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 McClintockOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group 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 HuffmanScrap House defense authorization provision benefitting Russia Democrat argues GOP had 'no deep love or loyalty' to Trump Democrats take Trump impeachment case to voters 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. FitzpatrickThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena 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. PetersHow to kickstart a rapid global warming slowdown Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group 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 CurbeloProgressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP Anxious GOP treads carefully with Trump defense 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 WheelerOvernight Energy: Dems subpoena Perry in impeachment inquiry | EPA to overhaul rules on lead contamination tests | Commerce staff wrote statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump Hundreds of former EPA officials call for House probe, say agency's focus on California is politicized EPA to overhaul rule on testing for lead contamination 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 BennetSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Bennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists MORE (D-Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate fails to override Trump veto over emergency declaration Democratic senators condemn Trump for calling on China to investigate Bidens Green groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight MORE (D-N.M.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Red-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control MORE (D-Mont.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Commerce Department to develop stats on income inequality Senators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games MORE (D-N.M.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris reacts to supporter who got tattoo of her handwriting Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency Harris campaign releases web video highlighting opposition to death penalty MORE (D-Calif.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Khashoggi fiancée meets with lawmakers seeking 'justice and accountability' for his slaying Schiff should consider using RICO framework to organize impeachment MORE (D-Calif.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Democratic senators condemn Trump for calling on China to investigate Bidens MORE (D-Ore.),  Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownCritics pounce as Facebook crypto project stumbles Trump administration blocked consumer watchdog from public service loan forgiveness program: report Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 MORE (D-Ohio), Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (I-Vt.) , Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenPelosi, Schumer hit 'flailing' Trump over 'sham ceasefire' deal 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 House Foreign Affairs leaders introduce Turkey sanctions bill MORE (D-Md.), Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyFlight attendant union endorses Markey in Senate primary battle Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick MORE (D-Mass.), and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules 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: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds 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