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). 


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 McClintockFive Republicans vote for bill to decriminalize marijuana House passes sweeping reform bill to decriminalize marijuana GOP lawmaker defends Newsom for breaking 'idiotic' COVID-19 rules 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 HuffmanBickering Democrats return with divisions Lobbying world OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes 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. FitzpatrickHouse approves bill banning big cat ownership after Netflix's 'Tiger King' Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Divided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground 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 CarbajalGOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus Bustos tests positive for COVID-19 MORE and Scott PetersScott H. PetersCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal Moderate Democrats push leadership to pull marijuana legislation 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 CurbeloHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members House adjusts format for dinner with new members after criticism Former GOP congressman calls for Biden to receive presidential briefings 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 WheelerHillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler EPA chief quarantining after exposure to someone who later tested positive for COVID-19 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 BennetHarris taps women of color for key senior staff positions The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases MORE (D-Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham Progressives urge Haaland for Interior as short list grows MORE (D-N.M.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Senate Democrats press VA for vaccine distribution plan President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE (D-Mont.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham Progressives urge Haaland for Interior as short list grows MORE (D-N.M.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden officially clinches Electoral College votes with California certification Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Trump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs MORE (D-Calif.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein pushes for California secretary of state to replace Harris in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (D-Calif.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats introduce legislation to strike slavery exception in 13th Amendment Overnight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising MORE (D-Ore.),  Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownACLU sues DHS for records on purchased cell phone data to track immigrants DHS watchdog to probe agency's tracking of Americans' phone data without a warrant Rare Mnuchin-Powell spat takes center stage at COVID-19 hearing MORE (D-Ohio), Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Sanders says he can't support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current form Progressives push for direct payments to be included in COVID-19 relief deal MORE (I-Vt.) , Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOn The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry MORE (D-Md.), Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyACLU sues DHS for records on purchased cell phone data to track immigrants DHS watchdog to probe agency's tracking of Americans' phone data without a warrant Manchin: Ocasio-Cortez 'more active on Twitter than anything else' MORE (D-Mass.), and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation 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.



-'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