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A NEW DEVELOPMENT ON THE 2017 TAX CUT BILL: The Trump administration announced Monday it would open up 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling.
A document signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt would open up the entire 1.56 million-acre area of the refuge’s Coastal Plain. The whole refuge is 19.3 million acres.
The administration argues the decision will lead to jobs, but green groups and opponents for years have warned of a devastating environmental effect from opening up the area to drilling.
“Over the course of this oil and gas program, it could create thousands of new jobs and generate tens of billions of dollars,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters.
The controversial decision is the latest by the Trump administration to advance oil and gas drilling, including in the Arctic region.
Critics said drilling in the refuge could harm animal species that are found there and could also negatively affect the landscape itself.
“This plan will not only harm caribou, polar bears, and other wildlife, it is foolish in the face of rapidly advancing climate change,” said a statement from Center for Western Priorities executive director Jennifer Rokala.
“Oil companies will have to harden their infrastructure to withstand melting permafrost and rising seas, leading to an even greater impact. Essentially, Bernhardt is approving a plan to despoil America’s wildest landscape for oil that we will be using less of in coming decades, all for the benefit of his former and future clients,” she said, referring to Bernhardt’s former job as an oil lobbyist.
Animal species found in the refuge include grizzly bears, polar bears, gray wolves, caribou and arctic foxes.
Concerns have also been raised about the impacts of drilling on the indigenous Gwich’in people, who hunt caribou in the area and to whom ANWR land is sacred.
Democrats this year accused the administration of not being sufficiently thorough in its assessment finding that drilling activity wouldn’t harm polar bears.
The Interior Department rejected their assertions, calling them “erroneous.”
Financial institutions have recently expressed resistance to finance drilling at ANWR or in the Arctic at large, citing environmental impacts.
The plan exceeds what was laid out by Republicans in Congress…
A provision in the 2017 Trump tax bill approved by a GOP-controlled Congress opened ANWR to drilling following years of debate over the matter. The House, now led by Democrats, has since voted to block ANWR drilling again, but the GOP-controlled Senate has not taken up the bill.
That legislation required the Interior Department to hold at least two lease sales of at least 400,000 acres each over the next few years.
Those sales are slated to take place before December 22, 2021, and December 22, 2024, respectively, but Bernhardt told reporters he would not be laying out the specific timing of the sales on Monday.
The reax depends on who you ask…
Matt Hill, a spokesperson for former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Memo — Michelle Obama shines, scorching Trump Trump lashes out at Cuomo after his Democratic convention speech Biden seeks to win over progressives and Republicans on night one MORE‘s presidential campaign said in a statement that he would “continue his efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” if elected.
Meanwhile, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling | California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump | Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling Trump says he’ll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions MORE (R-Alaska) called Monday’s news a “capstone moment in our decades-long push to allow for the responsible development” in the area.
“Through this program, we will build on our already-strong record of an increasingly minimal footprint for responsible resource development,” Murkowski said.
Read more about the administration’s ANWR plans here.
THE ART OF THE DEAL: California on Monday finalized agreements with five automakers in an attempt to undercut the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.
As part of the deal, BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and Volvo agreed to annual fuel economy improvements that hew more closely to those required under the Obama administration rather than the less stringent ones just finalized by the Trump administration.
The deal represents a blow to the Trump administration, which has revoked the waiver California relied on to set stricter auto emissions standards that were in turn adopted by more than a dozen other states.
“Instead of propelling our country toward the clean cars of the future, the Trump administration’s failure to lead on this issue has left American workers and automakers behind. While the administration created a void of leadership, vision and direction, the state of California and automakers came together in these voluntary agreements that provide a path forward to support the clean cars of the future,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump says he’ll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions Not a pretty picture: Money laundering and America’s art market OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump’s pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat | White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus | Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA MORE (D-Del.) said in a release, encouraging other automakers to follow suit.
The Trump administration March announced it would require automakers to produce a fleet averaging 40 mpg by 2026, rather than the previous requirement under the Obama administration to reach 55 mpg by 2025.
The new agreements finalized by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) give automakers until 2026 to produce fleets averaging 51 mpg.
Still, some environmental groups were hoping California would chart a more ambitious course.
