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PENDING NOMINATION: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration calls for Supreme Court to strike down ObamaCare Trump says there will be ‘retribution’ for those who deface monuments White House task force tracking coronavirus spikes even as Trump says virus is ‘going away’: report MORE on Friday nominated William Perry Pendley, who has served — controversially — as the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for months, to lead the agency. 

Critics have objecting to Pendley leading the bureau tasked with managing federal lands because, among other reasons, he has previously advocated for selling them off. 

A White House statement announcing Pendley’s nomination as BLM director said that he “has worked to increase recreational opportunities on and access to our Nation’s public lands, heighten concern for the impact of wild horses and burros on public lands, and increase awareness of the Bureau’s multiple-use mission.”

However, conservationists were quick to criticize the nomination, saying Pendley’s record on public lands issues makes him the wrong person for the job. 

In a statement Friday, Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said that the Senate “should quickly hold a nomination hearing for Mr. Pendley, so Western senators can go on the record about whether an extremist and long-time opponent of America’s public lands should be in charge of the agency he has spent an entire career trying to undermine.”

“Any member of Congress who says they support the outdoors and public lands cannot in good conscience vote to approve this nomination,” Rokala added. 

The nomination came amid a lawsuit over Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s repeated temporary extensions of Pendley’s role as acting head of the bureau. Pendley was first named its acting head in July 2019. 

The lawsuit argues that it was illegal for the government to continue to keep Pendley in his temporary role for longer than the 210-day maximum set by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. 

Environmentalists have also criticized Pendley for his 17-page recusal list detailing ties to a number of industries that could benefit from increased access to public lands. He has also overseen the relocation of the agency’s headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Colorado, resulting in the loss of more than half the staff slated to move.

Prior to the lawsuit filed last month, Bernhardt repeatedly extended Pendley’s time at the helm of the agency for a month or several months at a time. 

Read more about his nomination here.

And it’s been a big day for Trump nominations…

THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING ERNST: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will not take up Douglas Benevento’s nomination for the No. 2 position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senator proposes bill to deny federal funds to cities, states that allow ‘autonomous zones’ Is Trump’s fealty to Big Oil endangering Republicans’ grip on the Senate? Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation MORE (R-Iowa) announced her opposition. 

Ernst said in a statement on Friday that she would oppose the nomination, citing issues that ethanol and biodiesel producers have with the agency over blending requirement waivers for oil refiners. 

“Until EPA tells us exactly what they plan to do with the ‘gap year’ waivers, Mr. Benevento does not have my vote,” Ernst said. “Iowa’s hardworking ethanol and biodiesel producers are sick of being yanked around by Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerIs Trump’s fealty to Big Oil endangering Republicans’ grip on the Senate? Bayer agrees to billion settlement in Roundup suits EPA to reopen DC headquarters after coronavirus closure MORE and the EPA. Our producers need certainty; until we get that, no EPA nominee is getting my vote.”

In response, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoCruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation Police reform hits impasse in Senate Republicans brush off Bolton’s bombshells MORE (R-Wyo.), who chairs the panel, said that the committee will not hold a vote on the nomination. 

“In light of Senator Ernst’s announcement, a path forward for Mr. Benevento’s nomination to be deputy administrator of the EPA no longer exists,” Barrasso told The Hill in a statement. “He is well qualified for the position but does not have the votes.”

“While I strongly disagree with Senator Ernst on the Renewable Fuel Standard, her long-standing position on the side of Iowa corn farmers won’t be overcome in this case. The committee will not be taking up this nomination,” he added.

President Trump earlier this year nominated Benevento, who has been serving as the EPA’s associate deputy administrator, to be deputy administrator.

Prior to joining the Trump administration in 2017, Benevento worked for gas and electric utility Xcel Energy and has also been a registered lobbyist for natural gas producer Colorado Interstate Gas.

During a confirmation hearing in March, Ernst pressed the nominee over exemptions to ethanol blending requirements for small oil refiners.

The EPA has issued waivers for some small refiners who said they were impacted by the requirement, however, a court in January overturned three agency-issued waivers, and the EPA did not appeal the decision.

But it was recently reported that the EPA is weighing more than 50 waiver requests. 

Trump considers both the oil industry and farmers to be parts of his base, making the issue politically complex.

Read more about Ernst’s decision here.

GODZILLA IS COMING! A massive dust storm from the Sahara Desert in North Africa will arrive to the U.S. gulf coast this week.

Michael Lowry, a strategic planner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that the yearly phenomena is expected to be particularly strong this year. 

“The ongoing Saharan #dust outbreak across the tropical Atlantic is *by far* the most extreme of the MODIS satellite record — our most detailed, continuous record of global dust back to 2002,” Lowry said in a tweet.  

The technical name for the phenomenon is the “Saharan Air Layer,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, though some experts have nicknamed this year’s cloud the “Godzilla dust cloud” for its size.

Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico, told Phys.org that the dust cloud “is the most significant event in the past 50 years.” 

“Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands,” he said.

The dust resulted in reduced visibility when it hit Puerto Rico this week, with its haze completely engulfing the mountains in El Yunque National Forest in northeastern Puerto Rico.

On Thursday the cloud reached the western Caribbean, over Belize and the Yucatán Peninsula, and through most of the central and western Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to reach Texas and Louisiana in the coming days

The story is here

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

On Monday:

  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing titled “The U.S. Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square” 

On Wednesday:

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a business meeting to consider nominations including Katherine Crytzer to be Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority
  • The Senate environment panel will also hold a hearing to examine infrastructure development opportunities..

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

California mandates big increase in zero-emission trucks, The Los Angeles Times reports

The Guardian reports on The secretive government agency planting ‘cyanide bombs’ across the US

Europe pushed to finance natural gas, nuclear as part of Green Deal, Axios reports

Racist roots, lack of diversity haunt national parks, E&E News reports

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday and Thursday…

Energy Department aims to boost coal with $120M innovation program

Environmentalists charged with terrorizing oil and gas lobbyist with box of plastic pellets





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