Jacob Holzman

A Trump administration review of mining bans has green groups worried
Environmental groups say they worry the report could give the White House a rationale for opening federal lands to new mineral extraction

A Commerce Department report about U.S. reliance on foreign sources of minerals deemed essential for national security has stirred fears among environmental groups that the Trump administration may lift existing bans on new mining claims on public lands, including sites near the Grand Canyon.

Commerce recommended in the report released Tuesday that the Interior and Agriculture Departments complete a “thorough review” of all such bans — also called withdrawals — and develop “appropriate measures to reduce unnecessary impacts that they may have on mineral exploration, development and other activities.”

Interior Department policy let political appointees review FOIA requests
So-called awareness review process could expose department to legal action

The Interior Department has for about a year allowed political appointees to weigh in on which federal records are released to the public, creating delays that could violate open records law and expose the department to legal action.

“If political officials are becoming involved in the process and as a result of that causes the agency to not comply with its obligations” under the Freedom of Information Act, “that is a serious problem,” said Adam Marshall, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

Interior head: ‘I Haven't Lost Any Sleep’ over record carbon levels
David Bernhardt’s comment came during what was supposed to be a hearing about the department’s fiscal 2020 budget request

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told a House committee Wednesday that he hasn’t “lost any sleep” over record levels of global emissions of climate-changing carbon emissions.

His comment came during what was supposed to be a hearing about the department’s fiscal 2020 budget request. But some of the questions from Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee focused on his handling of climate issues. Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, was pressed to explain how climate could factor into future land management decisions.

Paris climate bill will send a message and test Republicans
The vote fulfills a Democratic priority, and may reveal if GOP members will vote for a measure contradicting administration policy

As the House votes Thursday on legislation to stop President Donald Trump from pulling the nation out of the Paris climate agreement, debate in the chamber Wednesday centered on whether the deal would hurt or help the economy.

While the bill has nearly zero chance of passing in the Republican-held Senate and Trump has threatened to veto it if it reaches his desk, it’s a legislative priority for House Democrats who say the administration does not take climate change seriously and has missed opportunities to boost energy industries that produce fewer carbon emissions like wind and solar power.

Road ahead: More on the Mueller report; floor action on Paris bill, nominations
Oversight matters will get most attention post-Mueller but House and Senate proceeding with normal business too

Two days of testimony from Attorney General William Barr on the 448-page report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will largely define Congress’ return from its two-week recess, with the House and Senate heading in different directions. 

Senate Republicans, who will hear from Barr first on Wednesday, feel Mueller’s report is the appropriate conclusion to years of investigations into allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election and that the president himself attempted to obstruct those investigations.

EPA draft groundwater rules disappoint clean water advocates
The proposed draft cleanup standards released Thursday were criticized as too weak by advocates

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed draft cleanup standards Thursday for groundwater contaminated by so-called forever chemicals, but advocates who urged the adoption of such standards said they were too weak.

The proposal addresses PFAS compounds, which are so slow to degrade they’ve been nicknamed forever chemicals.

Offshore drilling ban proposed by bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers
The ban would bar oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coasts and request the Coast Guard to identify areas that risk oil spills

A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers introduced a measure to permanently ban drilling off their coast, the latest sign resistance may be swift among coastal Republicans if the administration tries to open their states’ waters to oil and gas exploration.

The legislation introduced Monday by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., would bar oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coasts and call on the Coast Guard to determine what areas face heightened risk from oil spills. It was introduced with support from Republican Reps. Vern Buchanan and Matt Gaetz, a close ally of President Donald Trump.

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

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, 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

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 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

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.

Offshore drilling may be oily albatross for Trump’s pick to head Interior
Bernhardt’s nomination may face opposition in the Senate from coastal Republicans wary of oil spills

President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Interior Department, former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt, will almost certainly be advanced by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which holds his confirmation hearing Thursday morning.

However, just days after the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Bernhardt’s nomination may face opposition in the Senate from coastal Republicans wary of similar disasters playing out in their states.

Expect offshore drilling to play role in next week’s Interior secretary confirmation
The increased focus all but assures the plan will be part of Bernhardt’s confirmation next Thursday

Democrats are pressuring acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to release the department’s updated plan for opening the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling, foreshadowing an increased focus on a proposal opposed by lawmakers of both parties.

In a letter sent Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, of New York, and 16 other Democratic senators asked Bernhardt to release details about the department’s draft five-year oil and gas leasing program for the Outer Continental Shelf, including which states will be included in the next version of the proposal.

Conservatives back proposed gray wolf delisting as green groups howl
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said gray wolf populations recovered significantly after nearly disappearing

The Department of Interior moved on Thursday to remove gray wolves from federal protection, pleasing congressional Republicans and rankling environmental organizations that plan to fight the decision in court.

“Glad to see it,” Montana Sen. Steve Daines who like many western Republicans supports less federal control over at-risk species, told CQ. “Any time we can move a species off the endangered species list should be a victory.”

Seeking to shrink Bears Ears, uranium firm met with Interior before review
House panel plans oversight hearing on monuments next week

A meeting between an Interior Department official and a company tied to mineral interests in the Bears Ears National Monument area — almost a month before President Donald Trump requested a review that substantially reduced its boundaries — may end up in the crosshairs of House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva.

Documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian energy firm, met with a top Interior official who would be involved with the review before Trump requested it.

These toxins last ‘forever.’ But the EPA is going slow
PFAS were used for decades to make cookware, microwave popcorn bags, carpeting, rainwear and shoes

When two officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality showed up at Sandy Wynn-Stelt’s Belmont, Michigan, house in July of 2017 asking to test her private water well, she didn’t anticipate trouble.

So she was stunned when they discovered incredibly high levels of a class of chemicals that are raising serious pollution and health concerns as communities around the country discover their water is contaminated with them.

Some GOP lawmakers are thawing on climate change
‘There are some things I’m willing to look at,’ said House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows

Congressional Republicans seem to be thawing on climate.

Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who has denied the science behind climate change, told reporters Wednesday he was open to confront the peril of the warming planet.

Henry Cuellar says liberals targeting him don’t understand his district
Texas congressman says his polling shows his Democratic constituents are moderates

Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar said Friday that the liberal Democrats recruiting primary challengers against him are in for a rude awakening. 

The Washington Post first reported that Justice Democrats, a group targeting sitting Democratic lawmakers, launched a fund to support a primary challenge against Cuellar, one of the more conservative House Democrats.

Email dump could slow EPA confirmation fight
Shutdown throws a wrench in court-ordered document release related to potential conflicts of interest

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has been formally nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency, setting up a contentious confirmation fight just as a court order threatens the release of over 20,000 emails related to his potential conflicts of interest.

The White House on Wednesday formally sent Wheeler’s nomination to the Senate, triggering the start of the process. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, was confirmed to be the agency’s deputy in April 2018 and became acting administrator in July after the departure of scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt, who resigned from the top post amid mounting ethics issues.