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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler
© Greg Nash

HAPPY WEDNESDAY! 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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IN THE LEAD: 

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How the West was won… Rep. Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanGOP attacks Democrats for allowing Moore to vote after positive COVID test Moore to appear in House for Speaker's vote after testing positive for COVID-19 LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker MORE (Ark.) is slated to serve as the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee for the 117th Congress after being elected by the House Republican Steering Committee on Wednesday.

Westerman — a Yale forestry school graduate who describes himself as an “engineer and forester by trade” — edged out Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarFreedom Caucus chairman blasts 'sensational lies' after Capitol riot Ethics complaint filed against Biggs, Cawthorn and Gosar over Capitol riot Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence MORE (R-Ariz.), the previous chair of the Western Caucus, for the ranking member position next year.

Lawmakers from Western states have typically held the top posts on the committee, though Westerman comes from a rural, natural resource-heavy district in Arkansas.

The top GOP spot is being vacated by Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler Bruce Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee MORE (Utah), who is retiring at the end of this term.

“I’m incredibly honored and humbled that the steering committee has recommended me to be the next lead Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee. Conservatives have a rich history of leading in conservation, and this committee will continue to be a battleground for energy and environmental issues,” Westerman said in a statement to The Hill.

“In the next few years, I believe we can lead the way on showing the world how market-based conservation allows our economy and environment to thrive simultaneously. I can’t wait to get started,” he added.

Westerman has been among the conservative voices calling for Republicans to lead on conservation issues, particularly as the party seeks to show it is taking action of some kind on climate change.

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“I think we’ve got to retake the conservation narrative, something Republicans have been very strong on and can be stronger on in the future,” Westerman previously told The Hill.

MCR at E&C… Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersWashington Republican reverses, says she won't object to Electoral College vote McMorris Rodgers floats vacating Speaker's chair over Democrat's in-person vote after COVID diagnosis OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (Wash.) was elected by the House Republican Steering Committee to serve as the next ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. 

McMorris Rodgers — a former member of leadership who served as House Republican Conference chair — edged out Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessK Street navigates virtual inauguration week READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Texas), a doctor and the most senior Republican on the panel, and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio). 

Her relationship with leadership gave her an edge in the race, multiple senior GOP sources told The Hill. McMorris Rodgers is also one of the relatively few women in the House Republican Conference.

She touted her experience with messaging as the former conference chair and her policy record while making her pitch to Steering Committee members.

Read more on the new ranking members here and here

PARLER TRICK: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerBiden 'freeze' of Trump rules could halt environmental rollbacks 15 states sue EPA over decision not to tighten pollution standard for smog 13 states sue EPA over rule allowing some polluters to follow weaker emissions standards MORE have joined the conservative social network Parler.

Parler describes itself as a place where people can “speak freely ... without fear of being ‘deplatformed’” and does not do fact-checking. Experts and journalists have found disinformation including climate change denial on the platform. 

Its users include both traditional conservatives, among them several lawmakers, and far-right groups. 

Wheeler announced Wednesday on Twitter that he was joining the platform, though his first post appears to be from Tuesday. 

EPA spokesperson Molly Block said in an email that the agency joined Parler “to reach new audiences and promote the numerous environmental accomplishments made under the Trump Administration.”

The initial posts from the agency promoted its 50th anniversary, which was Wednesday, and touted the administration’s record on environmental issues. 

Its new Parler audience gave the EPA a mixed reception. Some commenters on the agency's posts praised the Trump administration while one particularly vulgar comment called the agency a “CLIMATE NAZI!!!!”’

Bret Schafer, a media and digital disinformation fellow at Alliance for Securing Democracy, told The Hill that he sees some positives in the agency's decision to join Parler. 

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“It is generally a good thing to reach the audience where they are,” Schafer said. “There’s a potential to maybe debunk some things that are surfacing.”

Read more on the decision here

Speaking of Wheeler… The head of the EPA will quarantine after what he described as “secondary exposure” from someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. 

“Earlier today I was informed I experienced secondary exposure from an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. After consulting my doctor and out of an abundance of caution, I will quarantine until I’ve gone through the proper testing protocols,” he said in a statement. 

Read more on that here

HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY EPA! On this day 50 years ago, the U.S. got its first Senate-confirmed EPA administrator, a date President-elect Biden noted with a not-so-subtle dig at the current administration.

“Together, we will reassert the EPA’s place as the world’s premier environmental protection agency that safeguards our planet, protects our lives, and strengthens our economy — guided by science and a belief there is nothing beyond our capacity as a nation when we work together as a people,” Biden said in a statement.

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BILL TRACKER: 

Nuclear clears a hurdle: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 16-5 to advance a bipartisan nuclear infrastructure bill on Wednesday. The legislation would bolster both nuclear energy and uranium mining and aims to boost development of advanced nuclear reactors. Though it received a clear majority in the committee vote it faced pushback from some progressive environmental groups that said in a new letter that the bill would “misdirect vital government, financial, and industrial resources to an uneconomical, environmentally unjust and harmful set of technologies.”

Exotic cats: A bill aimed at preventing ownership of big cats like lions and tigers that was newly invigorated by Netflix’s “Tiger King” is expected to receive a House vote as soon as Thursday. 

WHAT WE’RE READING:

U.S. air monitors routinely miss pollution - even refinery explosions, Reuters reports

EPA ditches Bush veto, approves WWII-era flood project, E&E News reports

Global sustainable fishing initiative agreed by 14 countries, The Guardian reports

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ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday...

Grassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary

Prince Harry criticized for appearing to link Mother Nature's punishment with pandemic

EPA joins conservative social network Parler 

Bruce Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee

McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce

UN says 2020 expected to be one of three hottest years on record