Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he’s ‘very much into climate’ | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies

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RELOCATION OR RESIGNATION? Employees at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were given reassignment letters Tuesday as the agency marches toward its relocation across the West, giving staff 30 days to accept the move or face being booted from the federal workforce.

The delivery of the letters means BLM employees will begin moving over the next four months, cementing a controversial plan that spreads about 300 Washington-based staffers across various offices out West and leaves just 61 of the bureau’s 10,000 employees in the nation’s capital.

The Public Lands Foundation, a group of BLM retirees, said the agency “will be effectively kneecapped” by the relocation as teams are split up and spread across different offices. 

{mosads}A copy of the letter obtained by The Hill makes clear that employees who do not choose to move could lose their jobs. Current BLM employees said the agency has not done enough to help employees who wish to remain in D.C. find another job elsewhere within the Department of the Interior as promised.

“If you do not accept this directed geographic reassignment, you may be subject to a removal from federal service,” the letter reads. 

In other emails and appearances, BLM acting chief William Pendley has been less direct, instead focusing on a desire to retain current staff as the agency shifts resources west.

At an appearance before the House Natural Resources Committee in September, Pendley said BLM would help those who do not want to take “more fulfilling jobs out West” by finding them roles elsewhere within Interior.

“For employees unable to make the move, we hope to find each a position in the Department of Interior family,” Pendley said.

A similar commitment was made to BLM staff in an October email. 

“If you wish to continue working in the Washington, D.C., area, we will help you identify positions in the BLM or the Department,” he said.

Though Tuesday’s letter and others have repeatedly offered the assistance of a human resources transition team, current BLM staff said they haven’t found the service particularly helpful.

“Interior is supposed to have a process where BLM employees have first priority for placement, but I haven’t heard much of that,” one staffer told The Hill. “They haven’t been very good at working with people or very effective at getting people’s concerns addressed. They haven’t come out with all the information.”

Read more about the relocation here


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Warren sticks it to Exxon… Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is looking to make it punishable for companies to knowingly mislead or lie to federal agencies. In her latest policy plan released Tuesday morning titled, “Fighting Corporate Perjury, ” she highlights a plan to bring fines and jail time against companies that knowingly lie to federal regulators, placing a clear bullseye on fossil fuel giant Exxon.

“Fossil fuel companies like Exxon shouldn’t be able to pour money into fake junk science, then use it to lie to federal regulators,” the plan from the Massachusetts senator reads.

“It is illegal to lie to Congress. It is illegal to lie to a court. It’s even illegal to lie to your shareholders. But corporate interests are regularly and knowingly peddling false claims in order to stop regulatory agencies from acting in the public interest.”

The policy proposal comes as Exxon is on trial in New York over a fraud case. The state is accusing the oil giant of misleading investors about the company’s financial risks due to climate change. Massachusetts in October became the second state to sue Exxon over similar arguments.

Read Warren’s plan here


A bipartisan push to keep mercury regs… Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) are asking the EPA to abandon its plans to roll back rules on mercury, citing a history of contaminated fish and polluted air.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards limit mercury emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants, but the Trump administration has long considered weakening them

“We’re urging EPA not to go through with it,” the two write in an op-ed in USA Today.

“The gains we have made over the past decade to protect children and families from dangerous mercury pollution should not be lost. The mercury rule has been a success, and changing it just doesn’t make sense,” they said. 

Read the op-ed here.


Aren’t we all… President Trump told a crowd gathered Tuesday at the Economic Club of New York that he’s “very much into climate” and argued that Democrats’ environmental policies will help him win reelection.

“I’m very much into climate,” he said after an audience member asked about climate change.

“I consider myself in many ways to be an environmentalist,” he said, repeating past claims that during his career as a builder he did “the best environmental impact statements.”

He also called environmentalists “loco,” the Spanish word for crazy. 

Trump’s comments follow a move just last week to formally exit the Paris Climate Accord, one of the latest developments in an administration that has been focused on rolling back numerous environmental regulations. 

Since entering the White House, Trump has rolled back EPA regulations on methane, replaced an Obama-era rule regulating power plant emissions and suggested weakening vehicle fuel standards. He has also eased a major Obama-era rule protecting waterways.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) pushed back against Trump’s comment, kicking off a tweet with a face palm emoji.

“Costs are rising along w/ temps and seas, and you will make it MORE costly for American families & businesses as you take America backward and walk away from #ClimateAction,” she wrote.

Read more on Trump’s remarks here


ICYMI, EPA EDITION: The latest iteration of a controversial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal mandates that scientists provide broadened raw data related to their studies, a move some fear could further limit the use of science in agency rulemaking.

According to a new draft of the EPA’s anticipated science transparency rule, reported by The New York Times Monday, public health studies must first release their raw scientific data in order to be considered in all EPA rulemakings.

The move is a change from previous drafts of the formally titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule, also dubbed the “secret science” rule, which was first pitched in 2017 by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told a congressional committee in September that the agency was moving forward with the rule to “ensure that the science supporting agency decisions is transparent and available for evaluation by the public and stakeholders.”

A previous version of the rule would have only applied to a small section of public health research known as “dose-response” studies where toxicity is studied in animals or humans. The new rule, however, would request raw data for nearly every study the EPA considers in rulemakings, according to the draft. Under the rule, scientists would have to disclose all raw data including confidential medical records in order for the EPA to consider the study.

The draft says the changes to the rulemaking are part of EPA’s proposal for “a broader applicability.”

Agency officials say the proposed rule will ultimately make the data within scientific studies more publicly transparent at a time when some scientists have been criticized as being politically motivated.

“By requiring transparency, scientists will be required to publish hypothesis and experimental data for other scientists to review and discuss, requiring the science to withstand skepticism and peer review,” EPA said in a statement Tuesday rebutting the Times’ reporting.

But scientists and others say the new rule is instead likely to muzzle important public health studies that are limited from sharing certain data due to privacy concerns. Critics say that if implemented, the changes could be devastating to public heath.

Read more about the proposal here




On Wednesday, a House Natural Resources subcommittee will hold a hearing on the roadless rule, which was recently used to open up logging in the Tongass National Forest.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing on science in EPA rulemaking. 

Senate Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on nuclear power.



China aims to build its own Yellowstone on Tibetan plateau, the Associated Press reports.

California might not require solar panels on new homes, after all, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Coral bleaching widespread across Hawaiian Islands, surveys show, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports.



Stories from Tuesday…

Trump Organization to pay Scotland $290K in legal fees over wind farm fight: report

Bureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west

FBI launches investigation into Pennsylvania pipeline permits: report

Trump: ‘I’m very much into climate

Study: Strongest hurricanes striking US three times more frequently

EPA rule proposes to expand limitations on scientific studies

Tags Andrew Wheeler Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Kathy Castor Lamar Alexander Scott Pruitt Tom Carper
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