Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog probes Zinke's charter jet use

Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog probes Zinke's charter jet use
© Greg Nash

WATCHDOG PROBES ZINKE'S TRAVEL: The Interior Department's inspector general has launched a probe into Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeSupreme Court weighs Congress's power to dismiss lawsuits Democrats oppose effort to delay or repeal Interior methane rule Greens sue Trump for national monument documents MORE's use of charter jets at taxpayer expense.

The Office of Inspector General has received "numerous" complaints about Zinke's travel arrangements, spokeswoman Nancy DiPaolo told Politico, and the office launched its investigation late last week.

The office did not return requests for comment, but Rep. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, confirmed the probe in a response letter to Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall Monday.

The investigation comes as numerous cabinet secretaries are under fire for using private or military planes for official travel, often when commercial options were available. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceDems look to gain ground in Va. House of Delegates Pruitt to address trade group at luxury resort Spring promises of partnership on health-care reform are growing cold for states MORE resigned Friday over his numerous charter flights that cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Zinke's charter trips included a flight that cost more than $12,000 to go from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana after he spoke at a dinner to a hockey team owned by a former political donor. He also flew within the U.S. Virgin Islands on a charter.

He dismissed the controversy as "a little BS" on Friday. Zinke said the flights were booked "were only booked after extensive due diligence by the career professionals in the department's general law and ethics division," and he took charters only "after it was determined by multiple career officials at the department that no commercial options existed to meet the promulgated schedule."

The Campaign for Accountability, one of the groups that sought an inspector general probe, singled out the Las Vegas event, saying it "seems to be a special favor provided to a major political supporter of both Sec. Zinke and the president at taxpayer expense."

In Grijalva's Monday letter, he applauded the decision to launch a probe. He asked that Kendall look into the reasons Zinke took the flights, why his wife Lola Zinke sometimes was on the plane and other questions.
"Claims that the secretary's full schedule required the use of chartered aircraft deserve scrutiny," he wrote.

Read more here.

 

POLL: MOST WANT CLIMATE POLICIES: More than 6 in 10 Americans believe that climate change is a problem that the federal government needs to address, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted in August by The Associated Press-NORC Center and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, found a large majority of Americans in both major parties believe that climate change is happening.

But Americans' opinions are less clear when it comes to what action they feel should be taken.

Just 51 percent of respondents were willing to pay $1 a month to combat global warming, a figure that dropped to 18 percent when the prospective monthly fee increased to $100.

"These results put the polarized climate debate in sharp relief, but also point to the possibility of a path forward," Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute, said in a statement accompanying its Monday release.

"Although half of households said they were unwilling to pay anything for a carbon policy in their monthly electricity bills, on average Americans would pay about $30 per month, as a meaningful share of households report that they are willing to pay a substantial amount," he said.

Read more here.

 

ENERGY GROUPS WANT MORE TIME FOR GRID PROPOSAL: Eleven energy groups that rarely agree on much are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take more time to consider Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryPerry’s grid plan will keep on the lights — and the Wi-Fi Eric Trump’s brother-in-law promoted at Department of Energy Official National Park account: There's 'overwhelming consensus' on climate change MORE's electric grid resilience proposal.

The groups, including the American Wind Energy Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the American Petroleum Institute, said 60 days is not nearly enough time to consider Perry's sweeping proposal.

"This is one of the most significant proposed rules in decades related to the energy

industry and, if finalized, would unquestionably have significant ramifications for wholesale markets under the commission's jurisdiction," they wrote in their Monday letter.

"When agencies consider a proposed rule that could affect electricity prices paid by hundreds of millions of consumers and hundreds of thousands of businesses, as well as entire industries and their tens of thousands of workers, such as the proposal in question, it is customary ... for an agency to allow time for meaningful comments to be filed in the record so that the agency can make a reasoned decision thereon."

Perry proposal, released Friday, asked FERC to require that grid operators pay coal and nuclear power plants more money in order to protect grid resilience.

He asked FERC to issue the rule in 60 days, 45 of which would be a comment period.

The energy groups writing Monday's letter asked for a 90-day comment period, plus time for reply comments.

 

CLEAN POWER PLAN ARCHITECT HEADS TO HARVARD: Joe Goffman, a long time air pollution attorney and a key architect of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, will be the next executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental Law Program.

Goffman has worked for 30 years in various government roles. He was senior counsel in the Environmental Protection Agency's air and radiation office during the Obama administration, and since President Trump's inauguration, has worked in the Democratic staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"Using the vast intellectual and educational resources of the law school and the larger university, the ELP has already proven itself to be one of the country's most effective platforms to advance national environmental policy," Goffman said in a statement.

"Now, with society facing daunting environmental challenges and the law school community eager to take on the legal and policy riddles they present, the ELP is perfectly placed to expand its problem-solving reach. I am excited to be joining the team."

Goffman starts at Harvard next month.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY I: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on the nominations of Bruce Walker to be the Energy Department's assistant secretary for electricity and Steve Winberg to be the department's assistant secretary for fossil energy.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY II: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee will hold a hearing on defining and ensuring reliability in the electric grid. Lawmakers will hear from representatives of major energy associations.

Rest of Tuesday's agenda ...

After the confirmation vote, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on energy storage technology.

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a bill aimed at overhauling how federal land agencies oversee recreation and recreation partnerships.

Later, the House Natural Resources Committee will start the markup process for nine bills on endangered species, national parks and energy.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on energy will hold a hearing on seven bills within its jurisdiction.

The House Science Committee will hold its own hearing on ensuring electric grid resilience.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

General Motors Co. plans to roll out at least 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023, and Ford Motor Co. is spending $4.5 billion in the next five years to develop alternative drivetrain vehicles, the New York Times reports.

Opponents of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline in Canada argued in court Monday that regulators failed to properly consult with indigenous tribes and others in reviewing the project, Reuters reports.

Danish energy company Dong Energy changed its name to Ørsted Monday in a move to shed its oil and natural gas-focused past, the Copenhagen Post reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Monday's stories ...

-Interior watchdog investigating Zinke's use of chartered jets

-Poll: Most Americans want government to fight climate change

-Week ahead: EPA poised to deliver major ozone, climate decisions

 

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