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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

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
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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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THE REAL TRANSITION WAS INSIDE YOU ALL ALONG: The Biden transition team is in the early stages of developing a shortlist of potential nominees to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a public lands agency critics say has slipped into disarray during the Trump administration.

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The BLM could be a particularly useful agency for an administration intent on shifting climate policy and reducing emissions, but it has largely been hollowed out in the past four years.

The bureau has lost nearly 70 percent of its Washington-based staff during the Trump administration, and many environmentalists decry what they see as an effort by Trump officials to forge ties with oil and gas companies that drill on public lands at the expense of conservation.

“They pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall, and someone needs to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” said Ken Rait, who directs the public lands project at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

There’s a growing consensus among the agency’s proponents that the next director needs to be someone who is intimately familiar with the organization in order to stabilize BLM and boost the morale of its remaining employees.

Under its current leadership, BLM underwent a controversial relocation of its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo., while scattering the rest of the Washington-based staff to various federal offices around the West.

Many opponents saw the move, and the resulting brain drain, as a way to dismantle the agency, leaving just 61 of the agency’s 10,000 employees in Washington, compared with about 350 employees in previous administrations.

“The only way to be successful, particularly with the heavy lift that is required to deal with all disruption caused by Trump administration, is really to find someone from within who doesn't have to prove their credibility to the rank and file from the outset, but then, with their confidence, can begin representing them with leadership in the department and on Capitol Hill and with other agencies,” a former high-ranking Interior official told The Hill.

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Public lands advocates have floated a number of possible contenders for BLM director in the Biden administration: Steve Ellis, who held the highest-ranking career position at BLM during the Obama administration; Nada Culver, a lawyer with the Audubon Society; and Neil Kornze, who led the agency under former President Obama.

Read more on the picks here.

And in other transition news…

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich slammed President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE’s picks for his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team in an op-ed published on Thursday.

Brockovich specifically calls out Michael McCabe, who previously worked for Biden and for the EPA, for his work with DuPont as their communications consultant.

In an Intercept article Brockovich cites, McCabe reportedly used his government connections to help the chemical giant avoid EPA regulations, particularly those placed on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the chemical used to make nonstick coatings.

Read more here

THE SQUAD IS GROWING: House progressives touted their growing numbers in the lower chamber during a climate-focused rally outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Thursday. 

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez defends Harry Styles wearing dress on Vogue cover: 'It looks wonderful' Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' 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 House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' 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-Mich), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOVERNIGHT 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 House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOVERNIGHT 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 House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally UK moves up deadline to ban sales of new gasoline and diesel vehicles MORE (D-Mass.) as well as Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.) joined Bowman and Jones in front of the DNC Thursday. 

Ocasio-Cortez argued that the election of additional progressives showed the power of the movement.

“We have champions like Mondaire Jones and Jamal Bowman and Cori Bush that are now being ushered into this wave. It shows that these issues are not a fluke, it shows that they are not a flash in the pan, it shows that they are not a hot new thing what it shows is a deep yearning for climate justice,” she said.

The current and soon-to-be lawmakers noted some differences between themselves and President-elect Joe Biden, pledging that they would hold the former vice president to climate change plans he put forth during his presidential campaign. 

Tlaib cautioned that she may not be Biden's favorite lawmaker, adding that she has a different timeline to implement anti-climate change measures. 

“I may not be your favorite member of Congress because my timeline is different...our folks don’t have another day, another hour.”

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“They have asked you for clean air. They have asked you for clean water. To protect them,” she added. “We’re going to make sure the Biden administration sticks to our timeline.”

Read more on the rally here

EYE ON THE ARCTIC: The Trump administration is pushing ahead with a last-minute attempt to ease safety regulations for offshore drilling in the Arctic.

The proposal would roll back a number of regulations that were put in place specifically for the Arctic following the disastrous Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

“It cites the unique condition in the Arctic as reasons to be relaxing the rules when it should be just the opposite. They shouldn’t be allowing drilling at all in Arctic — it’s too dangerous — but if it’s going to occurring at all it should procure under heightened safety standards not relaxed ones,” said Kristin Monsell with the Center for Biodiversity. 

The rule has little chance of being finalized. It faces a 60-day comment period after which the Department of the Interior must respond to comments before issuing a final rule.

That would put the onus on the incoming Biden administration to withdraw the rule — something the administration would need to justify, which Monsell said would be easy enough given conditions in the arctic.

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Read more here

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumOVERNIGHT 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 Disagreements are a part of our process 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 MORE (D-Minn) has doubts the Trump administration’s plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won’t likely bring in the billion dollars in revenue promised by the Trump administration. 

The Interior Department on Monday moved ahead with another step to drill in ANWR, pushing McCollum to remind Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that Interior’s budget assessed the sales would bring in some $1.4 billion.  

“If you insist on proceeding in such a hasty manner, I would remind you of your responsibility to protect the financial interests of American taxpayers by including a minimum bid provision in any forthcoming lease sale,” McCollum wrote to Bernhardt.

“Given the confidence the administration has shown in its efforts thus far, I would think that a lease sale with a required minimum bid sufficient to actually raise the promised $1.4 billion should be readily achievable.”

House Appropriations, where McCollum chairs the Interior subcommittee, has repeatedly tried to include budget language that would force Interior to assure $1.4 billion in revenue before drilling in ANWR.

“Until then the Department will continue to follow the law and the clear mandate we received from Congress to develop and implement a leasing program for the Coastal Plain, a program the people of Alaska have been seeking for over 40 years,” Interior told The Hill in response.

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EMINENTLY QUOTABLE: “We cannot stand by and tolerate the suppression, censorship, and manipulation of climate science. Peer-reviewed, evidence-based science can and should support and inform policies, and it is vital that the NCA remain free from political interference or bias," they continued. "We urge you to maintain a collaborative, transparent, peer-reviewed process through USGCRP and provide the nation’s top scientists with the resources necessary to produce a Fifth National Climate Assessment that informs our work and the public about the implications of the climate crisis,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE after a shakeup in leadership for the report. 

WHAT WE’RE READING:

Trump’s E.P.A. Chief Plans 2 Foreign Trips Before Leaving Office, The New York Times reports

PFAS exposure could hinder vaccine for hard-hit communities, E&E News reports

Amazon road-building could deforest millions of hectares: report, Reuters reports

Burning Fossil Fuels Helped Drive Earth’s Most Massive Extinction, The New York Times reports

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday...

Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency

Historic wildfire season dents decline in US emissions during coronavirus pandemic

Erin Brockovich pens op-ed hitting Biden over EPA transition board

Lawmakers condemn Trump's 'destabilizing' and 'politicizing' moves on climate assessment

Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations

House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally