OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate

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a man wearing a suit and tie: OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate | Trump official delays polar bear study with potential implications on drilling: report

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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate | Trump official delays polar bear study with potential implications on drilling: report

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FILL-IN THE BERN: The Department of the Interior will not name a new acting director to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after it’s leader was ousted by a federal judge, top officials told employees in an email obtained by The Hill.

Instead the job will be left to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

A Montana-based U.S. district judge on Friday ruled William Perry Pendley, the controversial acting director of BLM, “served unlawfully … for 424 days” and enjoined him from continuing in the role.

The decision was in response to a suit from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who argued Pendley, whose nomination to lead the BLM was pulled by the White House last month, was illegally serving in his role through a series of temporary orders.

A Wednesday email makes clear that Interior will not be placing the top career official in charge of the nation’s public lands agency, as its department manual dictates.

“I understand there may be some questions about the ruling on Friday regarding William Perry Pendley’s leadership role at the Bureau of Land Management,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond wrote in an email to BLM staff.

“Secretary Bernhardt leads the bureau and relies on the BLM’s management team to carry out the mission. Deputy Director for Programs and Policy, William Perry Pendley, will continue to serve in his leadership role.”

Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, ruled Friday that Interior and the White House improperly relied on temporary orders far beyond the 210 days allotted in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act while also violating the Constitutional requirement to seek approval from the Senate.

“The President cannot shelter unconstitutional ‘temporary’ appointments for the duration of his presidency through a matryoshka doll of delegated authorities,” he wrote.

Pendley has sparked controversy over the course of the year he has led BLM due to his long history opposing federal ownership of public lands as well as comments he has made questioning climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Putting Bernhardt at the helm of the agency appears to comply with the court order from Morris.

But critics say the move centralizes power for the agency in the highest political circles after relocating more than 200 Washington, D.C.,-based positions to Grand Junction, Colo., in order to bring employees closer to the lands they manage.

The move leaves just 61 BLM employees in Washington.

“Secretary Bernhardt’s decision to centralize final decision-making in Washington,

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Collin Peterson, Michelle Fischbach spar in their first U.S. House debate

Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and his GOP challenger, Michelle Fischbach, agreed in their first debate Thursday that the state’s corona­virus restrictions went too far, but the candidates differed sharply over President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Both candidates were asked in a WCCO Radio debate about Trump’s admission in a recorded interview with journalist and author Bob Woodward that he downplayed the gravity of the coronavirus as it began to spread even as he became aware of its gravity.

Fischbach repeatedly said that she had not read the book, which won’t be released until next week. Asked if she listened to the recordings of Trump that were part of this week’s news coverage of the revelation, Fischbach said she hadn’t and insisted that the country’s response to the virus has been “very strong.”

Peterson said the Trump administration could have done more to tell Americans what it knew at the time.

“My question was why, if you knew all this stuff, why would you do this?” Peterson said. “The best thing you can do in a government is level with the people, tell them the truth, give the people some credit. They can handle it.”

Peterson, a centrist Blue Dog Democrat, has represented the largely rural Seventh Congressional District since 1990, even as it went overwhelmingly in President Donald Trump’s favor in 2016. His challenge by Fisch­bach, a former lieutenant governor and state senator, has since been deemed a tossup by multiple election trackers.

As she has since declaring her candidacy last year, Fischbach attempted to link Peterson to what she called the “socialist agenda” of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In response, Peterson pointed to his vote against impeaching Trump last year and his stewardship of the influential House Agriculture Committee.

“There isn’t a meeting that goes on in agriculture in Washington that it doesn’t start until I get in the room — and it doesn’t end until I leave,” Peterson said.

Thursday’s 90-minute debate zoomed in on issues key to rural Minnesota: farming, the environment and, as elsewhere, responding to the health and economic effects of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.

Fischbach is trying to unseat one of Congress’ last remaining Democrats who still manages to net A-plus ratings from the National Rifle Association and opposes abortion.

“Minnesota’s Seventh District deserves a strong conservative voice in Congress, and we need to make sure that rural Minnesota moves forward into the future,” Fisch­bach said.

Peterson insisted, “I do not see myself as a partisan; I see myself as an American.”

Both Peterson and Fischbach argued that Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic went too far. Peterson said it made little sense to have some of the same emergency orders in effect in places in rural Minnesota that don’t have the same infection rate as elsewhere and that adjoining states like North and South Dakota have more lax policies. Fischbach called for getting “everything reopened, and we need to make sure it stays

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