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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' | Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling | Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects 

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' | Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling | Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects 
© Courtesy Department of Interior

HAPPY THURSDAY! 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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STAYING POWER: One of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) highest ranking officials said his ouster ordered by a federal judge last month “has no impact, no impact whatsoever” on his role within the department.

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A Montana-based U.S. District Court judge ruled last month that William Perry Pendley "served unlawfully ... for 424 days," giving the Department of the Interior 10 days to justify why it shouldn’t throw out many of the decisions Pendley has made during his tenure.

In an interview with the Powell (Wyo.) Tribune, Pendley said the court ruling has changed little for him as he stays at the department through his official title as one of the department’s two deputy directors.

“I’m still here, I’m still running the bureau,” Pendley told the outlet. “I have always been from day one”

Pendley, who had served as the de-facto head of BLM for over a year, was only nominated to the position this summer, but it was withdrawn shortly thereafter. Pendley has a long history of opposing federal ownership of public lands, and the entire Democratic caucus planned to oppose him, putting the spotlight on vulnerable Republicans up for reelection.

Last month several Democrats took to the House floor, demanding he be removed from the department due to views they see as being in conflict with the BLM mission while expressing concern over comments Pendley has made about the Black Lives Matter movement and Native Americans. 

“What does it say to voters that the Trump administration will break the law to try to keep Pendley in place? To try to keep someone running the BLM who doesn’t believe in public lands, who is racist against Native Americans? Every single decision Pendley has signed off on is now in legal jeopardy – it’s past time he is shown the door. The Trump administration’s continued lawlessness, anti-public lands agenda, and needless chaos will be rejected by the American people,” Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallFormer Sen. Carol Moseley Braun stumps for Interior post: 'A natural fit for me' Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline MORE (D-N.M.) who organized the floor speeches, said in a statement to The Hill. 

The suit from Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte wins Montana governor's race Senate control in flux as counting goes forward in key states MORE (D) is just one of the two cases questioning the series of temporary orders, and later a change in the order of succession, that were used to justify his authority.

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Pendley said the court case, and Montana’s early victory, has had little impact on his working life.

“I have the support of the president. I have the support of the Secretary of the Interior and my job is to get out and get things done to accomplish what the president wants to do — which means increase recreational opportunities on federal land and to increase opportunities for jobs, so we can recover back to where we were pre-pandemic,” Pendley told the outlet.

Read more on Pendley’s comments here

LATE BREAKING NEWS: A federal court on Thursday struck down an Obama-era regulation targeting methane leaks from drilling on public lands, arguing that it went beyond the scope of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which promulgated the rule. 

The 2016 rule required oil and gas companies to cut a practice called flaring, in which natural gas is burned, by half, inspect their sites for leaks and and replace old equipment that released too much methane. 

The court argued that although the rule’s stated purpose was to reduce waste, it was essentially used to regulate air quality. 

The rule was the update to 30-year-old regulations on the matter, the Obama administration said in 2016. The Trump administration had issued a rollback of the Obama-era rule, but that too was recently struck down in court, 

A story will be posted on our site shortly. 

NIX THE FIX: A conservation group sued the federal government on Thursday over an action taken this year to no longer allow polluters to reduce their fines by paying for projects to help the environment. 

A Department of Justice (DOJ) memo issued in March and first reported by The Hill, said that the Special Environmental Projects (SEPs), which had been used for about 30 years, violate a law requiring money received by the government to go to the U.S. Treasury. 

DOJ argued that SEPs could only legally be allowed with express authorization from Congress and that the projects have been “controversial for decades." It then suspended their use “both in light of their inconsistency with law and their departure from sound enforcement practices.”

However, The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) argued in a new lawsuit that SEPs aren’t funded with money that would have otherwise gone to the Treasury, and that the money isn’t actually received by federal officials. 

It argued that because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates civil penalties separately from SEPs, they "do not rob the agency of funds ‘destined’ for the treasury.”

The suit also argued that because these projects reduce pollution, they are a “win-win” and that communities that face disparate impacts will be harmed by its undoing. 

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“This policy reversal is a slap in the face to communities battling pollution,” said a statement from Heather Govern, CLF’s Clean Air and Water program director. “Communities of color have suffered for decades with dirty air and unsafe water, and supplemental projects help right these wrongs.

"Such an unlawful scheme cannot be allowed to stand,” she added.

Read more on SEPs here

FRACK CHECK: Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump set for precedent-breaking lame-duck period Trump pardons Michael Flynn O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisKamala Harris calls nurse on Thanksgiving to express gratitude in fight against COVID-19 Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Calif.) sparred over their commitment to the science of climate change, with the vice president repeatedly falsely asserting a Biden administration plans to ban fracking and adopt the Green New Deal.

“The climate is changing. The issue is, what's the cause and what do we do about it? President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE has made it clear that we're going to continue to listen to science,” Pence said in response to a question about climate change.

Reminder: The vast majority of scientists believe that climate change is primarily caused by emissions from human activity. 

Pence later said "climate alarmists" would try to use natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires to try and sell the Green New Deal.

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The Biden campaign has charged the Trump administration with ignoring science on topics ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change.

“When I first got to the Senate on the committee that's responsible for the environment you know this administration took the word science off the website. And then took the phrase climate change off the website. We have seen a pattern with this administration which is they don't believe in science,” Harris said.

She then pointed to a recent example in California, where President Trump, visiting the state to survey wildfire damage, said “I don’t think science knows, actually,” in reference to global warming.

Pence responded to Harris, repeatedly charging that a potential Biden-Harris administration would ban fracking and support the Green New Deal. Pence attacked Harris on these topics several times, even on questions not specifically related to climate change. 

“Now, Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE and Kamala Harris would put us back in the Paris climate Accord they'd impose the Green New Deal, which would crush American energy, would increase the energy costs of American families in their homes, and literally would crush American jobs,” Pence said.

“The both of you repeatedly committed to abolishing fossil fuel and banning of fracking,” he added later.

Biden’s climate plan does not call for banning fracking or fossil fuels.

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"I will repeat, and the American people know that Joe Biden will not ban fracking, That is a fact. That is a fact," Harris said, adding that Biden's plan to transition to clean energy is embedded in his plan for economic recovery.

Biden's plan would, however, bar any new oil drilling leases on public lands.

Read more about what the candidates had to say here.

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

California needs forests to fight climate change, but they are going up in smoke, Reuters reports

Senator eyed as Biden Interior chief has conservation streak, Bloomberg reports

Climate denial ads on Facebook seen by millions, report finds, The Guardian reports

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday (and Wednesday night)…

Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact'

Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects

Green groups set to sue after Trump administration declines to protect wolverines

Nearly 500k clean energy workers remain unemployed since pandemic start 

DC smog levels drop to record low

Prince William announces new prize to incentivize climate solutions

Harris, Pence spar over climate science, fracking, and the Green New Deal

Ocasio-Cortez responds to Harris on fracking: It's 'bad actually'