January 25, 2021


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Biden Interior could boost tribes, greens

With help from Annie Snider and Eric Wolff

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As President-elect Joe Biden fills out the top roles in his administration, Native American tribes and environmental groups hope his Interior Department could build on the alliances they’ve formed to fight pipelines and promote conservation.

Biden formally introduced the first members of his incoming administration Tuesday in remarks that called for boosting international efforts to combat climate change as well as renewed domestic commitments.

The transition team has begun meeting with agency officials following the General Services Administration’s acknowledgment that Biden won the election.

WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY! I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino, wishing you a happy Thanksgiving holiday! Entergy’s Rob Hall gets the trivia win. Drumstick was the first turkey pardoned under President Donald Trump in 2017. For today: Which president tried to move the date of Thanksgiving? Send your tips and trivia answers to [email protected].

Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast — all the energy and environmental politics and policy news you need to start your day, in just five minutes. Listen and subscribe for free at politico.com/energy-podcast. On today’s episode: What tribal nations hope for from Biden

BIDEN’S INTERIOR COULD BOOST TRIBES, GREENS: Biden has named a team of experts for the transition at the Interior Department who have worked at the intersection of tribal rights and public lands. New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo people, is being vetted for a possible nomination to lead the department, which, if successful, would make her the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

Both actions, as well as the Biden administration’s plan on tribal nations, signal an incoming administration that will tap into the budding alliance between Native and green groups to battle oil pipelines, expand land conservation and keep water in overdrawn rivers, Pro’s Annie Snider and your ME host report this morning.

There are several areas where the incoming administration could garner early wins with both tribes and environmental groups, including fostering renewable energy development on tribal lands as well as reversing Trump administration policies on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the downsizing of the Bears Ears National Monument. Even before the election, sources say Biden’s team was working with tribal advocates on plans to deliver drinking water infrastructure to reservations that lack it.

“I think the Biden administration is going to look for a new path for ensuring that tribes have adequate water supplies for domestic use,” said Hilary Tompkins, a tribal and natural resources attorney at Hogan Lovells, who served as Interior’s solicitor during the Obama administration.

More broadly, tribal advocates are looking for the new administration to recognize the importance and sweep of their sovereign rights. But hanging over the alliance between tribes and green groups is a sense of imbalance between the two. National environmental groups frequently bring the majority of the financial heft, legal firepower and political pull to the table, even though the tribes are constitutionally recognized as legal sovereigns, with rights akin to states.

“An NGO group is an organization; a tribe is a sovereign,” said Daryl Vigil, co-director of the Water & Tribes Initiative, which has worked with environmental groups and funders to help elevate tribes’ role in negotiations over water sharing on the Colorado River. “Really making a differentiation of those two things is a big thing. We’re not the same thing, we’re not a stakeholder,” he added.

KERRY PITCHES GLOBAL CLIMATE APPROACH: Biden and members of his incoming foreign policy and national security team spoke Tuesday on international efforts to combat climate change, Pro’s Zack Colman reports. “I don’t for a minute underestimate the difficulties of meeting my bold commitments to fighting climate change. But at the same time, no one should underestimate for a minute my determination to do just that,” Biden said at a press event.

Biden also confirmed during his remarks that he would name a domestic White House climate official in December to work alongside John Kerry, the former secretary of State who will serve as the newly created special climate envoy at the National Security Council. Kerry said his role would focus on drawing fresh pledges from other countries in the run up to next year’s U.N. climate meeting in Glasgow, Scotland — a crucial political deadline for honoring the Paris climate accord’s calls to deliver more ambitious targets over time. “You’re right to rejoin Paris on Day One, and you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough,” Kerry told Biden at the press conference.

“At the global meeting in Glasgow, one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together. Failure is not an option.”

Related: Biden urges Senate to take up confirmation process for Cabinet picks

DEAL STRUCK TO AVOID SHUTDOWN: House and Senate appropriators struck a deal Tuesday on a set of funding levels, paving the way for a $1.4 trillion spending package to avert a government shutdown by the Dec. 11 deadline, POLITICO’s Caitlin Emma reports.