“While this deal is a positive interim step, we need bolder action to prevent us driving off the carbon cliff,” Katherine Hoff, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement.
“To meet California’s own climate goals and to be the model the world needs, CARB must lead the way quickly in making 100 percent zero-emission vehicle sales the standard by 2030.”
News of California’s effort to strike a more environmentally friendly deal with automakers first broke in July of last year, shortly after the Trump administration revokes its waiver.
California’s roughly 40 million population gives it large sway in the market, something the state has not been shy about using to promote its interests, including efforts to battle climate change.
The agreements are not only designed to reduce pollution in a state plagued by smog but could have a larger climate change impact by reducing carbon emissions in any state that may sell greener vehicles.
Read more on the deals here.
IT’S THE SENATE, STUPID: President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo — Michelle Obama shines, scorching Trump Trump lashes out at Cuomo after his Democratic convention speech Biden seeks to win over progressives and Republicans on night one MORE’s decision to withdraw his controversial nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a rare example of Democrats and conservation groups being able to leverage the vulnerability of Republican senators to their advantage.
Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling | California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump | Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment Trump backs bill to establish suffragist monument in DC MORE (R-Colo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump says he’ll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Mont.), whose electoral survival is key to Republicans holding the Senate, had faced rising pressure on whether they would support William Perry Pendley, the de facto head of the agency who has a long history of advocating for selling off public lands.
Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockLincoln Project expands GOP target list, winning Trump ire Republicans uncomfortably playing defense 300 green groups say Senate has ‘moral duty’ to reject Trump’s public lands nominee MORE (D), who’s in a tight race with Daines, used the pending vote as his latest line of attack, running an ad last week that condemned Pendley and promised to “keep our public lands in Montanans’ hands.”
On Saturday, Trump withdrew the nomination.
Democrats previously had little success in pressuring the administration from backing off its policies or nominees when it comes to the environment, leaving the Pendley case an outlier likely designed to spare tensions for GOP senators in key races.
“President Trump realizes that if Pendley actually had to answer questions about his troubling record through the confirmation process he’d put vulnerable Republicans in the hot seat,” Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-N.M.) said when the Trump team first acknowledged they would withdraw the nomination.
Nearly every major environmental group in the country as well as the entire Democratic caucus had penned letters to the White House asking for Pendley’s nomination to be withdrawn, citing his controversial comments on climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement and federal ownership of public lands.
“The letter just made it clear that there was no margin for error on the Republican side. They would not be getting [Sen. Joe] Manchin, they would not be getting any courtesy votes from Democrats. And that made it clear who the swing votes were going to be,” Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, a public lands watchdog group, said of the West Virginia Democrat.
“It’s not like [Interior Secretary] David Bernhardt woke up one morning and realized he had a public lands opponent running the Bureau of Land Management. Clearly the decision to pull down Pendley’s nomination was a political one and not a policy one.”
Read more on the surprising reversal here.
ON TAP TOMORROW:
The Democratic National Committee Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis will have a 2-hour virtual event Tuesday as part of official DNC convention programming. Speakers are expected to include Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeHarris climate agenda stresses need for justice OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Why a rising star is leaving Congress MORE, Minnesota Attorney General Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonOmar seeks to fend off late surge from primary challenger Republican lawmakers say Minnesota mask order violates state law against hiding identity Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE and former presidential candidate Tom SteyerTom SteyerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling | California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump | Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Steyer endorses reparations bill, commits to working with Jackson Lee MORE.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Trump whisperer Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonFauci dismisses Tucker Carlson’s criticism but says it may inspire threats from ‘crazies’ Defamation lawsuit filed against QAnon GOP primary winner, stepmother of officer involved in Rayshard Brooks killing Tucker Carlson responds to guest correcting pronunciation of Kamala Harris’s name: ‘So what?’ MORE takes on Pebble mine, E&E News reports
Mauritius copes with split Japanese ship that spilled oil, The Associated Press reports
Watchdogs criticize EPA’s move to approve air quality around Ameren’s biggest coal plant, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports
ICYMI: Stories from Monday…
Biden’s climate fight is just beginning
Death Valley records highest temperature in US in 107 years
Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling
Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment
Human rights experts band together to monitor Chevron foe’s criminal trial
Texas Democrat: US natural gas vital in transition to renewables
California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump