OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations

© Greg Nash OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations

MOMENTUM FOR A HISTORIC MOMENT: More than 50 House Democrats are pushing President-elect Joe Biden to select Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as his Interior secretary, a move that would for the first time bring a Native American into a president’s Cabinet.

“Representative Deb Haaland is eminently qualified to be Interior Secretary. She has been a champion for our environment and public lands and has worked tirelessly to improve the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and Indian tribes,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the transition team, noting their ability to “make history by giving Native Americans a seat at the Cabinet table for the first time.”

Haaland, who is already being vetted for the position, was in 2018 one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, alongside Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).

The letter, first reported by Politico, was spearheaded by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Haaland chairs the panel’s Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Though just elected to her second term, “she has distinguished herself as a respected leader within our caucus,” the lawmakers wrote, while her focus on climate change and Native rights would help her “play a leading role in carrying out your administration’s environmental and climate policies and managing its relationship with tribal nations.”

Haaland has also been backed by youth climate organization Sunrise Movement and has generated excitement among progressives and those eager to see Biden keep his promise to pick a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of the country.

But the letter from colleagues helps bolster her bid, showing support from a broader ideological range.

Read more on the endorsement here.

BANK ON IT: A new Trump administration proposal is taking aim at banks’ attempts to exclude certain fossil fuel activities, including exploration in the Arctic, from financing.

The Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC), which proposed the new rule on Friday, states that decisions by banks not to serve a specific customer should be based on individual risks, rather than a categorical exclusion.

It is billing the new rule as a measure to ensure fair access to financing.

“Fair access to financial services, credit, and capital are essential to our economy,” acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks said in a statement. “This proposed rule would ensure that banks meet their responsibility to provide their services fairly since they enjoy special privilege and powers because if the system fails to provide fairness to all, it cannot be a source of strength for any.”

Critics see an attempt to force banks to provide financing for fossil fuel production, particularly in the Arctic, something that most major U.S. banks have put self-imposed restrictions on.

“We’re not talking about a protected class of people … we’re talking about fossil fuel corporations,” said Ben Cushing, a Sierra Club senior campaign representative.

“The law is not designed to force banks to invest in projects that they deem to be overly risky and not good investments … banks have always had the discretion to decide what to invest in and what not to invest in,” Cushing said.

The rule specifically calls out fossil fuel financing, noting that banks told the agency that in 2019 and 2020, they “had decided to cease providing financial services to one or more major energy industry categories, including coal mining, coal-fired electricity generation, and/or oil exploration in the Arctic region.”

“Organizations involved in politically controversial but lawful businesses – whether family planning organizations, energy companies, or otherwise – are entitled to fair access to financial services under the law,” it said.

It also called out attempts to not finance private prisons, gun manufacturers and family planning services.

OCC spokesperson Bryan Hubbard said in an email that the agency would have a range of actions for enforcing the rule including fines but that it does not have the authority to make criminal arrests.

The public has until Jan. 4 to comment on the rule, meaning that the Trump administration will not have much time to finalize it prior to President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

Read more about the proposal here.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told colleagues she’d use the power of the House Appropriations Committee to advance legislation on climate if she’s handed the gavel.

In a letter to fellow lawmakers, Wasserman Schultz called climate change “the defining issue of our time, because it affects virtually every policy area.”

“It is time for the Appropriations Committee, to work together with the committees of jurisdiction to double down on combating climate change. Substantial federal investments are desperately needed to expedite the transition to clean energy and blunt the impacts already afflicting our communities – especially communities of color,” the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman wrote in a four-page climate plan that was included with her note.

Wasserman Schultz is the underdog in the race to replace House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who is retiring.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, which covers the largest non-defense spending bill, has already secured a number of endorsements from major labor groups.

Wasserman Schultz’s plan comes as the government will need significant funding to enact President-elect Joe Biden’s climate goals. Biden’s $2 trillion plan would funnel funding toward a number of clean energy technologies, electric vehicle infrastructure, a massive retrofitting plan for homes and buildings and expanding public transit.

Read more on the plan here.

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE: Ousted Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Neil Chatterjee congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory in the presidential race during the commission’s Thursday meeting.

“As we look to the incoming administration, I want to thank President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris,” Chatterjee said before reflecting on his time as a staffer to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“On the many times he visited the Senate chamber, he always made a point to check in on me, despite the fact I was an insignificant staffer,” Chatterjee said. “I certainly have my disagreements on policy with him, but I wish him well.”

He also congratulated Harris saying he “takes no small amount of pride seeing the numerous historical barriers she has broken.”

Chatterjee’s comment came during lengthy opening remarks before FERC’s meeting, speaking publicly about his demotion by President Trump.

“Although it may have cost me the gavel, I stand by my actions,” he said. “Some might prefer to ignore the pressing questions of the day, but I feel we have to face them head-on.”

Chatterjee has speculated he was removed from his chair due to his support for carbon pricing and a refusal to implement Trump’s September order to suspend diversity trainings.

Source: THE HILL