Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review

Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review

EPW CLEARS EPA DEPUTY PICK: A Senate committee voted Wednesday to advance President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE's nominee to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The 11-10 vote in the Environment and Public Works Committee, along party lines, sets up former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler for a potential vote in the full Senate once GOP leaders schedule it.

The committee voted in November to confirm Wheeler. But Democrats objected to the GOP's attempt to carry over Wheeler's nomination at the end of the year, instead sending it back to Trump, who re-nominated him.


Republicans said Wheeler is a highly qualified choice to be EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: House to vote on anti-carbon tax measure | Dem says EPA obstructed 'politically charged' FOIA requests | GOP looks to overhaul endangered species law Top Dem: EPA slowed ‘politically charged’ FOIA requests Majority of registered voters say Pruitt 'conducted himself inappropriately' at EPA: poll MORE's No. 2 and help him implement Trump's aggressive environmental deregulatory agenda.

"He's proven himself to be a well-qualified, experienced and dedicated public servant," said Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: House to vote on anti-carbon tax measure | Dem says EPA obstructed 'politically charged' FOIA requests | GOP looks to overhaul endangered species law Western lawmakers introduce bills to amend Endangered Species Act GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-Wyo.), the panel's chairman. "We all know that Mr. Wheeler will make an invaluable contribution to the nation's public health and safety as deputy administrator of the EPA."

Wheeler is currently a lawyer at Faegre Baker Daniels, and was until last year a registered lobbyist for companies including coal mining giant Murray Energy.

He previously worked at the EPA and as a staffer for Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs Senate moves to start negotiations on defense policy bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Anticipation builds for Trump’s SCOTUS pick MORE (R-Okla.), the Environment and Public Works Committee's former chairman.

Democrats said they hadn't gotten sufficient assurances that Wheeler would act independently from his former industry clients like Murray Energy.

"I believe that members of this committee and members of the public deserve more clarity about whether the Trump administration will be guided by science and the law or by Mr. Murray's demands," said Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: New EPA head looks to reassure staff | New round of ex-Pruitt staffers leave | House votes to overhaul fisheries law | Trump rips Germany for pipeline deal with Russia Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick McConnell to meet with Trump's Supreme Court pick Tuesday MORE (Del.), the committee's top Democrat.

Read more here.


PRUITT QUESTIONS IF CLIMATE CHANGE IS BAD: EPA head Scott Pruitt on Tuesday questioned whether global warming is harmful to humans and suggested warm climate could be beneficial.

"We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what, warming trends? So I think there's assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing," Pruitt told KSNV News 3 Las Vegas, disputing whether climate change is an "existential threat."

"Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 in the year 2018?" he continued. "I mean, that's somewhat fairly arrogant, for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100."

Pruitt has been skeptical previously about whether human activity is the primary cause of global warming. Last summer, he raised the idea of funding a debate over whether humans are the main contributors to rising temperatures.

Read more here.


SENATORS ASK PRUITT TO RECUSE HIMSELF FROM CLEAN POWER PLAN DECISION: Four Democratic senators are calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to recuse himself from overseeing any rulemaking regarding the repeal of an Obama-era rule on carbon dioxide emissions, because of his "closed mind."

In a formal comment submitted Wednesday to the docket for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseWho is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief? Congress can protect midterm elections with the Disclose Act Trump nominee vows to restore 'trust' in IRS MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger Demanding accountability from private companies detaining children FCC proposes overhaul to comment filing system MORE (D-Ore.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDems rip Trump DOJ nominee who represented Russian bank The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Expensive and brutal: Inside the Supreme Court fight ahead Dem senator: No argument will 'lay bare' GOP's hypocrisy on Supreme Court MORE (D-Hawaii) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns Hillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger MORE (D-Mass.) wrote that Pruitt was unfit to oversee the repeal of CPP because of his history of lawsuits against the plan and the Obama administration when Pruitt was attorney general of Oklahoma.

"The evidence for Pruitt's inalterably closed mind on CPP rulemaking is overwhelming," the senators wrote. "It falls into three categories: (1) his deep and wide financial ties to the fossil fuel industry which is ferociously opposed to the CPP; (2) his status as a previous petitioner suing the EPA to block the CPP; and (3) his numerous statements denouncing the CPP, questioning the ability to regulate carbon emissions under the [Clean Air Act] as the CPP proposes to do, and casting doubt on climate science."

The four argued that the law makes clear that when an administrator is proven to have bias he should be recused.

"When clear and convincing evidence exists that a regulator possesses an inalterably closed mind about a subject covered by a rulemaking, s/he is not permitted to participate in the rulemaking," they wrote. "Pruitt's extensive involvement in CPP litigation means that he cannot be impartial in CPP rulemaking and therefore must recuse himself."

Read more here.


PATAGONIA MAKES ACTIVISM OFFICIAL: Outdoor retailer Patagonia is launching an environmental activism initiative after recently challenging the Interior Department over changes to national monument designations.

The new effort, Patagonia Action Works, is being launched with a goal of getting the retailer's supporters more engaged in politics.

In a video posted on its website, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard describes the new grass-roots activism effort as one that follows the company's founding principals to "force government and corporations to take action in solving our environmental problems."

The video shows clips of protestors outside the U.S. Capitol holding signs saying, "Stop this monumental mistake."

"If you've been paying attention, you'll know that things haven't been going very well for the planet," Chouinard says in the promotional video. "It's pretty easy to get depressed about it. I've always known that the cure for depression is action."

The new initiative is built off of the company's long-standing policy to donate 1 percent of its proceeds to groups they call their "grantees." They are described as groups "dedicated to the preservation and restoration of natural environments."

Patagonia Action Works aims to connect individuals directly to those same "grantee" groups to "take action," according to the company's website.

"This truly is the next chapter in our company's forty year history in activism," Corley Kenna, a Patagonia spokeswoman, told The Hill. "I think 2017 was the worst year on record for public lands, we saw things happened to pubic lands that had never happened before."

The retailer has been an outspoken advocate for public land rights and more recently against actions taken by the Trump administration.

In December, Patagonia sued to block President Trump's move to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

The company called Trump's announcement that he was reducing the size of Bears Ears by 84 percent an "extreme overreach in authority."

Trump's actions to shrink Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, both federally protected national monuments in southern Utah, took effect last week.

Read more here.


ON TAP THURSDAY: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on energy infrastructure.



A committee of the Idaho legislature voted Wednesday to remove references to human-caused climate change from state education curricula, the Associated Press reports.

Utah's legislature is considering a bill to restrict local officials' ability to speak in favor of public land protections, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Sunoco is appealing Pennsylvania regulators' order last month to stop work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.



John Campion of investment firm APR Energy says innovations in battery technology are the key to growth for renewable energy.

Mike Carr of New Energy America argues that Trump's "energy dominance" agenda can't rely on fossil fuels.



Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-NPS official requested thousands in upgrades for park housing unit he planned to rent out
-Court orders EPA to act on Connecticut air pollution petition

-Patagonia launches initiative to boost environmental activism

-EPA administrator questions 'assumptions' that global warming is bad

-Dem senators demand EPA chief recuse himself on clean power plan rulemaking

-Solar power industry lost nearly 10,000 jobs in 2017

-Senate panel advances Trump pick for No. 2 official at EPA