OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina | Democrats probe Park Service involvement in GOP convention | Sanders attacks 'corporate welfare' to coal industry included in relief package

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina | Democrats probe Park Service involvement in GOP convention | Sanders attacks 'corporate welfare' to coal industry included in relief package

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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IT’S ALL ABOUT FLORIDA: President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire MORE on Tuesday moved to block oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina until mid-2032, a decade longer than drilling is currently delayed off Florida’s Gulf Coast. 


“I will sign a presidential order extending the moratorium on offshore drilling on Florida’s Gulf Coast and expanding it to Florida’s Atlantic Coast as well as the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina," Trump said in a speech from the Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in Jupiter, Fla.

Florida is key to Trump's chances of winning a second term, and the decision was steeped in politics.

“Thanks to my administration’s pro-American energy policies we can take this step and the next step while remaining the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” Trump said. 

Who might be happy with this news?

Offshore drilling is nearly universally opposed by leaders in both political parties in Florida after tourism was heavily impacted following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. A 2018 state amendment to block offshore drilling was also approved by nearly 70 percent of Florida voters. 

A congressionally passed offshore drilling moratorium protects Florida’s gulf waters from offshore drilling until mid-2022. The state’s House delegation has tried to extend that, pushing through legislation that would permanently block drilling near the state, though it has yet to be considered by the Senate. 

The move got some pushback from the oil industry, a group otherwise considered part of the Trump base...


“Our preference should always be to produce homegrown American energy, instead of deferring future production to countries like Russia and Iran, which do not share American values. Limiting access to our offshore energy resources only shortchanges America and dulls our national outlook,” said National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito in a statement. 

Where it gets complicated…

The Trump administration in 2018 said it would not pursue offshore drilling near the state. 

However, Politico reported in June that Interior was preparing to allow oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coast but would wait to say so until after the election. 

Read more on the administration’s offshore drilling track record here. And on a related note, read about the push for coronavirus protections for oil and gas workers here.  

EXCEPT FOR WHEN IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HATCH ACT: Democrats are asking the National Park Service (NPS) to account for its involvement in the Republican National Convention. 

Trump’s speech closing out the convention from the White House’s South Lawn culminated with a fireworks show around the Washington Monument, including fireworks spelling out Trump and 2020.

Democratic lawmakers are concerned the involvement of Park Service staff may have violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from engaging in political activity while at work.

“We are deeply disturbed that the president continues to use our nation’s park system—sites that include some of our country’s most iconic symbols of freedom—to advance his partisan political agenda,” Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes We can achieve our democratic ideals now by passing the For the People Act Haaland nomination generates excitement in Native American communities MORE (D-N.M) and Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumTim Ryan, Rosa DeLauro giving free coffee and donuts to National Guard stationed at Capitol House Democrats request cots for National Guard troops stationed in Capitol OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations MORE (D-Minn.), ranking member and chair of the appropriations subcommittees that oversee NPS, wrote in a letter to the agency.

The two said the display “raised significant ethical concerns, may have been in contravention of the Hatch Act, and used federal resources inappropriately or possibly even illegally.”

We’ve gone deep on potential NPS Hatch Act violations before, with ethics experts calling the latest speech “a bridge too far”... 

The permit given to the RNC was most likely a First Amendment permit, which allows any group to host an event at a national park that doesn’t otherwise fit within the park service’s mission. Ethics experts say it’s very difficult for career NPS officials to refuse a request, from the White House or any other entity.

“It’s unfortunate that Sen. Udall and Rep. McCollum are uninformed and didn’t do some basic research before seeking to politicize permitted First Amendment activities. First Amendment activities on federal property are permitted in accordance with all applicable laws and ethics regulations,” Interior spokesman Nick Goodwin said in an email to The Hill.

Udall and McCollum are asking the Park Service to turn over a number of documents, including permits for the events at the Washington Monument and Ft. McHenry, where Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceGOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party Video from inside Capitol siege shows rioters confronting police, rifling through Senate desks Author: Meadows is history's worst White House chief of staff MORE gave his convention acceptance speech, and “the criteria and legal justification” for approving them.


They are also asking for “a full accounting of the amount of NPS staff time and resources spent supporting the Republican National Convention,” and a description of activities taken by NPS to avoid any political impropriety. 

Read more on that here

STIMULATING CONVERSATION: The latest coronavirus stimulus package introduced by Senate Republicans on Tuesday includes efforts to aid the mining and coal industries in a move already angering some Democrats.

The Tuesday bill includes a bipartisan effort by Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBiden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party Democratic lawmaker says 'assassination party' hunted for Pelosi during riot MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports Daily Beast reporter discusses prospects for K stimulus checks MORE (D-W.V.) to establish a critical minerals program along with another section that includes millions for research into extracting rare earth metals from coal.

“How pathetic,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports Biden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster MORE (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter after the Republican roll out of the bill, which also  includes a $300 per week federal unemployment benefit boost, a reduction from the $600 in extra benefits approved in the first coronavirus package.

“While Senate Republicans tell us we can't afford to give $2,000 a month to the working class during the economic crisis, the COVID-19 ‘relief’ bill they just released provides $161 million in corporate welfare to the coal industry during a climate emergency," Sanders added.

Read more on the overall bill here and on the energy specifics here


WITHDRAWN YOUR HONOR: The White House has withdrawn the nomination of William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

A quick recap: Pendley has been serving as the acting director of the agency for over a year with his tenure the subject of two lawsuits.The White House announced it would withdraw Pendley’s nomination in August but plans to keep the controversial appointee in office.

Today’s move makes the withdrawal officially official now that the Senate is back in session.

The White House is getting the paperwork tied up as Democrats have vowed to increase the pressure on the Trump administration to remove Pendley entirely.

Democrats have sent two caucus-wide letters to the White House, first asking to find a new nominee to lead the BLM and then another asking to boot Pendley.

And tomorrow House Democrats plan to apply pressure of their own with a joint Democrat-only forum with members from the House Natural Resources Committee and the Oversight Committee evaluating Pendley’s time with the agency. 



USGS chief: Coral killed by pineapples, goats (and climate), E&E News reports

EU says one in eight deaths in Europe linked to pollution, environment, Reuters reports

No 'hot pants': Sexist rules for women on Arctic expedition, E&E News reports

California wildfires torch record 2m acres as new blazes force evacuations, The Guardian reports

U.S. utilities say Biden plan to cut CO2 hinges on breakthroughs, Reuters reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday and the long weekend…

Sanders attacks 'corporate welfare' to coal industry included in relief package

Democrats probe Park Service involvement in GOP convention

Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina

More than 40 groups call for coronavirus protections for oil and gas workers

Weather service records hottest temperature on record in LA County

National Guard rescues 200 from California wildfire

Animal rights group sues US government to prevent aquarium from acquiring 5 beluga whales

Environmental activists target UK printing plants, delaying newspapers

FROM THE HILL’S OPINION PAGES: EPA's birthday gift to America: More pollution, writes David F. Coursen, a former EPA attorney and a member of the Environmental Protection Network.