IT’S MONDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.
ONWARD AT ANWR: The Trump administration is advancing oil exploration at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in a move critics see as an attempt to lock in drilling before President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: US ‘adversaries have seen us weakened’ US sees 1M new coronavirus cases in one week GOP shows limited appetite for pursuing Biden probes MORE takes office in January.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska state office on Tuesday will publish a “call for nominations” seeking input on which pieces of land should be leased for drilling.
The call describes an “upcoming Coastal Plain (CP) Oil and Gas Lease Sale” although it does not specify when the sale will take place.
Environmentalists argue the Trump administration is trying to rush through lease sales that are opposed by Biden, making it harder for him to reverse drilling plans there after he takes office.
The federal government is slated to hold a lease sale in ANWR by Dec. 22, 2021, and another by Dec. 22, 2024, under a provision in Trump’s 2017 tax law.
However, Biden has pledged to “permanently protect” ANWR and has also said his administration won’t allow new permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands and in public waters in general.
Bloomberg first reported on Friday that the call for nominations would occur.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration finalized the decision to open up the entire 1.56 million acre CP area to leasing.
The move was praised by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as an opportunity that could “create thousands of new jobs and generate tens of billions of dollars.”
Opponents, however, have raised concerns that drilling could harm animal species found there, negatively affect the landscape, exacerbate climate change and negatively impact the Gwich’in people who hunt caribou there.
ANWR is home to a variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, polar bears, gray wolves and more than 200 species of birds.
Read more about the development here.
GOT YOUR BACK: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is backing fellow committee member Deb HaalandDebra HaalandDeb Haaland says ‘of course’ she would serve as Interior secretary under Biden OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior shortlist puts focus on New Mexico lawmakers | Progressives criticize Biden transition over volunteer who represented Exxon | Trump DOJ appointees stalled investigation into Zinke: report Progressives unveil Biden Cabinet wish list MORE (D-N.M.) as the Biden campaign considers nominating her to be the next secretary of the Interior.
Grijalva, who had himself been recommended for the top Interior position by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, shared a letter with members Monday saying he is no longer interested in the role, preferring to continue his work through his chairmanship.
Instead, he urged committee members to put their weight behind Haaland, who would make history as the first-ever Native American Interior secretary.
“It is well past time that an Indigenous person brings history full circle at the Department of Interior. As her colleague on the Natural Resources Committee, I have seen first-hand the passion and dedication she puts into these issues at the forefront of the Interior Department from tackling the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women to crafting thoughtful solutions to combating the climate crisis using America’s public lands,” Grijalva wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.
“It should go without saying, Rep. Haaland is absolutely qualified to do the job,” he added.
For Haaland, the backing of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus could be significant, particularly as the Democratic Party looks for ways to address faltering support from key demographics, including Latinos.
It could also help Haaland compete against outgoing Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior shortlist puts focus on New Mexico lawmakers | Progressives criticize Biden transition over volunteer who represented Exxon | Trump DOJ appointees stalled investigation into Zinke: report Interior shortlist puts focus on New Mexico lawmakers, tribal issues MORE (D-N.M.) who is also being considered for the job.
Read more about Grijalva’s endorsement here.
GET ENERGIZED: Several former Obama-era energy officials are seen as top contenders to lead the Energy Department in the incoming administration as President-elect Joe Biden pulls together names for his Cabinet.
Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by UAE – US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down Obama alumni considered top picks for Biden Energy secretary OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance MORE, who held the role in the final years of the Obama administration, is seen as a prime contender for the post, while his former deputy, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, has also been floated.
Another name that’s been circulated for the position is Arun Majumdar, the founding director of an energy research agency during the Obama years who is now on the Biden-Harris transition team.
Regardless of who takes the helm of the agency, Biden’s energy policy is expected to have a greater focus on climate than President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhitmer responds to Atlas: I won’t ‘be bullied into not following reputable scientists’ Obama: US ‘adversaries have seen us weakened’ Obama describes wife Michelle’s resistance to presidential ambitions MORE‘s.
So tell me a little more about….
Moniz: Moniz held the Energy secretary role from 2013 to 2017 and worked to implement what he’s described as an “all of the above” energy strategy that backed both fossil fuels and renewable energy.
Moniz, a nuclear physicist, also helped broker the Iran nuclear deal. After leaving the department in 2017, he founded the Energy Futures Initiative, a nonprofit focused on energy innovation.
Sherwood-Randall: Sherwood-Randall served as the deputy Energy secretary from 2014 to 2017, where she had leadership over the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for the country’s nuclear weapons and she’s worked to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Choosing Sherwood-Randall could indicate that Biden seeks to focus the agency — which has a broad portfolio that includes both domestic and foreign policy issues — on defense and diplomacy.
Majumdar: Majumdar, was the founding director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which researches new energy technology. He also served as acting under secretary of Energy and had leadership over the offices relating to renewable, nuclear and fossil fuel energy as well as electricity delivery.
Majumdar is currently part of the Biden-Harris transition, and is leading the team that’s in charge of reviewing operations at the Energy Department.
Read more about the potential energy picks here.
…OR MAYBE NOT SO ENERGIZED: A coalition of more than 70 groups, including progressive and environmental organizations, are urging President-elect Joe Biden not to include a former Energy secretary who served with him under President Obama in his incoming administration.
The groups’ opposition to Ernest Moniz, who is seen as a leading contender to reprise his role as the nation’s top energy official, stems from connections to the fossil fuel industry and his positions on fossil fuels.
“During the campaign, we applauded your commitment to restore trust in government and to address the climate emergency, environmental injustice, and the array of other crises that working families and communities face today,” the groups wrote in a letter on Monday. “Therefore, we are writing to urge you to commit to ensuring Ernest Moniz holds no public or private role, whether formal or informal, in your transition team, cabinet, or administration.”
Read more about the letter here.
WE WON’T BE TAKING QUESTIONS AT THIS TIME/EVER: In one of his first acts as chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) James Danly relayed that he will not be taking questions from the media.
“At his discretion, Chairman Danly will not be conducting any media briefings and interviews,” the commission’s press shop wrote in a note to reporters before noting that Danly sees the role as being akin to that of a judge.
“Chairman Danly views his FERC role as that of an adjudicator; therefore he will not be conducting briefings or any meetings with the news media.”
Danly, the commission’s newest member who joined in March, took over as chair after Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeHeads roll as Trump launches post-election purge Trump races clock on remaining environmental rollbacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House removes leader of major climate report | Trump administration faces suit over removal of endangered species protections for gray wolves MORE was demoted from the top slot by President Trump. The generally media-accessible Chatterjee has not gone quietly, penning a Facebook post about the shakeup.
And speaking of FERC…
On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on whether to advance the nominations of Democrat Allison Clements and Republican Mark Christie as FERC commissioners.
ON TAP TOMORROW:
- The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing titled “Ocean Climate Action: Solutions to the Climate Crisis
OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY:
Shingle Mountain: How a pile of toxic pollution was dumped in a community of color, The Washington Post reports
Global treaty to tackle plastic pollution gains steam without US and UK, The Guardian reports
State climate action unlikely after Democrats fail to flip statehouses, Stateline reports
Top U.S. Interior Department contender eyes renewable energy expansion on public land, Reuters reports
ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend…
Bezos makes first donations from $10 billion Earth Fund
Scientist questioning ties between climate and extreme weather to oversee critical program: report
Progressives urge Biden away from including Obama energy secretary in administration
Grijalva backs Haaland for Interior Secretary
Trump takes major step toward Alaska wildlife refuge drilling opposed by Biden
Obama alumni considered top picks for Biden Energy secretary