Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group

Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group
© Greg Nash

IT WAS A BIPARTISAN DUNKFEST: Bipartisan dissatisfaction with the Department of the Interior was on display Thursday as lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee probed the difficulties they've faced in getting information on department business.

Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has said he is eager to subpoena Interior for documents if they do not begin to comply with the committee's requests. And the Arizona Democrat said Thursday the subpoena process could begin within a week, unless Interior can turn over a detailed timetable for releasing all the documents the committee has sought.

If Interior complies, the committee could gain insight into a host of ethical issues plaguing the department, as well as documents tied to a recent decision to relocate the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

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Lawmakers used screens in the hearing room to flash fully redacted pages, blurred images, and examples where the committee was given limited versions of documents that were given to other requesters in full. 

"Interior's refusal to cooperate means this committee cannot do the oversight envisioned in our Constitution," Grijalva said. "That has not stopped the Trump administration from delaying, obstructing and sometimes just ignoring our efforts to conduct oversight."

Grijalva said of the 24 requests sent to Interior, only three of the responses have provided enough information to be deemed satisfactory. 

Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani, who was voted into his job just two days ago despite allegations that he lied to Congress, apologized to the committee repeatedly for responses he said were inadequate.

"It looks like the department made a mistake," Jorjani said when confronted with images of a request that was partially redacted when given to the committee even though the full document was released publicly through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"That's an oversight on our part for which I apologize." 

It wasn't just Democrats who were frustrated. 

"There are many of us on the other side of the aisle that may not share the Democrats' policy positions, but do recognize the role of oversight, and are frustrated when legitimate requests, bipartisan requests are made and not answered," said Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockJudiciary Republican asks impeachment witnesses if they voted for Trump Live coverage: Witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses This week: Impeachment inquiry moves to Judiciary Committee MORE (R-Calif.). 

Jorjani stressed to the committee that Interior's policy for responding to congressional requests was no different now than under the Obama administration.

Jorjani promised lawmakers he would follow up on a number of requests they made, including a request for planning documents tied to Interior's decision to move 300 Washington-based BLM employees to various offices across the West.

He also told Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanPelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Harris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires Overnight Energy: Fight between EPA watchdog, agency lawyers heats up | Top EPA official under investigation over document destruction | DOJ issues subpoenas to automakers in California emissions pact MORE (D-Calif.) he would review the recusal lists of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and BLM head William Pendley. Pendley's recusal list, released to top staff yesterday, is 17 pages long.

"Yes, I commit to going back and sitting down with [Departmental Ethics Office director] Scott de la Vega to go through Secretary Bernhardt's and Mr. Pendley's recusals," Jorjani said. 

Read more about the hearing here

 

SENDING SOME GOP LOVE FOR A CARBON TAX: A new bill introduced by Republican Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickOvernight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Billboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving Mark Ruffalo brings fight against 'forever chemicals' to Capitol Hill MORE (Pa.) would place a price on carbon and invest revenue in infrastructure.

The bipartisan Market Choice Act co-sponsored with Democratic Reps. Salud CarbajalSalud CarbajalOvernight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group GOP congressman introduces bipartisan carbon tax bill Hispanic Democrats: ICE raids designed to distract from Trump ties to Epstein MORE and Scott PetersScott H. PetersStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Freer housing is 'fairer housing' — HUD should tie funding to looser zoning MORE of California aims to reduce emissions and invest in infrastructure projects such as those for highways and bridges. It would do so by replacing the federal gasoline tax with a tax on carbon emissions from sources of fossil fuel combustion like power plants.

"Efforts to reduce climate risk should protect our Nation's economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, public health, and public safety and there is bipartisan support for pursuing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through economically viable, broadly supported private and public policies and solutions," the text of the bill reads.

The bill calls for a tax of $35 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2021 with rates increasing cumulatively thereafter.

"We are at a crossroads with regard to infrastructure and climate change," said Fitzpatrick in a statement Thursday.

"Legislative action taken -- or not taken -- by this Congress on these issues will be felt for generations. With the American public overwhelmingly seeking fixes to our crumbling roads and bridges while searching for solutions to mitigate the dangerous effects of climate change, our bipartisan bill is a dynamic solution that seeks to tackle both problems. It doesn't have to be a tough choice," he said.

The bill mirrors one introduced with the same name by former GOP lawmaker Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE of Florida in 2018. Curbelo at the time was the first Republican to introduce a national carbon pricing bill in almost a decade. Fitzpatrick co-sponsored that bill. Now he is a leader of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus.

The new bill tasks the administration with measuring overall annual emissions from the taxed entities.

Why this matters: Fitzpatrick's bill is the latest addition in a growing slew of bipartisan carbon bills being introduced in the House and Senate. 

The push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions comes as both Democrats and Republicans face pressure from their constituents, and in some cases the fossil fuel industry itself, to regulate carbon emissions that lead to climate change.

Read more on the bill here.

 

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SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXILES GOING IT ALONE: Scientists who were booted from their advisory roles by the Trump administration plan to reconvene their air pollution panel without the backing of the government.

Environmental Protection Agency (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 disbanded the Particulate Matter Review Panel, part of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, in October 2018.

The 20-member review panel was composed of some of the nation's top scientists, who were tasked with reviewing how soot and other microscopic air pollutants impact human health. The panel helped the EPA determine what level of air pollution is safe to breathe. 

Now the scientists who once served on the panel will meet on Oct. 10, the anniversary of the day it was disbanded.

"This is the first time in the history of EPA where the credibility of the agency's science review process has been so compromised that an independent panel of experts has recognized the need for and will be conducting a comprehensive review," said Chris Zarba, who will help lead the effort and once served as director of the EPA's Science Advisory Board, another board that provides scientific advice to the agency. 

The meeting, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, will conclude with a report stating whether the current particulate matter standard is adequate based on the latest science and if a new standard is warranted.

The reunion comes amid efforts from the White House to limit the number of scientific review panels across government and as the EPA pushes out a number of regulations that critics say will increase air pollution. 

Read more on the scientists here.

 

A STINGING REBUKE: A pair of environmental groups sued the Trump administration Thursday for approving the use of a pesticide known to kill bees. The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety sued over a 2018 decision to allow agriculture use of neonicotinoid pesticides at national wildlife refuges. Bee populations are in global decline.

View the suit here.

 

DEMS WANT PENDLEY TO BID FAREWELL: Twelve Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Thursday asking him to remove acting BLM direct William Pendley from his role due to his well-established preference to sell public lands.

"As the BLM considers a major reorganization, there is no reason for this effort to be led by an Acting Director who spent his career attempting to dismantle the agency. Keeping Mr. Pendley atop the BLM is an affront to all Americans who believe in the balanced, multiple use and sustained yield mission of the agency," wrote the senators.

"The American people deserve better. Therefore, we request that you rescind Mr. Pendley's authority as Acting Director of the BLM and that the President nominate a BLM Director with a true commitment to our public lands and waters."

The letter was signed by Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBloomberg on 2020 rivals blasting him for using his own money: 'They had a chance to go out and make a lot of money' Senators want FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates MORE (D-Colo.), 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.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP braces for Democratic spending onslaught in battle for Senate Former rancher says failure to restore meat labeling law is costing rural America 'billions' Tester: Our forefathers would not have tolerated Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden MORE (D-Mont.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenators want FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill MORE (D-N.M.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms Trump pick labeled 'not qualified' by American Bar Association Feinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE (D-Calif.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyMcConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' Overnight Energy: Protesters plan Black Friday climate strike | 'Father of EPA' dies | Democrats push EPA to abandon methane rollback Warren bill would revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee massacre MORE (D-Ore.),  Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBoth sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial Lawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank Hillicon Valley: Senate Dems unveil privacy bill | Trump campaign, RNC rip Google political ad policy | Activists form national coalition to take on Amazon | Commerce issues rule to secure communications supply chain MORE (D-Ohio), Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (I-Vt.) , Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Graham, Van Hollen warn Pompeo that 'patience' on Turkey sanctions 'has long expired' Overnight Energy: Protesters plan Black Friday climate strike | 'Father of EPA' dies | Democrats push EPA to abandon methane rollback MORE (D-Md.), Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThere's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trump administration drops plan to face scan all travelers leaving or entering US Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide MORE (D-Mass.), and 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).

Pendley recently released a 17-page recusal list highlighting a number of people, companies and advocacy groups he must avoid while working at the agency.

The disclosure shows Pendley's ties to a number of industries that BLM regulates as it works to balance energy, grazing and recreational interests along with conservation. The recusal document was first reported by E&E News.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-'It's a Crisis'; Lumber Mills Slash Jobs as Trade War Cuts Deep, The Wall Street Journal reports.

-Plastic tea bags shed billions of microplastic particles into the cup, The New Scientist reports

Inside the efforts to help animals hurt by the Amazon fires, National Geographic reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday...

-GOP congressman introduces bipartisan carbon tax bill

-Florida woman running for mayor aims to be sea turtle candidate

-Scientists booted from EPA panel form their own group

-Schwarzenegger offered Greta Thunberg use of his electric car: report

-Caltech lands second-largest donation ever for climate research

-Trump administration challenges California for 'failure' to address human health

-Trump DOJ under fire over automaker probe

-Lawmakers show bipartisan irritation with Interior over withheld documents