Overnight Energy: Trump wants to open up 82 percent of Alaska reserve for drilling | Trump directs aid to Maine lobster industry crushed by tariffs | Conservation bill creates strange bedfellows

Overnight Energy: Trump wants to open up 82 percent of Alaska reserve for drilling | Trump directs aid to Maine lobster industry crushed by tariffs | Conservation bill creates strange bedfellows

HAPPY THURSDAY!  Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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OPEN FOR BUSINESS: The Trump administration announced on Thursday it wants to open up 82 percent of an Alaska reserve for oil and gas leasing. 


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unveiled its plan for oil and gas leasing at the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

The plan would allow for 18.7 million acres of the approximately 23 million acre area to be leased to oil and gas companies.

This is significantly greater than the 11.8 million acres of the reserve that are currently open for oil and gas leases. 

It would open to drilling all of the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, which is currently protected and is home to a variety of animals like caribou and migratory birds. 

Proponents of the plan said that this would give the U.S. more access to valuable resources, while opponents expressed concern about its environmental impacts. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE has committed to expand access to our Nation's great energy potential,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement “Today's action is one more significant step in the process of delivering on his promise.”

Critics calls move 'reckless': Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Hill that she believes the plan is “incredibly reckless and short-sighted.”


“It’s taking us in the exact wrong direction, which would spell more disaster for our climate and communities and species that are already feeling the effects of climate change,” Monsell said. 

An environmental impact assessment included in the plan said it would result in 12.4 million to 51.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions over a 20 year period.

By contrast, keeping the status quo would result in 6.3 million to 26.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions over the same period. 

A draft plan released late last year did not include the proposal the administration eventually landed upon. Under that draft, a maximum of 18.3 million acres would have been opened to drilling.

Monesll faulted a lack of transparency and public comment.

The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska was first set aside by then-President Warren G. Harding in 1923 as an emergency oil supply for the Navy. 

Thursday’s plan was praised by lawmakers from Alaska, who have advocated for development in the region. 

“I thank Secretary Bernhardt and his team for restoring reasonable access to the Reserve while ensuring adequate protection of ecologically sensitive areas,” sSen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools MORE (R), who chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

Read more about the reserve here

FISHERY FACT CHECK: President Trump ordered the Department of Agriculture to offer a lifeline to the struggling Maine lobster industry that has been hit hard by his trade policies with China.

Trump’s trade war with China devastated farmers in the Midwest, but it also evaporated Maine’s chief export market as escalating tariffs led China to place a 35 percent markup on lobster.

The late Wednesday order from Trump all but directs the Agriculture Department to extend a $30 billion farm bailout program to Maine’s commercial fishers. The program previously sent cash to corn, soybean, pig and other farmers, primarily in the Midwest, who Trump has courted in his reelection effort.

The move follows years of lobbying by Maine’s congressional delegation, which cited “severe financial difficulties due to unfair retaliatory tariffs” in a joint statement expressing support for the government aid.

“Better late than never,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs The Hill's Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages MORE (I-Maine) tweeted.

“We made it clear last year in a letter comparing our lobster industry to the farmers in the Midwest seeing relief in this tariff fallout. The first line was ‘Why not lobsters?’” King added in a statement to The Hill, noting that lobsters were one of the first items hit with Chinese tariffs.

“This is going to be a huge thing for the coast of Maine,” he said.

The financial relief could have political benefits as well, particularly for Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMore Republicans should support crisis aid for the Postal Service GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Republicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report MORE (R-Maine), who is facing a tough reelection campaign in a contest that could determine the next Senate majority.

Trump has made several overtures to Maine voters recently, visiting the state earlier this month to reverse protections for an Obama-era marine monument. 

Trump’s tweets announcing the assistance contained numerous falsehoods...

Trump has repeatedly claimed the reversal would help Maine lobstermen, but the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is located some 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Mass.

“It was my great honor to free up 5000 square miles of ocean off the coast of Maine. Enjoy!” Trump tweeted early Thursday.


Trump’s tariffs have rerouted much of the lobster business to Canada, crippling one of Maine’s largest industries.

The president has instead cast blame elsewhere.

“Pres. Obama destroyed the lobster and fishing industry in Maine. Now it’s back, bigger and better than anyone ever thought possible. Enjoy your ‘lobstering’ and fishing! Make lots of money!” Trump tweeted Wednesday night.

Lobster hauls in Maine have been largely on the rise since the mid-1980s, including a record-breaking year in 2013 followed by new highs in 2016.

Read more about the lobster assistance here

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Environmentalists are rallying around a major conservation bill that derives much of its funding from their archenemy: the fossil fuel industry.

The Great American Outdoors Act — passed by the Senate last week and slated for a House vote next month — would dedicate $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Most of that money, however, comes from offshore oil and gas royalties.


Conservation advocates say they support the legislation despite the funding source, arguing it puts to good use revenue that is already being collected by the federal government.

“The idea has always been that the government will take the proceeds, the royalties, from offshore drilling, which is an activity that’s harmful for the environment, and then reinvest those proceeds into conservation efforts,” said Steve Blackledge, the senior director of Environment America’s conservation program.

“Will there be a day when that source dries up? We sure hope so. But until then, it’s a practical solution that’s endured for decades,” he added.

Read more on the LWCF here


-Not a good week for Exxon… Washington, D.C., sued oil companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell over climate change on Thursday. 

The suit, filed by District Attorney General Karl Racine, alleges that the companies “systematically and intentionally misled consumers in Washington, DC ... about the central role their products play in causing climate change.”

Specifically, it accuses them of knowing about the impact carbon emissions would have on climate change since as early as the 1950s and promoting disinformation about fossil fuel products. 

The lawsuit comes just one day after Minnesota filed a similar suit.

Read more about the legal challenge here.

-Piling on… The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has again been sued over its rollback of Obama-era waterway protections.

On Thursday, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), on behalf of four other environmental groups, sued the agency, claiming that the new rule conflicts with the Clean Water Act and “disregards” science “without any rational, let alone ‘reasonable,’ explanation.”

Several other lawsuits have been filed over the rule, which went into effect this week after a federal judge declined to block it. 

Read more about the suit here.   


-The federal government doesn’t know how much gold, silver and copper is being mined on public lands, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). 

-House Democrats unveiled a major green tax package Thursday, offering tax incentives for renewables, electric vehicles and a host of other environmentally-friendly businesses.

-Lawmakers are pushing ahead with legislation that seeks to halt the spread of murder hornets that have recently arrived in the U.S.


Michigan judge orders temporary shutdown of pipeline, tells Enbridge to explain damage, The Detroit Free Press reports

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General releases scathing grand jury report on fracking industry, state regulators, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports

Nola.com reports on how a file box full of plastic got two Louisiana women arrested for terrorizing

Study finds California’s clean energy programs are mainly benefiting the rich, The Los Angeles Times reports

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday…

Trump administration wants to open up 82 percent of Alaska reserve for drilling

House Democrats unveil green tax package

Lawmakers weigh methods to battle Asian 'murder hornets' found in US

Amazon to name Seattle sports venue 'Climate Pledge Arena'

Trump's 4th of July celebration double the cost from previous years: study

Government doesn't know how much gold, silver, copper is being mined on federal lands: watchdog

DC sues oil companies over climate change

Lawsuit challenges Trump administration waterway protection rollback

Trump directs aid to Maine lobster industry crushed by tariffs

Conservation bill creates strange bedfellows