Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking

Greg Nash

I’VE GOT THE POWER:The House Natural Resources Committee voted Wednesday to give Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) the power to subpoena the Department of the Interior after Republicans scored a significant win that limited the chairman’s power. 

The 21-15 party-line vote represents a new chapter in the committee’s ongoing battle to gain a number of documents from Interior, as Grijalva will now be able to compel them.

“This stonewalling needs to end,” Grijalva told members, saying Interior had treated the committee’s oversight authority with a “cavalier attitude.”

“This committee has to establish itself as a coequal. We’re not here as house plants to be cared for and watered when the administration decides it’s time,” Grijalva said.

Some of the first subpoenas that might be issued by the committee include those seeking documents on the controversial relocation of the Bureau of Land Management and those on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s connections to former clients.

But with the adoption of a hard-fought amendment from Republicans, Grijalva will have to alert ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) about any subpoena he seeks, and members would be able to request a vote on subpoenas before they are issued.

Interior’s response: Those limits may matter little to Bernhardt, who tweeted that Interior has already provided thousands of pages of documents to the committee.

“Today’s action by the House Natural Resources Committee demonstrates they won’t let the facts stand in the way of their rhetoric. Going forward, the Department will take today’s action into account for every decision it makes to deal with this committee. Godspeed with the witch hunt,” he tweeted.

While Interior has boasted of its good working relationship with members, the committee says the department has completed just two of its 26 requests, with the rest marked incomplete or nonresponsive.

Members have expressed bipartisan irritation at delays in getting documents, including at a hearing during which monitors flashed heavily redacted documents produced by Interior.

Grijalva has been weighing subpoena power for months, saying in September he would begin to more seriously pursue backing from fellow Democrats.

“To continue the same practice where this committee is essentially ignored, where the majority’s requests are ignored, and when witnesses come ill-prepared and without information and then information that’s requested at a meeting in public is not forthcoming, those began to accumulate. We have reached the accumulation point, my friends,” Grijalva said during Wednesday’s mark up.

But Republicans cautioned against approving a subpoena resolution that would place so much power in the chairman’s hands, arguing it could trample minority rights and hurt Democrats down the line.

“Rules aren’t the only things that change. Majorities change. These days they change quite often. … And a year from now, you may be facing a Republican chairman using this new authority and issuing subpoenas without consulting you,” said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).

Read more about the vote here


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PASSING PUBLIC LANDS: The House passed legislation aimed at providing additional protections for more than one million acres of public land on the West Coast on Wednesday. 

The package — which combines six land-protection bills that passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources — would designate roughly 1.4 million acres in Colorado, California and Washington State as federally-protected wilderness, granting it the highest level of protection possible. 

Under the bill, “logging, mining and drilling” would be prohibited on the land and no new roads or infrastructure would be able to be built in the areas. Nearly 1,000 miles of river would also be added to the National Wild and Scenic River Systems.

The bill passed in a 231-183 vote, with six Republicans voting for it. It is expected to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled upper chamber. 

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who helped lead the efforts on the bill, noted it is one of the largest wilderness protection packages to be brought up in the House in more than a decade. She argued its passage would be beneficial for both the environment and the economies in the areas. 

“The areas include some of the unique and irreplaceable landscapes from the winding canyons of Colorado to the native grasslands of California, to the forests of Washington State. The designations in this bill will do more than protect the land itself but protect the air we breathe and water we drink and help protect wildlife in our recreation areas,” she said on the floor ahead of the vote. 

“They will provide a boost to the nearby economy and help grow our nation’s multibillion-dollar industry that directly supports thousands of jobs across the U.S. Perhaps most importantly, in preserving these lands, the bill will do what we need to do to further fulfill the House’s commitment to take steps to combat the climate crisis.” 

But critics of the measure raised concerns that the new protections could have unintended negative consequences, arguing it could limit public access to the land and increase the risk of wildfires in the areas. 

“I rise in opposition to this bill. It will create nearly one-and-a-half million acres of new wilderness. One bill included in this package will impact northern California, my area. It adds 262,000 acres of new wilderness designations despite concerns from local communities as to how they would be impacted,” Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) said on the floor.  

