OVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House removes leader of major climate report | Trump administration faces suit over removal of endangered species protections for gray wolves

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House removes leader of major climate report | Trump administration faces suit over removal of endangered species protections for gray wolves
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-Eyes on the clime… The White House has removed the top adviser responsible for leading the government’s assessment of the status of climate change.

Michael Kuperberg, a climate scientist serving as executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), has returned to his previous post at the Department of Energy.

Kuperberg’s reassignment came late Friday night, according to The Washington Post, removing him as leadership of the Fifth National Climate Assessment transitions to a new hire.

The report involves drafting hundreds of top scientists to weigh in on climate change, often producing dire warnings about the limited time the U.S. has to act in order to avoid the most severe consequences. 

Kuperberg was already slated to be replaced by Betsy Weatherhead, a longtime climate scientist recently hired at the U.S. Geological Survey. But the shakeup means he will no longer be able to continue to work on the report as expected.

According to The New York Times, some observers fear the administration may seek to place David Legates, a deputy administrator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, into the top slot.

Legates, an academic with a history of questioning humans’ influence on global warming, could influence USGCRP as it seeks to select the academics and other experts that will write the report's sections. 

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The Fifth National Climate Assessment has already had trouble getting off the ground.

Though due in 2022, the website for the report already anticipates delivery by the end of 2023.

The administration delayed in putting the call out for researchers to help with the report, beginning the process only after media reports.

According to the Post, Kuperberg was surprised by the reassignment.

“He was extremely dedicated,” a White House official told The Post. “He did a very good job of figuring out how to walk that political line. He had no idea it was coming.”

Read more on reported roadblocks here

-I don’t give a… Ousted Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chair Neil ChatterjeeNeil ChatterjeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House rescinds Trump proposal to restrict greenhouse gas consideration | Texas governor limits shipping natural gas out-of-state amid power shortages | Lawmakers clash over gun prohibition in Natural Resources committee room Almost 5 million without power as winter storm stresses grid in Texas, 13 other states Senate approves two energy regulators, completing panel MORE spoke emotionally about his demotion by President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE in an early Saturday Facebook post, alluding that he was proud to have taken recent stances that may have irked the White House.

Chatterjee was replaced by newest FERC Commissioner James Danly, who has proven to be a more conservative vote in his time on the commission since March.

Chatterjee had recently signaled support for carbon pricing in electricity markets, a move that would be damaging for coal. Chatterjee also told E&E News that a refusal to implement Trump’s September order to suspend diversity trainings was a factor in the tumult.  

“It’s been a difficult few days. I have dedicated almost the entirety of my professional career to public service. I am a deeply flawed person. I know for certain I have not always made the right decision. But I can honestly say that I tried to get it right to the best of my limited abilities,” Chatterjee wrote.

“My entire family has sacrificed a great deal so that I could have the opportunity to serve my country. I don’t give a f@&! what people think of me. I will be judged by my grandchildren. And as of this moment I am confident that I will be able to look them in the eyes when they ask me where I stood on the most significant issues of this time and be proud. This is not the last you will hear from me. Not even close. Onward.”

Read more on the shakeup at FERC here

IN COURT:

-Wolf watch… The Trump administration is facing a lawsuit over its recent decision to remove endangered species protections for gray wolves. 

On Friday, a coalition of conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue over the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision, which was finalized late last month. 

The FWS rule lifts more than 45 years of protections for the wolves, except for a small band of Mexican gray wolves present in Arizona and New Mexico. 

The new notice argued that the basis for the decision was both legally flawed and not based on the best available science. It cited a peer review commissioned by the government that was critical of the delisting proposal.

“Given that gray wolves in the lower 48 states occupy a fraction of their historical and currently available habitat, the Fish and Wildlife Service determining they are successfully recovered does not pass the straight-face test,” said John Mellgren, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, in a statement on Monday. 

“While the Trump administration may believe it can disregard science to promote political decisions, the law does not support such a stance,” Mellgren added. 

FWS has argued the wolf has fully recovered.

Read more on the suit here

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-Sucking up a lot of energy… Separate coalitions of 13 states and six environmental groups filed two lawsuits against the Trump administration Wednesday after it failed to update energy efficiency standards for 25 types of appliances.

The standards cover appliances ranging from dishwashers to refrigerators to air conditioners that, without federal guidelines for efficiency improvements, may cost consumers an extra $580 billion in energy costs and release 2 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2050.

“It’s astonishing that the Trump administration is failing to carry out this common-sense law that saves people money and reduces air pollution," Howard Crystal, legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice Program, said in a release. 

“The climate crisis demands we do everything possible to reduce carbon emissions to ensure a livable planet, and we can’t afford to let the Department of Energy abdicate its responsibility.”

The suits target the Department of Energy, which is required to update appliance standards every six years.

The move follows other actions taken by the department to roll back efficiency standards for lightbulbs and another rule to exempt quick wash dishwashers from energy efficiency standards--even though most dishwashers already meet them.

Read more on the suit here.  

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OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

World’s largest coal producer warns of bankruptcy risk, The Financial Times reports

Scientists relieved as Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE wins tight U.S. presidential election, Scientific American reports

Interior secretary was involved in Vigneto whistleblower case, document shows, The Associated Press reports 

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend…

Former FERC Chair Chatterjee on demotion by Trump: 'I don't give a f@&!'

Tropical Storm Eta makes landfall in the Florida Keys, expected to strengthen

Trump administration sued for failing to update efficiency standards for 25 appliances

Trump administration faces suit over removal of endangered species protections for gray wolves

White House removes leader of major climate report