns.

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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G-7 AFTER-BURN: President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE over the weekend attended the Group of Seven conference in France, where a number of environmental issues from climate change to the raging forest fire in Brazil were on the minds of leaders. But not everyone was on the same page.

 

Trump skips G7 climate session: Trump Monday kipped a session at the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in France focused on climate, biodiversity and oceans.

The president was not in the room when reporters were allowed to observe part of the session, and his seat was empty. The heads of government of the other six nations that comprise the G-7 were there.

"The President had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the Administration attended in his stead," press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser marred by protests Trump names finalists for national security adviser MORE later told reporters.

Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel a short time after the climate session and was asked if he had attended.

"I'm going to. In fact, it's going to be our next session. I want clear air and clean water," Trump said. It was unclear if he heard a reporter who noted the session had just happened.

During the climate meeting, leaders approved a $20 million aid package to help Brazil and other South American countries address fires engulfing swaths of the Amazon rainforest, French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Whistleblower Edward Snowden calls on Macron to grant him asylum in France Trump to meet with India's Modi in Texas, Australia's Morrison in Ohio MORE said.

More on the G-7 climate developments here.

 

Brazil, France fight delays fire aid: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday demanded an apology from his French counterpart, Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Whistleblower Edward Snowden calls on Macron to grant him asylum in France Trump to meet with India's Modi in Texas, Australia's Morrison in Ohio MORE, before discussions can begin over international aid to fight wildfires in the Amazon, Reuters reported.

"First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar. Before we talk or accept anything from France ... he must withdraw these words then we can talk," Bolsonaro told reporters. "First he withdraws, then offers [aid], then I will answer."

Bolsonaro and Macron have been engaged in a war of words since the Group of Seven (G-7) nations, which includes France but not Brazil, agreed on a $20 million aid package to combat the forest fires burning the Amazon rainforest.

The Brazilian president mocked Macron's wife on Facebook and then accused the French leader of disrespecting Brazil's sovereignty.

Macron responded by calling Bolsonaro a liar, adding that Brazilian women are probably ashamed of their president.

Read more here.

 

RHINOS, AND ELEPHANTS & GIRAFFES, OH MY: Over the past week, representatives from various nations have met to discuss updates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)--the global treaty that regulates wildlife trade. And there have been a lot of changes, including promises from various countries to curb their trade in ivory.

 

Countries reach agreement to protect 18 shark species: Three proposals to protect 18 types of sharks at risk of extinction passed a committee of the World Wildlife Conference with a two-third majority Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

The proposals govern international trade in different species of mako shark, wedgefishes and guitarfishes, according to the AP. Makos, the world's fastest sharks, are frequently caught in tuna nets.

Dissenting members objected to the measure's potential effect on their countries' fishing industries. "Japan has been highly dependent on (live) marine resources from the ancient times," Hideki Moronuki, director of fisheries negotiations at the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said, according to the AP. "It's very, very important for us in Japan to sustainably use all those marine riches."

Read more here.

 

Some ivory markets kept open: The European Union and Japan will be able to keep their domestic ivory trades open despite a push to end the market globally at this year's international wildlife trafficking meeting in Geneva.

The decision Wednesday at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties' (CoP18) discussion of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), will allow the two regions to continue sales of ivory within their borders. 

Nevertheless, environmentalists are seeing the outcome of the meeting as a positive. Countries confirmed a commitment to eventually close all domestic ivory markets and agreed on a consensus to focus their scrutiny on any remaining open markets.

Domestic ivory markets such as the EU and Japan will be subject to more stringent record keeping, including regularly reporting on measures they are taking to make sure their domestic trade does not contribute to poaching or a black market.

"This is a great outcome for elephants," said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Many countries have closed their markets since CoP17 but countries like Japan still need to take action. The Decision today will help ensure that markets are closed and elephants are protected," Sanerib said.

The website Yahoo! also announced this week it will ban the sales of ivory in Japan across its e-commerce sites.

Read more here.

 

Elephant exports to zoos limited: The European Union on Tuesday voted to approve a proposal limiting the export of wild-caught elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The measure, introduced at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), was amended to include a compromise for "exceptional circumstances" after negotiations between the EU and the African Elephant Coalition (AEC).

The proposal allows for some exceptions relevant to Europe, including allowing an elephant already in an EU country to be shipped to a nearby EU nation without having to be sent back to Africa first.

The new resolutions, passed by a vote of 87 in favor, 29 opposed and 25 abstaining, means zoos will not be able to import wild-caught African elephants to the U.S., China and a number of other countries beyond elephants' natural habitat.

Read more here.

 

BLM HEADS OUT WEST: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took its first step in moving Washington-based staff out West, offering up vacant, but perhaps lower profile positions to staffers, despite objections from lawmakers.

The Department of Interior announced in July that it would leave just 61 BLM employees in the capital and move about 300 other Washington-based employees to offices closer to the public lands they manage.

In an email to staff sent late Friday and obtained by The Hill, BLM head William Pendley encouraged staffers to apply for vacant positions that have been moved out West as part of the agency's effort to relocate most of its D.C.-based staff.

