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BISHOP BLASTS ‘FAKE’ CRITICISMS OF NATIONAL MONUMENTS CRACKDOWN: Rep. Rob Bishop, the chief congressional backstop and encourager of President Trump’s rollback of national monuments, said the president’s moves are being mischaracterized by opponents.

‘It’s a lie’: “We can only overcome it with the truth,” Bishop told the Washington Examiner in a recent interview. “The reality is this was never about conservation versus development. Interest groups who claim to be environmentalists are always making pictures of oil rigs and oil wells drilling on these areas. That is a false narrative and it’s a fake issue. We are taking that narrative off the table and we are simply saying it’s a lie.”

Snip, snip: Trump on Dec. 4 signed a proclamation cutting the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also shrunk in half the 1.86 million Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, and he is considering reducing the size of two more monuments and changing how six others are managed.

Multiple environmental groups and Native American tribes have sued the Trump administration over the moves, arguing the president acted beyond his power.

Fighting legal challenges: Bishop, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, argues the president can undo national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act exactly how he can make them.

Shining moment: Utah Republicans introduced legislation a day after Trump’s announcement to enshrine into law the proposed changes to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.

In a direct response to critics, the bill for Bears Ears, authored by Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, bars mining and drilling in the new monument area as well as in the land that was covered before Trump altered the boundaries.

Bishop said his committee will host a hearing on the Bears Ears bill during the second week of January.

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FIGHT NOT OVER ON ARCTIC DRILLING: Democrats are preparing a plan to stop drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a measure included in the tax reform legislation that is almost through Congress.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., promised to “take the fight to the American people,” during a conference call Wednesday with fellow Democrats and conservationists to announce their strategy to combat the tax bill’s drilling measures as a new phase in what they called an ongoing struggle.

Last night’s vote was “disappointing,” but it “doesn’t mean this fight is over,” said Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Democrats in Congress will do that primarily through their “oversight role” to make sure Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “does not skirt” his responsibility in conducting environmental reviews, as environmental and conservation groups go to court, Cantwell said.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., added that the vote was an “abomination” that will go to the courts and will play itself out in next year’s election. He predicted that environmental issues will be central during the mid-term elections, where the issue of drilling in the Arctic will drive voters to oppose Republicans.

Meanwhile, Republicans are claiming victory in their "multigenerational fight" to open up oil drilling in the Arctic refuge.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called it the “single most important step" for energy independence and wealth creation in the country.

The Senate voted on the tax bill Tuesday night before it went back to the House for a revote on Wednesday morning and then to President Trump.

The energy measure would allow for limited drilling in the 1002 section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Murkowski's home state.

FRACKERS PUSH BACK AGAINST NEED FOR METHANE REGULATIONS WITH NEW REPORT: Methane emissions have been on a steady decline since 2011, according to an industry-funded report released Wednesday that looks to rebuff activists’ claims that oil and natural gas production from fracking is raising methane emissions and exacerbating climate change.

Methane emissions across the country dropped between 2011 to 2016, even as oil and natural gas production increased significantly, according to Seth Whitehead, author of the new report from Energy In Depth reviewed by the Washington Examiner ahead of its release.

The industry has been trying to get across the idea that companies can cut emissions voluntarily, as environmental groups head to court to sue the Trump administration for rolling back the Obama administration’s suite of methane rules targeting fracking.

Methane is a potent, but short-lived greenhouse gas that many scientists say is causing the global temperature of the Earth to warm.

The report uses greenhouse gas reporting data from the Environmental Protection Agency to debunk anti-fossil fuel activists with the “Keep It In the Ground” movement, who “claim that fracking is driving global methane emissions and exacerbating climate change,” according to the report.

“It also demonstrates that voluntary emission reduction efforts have been effective,” Whitehead said, countering the activists’ “narrative that sweeping federal regulations are necessary to reduce methane emissions.”

Core findings: Methane emissions from major onshore oil and natural gas production facilities fell by nearly 14 million metric tons between 2011 and 2016. Oil and natural gas production rose 54 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in the same period.

The report follows the announcement by Shell and the American Petroleum Institute to promote industry efforts to curtail methane emissions, which they argue has been more effective than regulation.

GROUPS SUE TRUMP FOR HALTING OBAMA METHANE RULE: A coalition of environmental and tribal groups sued the Trump administration Tuesday for suspending a 2016 Obama-era rule intended to cut methane emissions from natural gas drilling on public land.

What’s in the delay: The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management this month announced a two-year delay in implementing the Obama administration’s rule.

The rule requires oil and natural gas operations on public lands to capture natural gas that is leaked, vented or flared. The Republican-controlled Senate failed in May to repeal the rule.

Attorneys general also sue: Later Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sued the Bureau of Land Management for delaying the Obama rule.

INDUSTRY FEARS CONGRESS, TRUMP COULD GO TOO FAR ON ENERGY EXPORTS: Not all businesses are thrilled with Trump’s plan to ship more of America’s energy resources overseas, saying the moves could erode the U.S.’s competitive advantage and drive companies away.   

