Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports

Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports
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First, let's set the scene: Climate week came to a head with protests Friday across the globe. 

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in cities around the world to demand action from governments on climate change.

Video of demonstrations in New York, San Francisco, Berlin and several other cities showed city streets teeming with protesters. Some estimates put the total attendance around the world in the millions.

 

STATES FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS: A coalition of state attorneys general is suing the Trump administration after it moved earlier in the week to revoke California's authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards, first granted under former President Obama.

The lawsuit, filed by California's Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraProgressive group releases Supreme Court shortlist for 2020 Democrats Trump administration ends five-year oil and gas drilling moratorium in California  Feds won't pursue charges against Sacramento officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark MORE (D) along with the leaders of 23 other states; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles and New York City, argues that the Trump administration unlawfully removed the state's waiver granted under the Clean Air Act.

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The suit also alleges that the decision to remove California's waiver to set its own standards, which are currently adopted by 12 other states, exceeds the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) authority. NHTSA, under the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly drafted the new emissions rule.

Trump first tweeted the decision to remove the Golden State's waiver on Wednesday when he was visiting the state. DOT and EPA formally announced the decision on Thursday.

"State Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Preemption Regulation be declared unlawful and set aside because it exceeds NHTSA's authority, contravenes Congressional intent, and is arbitrary and capricious, and because NHTSA has failed to conduct the analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act," the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reads.

Becerra said in a press release Friday that the Trump administration "insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health."

"The Oval Office is really not a place for on-the-job training. President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the Presidency, in particular the chapter on respecting the Rule of Law. Mr. President, we'll see you in court," he added.

How we got here: California was first granted the right to submit environmental waivers for review in 1968 under the Clean Air Act. For decades, the state has been issued waivers to allowing it to set air pollution standards higher than that of the federal government, due to the state's unique struggle with air pollution and smog. 

The federal government has never before revoked one of its waivers.

Read more about the legal battle here

 

TGIF! 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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INTERIOR WATCHDOG LOOKING AT FOIA PROCESS: The Department of Interior's internal watchdog confirmed in letters to two lawmakers that they will review the involvement of the agency's top officials in crafting the agency's public records process which allows political appointees to review and potentially withhold documents from release.

"Our ongoing review will holistically examine the expanded [Freedom of Information Act] FOIA process, including the involvement of senior officials," Interior's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) wrote in letters reviewed by The Hill that were sent to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Bipartisan senators want federal plan for sharing more info on supply chain threats PhRMA CEO warns Pelosi bill to lower drug prices would be 'devastating' for industry MORE (D-Ore.).

Interior's OIG has already acknowledged probes into several officials, but lawmakers have been eager to expand that scope.

Grijalva requested an investigation earlier this month of Interior's Supplemental Awareness Review process, citing evidence that it resulted in inappropriate delays and the removal of entire documents from being released, while Wyden had asked for an investigation into Daniel Jorjani, one of the architects of the policy, who Wyden says may have lied to Congress about it.

The internal policy, unearthed in a recent FOIA release, allows Jorjani, Interior's deputy solicitor, and deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes five days to review all records requests related to senior staff in the secretary's office before release.

The supplemental review is in addition to Interior's Awareness Review process first put forth as early as May 2018. That policy allows any presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed, non-career senior executive employees the ability to review FOIA requests related to them before they are released publicly.

The news comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (R-Ky.) took a step to advance Jorjani's nomination to serve as Interior's solicitor, a vote Wyden has vowed to fight. Jorjani told lawmakers at a May hearing that he wasn't involved in reviewing FOIA requests, but lawmakers say emails between Interior staff about the FOIA process suggest otherwise.

"If these were normal times, I would be shocked, but these are not normal times and it's no surprise that yet another Trump Interior nominee -- the second in six months -- is under investigation before they are on the job. Trump's Interior is corrupt to its core, starting at the top. Daniel Jorjani is another in a long list of unqualified industry insiders and has no business working in the Interior Department. McConnell cannot ignore these serious allegations. He should cancel the vote," Wyden said in a statement to The Hill.

Interior pushed back against Wyden's comments.

"It's disappointing that Sen. Wyden continues to resort to misguided attacks on one of the most qualified candidates to ever be nominated for the solicitor position at the Department of the Interior. Dan Jorjani is an exemplary leader who has the background and experience necessary to successfully lead the Office of the Solicitor for the Department. We appreciate Senator McConnell's willingness to bring his nomination to a vote, so the Department can finally have a Senate-confirmed Solicitor in place," and Interior spokesperson said by email.

The OIG is already reviewing high-level Interior officials for potential ethics violations, and environmental groups have criticized the department for not doing enough to make sure top employees, including Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist, avoid conflicts of interest.

Read more about the probe here

 

A REPORT ON BURIED REPORTS: Senate Democrats are accusing the Trump administration of burying climate change reports and more generally undermining science. 

Lawmakers released a report and a list of more than 1,400 Department of Agriculture (USDA) climate studies on Thursday, saying that the administration has "largely failed to publicize" climate research. 

The report accuses the administration of "burying climate crisis research" in addition to laying out dozens of other instances alleging that it has tried to weaken science.

Among the examples laid out by Democrats is USDA research on climate change, "including a landmark study on rising CO2 levels causing nutrient loss in rice," the report stated.

It also says that the White House last year "buried the federal government's fourth National Climate Assessment by releasing it over Thanksgiving."

The list includes dozens of actions and reported actions by the White House, Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture Department and other executive agencies. 

In a statement to Politico, a spokesperson for USDA rejected the Democratic claims.

"We have repeatedly provided the Senate Agriculture Committee with evidence to the contrary, and the department has been transparent and communicative to the committee in response to their questions on research," the statement said. "The list of studies linked in the report were provided by the USDA to the committee and are all publicly available."

Democrats are pushing for passage of legislation titled the Scientific Integrity Act, which aims to protect science from political interference. 

The accusations follow President Trump's high-profile disagreement with scientists on the path of Hurricane Dorian.

Read more on this meta topic here

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

Monday is the United Nations Climate Action Summit. 

On Tuesday, House Natural Resources will hold a hearing on eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and later mark up a bunch of bills.  

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on reducing industrial emissions. 

On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on forest restoration. 

House Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing on weather forecasting under climate change. 

House Natural Resources will hold a hearing on Interior's "failure to cooperate with Congressional oversight requests." 

The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on reducing industrial emissions.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-German government passes $60 billion climate policy package, we report.

-Trump administration ignored its own evidence of climate change's impact on migration from Central America, NBC reports.

-Virginia energy company planning major offshore wind farm project, we report

 

ICYMI: Stories from Friday...

2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum

Bill WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldAnalysis: Warren and Booker most cyber-aware 2020 candidates Trump campaign takes steps to ensure critics are not represented at 2020 convention Ex-GOP lawmaker sues South Carolina Republican Party for canceling 2020 primary MORE: 'I wouldn't take money from the oil and gas companies'

Hundreds of thousands turn out in New York, other major cities for climate marches

Judiciary Democrats press White House over antitrust probe of automakers

California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule

Interior watchdog investigating political appointees' review of FOIA requests

Senate Democrats accuse administration of burying climate change reports

Footage shows devastation in Texas from Imelda

Patagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike