with Alexandra Ellerbeck

A small but influential group of conservatives used Fox News to successfully pressure President Trump to pause issuing a permit to a controversial gold and copper mine in Alaska.

The unusual, pro-environment campaign from host Tucker Carlson and others concerned that developing the mine would permanently damage streams and wetlands that sustain sockeye salmon popular with anglers will pay off this week with the Trump administration set to announce a delay in permitting the project. 

It is the latest instance of those lobbying on various energy and environmental issues using Fox News to champion their causes, knowing the president is a devoted viewer of the network.

Carlson proved an unlikely ally of environmentalists against the mine. 

The mining firm was on the cusp of getting the green light despite concerns the project would damage fish populations in nearby Bristol Bay. 

But the Fox News host, noting the popularity of the bay among fishers, argued against the project in a segment on his prime-time show earlier this month.

“Interestingly, in most environmental controversies, there is a clean partisan split: Republicans are on one side, Democrats are on the other. But this is not so clear,” he said on air. “Suddenly you are seeing a number of Republicans, including some prominent ones, including some very conservative ones, saying, 'Hold on, maybe Pebble Mine is not a good idea, maybe you should do whatever you can not to despoil nature, and maybe not all environmentalism is about climate.' "   

Tucker interviewed Bass Pro Shop founder Johnny Morris, who argued more jobs are sustained by tourism in the region than would be by the mine. “There's a lot of economics with this,” Morris said. 

Outside of Carlson's show, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a coalition of conservation groups focused on increasing land and water access for hunters and fishers, ran ads on the network against the project in an effort to get Trump's attention. 

After the pushback, the Trump administration is set to announce a delay in permitting Monday.

As my colleagues Juliet Eilperin and Ashley Parker reported over the weekend, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will send a letter to the developer, Pebble Limited Partnership, saying the company will need to do more to address the environmental impact of the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska. Politico was the first to report the decision.

Trump faced pressure from other directions, too. 

Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son, “made an impassioned case against the mine to his father during an early August fundraiser he hosted at his Bridgehampton, N.Y., home," my colleagues reported last week. 

And he and Nick Ayers, Vice President Pence’s former chief of staff, also tweeted out their opposition to the mine, too.

Asked about his campaign, Trump said last week: “I will look at both sides of it. I had heard about it … I’ve done a lot for Alaska. I love Alaska. It’s a special place."

Other energy and environmental interests have also turned to Fox News to reach Trump.

Since the start of the Trump administration, lobbying groups for oil refiners and corn growers at odds over biofuel policy have flooded Fox News with 30-second spots about how much agriculturally produced ethanol needs to be mixed into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supply. 

The amount is set periodically by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is often an issue of contention between Republicans from oil-producing and corn-growing states. 

And in 2017, U.S.-based solar panel makers in favor of tariffs on foreign manufacturers also have used ads on Fox News to try to get their message to Trump.

More recently, though, Trump has lashed out at times at the network for news reporting he finds unfavorable. But he still regularly tweets about what he sees and grants interviews with Chris Wallace, “Fox & Friends” and others on the network.

The Pebble Mine proponents are ready to press their case on the network, too.

Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier told Eilperin and Parker his company anticipated the Corps would demand more details about the mine's environmental impact. 

Now the company plans to launch its own ad campaign Tuesday, they report. Collier said he did not know exactly where the commercials would air, but they would 'run on Fox News.'

Thermometer

Back-to-back hurricanes are expected to hit the Gulf Coast coast.

“The northern Gulf Coast is bracing for a rare one-two hurricane punch as Laura and Marco set their sights between Louisiana and East Texas,” my colleagues Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow report. “Parts of Louisiana could be affected by hurricanes twice in three days for which there is no recorded precedent.”

Marco is expected to hit southeastern Louisiana on Monday as a Category 1 hurricane, while Laura could intensify to Category 2 or higher. Laura could plausibly land anywhere from central Texas to coastal Mississippi. A bigger and more intense hurricane, Laura probably will affect a broad area.

“The dual hurricane threats could tax residents and emergency responders alike, who may already be scrambling to deal with the fallout of Marco as Laura plows ashore, probably at even greater intensity, all in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” Cappucci and Samenow report.

The double hurricane strikes could cause serious storm surge flooding, especially if the second storm hits while water levels are still elevated from the first.

Scientists say climate change could make this hurricane season one of the worst.

“Scientists are worried that the 2020 hurricane season could rival 2005, the record-breaking year that produced Katrina, Rita and Wilma and exhausted the Greek alphabet to name the total number of them, all the way up to Zeta,” my colleagues Darryl Fears, Faiz Siddiqui, Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin report.

We are just now entering the height of hurricane season in the United States, but Laura and Marco will be the 12th and 13th named storms of the year. Forecasts suggest 20 more storms could hit the United States.

And hurricanes are only one pattern of extreme weather. The western United States has experienced record-breaking heat, which has sparked freak thunderstorms and wildfires in California. Scientists say that climate change is driving the extreme weather.

Last week the National Weather Service warned that “summer is hot, but this is different.”

The extreme weather patterns are coming at a time when emergency response services are already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tens of thousands of people are trying to escape wildfires and extreme heat at a time when they are also asked to wear masks and keep a distance from strangers. And as a hurricane season turbocharged by heat gets underway, the virus promises to complicate responses,” they write.

Power plays

National parks were told to keep facilities open as the coronavirus causes staff shortages.

Margaret Everson, the new acting director for the National Park Service, told regional directors Wednesday that staff shortages should not get in the way of the public’s access to picnic areas, parking lots, overlooks or campgrounds, National Parks Traveler reports.

Everson said that parks should raise staffing limitations with regional directors and NPS headquarters, which could work on alternative hiring strategies or other options to keep the parks open.

Phil Francis, the chairman of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, a membership organization of current and former NPS employees and volunteers, condemned Everson’s message.

“This directive from Acting Director Everson demonstrates her complete lack of understanding regarding how parks operate and what National Park Service employees actually do," Francis said. "Her suggestion that all outdoor facilities, including campgrounds and picnic areas, should be open despite staff shortages suggests she thinks these facilities run themselves. They do not," 

National parks across the country have experienced closures this summer, but it’s unclear how many of those were due to staff shortages as opposed to general fear over the potential spread of the coronavirus, National Parks Traveler reports.

The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating a methane plume over Florida.

U.S. regulators are investigating whether a massive methane release over Florida they say likely occurred during maintenance on a natural gas compressor station this spring violated the nation’s Clean Air Act,” Bloomberg News reports.

The plume of gas released north of Gainsville between May 2 and May 3 was estimated to total 300 metric tons. The EPA’s southeast regional office told Bloomberg in a statement that the preliminary findings indicated that it “may have occurred from maintenance operations at a natural gas compressor station located in Brooker (Bradford County), Florida.”

Methane generally sticks around for a shorter amount of time than carbon dioxide, but makes a more potent contribution to climate change than carbon dioxide. The Trump administration this month rolled back Obama-era regulations that required oil and gas companies to detect and prevent methane leaks.