THE LIGHTBULB

The Trump administration's decision to move most of the Bureau of Land Management's Washington-based workforce out West will upend the lives of hundreds of federal employees. But it may also boost the fortunes of politicians who helped bring those jobs home.

One lawmaker stands to gain ahead of a tough reelection effort: GOP senator Cory Gardner of Colorado.

With the Trump administration moving more than two dozen top BLM leaders to the city of Grand Junction, Colo., Gardner has scored a political victory. The blue-state Republican is widely seen as the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reelection in the 2020 cycle. He is one of two incumbents, along with Susan Collins of Maine, running in states Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

“Today is a historic day for our nation’s public lands, western states, and the people of Colorado,” Gardner said in a news release Monday. “Relocating the Bureau of Land Management to the Western Slope of Colorado will bring the bureau’s decision-makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage.”

For more than three years, starting during the Obama administration, Gardner has publicly lobbied the BLM's parent agency, the Interior Department, to move the agency's leaders closer to the 245 million surface acres of mostly Western land it manages. After President Trump took office, he introduced legislation aiming to spur the move and continued pressing Trump officials during hearings and in private for the relocation. 

Gardner found a receptive audience in Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, whose childhood home is about 60 miles from Grand Junction in Rifle, Colo. The two Coloradans have known each other since their 20s, both having been mentored by the same Rifle native and former state legislator, Russell George.

Gardner's efforts appear to be paying off: A total of 85 BLM jobs will be moved to Colorado, which is more than any other state is getting in the reorganization.. Grand Junction, a city of about 62,000 on Colorado's rural Western Slope, will net 27 leadership jobs for what Joe Balash, Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals, told reporters Tuesday was "the new headquarters of BLM."

Another four states — Utah, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico — are getting 32 or more BLM jobs each.

After the official announcement, Gardner's reelection campaign quickly fired off a tweet touting the senator's role in bringing the jobs to Grand Junction:

The Interior Department said it chose to send BLM leaders to Grand Junction due to its central location in the Western United States, as well as the ease of air travel there and its relatively low cost of living. Interior also wanted to make sure the headquarters did not eclipse any existing BLM offices.

"Ultimately, we decided on Grand Junction at least in part because we wanted the headquarters to stand alone, not necessarily overwhelm or overshadow one of our state headquarter locations," Balash said.

But critics of the plan worry the agency may have trouble attracting talented workers if it is moved away from decision-makers in Washington.

"BLM already tends toward insularity — this move will exacerbate that tendency," said David Hayes, who served as Interior's deputy secretary in both the Obama and Clinton administrations. "Relegating that leader to an office in a small city 2,000 miles away is not a recipe to attract such a leader. Nor to attract the more diverse workforce that the BLM needs to effectively operate in today's world."

Shortly after news outlets reported on BLM's decision on Monday, Gardner's Senate office confirmed the relocation in a news release touting the senator as the “chief architect” of the plan. When asked for details about the number of positions being relocated to each state, an Interior spokesperson referred a reporter to Gardner's website, which had published a letter written by Interior explaining the reorganization.

Gardner's announcement came as several top House Democrats said they were in the dark about the decision.

“They hadn't told us anything,” said Adam Sarvana, spokesman for House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.).

Similarly, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing most Interior funding, said the decision was made without consulting Congress and that she only learned details in a phone call with Bernhardt on Tuesday morning.

“After my discussion with Secretary Bernhardt this morning, serious questions remain: What are the benefits to the Interior Department and to the American public? What problem will this move solve? Why is BLM singled out for this move? How much will the move cost?” McCollum said.

For political groups seeking to defeat Gardner in 2020, the move is more fodder linking Gardner to the Trump administration.

“He clearly, apparently, has been more included in the process of the relocation than anyone else,” said Jayson O'Neill, deputy director at liberal advocacy group Western Values Project, which has aired ads asking Gardner not to support Bernhardt's nomination for interior secretary.

Other Western Republicans, including Reps. Rob Bishop (Utah) and Scott R. Tipton (Colo.), praised the plan bringing BLM job to their districts. So too did Colorado's other senator who is also a 2020 candidate, Michael Bennet (D), who said in a statement the BLM decision was "a step in the right direction."

Last year, Bennet penned a letter with Gardner encourging Bernhardt's predecessor, Ryan Zinke, to visit and pick Grand Junction as a new headquarters. He also pressed Bernhardt about siting the headquarters in Grand Junction when he was nominated to be deputy secretary in 2017.

But Bennet suggested he wants to see a more fully fledged headquarters out West – one that has more than just 27 workers in it.

In his statement, Bennet added "more needs to be done to establish a true national headquarters in the West."

Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

Correction: The original version of this story inaccurately said the Western Values Project, an advocacy group, aired television ads in opposition to Cory Gardner's reelection. Its ads instead asked Gardner to oppose David Bernhardt's nomination for interior secretary.

