Land Tawney only really started to worry after President Trump's election once he heard the name Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers — a Republican who represents Washington state’s rural, easternmost district — has advocated for selling off some lands owned by the federal government. In 2011, she co-sponsored a bill that would have sold off more than 3 million acres out West.
So when Tawney heard that the president-elect was considering the congresswoman to run the Interior Department, which oversees more than 400 million acres of public lands, the sportsman from Montana sprang into action. Tawney is executive director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), which bills itself as being the "sportsmen's voice" for public-land issues. The organization pushes for hunters and anglers to have better access to public lands — and for public lands to stay in federal control.
Tawney thought he had an answer to his worries: then-Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who he met even before his current job and regarded as a reasonable Republican on public-lands issues.
Zinke had separated himself from McMorris Rodgers and some other Republicans who, in Tawney’s view, wished to “liquidate” publicly held lands by either transferring them to the care of industry-friendly states or directly selling them to private owners. So Tawney pressed a BHA member who happened to have the president-elect’s ear — Donald Trump Jr. — to get his father to consider Zinke for the position, instead.
“We made it known to the new administration that we thought that [Zinke] was somebody from the West who understood Western politics and understood the importance of public lands,” Tawney said. Based in part on the suggestion from his son, who like Tawney is an avid hunter, Trump in December chose Zinke to run Interior.
“You wouldn’t know he’s a congressman,” Tawney told The Washington Post at the time, praising the pick. “He really prides himself on being a Theodore Roosevelt Republican, and he lives that a little bit more than other people.”
Now almost a year later, after getting profiled in Men’s Journal, The Hill and elsewhere as a Democrat with a modicum of sway in Trump’s administration, Tawney said in a recent interview with the Energy 202 that there is a “growing murmur” among BHA members who worry that Washington politics is rubbing off on the Montanan he pushed for DOI.
Starting this summer, BHA has issued increasingly distressed news releases on the turn the department's agenda has taken under Zinke.
After the Interior Department announced it will revisit a sage grouse management deal struck under President Obama, BHA said “Western landscapes will be poorer as a result.”
After Zinke claimed offhandedly that a third of Interior’s staff were disloyal to Trump, Tawney wrote he “never once has questioned the patriotism of our public land managers.”
But what truly rattled Tawney was Interior's approach to national monuments.
The Trump administration has undertaken a review of parcels of federal lands designated under the 1906 Antiquities Act as worthy of special protection from use by industry. Like presidents before him, Obama used the century-old law to create national monuments. But Republicans have accused him of abusing that executive power and ignoring state interests by doing so more than two dozen times.
Tawney’s organization commended Zinke for amending management plans for existing monuments to ensure access for hunting and fishing. But Tawney was disillusioned when the Interior secretary made moves toward shrinking the size of several of the monuments.
“That's the thing that was most troubling,” Tawney said. “The way we've been looking at it is that an attack on one is an attack of them all,” he said, adding that “I think the monuments review is not necessarily something that Zinke pushed himself.”
Nevertheless, BHA in August launched its toughest rebuke to Zinke yet with a television ad campaign titled “What Happened to Ryan Zinke?”
“He said he’d fight to protect our public lands,” intones the ads. “Wanted to be like Theodore Roosevelt. But since his Washington promotion, he’s put our public lands at risk.”
Tawney is a Democrat, from a Democratic family; his father once led Montana’s Democratic Party. Zinke, Tawney said, “was the pick of the litter. I want to make that clear. He was the best choice from what we had in front of us.”
Tawney still has kind words for Zinke, calling him “a proven leader.” Tawney, who often travels to Washington to lobby, said he has spoken to Zinke since he took office (although he hasn’t spoken to Trump Jr. since January). As to the question of whether he still regards him as an ally, Tawney split the difference.
“What we've always done is we've applauded [Zinke] for the things that we think he's doing that are beneficial to hunters and anglers,” he said, “then we've held him accountable on the other end of that.”
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-- Corn wars: On Tuesday, a group of Midwestern senators — including the two Iowa Republicans, Charles E. Grassley and Joni Ernst — will meet with Scott Pruitt to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard. The lawmakers will press the Environmental Protection Agency chief to reconsider proposing to plateau, and in some cases decrease, the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that derived from corn, soybeans and other agricultural products needs to be mixed into the nations gasoline and diesel supply.
The wonky, provincial issue splits Republicans between those from farming states (like Grassley) and those from oil-and-gas country (like Pruitt). Defenders of the EPA's proposal argue the agency isn't touching levels for the biggest biofuel, corn-based ethanol. But critics worry about the slippery slope, and contend that an attack on one biofuel is an attack on them all.
Farm-state leverage: A group of 33 senators sent a letter to Pruitt in defense of the biofuels targeted with cuts. But that could just be a preview. Both Ernst and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) sit on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the EPA. Either could throw a wrench into the confirmation votes of any of the four EPA nominees up for a vote on Wednesday.
These include Michael Dourson, nominated to run the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Ernst and Fischer's votes will be crucial because Dourson, with close ties to the chemical industry, isn't expected to get any support from across the aisle.
-- Water, water everywhere...: President Trump continued to signal his hesitation to allow federal workers to continue their relief work in Puerto Rico, still battling post-hurricane devastation.
During a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had just met with the president at the White House, Trump insisted food and water were being delivered to the island but that distribution was slow. "We have delivered tremendous amounts of water, and then what you have to do is you have to have distribution of the water by the people on the island," Trump said. "What we've done is we now actually have military distributing food, something that really they shouldn't have to be doing.”
Water, courtesy of a Superfund site: The Post’s Arelis R. Hernández and Brady Dennis write about an overgrown well that has become the source of water for bathing, washing dishes and drinking for desperate Puerto Ricans.
They write: “What many didn’t realize is that the well is one of nearly a dozen that are part of the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Superfund site — designated last year by the Environmental Protection Agency as among the nation’s most toxic sites. Past testing here has shown the presence of tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, solvents commonly used in industrial processes, which can cause health problems including liver damage and increased risk of cancer."
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who is of Puerto Rican heritage, on Monday warned of the dangers of ignoring the long-term effects of continued use of the hazardous water. “This is one Superfund site we are aware, but there are 14 Superfund sites in Puerto Rico,” Velázquez said in an interview with CNN. “So, the extent of the damage, this could become another Flint where so many children, old people — regular people in Puerto Rico could get affected.”
Residents are improvising as they wait for supplies. From the New York Times: "Examples of the creativity of people living in the mountains are on display across the countryside. All day and night, people who live in the mountains cluster along roadways to bathe and do laundry in places where locals have redirected water from higher up that spews out of PVC pipes. They fill empty bottles and buckets, which they use to clean their homes and flush toilets."
--STOP: Pruitt issued a directive Monday to limit the EPA's ability to reach legal settlements with groups that have filed lawsuits that would force the agency to take regulatory actions. Critics of the practice known as “sue and settle” say that environmental groups pressure the EPA with lawsuits into issuing regulations outside of the normal rulemaking process, reports The Post’s Juliet Eilperin. “It’s very important that we do not get engaged in regulation through litigation,” Pruitt said in a statement.
Eilperin continues: "His push also is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to limit federal funding to outside groups as part of litigation. In June, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo to block payments to third-party, not-for-profit groups as part of environmental settlements. Instead of allowing defendants to fund environmental measures as a way of meeting their obligations for violating the law, Sessions argued, such penalties should go directly to the U.S. Treasury.”
-- Marathon: President Trump has taken longer than any modern president to pick the White House science adviser, a position that has been in place since the Eisenhower administration. Nearly nine months into his first term, according to an analysis by The Post's Chris Mooney.
-- California calms: Fire crews made progress on the raging fires in Northern California, as they were offered a much-needed break with calmer winds allowing the firefighters to gain on the flames.Tens of thousands of people were allowed to return home, the AP reported, while 40,000 people are still waiting to do so (down from 100,000 on Saturday). There are 11,000 firefighters battling about 15 remaining major fires. Roughly 217,000 acres and 5,700 buildings have been destroyed. California officials say 41 people have died. Nearly 90 people are still missing in Sonoma County, per CNN.
Crews also reported the first fatality from the firefighting effort, the AP reported. A driver who was delivering water to fire lines overturned his truck on a winding mountain road. A fire spokesman said the accident was under investigation.
Read The Post's Scott Wilson's latest dispatch from Sonoma Valley, Calif., here.
-- The weeklong stretch of historic wildfires has taken an emotional toll on firefighters. BuzzFeed’s Brianna Sacks writes about the crews who have been battling the flames. One firefighter said he and his crew have only “seen a bed twice and a shower twice” since last week.
-- Now, California officials are looking into what may have sparked the fires. Utility Dive reports that the California Public Utilities Commission has told Pacific Gas and Electric to preserve evidence that connects it to the fires.
Here are some of the latest images from across the state.
From San Francsco Chronicle photographer Scott Strazzante:
From CNN's Natasha Chen:
From the Los Angeles Times's Laura Nelson:
-- Some legal peace for Greenpeace: As of this week, Greenpeace faces one fewer racketeering lawsuit. The environmental group has at least temporarily avoided a Canadian logging company’s defamation claim after a San Francisco federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by Resolute Forest Products. The company said customers were scared away when Greenpeace called it a “forest destroyer.” U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ruled the company wasn’t specific enough in alleging that the environmental group acted with a “malicious mindset” and told the company it can revise and refile its claims, Bloomberg News reported.
What's next? Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, in August became the second firm to accuse Greenpeace of breaking a federal organized crime law. Both companies turned to the same law firm — Kasowitz, Benson & Torres LLP, a law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s longtime attorney — for their lawsuit. The second lawsuit is still pending.
-- Most things from The New Yorker's Jane Mayer are must-reads. But it's especially true of her latest piece on Vice President Pence and his deep and long-standing connections to oil refiners and billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch.
Here's one key episode from earlier in Obama's presidency that Mayer found:
By the spring of 2009, Koch Industries, like other fossil-fuel companies, felt threatened by growing support in Congress for curbing carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change. Americans for Prosperity devised a “No Climate Tax” pledge for candidates to sign, promising not to spend any government funds on limiting carbon pollution. At first, the campaign languished, attracting only fourteen signatures. The House, meanwhile, was moving toward passage of a “cap and trade” bill, which would charge companies for carbon pollution. If the bill were enacted, the costs could be catastrophic to Koch Industries, which releases some twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year, and owns millions of acres of untapped oil reserves in Canada, plus coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.
Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history,” and Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” (Neither statement was true.)
The takeaway: Pence's presence on the GOP ticket (and now in the White House) eased the Koch brothers' apprehensions of an unconventional president like Trump being president.
-- Rig explosion: One person is still missing after an oil rig exploded Sunday in a Louisiana lake north of New Orleans. Officials have said the cause of the explosion probably is related to cleaning chemicals that ignited on the platform of the oil rig, reports The Post’s Kristine Phillips. The explosion also injured seven people. Five of the injured were in critical condition Sunday night and two others were in stable condition. By Monday, four had been discharged, and of the three left hospitalized, one remained in the intensive care unit.
-- Meanwhile, last week’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be the largest in the country since the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Although the 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil released from the Delta House floating facility is a fraction of the millions released in 2010, it’s the largest spill in more than seven years, Bloomberg reported.
The spill was caused by a fracture in the flowline jumper, a short pipeline that connects nearby structures, per the report. The leak has been halted but the fracture has not yet been repaired, Rick Fowler, LLOG Exploration Co.’s vice president for deepwater projects told Bloomberg.
- The EPA holds a webinar on tools and resources for EnviroAtlas.
- The Wilson Center holds an event on “Working Towards Clean Cars and Clear Skies in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta."
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a business meeting to consider various nominations for the EPA, DOT and NRC on Wednesday.
- The Energy Department’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office holds its fifth annual National Bioenergy Day on Wednesday.
- The Bipartisan Policy Center holds an event with former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday.
- The United States Energy Association holds an event on the DNV GL Energy Transition Outlook on Wednesday.
- The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies holds a public seminar on the prospect of electric vehicle production in the United States, Europe and Asia on Wednesday.
- The Energy Department’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office holds a call on the latest developments in batteries and residential energy storage on Thursday.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a conference on vehicle efficiency and electricity regulation on Thursday.
- The National Capital Area Chapter of the United States Association for Energy Economics hosts a presentation on Big Data and Weather Markets on Friday.
- The Brookings Institution holds an event on Trump’s deregulatory agenda on Friday.
Pope Francis implicitly criticizes the United States for leaving Paris climate deal:
This time-lapse footage shows billows of smoke following fires raging across Portugal:
Watch Oregon zoo's otters share Halloween treat:
An unlikely pair: Duchess of Cambridge waltzes with Paddington Bear: