Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Biden makes historic pick with Haaland for Interior | Biden set to tap North Carolina official to lead EPA | Gina McCarthy forges new path as White House climate lead

HAPPY THURSDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@digital-stage.thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@digital-stage.thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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CONSIDER THIS YOUR TRANSITION EDITION: 

Haaland making history…Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) has been selected to lead the Interior Department in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, making history as the first Native American tapped for a Cabinet position.

Haaland, who has been backed by a number of progressive groups as well as tribes, would take over a sprawling, 70,000-person agency with a mandate from Biden to help deliver on his climate promises.

If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would likely deliver a significant turnaround for an agency that has rolled back environmental and endangered species protections and expanded oil and gas drilling. Biden has pledged to bar any new oil and gas leasing on public lands — an effort likely to require action from Interior.

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, alongside Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), and was an early backer of the Green New Deal.

Her potential nomination generated significant momentum, particularly after news that she was being vetted by the Biden team.

She would make history not only as a Cabinet secretary but as the first Native American to take the reins of an agency with significant responsibility to tribes — an area where critics say the department has often fallen short.

“It’s a mystical opportunity for this agency to do something historic,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who had initially been backed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for the Interior job before it threw its weight behind Haaland.

“The agency that was set up eons ago, Interior, to basically disenfranchise and colonize Indigenous America, for Deb to be secretary America will have its first Indigenous person in a Cabinet but more historic, in Interior, in the agency that was set up for that purpose. Maybe I’m naive but there are certain political scripts that are almost written for you,” he said.

But he added he didn’t want the historic nature of her selection to overshadow the experience she would bring to the job. Haaland has led the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Haaland’s selection marks victory for the Native Americans, progressives and environmental groups that campaigned hard for the congresswoman as the Biden team also considered Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and former Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, who is also Native American, for the job.

Read more about this historic selection here.

 

A new kind of ‘Reganomics’…President-elect Joe Biden plans to select Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), picking a longtime EPA insider to lead the agency, according to multiple Thursday reports. 

Regan, 44, is currently the secretary for North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the state’s EPA equivalent. He would be the first Black man to hold the role of EPA chief.

He previously worked for the EPA under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations before heading to the Environmental Defense Fund as its southeast regional director.

Picking Regan suggests Biden is eager to have a longtime expert at an agency responsible for the bulk of the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks.

“The Biden team was very impressed with his tenure leading North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, how he held polluters accountable, including by reaching the largest coal ash cleanup settlement in US history,” a source familiar with the transition team’s thinking told The Hill.

“And the team was also impressed by how he worked to give communities disproportionately harmed by environmental injustices a larger voice in state environmental and natural resource decisions.”

Biden has pledged to make environmental justice and the disproportionate burden of pollution faced by communities of color a cornerstone of his environmental agenda, alongside cutting emissions and boosting renewable energy.

Regan’s previous work aligns with many of Biden’s climate goals. Regan’s time at the EPA in the past centered on air and energy programs. And in North Carolina, he formed an Environmental Justice and Equity Board for DEQ and helped craft the state’s plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Read more about the selection of Regan here.

 

And a new kind of ‘McCarthyism’… Environmentalists are excited that President-elect Joe Biden is expected to tap Gina McCarthy to coordinate the White House’s climate effort, which they say will help him take a “whole-of-government” approach to climate change.

A heavy-hitter within the environmental world, few have doubts McCarthy, a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head, is up to the task of filling the newly created role pressing the government to tackle climate change from top to bottom.

In creating the job, Biden took the advice of numerous groups that have been jockeying for such a position since before he earned the nomination.

Evergreen Action, a climate group formed by former aides of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), has called for the role to be a powerful one, “acting with the full power and authority of the presidency” and endowed with staff and the ability to influence both budgets and program implementation.

Climate 21, a group formed by a who’s who of former high-level government officials and environmental academics, called for a National Climate Council with a West Wing leader who “has direct access to and is trusted by the president of the United States.”

The Biden team has instead made McCarthy the White House climate policy coordinator, a role that will not require Senate confirmation.

However, it has yet to detail any formal structure that might accompany the position, noting only that her domestic role is designed to match the international one given to former Secretary of State John Kerry.

With her new role not well defined, many suspect McCarthy will be the one to shape it, and she has thus far suggested she sees the job as a broad one.

“Every department in the Biden administration should be centering climate action and clean energy in their federal policies and investments. And they should do it in a way that continues to advance labor interests and environmental justice in communities across the country,” she wrote on Twitter earlier this month.

During her time at the EPA, industry groups were frequently critical of what they called overreaching regulation and brought a number of court challenges on EPA policies.

But supporters say her work leading major policy battles makes her a good fit for the job.

“This is really kind of a whole-of-government approach, and having Gina McCarthy in a role where she is helping to coordinate and harmonize and elevate climate across agencies I think is a critical piece of the Biden strategy,” John Morton, who served as the Obama administration’s senior director for energy and climate change at the National Security Council, told The Hill.

Read more about McCarthy’s new role here.

 

ENERGY DEPARTMENT IMPACTED BY MASSIVE HACK

Agencies within the Department of Energy (DOE), including portions of the agency charged with maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, were breached as part of a massive hack on an IT group that has hit almost a dozen federal agencies, officials said Thursday.

DOE spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes confirmed to The Hill that “business networks” for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) were impacted as part of the infiltration of SolarWinds software. The spokesperson said the department is responding to the cyber incident “in coordination with our federal and industry partners. The investigation is ongoing and the response to this incident is happening in real time.”

“At this point, the investigation has found that the malware has been isolated to business networks only, and has not impacted the mission essential national security functions of the Department, including the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA),” Hynes added in a statement. “When DOE identified vulnerable software, immediate action was taken to mitigate the risk, and all software identified as being vulnerable to this attack was disconnected from the DOE network.”

Politico first reported the news Thursday, noting other Energy agencies that found “suspicious activity” in their networks included the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, the Office of Secure Transportation and the Energy Department’s Richland Field Office. According to the publication, more damage was done at FERC than at any of the other agencies.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces with jurisdiction over the NNSA, said in a statement Thursday that she was “troubled” by the breach, and that she had requested a briefing from the Department of Energy “as soon as possible.”

While President Trump had not yet addressed the incident, likely to be one of the most widespread cyberattacks in U.S. history, President-elect Joe Biden put out a statement Thursday vowing to make cybersecurity a “top priority” once in office.

Read more about the hack here.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING:

BP Paid Mexico $25.5M After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, But Victims Didn’t See a Peso, Vice reports

These Ladies Love Natural Gas! Too Bad They Aren’t Real, Mother Jones reports 

Experts warn PFAS exposure may reduce COVID-19 vaccine potency, MLive reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday and Tuesday night…

Trump administration finalizes second rule in days limiting habitat protections

EPA gives Florida authority over managing wetlands, waterways

Biden makes historic pick with Haaland for Interior secretary

Biden set to select top North Carolina environmental official to lead EPA

Environmental groups press Biden to take executive action to curb fossil fuel emissions

Gina McCarthy forges new path as White House climate lead

Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report

Tags Deb Fischer Deb Haaland Donald Trump Gina McCarthy Jay Inslee Joe Biden John Kerry Nancy Pelosi Sharice Davids Tom Udall

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Regular the hill posts

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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