Overnight Energy: EPA pushed water rule with 'covert propaganda,' says watchdog

EPA IN HOT WATER: The Obama administration illegally carried out "covert propaganda" to promote its controversial new water pollution regulation, congressional investigators said.

That was the main conclusion from a Monday Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, finding that the two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) social media campaigns broke laws on promotion and lobbying by federal agencies.

The GAO said the EPA broke the law twice when promoting its waters of the United States rule, once in using social media tool Thunderclap to push out tweets from hundreds of users at once and one in linking to two environmental groups' websites that encouraged visitors to contact Congress.

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"We conclude that EPA's use of Thunderclap constituted covert propaganda, in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition," GAO wrote.

"We also conclude that EPA hyperlinks to the [Natural Resources Defense Council] and Surfrider Foundation webpages provided in the EPA blog post constitute grassroots lobbying, in violation of the grassroots lobbying prohibition."

The EPA defended its campaigns, saying it disagreed with the GAO's findings.

"We have an obligation to inform all stakeholders about environmental issues and encourage participation in the rulemaking process," spokeswoman Monica Lee said. "We use social media tools just like all organizations to stay connected and inform people across the country about our activities."

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGillibrand demands hearing following release of 'Afghanistan Papers' Overnight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East MORE (R-Okla.), who requested the report, said it confirmed his beliefs about the water rule.

"EPA's illegal attempts to manufacture public support for its waters of the United States rule and sway congressional opinion regarding legislation to address that rule have undermined the integrity of the rulemaking process and demonstrated how baseless this unprecedented expansion of EPA regulatory authority really is," he said in a statement.

Read more here.

WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS: The United Nations climate conference in Paris yielded a landmark international agreement this weekend to tackle global warming.

The deal is a first-of-its-kind agreement that has the world's nations agreeing to cut their greenhouse gas emissions over the next several years. It asks officials to assess their progress and update their goals as time goes on, setting up what greens hope is a steady transition to clean energy and a reduction in climate change-causing emissions.

Many consider the deal historic.

"Years from now, our grandchildren will reflect on humanity's moral courage to solve the climate crisis and they will look to December 12, 2015, as the day when the community of nations finally made the decision to act," said climate activist and former Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreImpeachment can't wait Lessons of the Kamala Harris campaign The Memo: Will impeachment hurt Democrats or Trump? MORE.

Read more on the agreement here, and check out of the rest of the weekend's Paris-related stories:

— PRESIDENT OBAMA said the climate deal "represents the best chance we've had to save the one planet that we've got."

"I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world," he said in a short speech at the White House on Saturday.

Securing the climate deal has been a major goal for Obama during his second term in office. He celebrated the achievement this weekend, noting the work his administration did to secure climate commitments from other countries like China.

"We've shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge," he said.

"It won't be easy. Progress won't always come quick. We cannot be complacent."

— SEN. JIM INHOFE (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works committee, said the climate deal will do little to change the status quo.

Inhofe has long said the Senate should get the chance to vote on the climate deal, but said the deal wouldn't be binding and won't go a long way toward addressing climate change.

"The news remains the same," he said Saturday. "This agreement is no more binding than any other 'agreement' from any conference of the parties over the last 21 years."

— SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY defended the deal on "Fox News Sunday," saying it will lead to real reductions in carbon dioxide because it requires emissions tracking.

He also said the deal had to be non-binding so it wouldn't have to go before a hostile Congress.

"A lot of nations resent that, but we have accepted that because we believe it is going to move the marketplace and already you see countless new technologies, a lot of jobs being created and I think it's going to produce its own form of oversight," he said on Fox.

— POPE FRANCIS urged leaders to begin implementing the climate agreement, calling it key to preserving the Earth for "the most vulnerable populations."

"In the hope that it will ensure special attention to the most vulnerable populations, we urge the international community to continue with care on the path it has taken, in a spirit of increasingly active solidarity," he said on Sunday.

Francis was a vocal advocate for a global climate agreement. He released a papal encyclical this summer calling for more work on climate, and he addressed the matter during speeches to Congress and the United Nations in September.

NO MORE SOLID WASTE: The EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response is changing its name, to the Office of Land and Emergency Management.

The agency announced the decision Monday in a Federal Register notice, saying it better aligns the office's name with its current purpose.

"This action changes the organizational name of an EPA office as it appears in various parts of the Code of Federal Regulations to more accurately reflect the current functions of that office," it said.

The office's main responsibility is the Superfund program, which cleans up contaminated, often abandoned land. It's also responsible for some hazardous waste, underground storage tank and conservation programs.

ON TAP TUESDAY I: The House and Senate are -- at some point -- expected to begin considering a 2016 spending bill and federal tax policy package. Energy and environment issues are all over the bills -- oil exports, renewable energy tax breaks, EPA funding, etc. Here's our preview.

ON TAP TUESDAY II: U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern will speak at a Center for American Progress event on the Paris climate agreement. Stern was the U.S.'s top negotiator at the Paris talks.

Rest of Tuesday's agenda ...

Jonathan Stivers, the USAID Assistant Administrator for Asia, will speak at a Stimson Center event on climate change in Asia.

AROUND THE WEB: North Dakota researchers are concerned about the lack of reliable data about oil pipeline spills in the state, the Fargo Forum reports.

American Electric Power Co. has settled an Ohio lawsuit by the Sierra Club, with the utility agreeing to shut down some coal-fired power plants and build new renewable energy capacity, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The Army Corps of Engineers is inspecting the New Orleans levee system as the Mississippi River rises more than 12 feet above sea level, the Times-Picayune reports.

Cheniere Energy Corp. fired its chief executive officer only weeks before it is due to open the first liquefied natural gas export terminal in the contiguous United States, the Houston Chronicle reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Monday's stories ...

-Renewable energy stocks spike after Paris climate deal
-EPA broke the law with 'covert propaganda,' says watchdog
-White House says climate deal will stand the test of time
-Obama, Xi discuss Paris climate agreement
-Week ahead: Oil export ban teeters in Congress

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill