Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978

Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978
© Roll Call/Pool

HAPPY TUESDAY 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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CONFLICTING ON THE CONFLICT: The head of the Park Police on Tuesday said he knew that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE was going to Lafayette Square on June 1, but denied that this was why protesters were cleared from the area before the president's visit, which ended with him posing with a Bible outside St. John's Church. 

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“We were notified earlier in the day that the president was going to visit Lafayette Park to view the damage that was done to the park over the course of the preceding days, but we were not given a time on when he was visiting,” acting Chief Gregory Monahan said during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. 

Monahan said the decision to remove protesters was not linked to the president’s plans, and that he was not ordered by the White House, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrGOP lawmaker calls for Justice Dept. to probe international court Barr pulls over to thank pro-police rally in Virginia Trump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent MORE or Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to force their removal.

“There is 100 percent zero correlation between our operation and the president’s visit to the church,” he told the panel.

Federal law enforcement agents from several parts of the government, including the Park Police, forcibly removed protesters from the area. Video showed the use of chemical munitions and clubs to aggressively clear protesters. 

Monahan testified on Tuesday that there had been plans in advance to clear the demonstrators from the area in order to put up a fence in response to prior violence, distancing the action from Trump's visit.

He also said that officers ultimately used force on June 1 in response to violence that had been occurring on that day. 

“The use of force that we utilized was in direct correlation to the level of violence that we were subjected to,” he said. 

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Demonstrators near Lafayette Square were described as behaving peacefully at the time by reporters from The Hill and other news outlets at the scene.

However...

Monahan's testimony was also contradicted by District of Columbia National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco, who said that “the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.”

“Those demonstrators – our fellow American citizens -- were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force,” DeMarco added. 

Monahan said the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls fell in line with requirements to use only the minimum level of force that was necessary. 

He was grilled by Democrats on the panel, who said that excessive use was used against protesters and that they were not warned.

Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's latest plan on racial inequality Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978 MORE (D-Ariz.) asked Monahan why he did not wait until the 7 p.m. curfew set by Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on June 1 to disperse the crowd. 

“It actually makes more logical sense for you to wait until 7 p.m.” the lawmaker said.  

Monahan said he disagreed, saying that people did not leave at that time the day prior. The city curfew the night before had been later, at 11 p.m. 

Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Latest Trump proposal on endangered species could limit future habitat, critics say | House-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction | Interior sends 100K pages of documents to House House-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA rule extends life of toxic coal ash ponds | Flint class action suit against Mich. officials can proceed, court rules | Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill MORE (D-Calif.) questioned Monahan on whether the department followed protocols to audibly warn protesters. He showed a video in which a warning announcement sounds muffled and protesters express confusion. 

Monahan claimed he could hear the warning in the video and that proper procedures were followed. 

“You must have super-human hearing, because I don’t think any of us could hear it,” Huffman replied. 

Read more on the hearing here. And check out coverage of Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on the Lafayette Square incident here

BANKING ON BACKLASH: The Trump administration is pushing back against banks that have announced they won’t finance oil drilling operations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), arguing that banks must provide “fair access to all legal businesses.”

“Oil is the most actively traded commodity in the world,” Brian Brooks, acting comptroller of the currency at the Treasury Department, wrote to Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanLincoln Project targets Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Montana with M ad buy Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978 Trump administration blasts banks that refuse to fund arctic drilling MORE (R-Alaska). “Given the industry’s importance and ubiquity in our daily lives, I am skeptical of claims that the sector poses a ‘reputational risk’ to the banks that serve it.”

The Alaska delegation has sought the administration’s help as a growing number of banks have announced they won’t offer financing for activity in the sensitive area of north Alaska that hugs the border with Canada.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have all pledged not to finance any drilling in ANWR.

Brooks said his office would “take a serious look at these banks’ actions.”

“The OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] intends to seek additional information from the banks involved to understand the rationale for these decisions as well as their effect on our national economy and local communities. This will, in turn, help us analyze whether these actions violate any duty or obligation under federal laws,” he wrote, adding that the OCC must ensure that banks provide “fair access” to financial services.

Read more on the letter here

A NEW LOW: Last year coal production fell to the lowest level since 1978, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Tuesday. 

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“Last year’s production was the lowest amount of coal produced in the United States since 1978, when a coal miners’ strike halted most of the country’s coal production from December 1977 to March 1978,” EIA wrote.

Coal production in 2019 was just 7 percent lower overall than production in 2018, however that figure is part of a larger trend of coal production easing since production peaked in 2008. Production is expected to decline again next year.

“Weekly coal production estimates...show the United States is on pace for an even larger decline in 2020, falling to production levels comparable with those in the 1960s,” when coal production was roughly about two-thirds of what it is today.

Read it here

PFAS PROBE? Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat | White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus | Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-Del.) on Tuesday pushed for a probe into the rulemaking process used by the Trump administration regarding the regulation of a class of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS. 

He wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Inspector General (IG) asking for an investigation into what he called “potential irregularities” during the finalization for a rule aiming to restrict the use of certain types of PFAS chemicals in consumer products. 

PFAS chemicals are often called “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in nature and the human body, and are found in a variety of products as well as drinking water.

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“I request that you investigate the manner in which the PFAS [rule] was re-proposed and finalized...and whether the process used to significantly alter the rule after it was signed but before it was published in the Federal Register was appropriate and legal,” Carper wrote.

Documents released by Carper's office in April show that White House officials had pressed for the EPA to make certain changes to the rule it was developing. 

Read more on Carper’s request here

STIMULUS: The Senate’s $1 trillion HEAL stimulus package unveiled Monday includes a few energy and environment measures.

Wrapped into the bill is legislation from Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (R-Alaska) and 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’s (D-W.V.) critical minerals legislation, which helps streamline mining of minerals necessary for numerous technologies.

It also includes energy assistance for low income customers, but it doesn’t block utility shutoffs as many Democrats have called for.

The legislation sets aside more than $1.6 billion for health care services provided to Native Americans as many reservations have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. The Trump administration has been criticized in court for delaying distributing CARES stimulus funding to tribes. 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

U.N. chief invites young climate activists to meet, give input, Reuters reports

Advocates Rally to Tear Down Highways That Bulldozed Black Neighborhoods, Stateline reports

Grist looks at how climate denial skewed media coverage for 30 years

Migratory river fish populations plunge 76% in past 50 years, The Guardian reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

Trump administration blasts banks that refuse to fund arctic drilling

Park Police chief testifies protesters were not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump visit

2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978

Democrat asks for probe of Trump administration 'forever chemical' rulemaking

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES:

-EPA methane emissions rules are a solution in search of a problem, writes Bernard L. Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute.  

-'ESG' may be popular but it could hurt your retirement portfolio, writes Ellen R. Wald, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, warning of environmental, social and governance criteria for investments.