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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent
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BIRD’S THE WORD: The Trump administration on Friday advanced its plans to cut federal protections that critics argue will be severely detrimental to the U.S. bird population. 

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday released its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed change to the implementation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act that would no longer penalize companies for actions that, incidentally or accidentally, kill migratory birds.  

The act was passed to prevent the unregulated killing of or other harm to migratory birds.

Under the proposed change, the government would no longer penalize companies for incidents in which birds may be killed such as electrocution on power lines, wind turbines that knock them from the air and oil field waste pits where landing birds can die in toxic water.

The environmental impact statement acknowledged that more birds may be killed under its proposal because companies may not take steps to protect birds if they won’t face penalties for accidentally killing them.

The analysis found that the change will likely negatively impact migratory birds for this reason, and will also likely harm ecosystems and other habitats as well as cultural resources like native religious traditions.

Some industries stand to benefit, as the analysis found its proposed change may reduce costs for companies as they decide not to take steps to reduce migratory bird deaths.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service and recent studies, industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, out of approximately 7 billion birds in North America. 

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A federal judge in New York in August rejected a 2017 legal opinion justifying the proposed change, although the agency has pushed forward with the change regardless. 

Read more on the plans here

GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME LOANS: A new Trump administration proposal that could push more banks to finance fossil fuel activities is creating divisions in conservative circles as free market groups decry the move as government overreach.

The proposed rule, which would put limitations on banks that try to exclude entire industries like oil and gas from financing, has garnered support from a number of Republican lawmakers who back fossil fuels while sparking criticism from libertarian-oriented organizations.

Those groups argue the rule is inconsistent with free market principles and could backfire in the long run by forcing conservative bank owners to provide financing for abortion providers and other groups they don’t like.

The division among conservatives has also created unlikely bedfellows with libertarians and environmentalists both opposing the proposal. Green groups say banks should be allowed to choose whether they want to provide financing for fossil fuel companies.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) put forth the rule last week, billing it as a measure to ensure fair access to financing while singling out the unwillingness of some banks to finance certain fossil activities.

“It is one thing for a bank not to lend to oil companies because it lacks the expertise to value or manage the associated collateral rights; it is another for a bank to make that decision because it believes the United States should abide by the standards set in an international climate treaty,” the rule states.

“Organizations involved in politically controversial but lawful businesses — whether family planning organizations, energy companies, or otherwise — are entitled to fair access to financial services under the law,” it continued.

After it was published, several Capitol Hill Republicans from oil-producing states lauded the proposal.

“This is particularly good news for America’s small and medium-sized energy producers, who for too long have been subject to discrimination from banks and lending facilities — under pressure from Green New Deal enthusiasts,” said Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzNewly released video from inside Capitol siege shows rioters confronting police, rifling through Senate desks Can we protect our country — from our rulers, and ourselves? Democratic super PAC targets Hawley, Cruz in new ad blitz MORE (R-Texas).

A joint statement from Alaska Republicans Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocratic lawmaker says 'assassination party' hunted for Pelosi during riot Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE, Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent MORE and Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Five Republicans vote for bill to decriminalize marijuana House passes sweeping reform bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE thanked the OCC “for upholding the principle of free and fair access to capital.”

“Alaskans witnessed a deeply troubling trend of America’s big banks pledging to black-list energy development projects in the Arctic, without regard for the people who live here in some of the most economically-challenged parts of the country,” the lawmakers said.

Republicans including Sullivan had previously suggested that banks opposed to financing Arctic drilling were discriminating against both energy companies and Alaska.

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But free market and libertarian-leaning groups argue the policy gets in the way of private businesses and goes in the opposite direction of limited government.

“If you believe in free markets, you should be consistent," Norman Singleton, president of Campaign for Liberty, a group founded by former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), told The Hill.

He added that it would be wrong to say businesses should have the option to not pay for birth control, but that banks should be forced to loan to gun stores.

Read more on the hangups here

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: European Union (EU) nations’ greenhouse gas emissions for 2019 were down 24 percent compared to 1990 emissions levels, according to a new report. 

The report from the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, also said emissions had dropped by 3.7 percent compared to 2018 and were at their lowest level since 1990. 

Emissions are expected to drop even further in 2020 due to the economic slowdown linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The EU’s drop for 2019 was greater than the U.S.’s, which a preliminary analysis from January showed was about 2.1 percent. 

Read more here 

GETTIN' COZY: House Democrats are asking the Trump administration to turn over a list of employees who will be slotted into a new category of federal employment that critics fear will be used to retain Trump political appointees. 

The request, made to 61 government agencies, comes as agencies have begun implementing an October executive order from President TrumpDonald TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT MORE that creates a new employment category, Schedule F, for policy-focused positions within the federal government.

“We are seeking a full accounting of political appointees who have already been hired into career positions or are being considered for such conversion,” lawmakers wrote in the letter and signed by each House committee chair.

Trump’s order was widely opposed by unions because it strips many of the employment protections afforded to civil servants.

But it’s also created a fear among critics that it could be used to allow appointees to “burrow in” to career positions.

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The order also allows the Trump administration to place political appointees into career positions, bypassing the merit-based system typically required in the hiring process. And while it allows employees to be fired for performance reasons with little recourse, it bars dismissing employees “on the basis of the employee’s partisan affiliation.”

“Protecting the nonpartisan expertise of the career civil service is essential to the safety and security of the American people. The merit system principles of the federal workforce put in place guardrails to ensure that competitive service requirements are not bypassed to inappropriately place political appointees in permanent career service positions,” lawmakers wrote in the letter.

Early signs show the Trump administration may seek to place a significant number of its employees into the new Schedule F category.

A memo obtained by Real Clear Politics found the Office of Management and Budget planned to place 88 percent of its employees, 425 people, into this category.

Read more on burrowing here

WHAT WE’RE READING:

EPA’s final deregulatory rush runs into open staff resistance, The New York Times reports

New Mexico promised its students free college. Then oil prices tanked. NBC News reports

Final permit for Enbridge Line 3 project OK'd by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, The Duluth News Tribune reports

How climate change could spark the next home mortgage disaster, Politico reports

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday through Monday...

House Democrats seek list of Trump appointees "burrowing in" to Biden administration

Trump administration races to finish environmental rules, actions

Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections of scientists, environmentalists

Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians

GM pulls planned backing from electric vehicle company

EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent since 1990