Climate and Environment
In an all-employee meeting Tuesday, senior Trump officials told Bureau of Land Management staffers that most of them must leave Washington by the end of next year, under the Interior Department's reorganization plan.
Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears
POWER PLAYS

— A record response to delisting gray wolves: Environmental advocates say there were a record number of public comments submitted for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to delist the gray wolf from receiving Endangered Species Act protection. Out of 1.8 million comments opposing the proposal, the Center for Biological Diversity said it was behind 650,000 comments, E&E News reports. “Sheer volume, though, may not matter much, as FWS noted that submissions merely voicing support or opposition but without supporting information, ‘although noted, will not meet the standard of best available scientific and commercial data.’ "

THERMOMETER

— Man, it’s a hot one: A heat wave is expanding across the country, already leading to excessive heat watches in severall states — Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Nashville and Kansas City, Mo., are just some of the places that could see 95 to100 degree temperatures for at least three days, The Post’s Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow report. “While a heat wave in mid-July is not unusual across the United States, one of the most robust findings of climate change research is that the increase in average global surface temperatures is significantly raising the odds of extreme heat events, causing them to be more severe and longer-lasting,” they write. “The most recent example of this was the heat wave that gripped Western Europe in late June, breaking numerous national all-time high temperature records.”

— How a warming world will affect violence: Two recent studies point to the relationship between rising temperatures and an increase in violent behavior and aggression. In one study, researchers examined temperatures in Los Angeles between 2010 and 2017 and how they connected to incidents of violent crime, The Post’s Christopher Ingraham reports. The study found on average, “overall crime increases by 2.2% and violent crime by 5.7% on days with maximum daily temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4° C) compared to days below that threshold.” The authors also noted “heat only affects violent crimes while property crimes are not affected by higher temperatures” and Ingraham writes the findings are “consistent with the data showing that high temperatures make people more aggressive.” A second study that looked at terrorist attacks worldwide found “not only were terrorist attacks more common on hotter days, but also that the number of fatalities per attack were higher as well.”

— Climate change has made California’s wildfires 500 percent larger: A new study in the journal Earth’s Future found that since 1972, the amount of area burned by wildfires in the state has increased more than five times, a “trend clearly attributable to the warming climate,” the Atlantic reports. “The trend is dominated by fires like the Mendocino Complex Fire — huge blazes that start in the summer and feed mostly on timberland. Over the past five decades, these summertime forest fires have increased in size by roughly 800 percent. This effect is so large that it is driving the state’s overall increase in burned area.”

OIL CHECK

— Los Angeles says bye to coal, but not to fossil fuels: In recent years, Los Angeles received up to a third of its electricity from a coal-fired plant in Utah, the Intermountain Power Plant, which is set to shutter in 2025. But in its place, Los Angeles is planning to open a natural gas-fired plant, “even as it works to shut down three gas plants in its own backyard,” the Los Angeles Times reports in this deep dive. “Critics say Los Angeles and other Southern California cities have no business making an $865-million investment in gas, especially when the state has committed to getting 100% of its electricity from climate-friendly sources such as solar and wind.” “I don’t know how he reconciles his new position with going ahead with that,” S. David Freeman, a former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has pushed his version of a “Green New Deal,” which includes closing three local gas plants.

— “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting”: A powerful family in West Texas wants to pipe up to 25 million gallons of water a day from under its farmland and sell it to oil companies and cities. But some neighbors oppose the idea and it has re-upped a debate over “who should control fresh water in a bone-dry region. Many of the region’s farmers and ranchers depend on income from selling their water to oil producers. Desert towns like Fort Stockton, near the Williams farm, fear their water sources will dry up,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “ … The fight here comes as competition is heating up for water around the world, in dry regions and wet ones. Surging populations, rising demand for industrial-scale farming and manufacturing, and hotter temperatures are putting new stress on the constrained resource.”

— Some information trickles in on what caused New York City’s blackout: ConEdison said a burned power line underneath New York City’s West 64th Street and West End Avenue triggered a “relay protection system nearby that’s designed to detect electrical faults and keep them from spreading,” Bloomberg News reports. It’s not clear what caused the failure, and a spokesman for the utility said the protection system was “overly sensitive.” “Instead of just isolating the burned cable, it took down entire parts of ConEd’s network, leading to a cascading failure that plunged much of Manhattan’s west side into darkness and left tens of thousands of people without power for as many as five hours,” per the report.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on the future of electricity delivery.
  • The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions holds an event on “Scaling Your Renewable Energy Strategy."
  • The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing called “Electric Battery Production and Waste: Opportunities and Challenges."

Coming Up

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power holds a hearing on Thursday.
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife holds a legislative hearing on Thursday.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Committee holds an open meeting on Thursday.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— After lurking in a lagoon at Chicago's Humboldt Park and avoiding capture for about a week, an alligator nicknamed Chance the Snapper was apprehended, and will now be turned over to a sanctuary or zoo, The Post's Meagan Flynn reports