OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden calls climate change one of America's four major crises | National parks chief says coronavirus staff shortages shouldn't prevent access | Trump hits California officials over wildfires

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden calls climate change one of America's four major crises | National parks chief says coronavirus staff shortages shouldn't prevent access | Trump hits California officials over wildfires
© Getty Images

TGIF! 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.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: ENERGY & NATIONAL SECURITY VIRTUAL EVENT — MONDAY, AUGUST 24TH AT 1PM EDT

ADVERTISEMENT

Today, the United States is the world's leading oil and natural gas producer. The transition, from an importer of oil to that of a net exporter has pushed the country toward energy independence. A position that not only has the capacity to power economic growth but can also play a key role in strengthening national security. On the sidelines of the 2020 Republican Convention, The Hill will host a discussion with Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it MORE (R-TX) and energy experts about the strategic importance of America’s energy independence. RSVP today!

THE CLIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN’ Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE listed climate change among the major crises facing America as he seeks to rally voters heading toward the November election.

“History has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced. Four historic crises. All at the same time. A perfect storm,” Biden said when accepting the Democratic nomination late Thursday.

“The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the '60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.”

Biden’s comments at the Democratic National Convention come after environmental groups complained frequently throughout the primary that climate change was getting short shrift from campaigns. Many called for a standalone climate debate as the topic was overshadowed by discussions of health care and the economy.

But Biden has since made inroads with environmentalists who were calling for a stronger plan from the former vice president throughout the campaign. He fleshed out his initial climate plan with stronger timetables for switching to clean energy and gearing more funding toward the Black and Latino communities that face a disproportionate share of pollution and climate impacts.

Basil Smikle, a political strategist and lecturer at Columbia University, said Biden’s framing in his acceptance speech reflecting on both justice and climate change recognizes the importance of each to young voters.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Not speaking about something like climate change, which moves so many people and inspires so many young voters, would have been glaring omission. So I’m glad the language was included and hope it portends real thorough investigation and policy decisions going forward,” he said. 

“The overall environment and atmosphere is ripe for conversations around climate change and this moved the needle from a positive perspective.”

Biden’s plan lagged behind more ambitious proposals from former presidential candidates Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersAngst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE (I-Vt.) and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOvernight Energy: Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections | Biden to return to pre-Obama water protections | Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel MORE (D), but it still makes history as the boldest vision from a Democratic nominee as the urgency of addressing climate change — and outcry from activists — have pushed campaigns to release detailed climate plans like never before.

The nominee received praise from past candidate Andrew YangAndrew YangPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Kings launch voting rights effort honoring John Lewis Eric Adams to meet with Biden on curbing gun violence MORE, who called the plan a new standard for the party.

“The magic of Joe Biden is that everything he does becomes the new reasonable. If he comes with an ambitious plan to address climate change, all of a sudden, everyone's going to follow his lead,” Yang said.

The story is here

PARKS, UNINTERRUPTED: The new head of the National Park Service (NPS) has told the agency’s regional directors that they shouldn’t let staff shortages linked to COVID-19 limit access to the parks. 

"Within the sideboards of guidance, outdoor spaces should be accessible, including outdoor areas such as picnic areas, parking lots, overlooks, open-air areas in forts and gardens, and campgrounds should be fully accessible," Margaret Everson told regional leadership in an email obtained by National Parks Traveler

"Staffing limitations should not be a constraining factor in providing access to outdoor spaces," Everson reportedly added. 

NPS spokesperson Stephanie Roulett told The Hill in an email that the Everson's "message is supportive of our duty to serve the public and conserve our natural resources."

 "We continue to be flexible with modifications to park operations and are committed to ensuring park superintendents have the resources — staffing and otherwise — to safely maintain operations and public accessibility," Roulett added. "NPS will continue to work with superintendents and park managers to account for the unique needs of each park and the health and wellness of their staff using the available flexibilities and hiring authorities."

Everson was named as the leader of NPS, typically a role requiring Senate confirmation, this month through an order from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that has no end date. She has served as a counselor to Bernhardt dealing with matters relating to NPS and the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Parks advocates slammed the reported email, raising concerns about the spread of the virus. 

“This directive from Acting Director Everson demonstrates her complete lack of understanding regarding how parks operate and what National Park Service (NPS) employees actually do. Her comment should disqualify her from serving as the acting director, as it demonstrates her lack of experience and support for NPS staff and the protection of park resources," said a statement from Phil Francis, the former superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

“Her suggestion that all outdoor facilities, including campgrounds and picnic areas should be open despite staff shortages suggests she thinks these facilities run themselves. They do not. NPS employees are required to empty the trash, clean the restrooms, take water samples for public health, handle campground issues, respond to medical emergencies, and so much more,” added Francis, who now leads the advocacy group Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “To suggest that all these facilities remain open despite staff shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a further insult to the dedicated managers and employees of these national parks and puts their health at further risk.” 

The email from Everson comes amid a broader push by the Trump administration to keep the parks open, even amid concerns from advocates and epidemiologists.

Many parks began to close earlier this year amid concerns about the health of staff and visitors, especially those who gather in crowded areas. 

The Trump administration, however, encouraged many to reopen as part of a broader push to open the country back up. 

The Interior Department has defended the reopening, with Bernhardt saying in a statement this year that “it is time the American people once again enjoy the incredible benefits of the great outdoors at our national parks.”

Read more on park openings here

BLOWING SMOKE: President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE on Thursday took aim at California officials as wildfires burned in the Bay Area, accusing leaders of improperly managing flammable debris in state forests leading to fires.

ADVERTISEMENT

During a speech in Pennsylvania, the president blamed the wildfires on "years" of poor forest management in California.

"And I see again, the forest fires are starting," Trump said. "They're starting again in California. And I said, you've got to clean your floors. You've got to clean your floors."

"I've been telling them this now for three years, but they don't want to listen," he added.

Trump made similar comments last year, prompting California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomBiden rolls dice by getting more aggressive on vaccines California Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires MORE (D) to hit back by saying the president was unqualified to weigh in on fire safety due to his past remarks calling climate change a hoax.

"The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must 'clean' his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him," Trump tweeted in November.

"You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation," Newsom wrote back at the time.

Newsom has blamed the current wave of fires on extraordinary weather in the state, noting that California has recorded more than 11,000 lightning strikes over the past 72 hours.

ADVERTISEMENT

The story is here

Meanwhile...California Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children MORE (D) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - CDC equates Delta to chickenpox in contagiousness Harris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Why in the world are White House reporters being told to mask up again? MORE (D), the vice presidential nominee, asked the White House to expedite a disaster declaration for their state.

We strongly support California Governor Gavin Newsom’s request for a Major Disaster declaration on August 20, 2020, for the State of California in response to the devastating Wildfires,” they wrote to President Trump on Friday. 

“Due to the catastrophic and rapidly developing nature of these wildfires and in order to help the affected communities and individuals rebuild as soon as possible, we ask that you expedite the declaration without the need for complete preliminary damage assessments and make federal assistance available,” they added. 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

The Republican National Convention will meet in Charlotte, N.C.

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

'There's nowhere like it': Alaska's wildlife refuge fears death by drilling, The Guardian reports

Coronavirus, wildfires combine to create a Bay Area respiratory catastrophe, The San Francisco Chronicle reports

Weather Service says 2 possible hurricanes heading for Gulf Coast early next week, NPR reports

ICYMI: Stories from Friday (and Thursday night)…

National parks chief says coronavirus staff shortages shouldn't prevent access

Biden calls climate change one of America's four major crises

Trump hits California officials over wildfires: 'You've got to clean your floors'