Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds

Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds
© Greg Nash

SAY HELLO TO INTERIOR'S 'NEW' LAWYER: The Senate voted to confirm a top lawyer for the Department of the Interior who was accused of lying to Congress.

Daniel Jorjani, already the de facto top lawyer for the department, was confirmed with a 51-43 vote. He is the subject of an ongoing review by Interior's Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Jorjani has been a much-eyed figure with Democrats and environmental watchdog groups for his involvement in crafting a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy that allows political appointees to review records requests and even withhold documents.

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"On Friday, the Interior Inspector General confirmed Jorjani is currently under investigation for his role in this FOIA policy. That fact alone ought to be enough to stop this nomination from moving forward," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Congressional leaders unite to fight for better future for America's children and families McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug bill MORE (D-Ore.), who vowed to block Jorjani's nomination, arguing that Jorjani was not forthcoming about his work on the policy during questioning from lawmakers.

"Bottom line, I believe Mr. Jorjani lied to the committee and perjured himself."

Through his role as principle deputy solicitor, Jorjani served as Interior's top legal advisor and was also listed as the department's chief FOIA officer.  

Interior's new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy became a significant line of questioning for Democrats during Jorjani's confirmation hearing earlier this year. Lawmakers were particularly interested in the "awareness review" process that gave political appointees a chance to review documents.

A "supplemental awareness review" process from Interior also gave Jorjani the power to review those requests.

"This review process not only opens up the possibility for inappropriate delays, but also allows for willful and blatant withholding of important information the public has requested," Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Senate eyes sending stopgap spending bill back to House | Sondland delivers bombshell impeachment testimony | Pentagon deputy says he didn't try to block official's testimony Pentagon No. 2 denies trying to block official's impeachment testimony MORE (D-Hawaii) said on the floor during debate over Jorjani's confirmation.

Read more on Jorjani's confirmation here.

 

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WAIT, WE NEED MONEY FOR THAT?: A final Senate budget deal appears set to offer no funding for the Trump administration's plans to move the headquarters of the Interior Department's land management agency out West.

Funding for the Interior Department that passed out of committee Tuesday deprives the Trump administration of requested funds to move an anticipated nearly 300 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees out of Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo., and other locations in the Western U.S.

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters Bureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows MORE (D-N.M.), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations interior subcommittee, said he was "pleased" that the bill failed to include any new funding for the "ill-advised" BLM reorganization.

"Between this bill and the strong statement made by the House to oppose the reorganization, the administration would be well-advised to stop trying to ram these changes through and actually work with Congress on a good faith basis," Udall said Tuesday.

The funding news come as the Senate Appropriations subcommittee approved a $35.8 billion measure to fund the Interior Department, U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Indian Health Service and other agencies. Interior had initially requested that Congress reallocate $5.3 million in their existing budget towards the BLM reorganization.

 

How Interior responded:

An Interior spokesperson said the agency is "moving full speed ahead" with its reorganization plans.

"As previously approved by Congress, we have the means to complete this relocation and establish the new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado. The Department intends to give BLM employees their legally authorized compensation and incentives, but ultimately it is up to Congress to decide if they want to deny these benefits to our employees," the spokesperson said Tuesday.

Read about it here.

 

EPA VS. CALIFORNIA ROUND (We forget): The Trump administration is threatening to withhold highway funding from California over its air pollution -- the latest move in a political showdown as the state fights to keep tougher vehicle emissions standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rolled back the tougher standards California is fighting to keep, spurring a lawsuit from California and 23 other states on Friday.

In a letter to California leaders, EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA to resume contract negotiations with employee union Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits Latest EPA guidance weakens air protections in favor of industry, critics say MORE said the state owes the agency an urgent turnaround on a backlog of air pollution plans.

"Since the 1970s, California has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act. California has the worst air quality in the United States," Wheeler wrote, saying the state has 34 million residents breathing air that does not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. 

The letter was first reported by the Sacramento Bee late Monday.

Wheeler said the state has 130 outdated plans across various regions, some of which date back decades. He gave the state until Oct. 10 to respond and floated withholding federal highway funds.

"We certainly want to avoid these triggers, but our foremost concern must be ensuring clean air for all Americans," Wheeler wrote.

California officials pushed back on Wheeler's letter, which they saw as retaliation against the state, coming amid a fight over emissions standards.

"The White House has no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being of Californians," Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomPG&E announces .5B settlement for Northern California wildfires Newsom jokes after Harris drops 2020 bid ahead of his Iowa campaign events for her: 'I want a reimbursement!' Feinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE (D) said in a statement to The Hill. "This letter is a threat of pure retaliation. While the White House tries to bully us and concoct new ways to make our air dirtier, California is defending our state's clean air laws from President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE's attacks."

"We won't go back to the days when our air was the color of mud. We won't relive entire summers when spending time outside amounted to a public health risk. We won't be intimidated by this brazen political stunt," Newsom added.​

Read more on the fight here.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGE:

Export-Import Bank should not fund detrimental natural gas project in Mozambique, writes Kate DeAngelis at Friends of the Earth. 

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY:

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

The latest UN IPCC report will be released early Wednesday morning. The report will focus on the effects of climate change on oceans and water.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

Scientists find air pollution particles in pregnant women's placenta, Vox writes.

Volkswagen's CEO and chairman charged in Germany over diesel emissions scandal, CNN reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

-Senate confirms top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress

-Trump EPA chief says agency's authority to address climate change is 'limited'

-Nature reserve reduces plan for bison grazing after rancher pushback

-Trump administration tightens squeeze on Venezuela's oil sector

-Trump administration begins internal review of grants to wildlife organizations accused of abuse

-Proposed Senate budget offers no funding for BLM headquarters move

-Trump EPA threatens to withhold California highway funds amid emissions fight