But those familiar with government pay grades say many of the positions offered up by Pendley are at a lower grade and may not pay as well as employees' jobs in D.C.

The email from Pendley says D.C.-based staff will be given "priority consideration" for vacant positions in order to "help retain Washington Office BLM employees."

Pendley's email offers vacant positions at the GS-12 pay level and above, but many BLM Washington office employees are GS-13 and higher. Pay also varies by location, with employees in larger cities often earning more.

The vacant jobs are being offered up before BLM employees have been notified of where they are being transferred. 

"I read it as, 'Your job is going West ... at a location as yet to be determined. However, if one of these other BLM jobs is attractive, you will get hiring/selection preference if you qualify,'" said Steve Ellis, who retired from BLM in 2016 as the deputy director for operations, the highest career-level position.

Read more here.

 

But the hiring spree comes amid serious opposition in Congress: The Interior Department says it would move ahead with plans to relocate BLM after getting the green light from Congress, but lawmakers say no such approval has been granted.

"The administration's characterization of Congress having 'blessed' BLM's relocation plan is false," Amanda Yanchury, spokeswoman for Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumLeave park operations — and fee revenues — to the parks Federal watchdog: Trump admin broke law by pulling from park entrance fees during shutdown Interior official threatens to withhold jobs in lawmakers' districts after opposition to BLM move MORE (D-Minn.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Interior Department, said in a statement to The Hill.

"Interior's initial relocation plan was significantly lacking in the details necessary for the Committee to evaluate this proposal. That's why Congress, in a bipartisan and bicameral manner, requested more information -- to ensure the transparency and accountability of the administration's actions," she added. 

Read the story here.

 

Letters from lawmakers and former BLM employees are asking Interior to put the move on hold: McCollum and Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback MORE (D-N.M.) formally objected to the agency's plans to move the headquarters with a letter to Interior. 

"Based on the incomplete and superficial information that you provided, it appears that the proposal to relocate Bureau headquarters is not based on rigorous financial and organizational analysis, nor is it intended to increase the Bureau's accountability and improve the management of our nation's public lands," the two wrote.

Udall and McCollum say Interior sidelined Congress, organizational analysts and career staff at the BLM when making plans to move the agency, along with failing to provide answers to basic questions or a meaningful cost-benefit analysis.

The letter comes as outside groups have pushed for more congressional oversight of the relocation. 

The Public Lands Foundation, a 600-member group composed of former BLM employees, asked leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing on a relocation they say will "functionally dismantle" the agency.

Read more here and here

 

Meanwhile, in Grand Junction: Residents and leaders in Grand Junction, Colo., view the planned BLM move as a perfect match. The headquarters would bring new blood into a community eager to improve its economy while giving staffers the chance to live, work and play near the lands they help manage.

Nearly three-quarters of Mesa County, where Grand Junction is located, is federal land.

"From an economic standpoint, it helps diversify our economy, which unfortunately over the years has been subject to boom and bust," said Grand Junction Mayor Rick Taggart, referring to the oil and gas industry and mining for coal and minerals.

"We can't afford to have an economy so dependent on one set of industries," he added.

But many critics of the plan are concerned the proximity to energy and grazing interests are designed to skew future use of public lands away from recreational and conservation priorities that are weighed alongside the value of public lands.

"Grand Junction is an oil and gas town," said Taylor McKinnon, an Arizona-based senior public lands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity. "The politics in that part of the world is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry, and they have been for a long time."

Read more here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-Indonesia to move capital from sinking Jakarta to Borneo, the Associated Press reports. 

-Scientists detect microplastics in Lake Tahoe for the first time, we report.

-BP to quit Alaska after 60 years with $5.6 billion sale, Reuters reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from this week...

-2020 presidential primary candidates to appear in MSNBC climate forum

-Scientists successfully fertilize eggs from last existing northern white rhinos

-Marriott bans single-use shampoo, bath gel bottles

-Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg reaches New York after sailing across Atlantic

-Trump moves to permit new logging in Alaska's Tongass National Forest: report

-Scientists detect microplastics in Lake Tahoe for the first time

-Scientists fight Trump EPA 'secret science' proposal to exclude certain research

-Iowa corn farmers to Trump: The government put us in 'one hell of a bad situation'

-BP ending its six-decade business in Alaska

-Trump on major storm approaching Puerto Rico: 'Will it ever end?'

-EU approves proposal limiting export of elephants from Africa

-Brazil's Bolsonaro demands apology from Macron before discussing Amazon fire aid

-Residents raise concerns about tropical storm approaching Puerto Rico

-Brazil rejecting G-7 aid to fight Amazon fires

-Manufacturers oppose energy efficiency testing rule designed to benefit industry

-Trump says he's 'an environmentalist' after skipping G-7 climate meeting

-Environmentalists scoff after Trump claims he's one of them

-G-7 leaders agree on Amazon fire aid at meeting Trump missed

-Trump absent from G-7 session on climate

-Trump slams 'ridiculous' report that he wanted to blow up hurricanes with nukes

-Yang climate plan heavily relies on entrepreneurship, nuclear