OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget
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Programming note: There will be no Overnight Energy on Friday, July 3 because of the Independence Day holiday. We’ll be back on Monday, July 6. 

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REMEMBER SHARPIEGATE? ME NEITHER. The Commerce Department’s internal watchdog is accusing the department of “actively preventing” it from releasing a full report expected to detail a “flawed process” during what is now known as the Sharpiegate controversy.

Commerce's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on Wednesday released a memo stating that department actions “effectively prevent us from publicly releasing the evaluation that is otherwise ready for release.”

A summary of the OIG report released earlier this week said that it found that the department led a "flawed process that discounted” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) participation and also "required NOAA to issue a Statement that did not further NOAA’s or [National Weather Service's] interests."

Last September, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE held up a map that showed an altered path for Hurricane Dorian sketched out with a black marker that appeared to wrongly show the storm headed toward Alabama — supporting a statement he made earlier about the hurricane's projected path.

The OIG began investigating after NOAA then released an unsigned statement saying that forecasts did at one point show that “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama” and criticized the National Weather Service's Birmingham office for tweeting that Alabama would not see impacts from the storm. 

In a memo to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossNOAA hurricane forecast predicts record number of storms in 2020 33K laptops meant for Alabama distance learning are stuck in customs, could be held until October Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors MORE, Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said that the department was declining to identify specific information that should be withheld.

“The final publication of our evaluation has been delayed, thwarted, and effectively stopped by the Department’s refusal to identify specific areas of privilege,” she wrote. “Additionally, your staff has refused to engage in any meaningful discussion to identify proposed privilege redactions.”

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The watchdog added that she expects specific redaction suggestions by next Thursday. 

But...Commerce and NOAA pushed back:

In its official response to the OIG, lawyers for the Commerce Department and NOAA wrote that they "have made the Department’s positions on the privileged material contained in this report known to your office over the course of the last four months."

The response, obtained by The Hill, also included a memo from NOAA general counsel John Luce describing a "rushed" review process after officials were given the report late Friday. 

"The decision to transmit late on Friday unnecessarily rushed the process and placed me and my colleagues at a disadvantage, having Friday and the weekend to perform our privilege review," Luce wrote. 

"To my understanding, this perfunctory process is inconsistent with how these privilege discussions are handled by other Inspectors General. There was no need to rush and curtail the window for review," he added. 

Luce's memo also said that that the department and NOAA provided "sensible" redactions and write-arounds and that it was "disappointing" that the OIG rejected its proposed redactions. 

"I do think it would be productive to have a conversation regarding privileged materials and thoughts about how we may re-evaluate and improve the process so to better address issues of public disclosure and these disputes may be avoided in the future," the memo said. 

However, Gustafson had more to say about the Commerce memo…

"They continue to invoke unclear privilege claims related solely to appendices in the report, even though the Department itself characterized those claims as preliminary, non-final and unapproved by their interagency stakeholders," the inspector general said in a statement to The Hill. "The fact is, they continue to refuse to make any specific privilege claims, or to waive any privileges, as it relates to the body of our report. Their failure to make a decision, despite multiple opportunities, has paralyzed the process and prevented the ultimate release of the report.

The summary of the OIG report, released earlier this week, additionally stated that the department "failed to account for the public safety intent of the NWS Birmingham tweet and the distinction between physical science and social science messaging" and accused an unidentified NOAA official of deleting relevant text messages.

Read more about the accusations here

IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE…Recent global warming has erased thousands of years of global cooling, according to a new study. 

Researchers found that, within the past 12,000 years, temperatures peaked over a 200-year period about 6,500 years ago, then began cooling.

That period was about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the 19th century, the study said. 

However, lately temperatures have been warming. The study said that temperatures between 2011 and 2019 were an average of 1 degree Celsius higher than they were between 1850 and 1900. 

Temperatures projected for the rest of the century are “very likely” to exceed 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the researchers wrote. 

Lead author Darrell Kaufman told The Hill that evidence shows that modern temperatures are "comparable" to peak temperatures 6,500 years ago. 

"It's as likely as not that the temperatures now are higher than any time....since the last ice age," Kaufman said, though he cautioned that methods used to capture older temperatures are less precise. 

Read more about the study here

FUHGETTABOUTIT: The Senate on Thursday nixed a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have limited the Department of Energy’s (DOE) control over a nuclear security agency's budget. 

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The upper chamber had proposed including in the must-pass legislation a stipulation that would have given the Nuclear Weapons Council, which includes personnel from both the Defense and Energy departments, review power over the Energy secretary’s proposed budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). 

However, the chamber unanimously adopted an amendment from Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (D-W.Va.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans Overnight Energy: Supreme Court reinstates fast-track pipeline permit except for Keystone XL | Judge declines to reverse Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (D-Wash.) that gives the DOE final say. 

“We’re so glad that we were able to stop efforts to usurp civilian control of nuclear weapons spending and protect the Department of Energy’s funding for critical nuclear waste cleanup programs," Cantwell said in a statement. 

Opposition to the measure was something both the Trump administration and Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic MORE could agree on...

“Granting the Department of Defense (DoD) the role of final arbiter of DOE’s annual budget violates DOE’s position as a distinct and equal Cabinet-level agency,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette wrote this week. 

“Such authority, providing DoD broad control over the NNSA’s budget, restricts the President’s capacity in exercising his responsibility to set budget levels, and subjects the priorities of NNSA to DoD’s discretion, potentially causing setbacks and underfunding of other critically important missions of the NNSA,” he added. 

Cantwell and Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSeveral GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Trump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Tenn.) led a bipartisan group in penning opposition to the measure. 

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“Such changes could impede accountability and Congressional oversight, as well as imperil future funding for other critical DOE responsibilities such as promoting scientific and technological innovation, managing our National Laboratories, sponsoring basic research in the physical sciences, and ensuring cleanup of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex,” the nine senators wrote. 

But the proposal had its defenders…

“What the NDAA does is clarify and strengthen existing law that requires coordination between the Department of Defense and the NNSA on its budget development,” Senate Armed Services Committee spokesperson Marta Hernandez told The Hill in an email. 

Read more about the now-nixed proposal here.

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Warning: The world won't hit climate goals unless energy innovation is rapidly accelerated, CNN reports

Revealed: N.D. legislators’ pro-pipeline letters ghostwritten by fossil fuel company, The Guardian reports

Climate falls off ballots as virus disrupts campaigns, E&E News reports

Groups call for meetings as US lab preps for weapons work, The Associated Press reports

ICYMI: From Wednesday night...

New report underscores racial prejudices in Superfund sites

 

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