Overnight Energy: Trump officials finalize plans to shrink Bears Ears, Grand Staircase | Trump backs off support for Yucca Mountain nuke waste site | BLM leadership expanded Colorado oil drilling over staff objections

Overnight Energy: Trump officials finalize plans to shrink Bears Ears, Grand Staircase | Trump backs off support for Yucca Mountain nuke waste site | BLM leadership expanded Colorado oil drilling over staff objections
© Courtesy of Stephen Trimble / www.stephentrimble.net

FINALIZED: The Trump administration has finalized plans to dramatically shrink the scope of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments despite an ongoing legal challenge from environmentalists and Native American tribes.

Officials said during a call with reporters that the finalized plans were similar to previous proposals but contained some "tweaks," including that cattle will not graze on a large portion of the Escalante River.

"We are advancing our goal to restore trust and be a good neighbor," said Casey Hammond, the acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the Department of Interior.


President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE in 2017 issued proclamations to shrink the size of both Utah monuments. The administration decided to shrink Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase by about half.

Hammond told reporters Thursday that Trump's 2017 proclamations "return certain lands to multiple use, removing them from the boundaries of the national monument" but that the new decisions "do not authorize the transfer of any lands out of federal ownership."

Critics have expressed concern that the plans for Bears Ears would open certain lands for development.

"This president is willing to inflict lasting damage on our country to benefit his industry boosters, and anyone who invests a dollar in drilling or digging in the newly opened areas should be prepared to lose their bet against public opinion and the strength of our legal system," said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

Heidi McIntosh, an attorney with Earthjustice who is working on the legal challenge, told The Hill that in light of the announcement, asking for a preliminary injunction is "on the table."

She added that finalizing the plan is a "waste of government resources" because "if the judge finds that the president acted without authority to roll back the monuments, then these plans immediately become obsolete."

Read more about the finalized plan here.



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REVERSING COURSE: The White House said Thursday that President Trump's budget request for 2021 will not include funding for a controversial nuclear waste repository in Nevada, marking a reversal of the administration's stance from the previous three years.

Trump had previously requested federal funds to build the Yucca Mountain project, over objections from Nevada leaders.

"Nevada, I hear you on Yucca Mountain and my Administration will RESPECT you! Congress and previous Administrations have long failed to find lasting solutions – my Administration is committed to exploring innovative approaches – I'm confident we can get it done!" Trump tweeted.

A senior administration official later confirmed to The Hill that the president would not seek funds for the Yucca Mountain project in his 2021 budget request, which is expected Monday.

The White House sought $120 million in Trump's first budget request to restart the licensing process for Yucca Mountain, which Congress designated in 1987 to be the nation's sole repository for high-level nuclear waste.

Former President Obama halted the Yucca Mountain project in 2010 by cutting off the licensing process.

Trump's tweet comes amid a growing push from some Republicans to increase reliance on nuclear energy. While the energy source is free from carbon pollution, it creates waste that must be stored for decades.

Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoFavorites emerge as Latino leaders press Biden to appoint 5 Hispanics to Cabinet Senate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  McConnell, Graham warn GOP Senate majority on the line in Georgia MORE (D-Nev.) cited Trump's forthcoming budget when reacting to the news.

"I look forward to working with you on this critical issue for Nevada and ensuring your budget doesn't include any funding to restart the failed Yucca Mountain project that a majority of Nevadans reject, regardless of party," she tweeted.

The story is here.



MORE DRILLING: The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Washington office ignored the advice of its Colorado staff, deciding to expand oil and gas drilling in the southwest corner of the state because earlier plans were "not in line with the administration's direction to decrease regulatory burden and increase access."

BLM documents, obtained by environment watchdog Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), show tension between the agency's regional staff and those who work in headquarters amid a push by the Trump administration to relocate almost all of BLM's Washington-based staff out West so they will be closer to the lands that they manage.

Expanded oil and gas activity in Colorado was approved in July over objections from entities in the state, including from Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado order allows hospitals to stop admitting, transfer patients when at capacity due to COVID-19 Broncos announce this weekend will be last game in front of fans this season Effort to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has failed to collect necessary signatures by deadline MORE (D), who argued the plan would increase haze, interfere with protected wildlife and conflict with state laws on drilling.

Those plans departed from local and state authorities' initial ones for more limited drilling in the area. 

Another document shows local BLM authorities "made changes to management actions, including reducing fluid mineral stipulations and restrictions, reducing rights-of-way restrictions, reducing areas managed as lands with wilderness characteristics, and reducing areas of environmental concern" to address concerns from agency leadership.

"This decision is as high-handed as it is wrong-headed," Chandra Rosenthal, Rocky Mountain PEER director, said in a statement. "Political appointees overriding the extensive cooperation and planning by their own experts is the exact opposite of the local decision-making they profess to embrace."


BLM said the plan was "conducted lawfully and in compliance with current policy."

"The BLM has many priorities, as outlined by the administration, that the agency is diligently working on for the betterment of the American people through broad public input and reliance on sound policy and good science," BLM spokesman Derrick Henry said in an email to The Hill. 

The story is here.


POLITICALLY CHARGED: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far New Consensus co-founder discusses proposal for Biden to use Fed to sidestep Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) and Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? MORE (D-Mich.) on Thursday outlined a bill that seeks to establish a nationwide electric vehicle charging network within five years. 

Their Electric Vehicle Freedom Act, which was slated to be introduced Thursday, would establish the network along the nation's highway systems and also promote compatibility between chargers and cars, affordability and the creation of automotive and infrastructure jobs, Levin said at a press conference. 

"We're trying to actually advance and improve our fleets and our vehicles, which means that we have to go electric and the way that we do that is with a public infrastructure," Ocasio-Cortez said. 


Levin declined to give a specific cost estimate, but acknowledged that "it'll cost a lot of money to put all these chargers in place." He said "we'll see" how much will be paid for by taxpayers and how much hosts will pay. 

He also didn't give specifics about the numbers of chargers or their locations, but said that it would be an "extensive" system across both interstates and the national highway system "such that it's a comprehensive system so that people can get everywhere."

The legislation follows an infrastructure framework announced last week by House Democrats that also aims to develop an electric vehicle charging network.

Read more here.


I'LL WAIT UP: House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said he doesn't mind that today's scheduled subpoena vote got delayed by the National Prayer Breakfast

"Rather than get into a debate about who's more Christian than the other person, which would have happened, I want to have the debate about whether or not I should have subpoena power. So discretion being the better part of valor in that point," he said. 



House committee asks EPA to launch investigation into Marathon's Michigan vapor emission, The Detroit News reports.

Bumblebees' decline points to mass extinction – study, The Guardian reports. 

Corteva to stop making pesticide linked to kids' health problems, Reuters reports. 


ICYMI: Stories from Thursday...

DNC climate council kicks off public action

Report finds 10 oil refineries with benzene above EPA's 'action level'

Trump administration finalizes plans to shrink Bears Ears, Grand Staircase monuments

BLM leadership expanded oil drilling in Colorado over local staff objections

Ocasio-Cortez, Levin eye national electric vehicle network in five years

Trump backs off support for Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site