Jacob Holzman

Interior moves to speed energy development on formerly protected Utah land
Plans pave way for areas removed from national monuments to be made available for logging, drilling, mining

President Donald Trump drew the ire of tribes and environmentalists when he issued proclamations in December 2017 significantly reducing the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, two sites designated by previous Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama

[Obama declares Bears Ears national monument while Utah lawmakers pledge fight]

Trump administration proposal would ease environmental impact reviews for federal projects
Proposal raises stakes for environmentalists fearful of what changes could mean for efforts to combat climate change

The Trump administration proposed sweeping changes to how the government reviews the environmental impacts of infrastructure projects, a move that could put President Donald Trump’s energy and transportation policy ambitions on a glide path should he win re-election. ...
Agency: No cause to review Trump Jr. hunting adventure
The president's son reportedly bagged a rare sheep in Mongolia and got permits after the fact

There is “no basis” to further review allegations Donald Trump Jr. may have illegally hunted an imperiled wild sheep in Mongolia over the summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday.

The agency had been "in the process of reviewing" concerns raised by an environmental group earlier this week after ProPublica reported Trump Jr. killed a rare argali sheep while visiting Mongolia. 

Agency says it will review Trump Jr.’s sheep hunt in Mongolia
President’s son accused of illegally killed rare sheep and importing parts of the animal back to the U.S.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will review allegations that Donald Trump Jr., may have illegally killed a rare sheep during a recent trip to Mongolia and imported parts of the animal back to the U.S.

Animal conservation activists said President Donald Trump's eldest son may have violated a federal wildlife anti-trafficking law after ProPublica reported last week that he shot and killed an argali sheep without proper permits during a personal trip in August. The Mongolian government issued a permit for hunting the sheep after the fact, and it’s unclear what happened to the animal after it was killed, according to the report.

California water politics complicate House panel’s oversight
Natural Resources chairman wants to investigate Interior secretary’s role in water allocation report that benefited a committee member’s district

House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to send more water to his district.

Costa told CQ Roll Call he’s not sure he can support giving Grijalva such unlimited subpoena authority. Costa said he discussed the matter with the chairman, who plans a committee vote on the question in January, and said he’d support a “specific subpoena” in the panel’s current investigation into the Bureau of Land Management headquarters relocation. 

EPA IG: Top official illegally blocked interference probe
Administrator's chief of staff refused to provide information sought by the agency's Office of Inspector General. The agency said the action was within the law

The EPA Administrator’s chief of staff illegally blocked an inspector general’s investigation into whether he interfered with a private citizen’s testimony before Congress, the agency’s internal watchdog said Tuesday.

In a response appended to the IG’s report, the agency disputed any wrongdoing by the staff chief, Ryan Jackson, contending that he reviewed the individual’s testimony in a manner “consistent” with past practices. An agency spokeswoman called the report “hyperbolic.”

Conservationists: Interior ignores court order on sage grouse protection
Judge had ordered agency to use Obama-era rules that Trump tried to weaken to allow oil and gas drilling on sage grouse habitat

The Interior Department is offering leases to drill for oil and gas in greater sage grouse habitat using a species conservation plan nullified by a federal court last month for being too weak, according to conservation advocates.

The agency is supposed to be adhering to an Oct. 16 order by a federal judge in Idaho who temporarily suspended the Bureau of Land Management’s latest sage grouse conservation plan, which removed protections for the species on millions of acres across the West. The ruling effectively put back into effect plans written under the Obama administration for protecting the bird from increased habitat destruction by wildfires and energy development. 

Interior nears a contract with a company its secretary used to lobby for
Conservation groups fear water deal will be a hazard for protected salmon and other aquatic life

The Interior Department is close to completing a permanent water supply contract for a water district once represented by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as a lobbyist, despite concerns that doing so would imperil aquatic species including endangered salmon. 

Conservation groups say the deal between the Interior Department and the Westlands Water District, which serves and is run by farmers in California’s Central Valley, promises to permanently divert more federally managed water to the district just as climate change threatens to make the state hotter and more prone to extreme drought.

Manchin backs FERC nominee despite Schumer’s opposition
W.Va. Democrat’s support should all but clear the way for a precedent-breaking confirmation

Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking Democrat Joe Manchin III said he will support President Donald Trump’s pick to fill a vacant Republican seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission even though the White House has yet to nominate a member for a vacant Democratic seat.

The West Virginia senator’s support should all but clear the way for a precedent-breaking confirmation, despite opposition from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Democrats’ Bernhardt probe has California’s Cox in a tough spot
His committee thinks Interior secretary may have improperly intervened in decision to send water to Democrat’s farming constituents

A draft report by the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded in July that giving farmers in California’s Central Valley more water would harm salmon, steelhead trout and killer whales.

But after the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service intervened, the final report, released on Oct. 22, reached a new conclusion: The government could maximize water deliveries and protect the fish at the same time.

As states legalize marijuana, pesticides may be a blind spot
Without EPA guidance for states to follow, pot users may be exposed to unknown harms

People who consume marijuana medically or recreationally may be exposing themselves to unknown health risks from toxic pesticides.

The EPA would ordinarily evaluate pesticide safety but has never done so for marijuana because the plant is illegal under federal law. So, states with legalized marijuana industries have been tasking newly created cannabis regulators, health officials and others with setting testing standards for pesticide residues present on the plant.

Trump administration to allow energy development in Utah former national monument
House Natural Resources chairman calls the move ‘a shameless giveaway campaign’

The Bureau of Land Management acknowledged Friday it plans to open a large portion of land in Utah — which the federal government until recently considered a national monument — to future oil, gas and mining projects.

At the urging of local and state officials as well as industry groups, President Donald Trump in 2017 shrank the size of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to 1 million acres from the 1.9 million acres it was when President Bill Clinton established it.

GOP members confirm Bernhardt met with group tied to ex-client
Democrats might be focusing on meetings and calls kept off Interior secretary’s official calendar

Republicans on two House committees probing Interior Secretary David Bernhardt acknowledged in a report Thursday that the attorney and former energy lobbyist appeared to have met with the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, a trade group affiliated with a former Bernhardt client.

The joint report from Republican staff on the House Oversight and Reform, and Natural Resources committees also said ethics officials at the Interior Department approved the meeting with the trade group. The report, by acknowledging the meeting, may also indicate where the majority Democrats are focusing their examination into whether Bernhardt kept phone calls and meetings with industry representatives and groups off his public calendar.

Wyden aims to stunt lead Interior attorney confirmation, cites records policy
Wyden cites newly-released documents the senator said show Jorjani deceived the committee during his confirmation

Sen. Ron Wyden said he will block any unanimous consent motion to confirm President Donald Trump’s choice for lead attorney at the Interior Department, asserting the nominee lied about his role implementing a policy that has allowed political appointees to screen public records requests.

The hold announced Wednesday by Wyden, who sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would force the Senate to take a roll call vote on the nomination of Daniel Jorjani to be the department’s solicitor, a vote that could be passed by the nominee’s Republican supporters with a simple majority.

Interior held back FOIA’d documents after political screenings
Watchdog: ‘Are there bad actors at these agencies that are willfully ignoring the law?’

Documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act were withheld by the Interior Department under a practice that allowed political appointees to review the requests, internal emails and memos show.

The policy allowed high-ranking officials to screen documents sought by news organizations, advocacy groups and whistleblowers, including files set to be released under court deadlines. In some cases, the documents’ release was merely delayed. In other cases, documents were withheld after the reviews.

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.