“We have seen the devastation that wildfires cause in Northern California time and time and time again. So why are we putting more land into this restrictive wilderness category which will make it even more difficult to properly manage forests and to access them?”

The story is here. 


GOP ON CARBON CAPTURE: House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled proposals focused on carbon capture and sequestration, the first of three parts of their environmental plan that rivals a recently released plan from House Democrats.

The three-pronged plan will focus on carbon capture, clean energy and conservation, said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). 

The lawmakers stressed that their proposals were founded upon the principles of innovation and market acceptance, using American rather than foreign resources and finding nature-based solutions. 

“We want a cleaner, safer and healthier environment,” McCarthy said. 

Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing their own sweeping legislation which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. They hope to do so through changes to many sectors in the economy such as requiring reduced emissions from the transportation sector and requiring utilities to use clean energy. 

The Republican agenda outlined Wednesday focused on a series of bills that include measures to encourage planting trees, to incentivize carbon capture and sequestration through a tax credit and to support research and development of carbon capture and utilization technology.

But the bill received criticism from both environmentalists and conservatives. The president of the conservative Club for Growth PAC released a statement saying the group would not endorse a candidate who supports “the liberal environmental policies being pushed by Leader McCarthy.”

“Besides hurting our economy, these measures will not make a single environmentalist vote for a Republican and only alienate conservatives across the country,” said Club for Growth PAC President David McIntosh.

“Minority Leader McCarthy is not fooling anyone. Oil subsidies are not climate solutions. Making the 45Q tax credit permanent might make Big Oil happy, but would only lead to increased fossil fuel production,” said Lukas Ross, senior policy analyst with environmental group Friends of the Earth, in a statement. 

Lawmakers who were involved with crafting the legislation pushed back against the criticism from their conservative counterparts.

“They’re positive, they fit in a conservative mantle,” House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said of measures in the legislation. “They’re not regulatory, they’re not taxes. They’re good things we all ought to be able to embrace. But that doesn’t mean everybody’s going to embrace them. And that’s fine.”

Read more about the plan here


SETTING GOALS: Oil giant BP on Wednesday announced its intention to be carbon neutral by 2050.

“The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net zero. We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough,” CEO Bernard Looney said in a statement.

“It must also be cleaner,” he added. “To deliver that, trillions of dollars will need to be invested in replumbing and rewiring the world’s energy system. It will require nothing short of reimagining energy as we know it.”

The company has set five directives to help it reach the 2050 goal. Notably, BP wants to slash its carbon and methane intensity by 50 percent and invest more in “non-oil and gas businesses.”

Looney said BP will be reorganized into 11 teams, with the leaders of these new departments managing the company.

“Our historic structure has served us well but, in order to keep up with rapidly-evolving customer demands and society’s expectations, we need to become more integrated and more focused,” Looney explained. “So we are undertaking a major reorganisation, introducing a new structure, a new leadership team and new ways of working for all of us.

Read more here


FRACKING BAN: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), along with Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) officially introduced a national fracking ban in the House.

The bill, announced at the end of last month, serves as a companion bill to the Senate legislation proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), one that Ocasio-Cortez helped draft. Both bills would ban fracking across the nation by 2025. 

The laws would also prohibit fracking within 2,500 feet of homes and schools by February 2021. They also would provide a transition for working families in the fracking industry.

“Fracking is destroying our land and our water,” Ocasio-Cortez posted on Twitter. “It is wreaking havoc on our communities’ health. We must do our job to protect our future from the harms caused by the fracking industry. That is why I am proud to introduce the Fracking Ban Act with @RepDarrenSoto today.”

The full story is here



Virginia lawmakers pass bill phasing out coal generation, S&P Global reports.

Lawmakers open groundwater fight against bottled water companies, Stateline reports. 

Montana coal ash pollution cleanup gets state approval, The Associated Press reports


ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday…

House Natural Resources gives Grijalva power to subpoena Interior 

House passes Protecting America’s Wilderness Act

Ocasio-Cortez introduces national fracking ban

House Republicans propose carbon capture and sequestration legislation

BP sets out to be carbon neutral by 2050

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Darren Soto Diana DeGette Doug LaMalfa Greg Walden Jeff Merkley Kevin McCarthy Rob Bishop Tom McClintock

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