That is why a major industry group is opposing a new Republican-backed bill in the House that would speed up Trump’s energy dominance vision.

New House bill: The bill introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, a top fracking proponent, would strip consumer protections to allow the U.S. to ship more natural gas to countries that do not have a free-trade agreement with the U.S.

But the Industrial Energy Consumers of America says the bill could erode America’s competitive advantage while rewarding countries that do not abide by America’s free-trade principles.

Industry fears higher prices: The members of the energy group, which include big natural gas users such as Dow and Dupont, want to keep natural gas prices low and fear that the Trump agenda and measures like Johnson’s will only drive up prices faster, thereby making large energy-intensive industries less competitive.

Paul Cicio, the group’s president, sent Johnson a letter Wednesday morning attempting to persuade him not to move ahead with the bill.

Export rules harmful enough: Cicio said the Energy Department already has the authority to ship to both free-trade and non-free trade agreement nations, which is harmful enough to energy prices. Increasing the amount of natural gas that can go to non-free trade countries would make the U.S. less competitive.

“Many [non-free trade agreement] countries subsidize energy to their manufacturing sectors and this results in unfair competition for U.S. manufacturing,” Cicio said.

“In the long-term, if domestic natural gas prices rise to global levels, the U.S. will have lost its competitive advantage,” he wrote. “The incentive to invest in the U.S. would be gone and onshoring would stop. We urge you to not act upon this legislation.”  

PATAGONIA OWNER REJECTS ‘DISINGENUOUS’ INVITE TO TESTIFY FOR BISHOP: The founder and owner of outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia rejected an invitation from Bishop to testify before his committee to talk about the company’s opposition to Trump’s rollback of two national monuments in Utah.

‘Orwellian’: Yvon Chouinard, in a biting letter to the Utah Republican on Tuesday, called the invite “disingenuous” and pointless and accused the Natural Resources Committee of acting in cahoots with an “Orwellian government” at the behest of the energy industry.

“I find it disingenuous that after unethically using taxpayers’ resources to call us liars, you would ask me to testify in front of a committee for a matter already decided by the administration and applauded by the Utah delegation just a week ago, a macabre celebration of the largest reduction in public lands in American history,” Chouinard said.

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT REIMBURSED FOR ZINKE VIRGIN ISLANDS FUNDRAISER: The Virgin Islands Republican Party reimbursed the Interior Department for Zinke’s participation in a fundraiser on the island in the spring, according to a report Tuesday.

Small sum, big stakes: The party repaid Interior $275 for expenses related to Zinke’s appearance, in which donors paid up to $5,000 per couple for a photo with the secretary, Politico reported.

The reimbursement, while small, may protect Zinke against accusations he violated the Hatch Act, which prevents government officials from mixing politics and official business.

More to come? The Virgin Islands fundraiser is Zinke’s only political event so far for which the Interior Department has received reimbursement.

Zinke is under investigation by the department's inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel for mixing business and political travel.

EPA’S PRUITT RACKS UP $9,000 BILL FOR BIOMETRIC DOOR LOCKS, SURVEILLANCE SWEEPS: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent $9,000 in taxpayer funds to have his office swept for surveillance bugs, while installing specialized biometric locks on his office doors.

The Associated Press reported the new cost Tuesday after Monday's revelations that the EPA had paid Edwin Steinmetz Associates $3,000 in April to conduct the bug sweep.

Biometric locks that require a person's fingerprint to gain access were installed earlier in the year and were spread over two purchases of $3,390 and $2,495.

The agency defended the contracts by saying Pruitt has had multiple death threats, while pointing out that the decisions were taken by EPA security services and not Pruitt himself.

RUNDOWN

New York Times After 16 years, hopes for Cape Cod wind farm float away

Reuters Nebraska regulators deny TransCanada request on Keystone XL route

Washington Post Zinke wants to expand critical minerals production

Bloomberg Putin’s Mr. OPEC becomes an oil market player

Wall Street Journal Oil glut makes Alaska reserves less attractive to drillers

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Judge rejects challenge to Pa. natural gas royalty cheating case

Baltimore Sun Maryland green energy projects encounter headwinds from worried neighbors

New York Times EPA delays bans on uses of hazardous chemicals



Calendar

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 20

11 a.m.,1000 Independence Ave. SW. The Energy Department, the Homeland Security Department, the Patent and Trademark Office, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Veterans Affairs Department hold the Fourth Annual Interagency Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Volunteer Fair.

eventbrite.com/e/4th-annual-interagency-stem-volunteer-fair-tickets-38970023389?aff=es

House re-votes on the tax reform legislation, which includes several energy measures.

THURSDAY, DEC. 21

9 a.m., Georgia. The Georgia Public Service Commission will decide whether to allow construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Plant Vogtle site to proceed or to call for the cancellation of the project.

psc.state.ga.us/GetNewsRecordAttachment.aspx?ID=750

FRIDAY | DEC. 22

Deadline for Congress to pass a government spending bill before funding runs out.