The agreement on the funding allocations, confirmed by a House Democratic aide, establishes overall totals for 12 appropriations measures that will be rolled into one massive omnibus bill that would boost federal budgets for the rest of the fiscal year. Negotiators plan to keep the numbers — known as 302(b)s — under wraps until a bipartisan, bicameral omnibus is finalized, the aide said. The deal comes after appropriators and staff worked for days to resolve a number of outstanding issues between the House and Senate’s sets of figures, including funding for nuclear cleanup and state unemployment costs as joblessness remains high during the pandemic, according to aides close to the talks.

What’s next? Following the Thanksgiving break, the chambers will have just two weeks to flesh out the finer details of the 12-bill spending package and pass the legislation.

TIME TO GET TO WORK: Biden’s EPA transition lead Patrice Simms met with his agency counterpart Wes Carpenter Tuesday morning, according to EPA spokesperson James Hewitt. The meeting comes after the General Services Administration signed off Monday night on allowing federal officials to start coordinating with the Biden transition, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports. Hewitt added in a statement the agency “will comply with any protocols directed by GSA.”

An Energy Department official tells ME that the department had conversations with the Biden transition team on Tuesday, but could not provide further details. A spokesperson for FERC, which is covered by the DOE transition team, said the commission had not yet heard from Biden’s staff.

IG TO REVIEW EPA DIVERSITY ORDER COMPLIANCE: EPA’s internal watchdog issued a notice dated Monday that it will evaluate the agency’s compliance with President Donald Trump’s restrictions in his executive order on “race and sex stereotyping” training and report to the Office of Management and Budget with its findings by the end of the year. The Office of the Inspector General said in its notification to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who requested the review, it plans to conduct its work with EPA headquarters and regional staff on the review.

“The anticipated benefit of this evaluation is ensuring Agency compliance with federal law,” the IG said. The IG’s letter requests a list of all diversity and inclusion training approved between Sept. 23 through Nov. 21, as well as agency submissions of training programs between the same period. The September executive order in part prohibited contractors from using any workplace training “that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.”

WHEELER POSTPONES TAIWAN TRIP: Wheeler has postponed a planned, taxpayer-funded trip that was scheduled to Taiwan next month, EPA’s Hewitt told ME in a statement. “Due to pressing domestic priorities at home, Administrator Wheeler’s visit to Taiwan has been postponed,” he said. The postponed trip comes after The New York Times reported the three-day trip was expected to require a chartered flight costing more than $250,000 to avoid coronavirus risks. The Times also reported Wheeler would take a separate trip to Latin America ahead of Biden’s inauguration, but Hewitt said no trip has been scheduled. Bloomberg first reported the postponed trip.

Hewitt also called it “disturbing that a government official would leak deliberative schedules to the New York Times that could jeopardize both international diplomacy and personal security.” He added the agency was referring the matter to the IG.

MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO MAUI: EPA has sent for interagency review its draft guidance on how to implement a Supreme Court decision from earlier this year relating to when leaking coal ash ponds, underground injection wells hog lagoons need Clean Water Act permits. It’s one of the few regulatory documents to advance since Election Day, but is unlikely to make it through the process in the administration’s waning days, and could easily be revoked by the incoming Biden administration if it did.

CALIFORNIA SEES STRONG DEMAND IN LATEST CAP-AND-TRADE AUCTION: California sold all of the carbon allowances it put up for sale in its latest cap-and-trade auction, state regulators said Tuesday, marking a full resurgence of demand for permits following a pandemic-induced drop in emissions, Pro’s Debra Kahn reports.

Last week’s auction sold all of the allowances that California and Quebec offered for sale. California raised roughly $500 million, just above August’s haul of $474 million, while Quebec raised about C$190 million. The auction was the first since February where all allowances for current and future-year emissions sold.

— “U.S. Army Corps hands federal permits to Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline project,” via Reuters.

— “U.S. judge voids permits for Columbia River methanol plant,” via Associated Press.

— “BlackRock executive Brian Deese could get major White House position,” via The American Prospect.

— “A power company’s quiet land-buying spree could shield it from coal ash cleanup costs,” via ProPublica.

— “Canada welcomes choice of Kerry as U.S. climate czar, will defend pipeline: envoy,” via Reuters.

— “Trump officials rush to mine desert haven native tribes consider holy,” via The Guardian.


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