Overnight Energy: Relocated BLM staff face salary cuts | UN report calls for drastic action on climate change | California asks EPA to reconsider emissions rule

Overnight Energy: Relocated BLM staff face salary cuts | UN report calls for drastic action on climate change | California asks EPA to reconsider emissions rule
© Greg Nash

PAY CUT: A new internal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website designed to answer employees' questions about the agency's upcoming relocation out West says staffers should expect a drop in their overall pay.

The information was included in an internal page available to staff seen by The Hill that contained questions and answers about the controversial plan to move most D.C.-based BLM employees and establish a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo.

In the page, BLM leaders lay out their rationale for the move, touting one of the benefits of relocating as "general cost savings for the bureau because of less expensive office space, in most cases, and decreasing travel costs."

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The agency will also save on pay, as D.C. employees will not keep the portion of their salary tied to cost of living in Washington.

"An employee reassigned to a relocated position will remain at the grade and pay of his or her current position; however the respective locality pay will vary based on the location of the position," the website says. 

Locality pay in Washington boosts base salaries by nearly 30 percent. Locality pay in many other parts of the country increases pay by about 15 percent.

A question about whether employees can keep the locality pay that contributes to their current salary, the answer is a simple, "No, this is not an option."

When reached for comment, BLM said in a statement that the agency has "given multiple briefings to committee members, testified before the committee and provided numerous supporting documents to answer all of their questions about the relocation."

"While we hope all affected employees will be able to follow their positions to the new locations, we understand that the decision for most people has many factors," the agency added. "We are committed to making sure that all employees have the information and resources they need to make the best decision and will continue to work with employees to ease the transition."

The website follows letters sent to 159 Washington-based employees who must uproot to various locations across the West or face being booted from the federal workforce, as the relocation plans would leave just 61 of the agency's 10,000 employees in the nation's capital.  

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Read more on the expected pay cuts.

 

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NOT GOOD NEWS: Drastic action must immediately be taken to stop a bleak climate change induced future, according to a new United Nations report released Tuesday.

The UN's annual "emissions gap" report outlined the dire reality of the globe's current status in thwarting the effects of climate change, highlighting the already real and occurring effects of global warming, and urging unprecedented and immediate action to counter the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, which compares the globe's emissions reality to levels needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord, found that greenhouse gas emissions would need to fall by nearly 8 percent each year, in order to keep the earth from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius.

That target is currently far from reach. The report highlighted that projections are nearly twice that level.

At the current pace, temperatures are projected to rise by almost 4 degrees Celsius around the world, a shift that would have drastic effects on some wildlife as well as sea levels, potentially putting the earth and the U.S. in particular at risk for more devastating storms.

"Every year of delay beyond 2020 brings a need for faster cuts, which become increasingly expensive, unlikely and impractical," the report states. "Delays will also quickly put the 1.5C goal out of reach."

"Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions," added Inger Andersen, the program's executive director, at a press conference on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.

The report's publication comes a day after the World Meteorological Organization announced that sea levels were as much as 20 meters higher the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high in the earth's atmosphere.

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According to authors of the UN report, in order to meet the Paris climate agreement's most ambitious goals, greenhouse gas emissions must begin to fall 7.6 percent annually across the globe beginning in 2020.

However, even if countries were able to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, other reports suggest that it still might not be enough.

Read more on the dire findings.

 

WALK ME THROUGH THIS: California sent a Petition of Reconsideration to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday asking for a detailed explanation on how it came to its September conclusion to withdraw the Golden State's waiver to set its own tailpipe emissions standard.

In the letter sent from California's Deputy Attorney General Julia Forgie to EPA chief 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, California and 22 other states argue that the EPA failed to provide enough detailed reasoning on the administration's decision to revoke the waiver. Arguments in the 51 page-long petition include that EPA did not "articulate" a "valid rationale" on its authority to revoke the waiver and that EPA "deprived" the public of a chance to comment on its rationale.

"The petition's premise is that EPA announced numerous significant positions for the first time in its final action and did so without significant explanation or any consultation with the states and cities directly impacted," said a spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office.

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"Our request today simply says: walk us through your decision-making process, so that we can take your account into consideration as we move forward."

California along with 22 other states sued the Trump administration earlier this month after the EPA announced it was moving forward with revoking California's waiver, established under the Clean Air Act, to set its own air quality standards at higher levels than regulated federal. The Trump administration has indicated plans to soon rollback the federal tailpipe emissions standard established under former President Obama, something California strongly opposes. 

The petition asks the Trump administration to withdraw the final rule, "convene a proceeding for reconsideration of the final action, and afford the interested public the procedural rights due them."

 

MAILBAG: Lawmakers pushed back on a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency that oil and gas companies have long argued would harm their industry.

The letter is the latest in the tug of war between oil refineries and ethanol producers, who have both complained about the EPA's latest proposed fix for the nation's ethanol program.

The arcane program requires ethanol be blended into the fuel supply, but small refineries can receive a waiver if they can show hardship. 

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The ethanol industry says the EPA has not met its obligation of ensuring those gallons of ethanol later get blended in by larger refineries. 

But Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred MORE (R-Texas) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), in their comments to EPA head Andrew Wheeler, argue that the law unfairly requires refineries who are already adding ethanol to their fuels to take on a greater share of the burden. 

"We believe that an attempt to allocate exempted small refiner volumes back on the industry as a whole is contrary to the law and will have the unintended consequence of diminishing energy security and endangering industrial jobs from Pennsylvania to Texas to California," the duo wrote.

"Such an action only shifts the economic hardship Congress intended to address through the [small refinery exemption] program to non-exempt refineries that are otherwise in compliance," they said, adding that doing so "arbitrarily impos[es] additional costs on non qualifying refineries without any due process of law."

The EPA said they will review the comments shortly.

"The comment period on EPA's October 15th supplemental proposal will close on Friday, November 29th, after which the Agency will review and respond to all comments and hopes to finalize the rule this winter," a spokesman said in an email to The Hill.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGE: 

We need stronger federal rules to address the methane waste problem, Isaac Brown, executive director of the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, argues.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

-IMF says central banks should do stress tests on climate, Bloomberg reports

-Solar, wind and hydro power could soon surpass coal, CNN reports

-Bloomberg sets ad buys to "climate change," Gizmodo reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

-Relocated BLM staff face salary cuts

-UN report: Unprecedented measures needed to avoid worst effects of climate change

-Scientists: Carbon dioxide in Earth atmosphere is at an all-time high