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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court removes Pendley from role as public lands chief | Pendley court ruling could unravel Trump's public lands decisions | 1 in 4 adults cite climate change in decision not to have children

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court removes Pendley from role as public lands chief | Pendley court ruling could unravel Trump's public lands decisions | 1 in 4 adults cite climate change in decision not to have children

HAPPY MONDAY! 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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YOU’RE OUT: A federal judge on Friday ordered William Pendley to be removed as leader of the head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a role that typically requires Senate confirmation. 

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Judge Brian Morris ruled that Pendley "served unlawfully as the Acting BLM Director for 424 days" and enjoined him from exercising the authority of the agency's director. 

The ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit from Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump combative, Biden earnest during distanced TV duel Steve Bullock raises .8 million in third quarter for Montana Senate bid Postal service reversing changes that slowed mail delivery MORE (D) challenging Pendley's continued tenure and follows significant scrutiny from conservation groups.

Pendley has led the bureau in a temporary capacity since July 2019. His role at the agency has come under scrutiny because he has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Pendley remained in his post first through a series of "secretarial orders" put forth by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and later, as reported by The Hill, through "succession orders," with which Pendley gave himself the authority to remain the temporary leader of the agency. 

Morris, an Obama appointee, ruled that both a secretarial order and a succession order "represent unlawful attempts to avoid the constitutional requirements of the Appointments Clause and the statutory requirements of the [Federal Vacancies Reform Act]."

SO WHAT’S STILL IN? A federal judge's decision to boot a top Trump appointee could jeopardize years of actions the administration has taken on public lands, including an expansion of oil and gas drilling and the decision to uproot the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters.

“Depending on what happens next this could invalidate an entire administration’s work of actions at the Bureau of Land Management,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, a public lands watchdog group. 

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Morris enjoined Pendley from continuing to serve in his role, but now the court will examine the numerous decisions the bureau has made along the way. Pendley has led the department through a relocation that uprooted all but 61 of BLM’s Washington-based staffers and oversaw a number of management plans that would increase access for the oil and gas industry through their up to 20 year lifespan.

“I think the judge is contemplating that 424 days — all of it. If [Pendley] wasn't properly appointed or placed in his position, I think the judge is inclined to want to know why any of the actions he took were valid,” said Carl Tobias, a law processor at Richmond University School of Law.

One of the resource plans cited by Morris would open 95 percent of 650,000-acres of BLM land to resource extraction like mining and drilling.

“Reversing course on many of Pendley’s disastrous and illegal decisions is a critical next step,” Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Overnight Defense: National Guard says no federal requests for election security help | Dems accuse VA head of misusing resources | Army official links COVID-19 to troop suicides Democrats accuse VA head of misusing resources to stump for Trump, vulnerable GOP senators MORE (D-Mt.) said in a statement to The Hill, adding that “Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans need to learn a lesson from this mess: turning a blind eye to the public and letting unqualified folks sit unconfirmed in powerful positions is unconstitutional and a dereliction of the Senate’s duty.”

Close observers of the BLM have complained the Trump administration has changed an organization that largely flew under the radar in previous administrations, responsible for balancing recreation and conservation on the nation’s nearly 250 million acres of public lands with energy development and grazing interests.

“They definitely have a fossil fuel extraction lean in terms of their mission for the BLM,” Steve Ellis, who retired from the top career position at BLM in 2016, previously told The Hill in discussing the Trump administration.

“BLM is a multiple use agency by law, but they’re tilting it way over to fossil fuels," he added. "It’s not balanced right now.”

Weiss said land management plans in not just Montana but Colorado and New Mexico where “they opened up everything to oil and gas drilling” could face renewed scrutiny.

“If this stands the implications are drastic because if this becomes a template for other court districts then it puts at risk every land use plan that has come out and been finalized at least this year and possibly the entirety of the Trump administration,” he said.

Where it gets complicated is that Pendley did not put his signature on many of the directives taken under his leadership.

“Mr. Pendley didn’t sign off on as many decisions as he could have, probably because he knew this day would come,” House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose committee oversees the BLM, said in a statement to The Hill. 

Read more about the impacts of the court ruling here

AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT: Roughly a quarter of childless adults say climate change is a factor in their decision not to have children, according to a Monday poll from Morning Consult.

Eleven percent of those surveyed said climate change was a major reason they would not have children, while 15 percent said it was a minor reason.

Climate change rated behind other issues such as the economy, general political concerns, and career plans when it came to the decision to reproduce, but the poll shows the existential threat is weighing on people's minds when it comes to family planning.

Those figures were starker for minorities, with 40 percent of Hispanic and 30 percent of Black respondents saying climate change factored into their decision compared to 23 percent of white respondents. 

Read more on that here

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing titled “Police Cameras at the Department of the Interior: Inconsistencies, Failures, and Consequences.” Witnesses include Kelly Ghaisar, the mother of  Bijan Ghaisar, who was killed by Park Police in 2017. 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Bar for Environmental Cases Seen Higher With a Justice Barrett, Bloomberg Law reports

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E.P.A. to Promote Lead Testing Rule as Trump Tries to Burnish His Record, The New York Times reports

Mexican farmers revolt over sending water to US during drought, The Guardian reports

White House recruited climate critics for NOAA, E&E News reports

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and over the weekend…

Court removes Pendley from role as public lands chief

1 in 4 adults cite climate change in decision not to have children

Pendley court ruling could unravel Trump's public lands decisions

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