environment

Bernhardt’s office acknowledges meetings left off schedule
Interior also confirms secretary’s staff regularly overwrites his personal itinerary

House Democrats have said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt could be running afoul of federal records laws. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Interior Department has acknowledged that Secretary David Bernhardt’s staff intentionally left controversial meetings with representatives of fossil fuel, timber and water interests off his public calendar, citing “internal protocol” governing his schedules.

The department also confirmed that Bernhardt used a personal itinerary kept on a single Google document that was regularly overwritten by his scheduling staff and said he is still doing so as House Democrats probe whether the practice adheres to federal records laws.

Interior Secretary Bernhardt under investigation by inspector general
Democrats and watchdog groups have alleged ‘potential conflicts of interest and other violations’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was confirmed by the Senate last week by a vote of 56-41. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, is under investigation by his agency’s inspector general over “potential conflicts of interest and other violations,” an agency official said Monday.

In an April 15 letter to Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, Interior Department deputy inspector general Mary Kendall said her office opened an investigation into Bernhardt following at least seven complaints from Democratic lawmakers and independent watchdogs alleging the conflicts and other violations.

Bernhardt nears confirmation, but Capitol Hill isn’t finished with him
Grijalva wants acting Interior chief to testify on at least two different oversight probes

David Bernhardt appears likely to be confirmed as Interior secretary this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt will likely be confirmed in the Senate by a comfortable margin this week — but that could be his easiest day on Capitol Hill for a while.

The Senate voted 56-41 Wednesday evening to end debate on the nomination after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier in the day that he expected the chamber to be “voting to confirm” Bernhardt “later this week.” And while some coastal Republicans have raised concerns about the Interior Department’s plans for opening all U.S. coasts to oil and gas drilling, there doesn’t appear to be enough GOP opposition to derail confirmation.

Kerry, Hagel rip Trump’s climate policies, and battle Republicans on House panel
“Are you serious? I mean this is really, a serious, happening here?” ex-SoS says at hearing

Former Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., left, and John Kerry, D-Mass., testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday . (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered a scathing rebuke of President Donald Trump’s climate change policies to lawmakers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

But while they were there Tuesday, both men also had to tussle with the panel’s conservative firebrands who said fears of climate change were “alarmist notions” and repeatedly challenged Kerry and Hagel on whether they were qualified to talk about the subject.

Newly disclosed meetings with industry create ethics questions for Interior secretary
Lawmakers interested interior secretary’s calendars because of former career as energy lobbyist

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s daily schedules have some interesting entries. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Recently posted versions of acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s daily schedules contain at least 260 differences from his original schedules, with the newest records showing meetings previously described as “external” or “internal” were actually with representatives of fossil fuel, timber, mining and other industries, according to a review by CQ Roll Call.

Events left out of the original calendars but now disclosed or detailed further include a keynote address at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for the industry group Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, encounters with executives at Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell, and a meeting with the chairman of a conservative group Bernhardt previously represented in litigation that environmentalists believe was geared toward weakening the Endangered Species Act.

Chinese President Xi isn’t headed to Mar-a-Lago for a trade summit just yet
‘If we have a deal, we’ll have a summit,’ Trump says

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office on Feb. 22. The senior Chinese official was back there Thursday to discuss a possible trade deal as talks between the two countries continue. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

Chinese President Xi Jinping isn’t headed to Donald Trump’s ornate Mar-a-Lago property just yet to talk trade.

The U.S. president told reporters Thursday afternoon he is not ready to invite the Chinese leader to his South Florida resort to try and finalize a trade pact because the two economic giants are not close enough to an agreement to bring in — in baseball terms — the closers.

An overeager legal strategy may endanger Trump’s energy goals
In haste to pass its “energy dominance” agenda, the administration has suffered dozens of losses in court

Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and ranking member Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are seen before a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on “electricity sector in a changing climate” on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was unhappy with an April 5 ruling by Sharon Gleason, a federal judge in Anchorage, Alaska, who found that President Donald Trump had unlawfully lifted a ban prohibiting drilling in the Arctic Ocean, dealing the president’s fossil-fuel energy agenda a major blow.

“I strongly disagree with this ruling,” said Murkowski, who wants to open her state’s land and water to increased oil and gas leasing. “I expect this decision to be appealed and ultimately overturned.”

Gaetz is trying to sell AOC on a ‘Green Real Deal’ but progressives aren’t buying it
Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions helped draft the proposal

Rep. Matt Gaetz, F-Fla., conducts a news conference at the House Triangle to unveil climate change legislation the Green Real Deal, on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced the Green Real Deal on Wednesday, a competing resolution to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, a sign the ambitious plan to combat climate change championed by the Democratic star has convinced some in the Republican Caucus of the need for a conservative counterproposal.

“History will judge harshly my colleagues who deny the science of climate change, and similarly those Democrats who would use climate change as an excuse to regulate the American experience out of existence,” the Florida Republican said at a news conference outside the Capitol.

Cherry blossoms in winter? Global warming could make it happen
Peak bloom — and cherry blossom gawking — coming earlier and earlier

Cherry blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin in Washington on Sunday. The cherry blossoms hit their peak bloom Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Washington’s iconic white wreath of cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin has reached its fullest, following a trend of earlier and earlier blooms.

Despite some chilly days in March, the National Weather Service announced Monday that the trees were at peak bloom — meaning 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees were in blossom. Researchers found the average timing of peak bloom had shifted nearly a week since the trees were planted in 1912, and believe peak blooms could one day occur during the tail end of winter, not the beginning of spring.

2020 Democrats go silent after Senate’s Green New Deal debacle
To quote John McEnroe: ‘You cannot be serious!’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other 2020 Democratic hopefuls had been touting Sen. Edward J. Markey’s Green New Deal for months before they whiffed when it came time to vote, Winston writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — In the awkward aftermath of the Green New Deal’s rollout, perhaps the most appropriate question for its supporters, especially the Democratic presidential field, is one often posed by tennis bad boy John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!”

But, apparently, when New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey introduced their proposal in February, they were deadly serious, and breathless progressives couldn’t wait to hop aboard the climate change express. First in line, the Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate who were eager to offer up their enthusiastic support.