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Overnight Energy: Pruitt huddles with GOP senators on ethanol

Overnight Energy: Pruitt huddles with GOP senators on ethanol
© Greg Nash

PRUITT, SENATORS TALK ETHANOL: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports MORE met with a handful of Midwestern senators on Tuesday, aiming to reassure them about support for the federal biofuels mandate.

Pruitt met with lawmakers for nearly an hour in Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October MORE's (R-Iowa) Senate office. The gathering comes as lawmakers of both parties raise concerns about proposed changes to Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Grassley had suggested he could hold up several EPA nominees if Pruitt and the agency don't provide more support for ethanol, a major industry in states his state and elsewhere.

Grassley said he used the meeting to make a political case for the ethanol mandate.

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"In the Midwest, this is a very important political issue," Grassley said, noting a phone call he had with Trump on ethanol in August, which led to the meeting with Pruitt.

"He said, 'you know, I campaigned on, promised ethanol, and I want you to tell the people of Iowa I'm still for ethanol.'" Grassley said. "So I reiterated this story to Mr. Pruitt and said, you can get in the weeds about what you ought to do or not do as a way of policy, but this is an issue of the president keeping his promise to the people."

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Overnight Defense: Trump ramps up pressure on Iran, international courts | Arrest made after suspicious letters sent to Trump, Mattis | US to offer NATO cyber capabilities Admiral defends record after coming under investigation in 'Fat Leonard' scandal MORE (R-Iowa) said she was still concerned after Tuesday's meeting.

"Administrator Pruitt again claimed today that he will not do anything to undermine the program. However, we have heard this before. We now need to see it," she said in a statement.

But others, including Nebraska Republican Sens. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerCook Political Report shifts three Senate races toward Republicans Kavanaugh fight puts Senate on edge of precipice ACLU's M in anti-Kavanaugh ads won't target Flake, Collins MORE and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseToobin: Flake and Sasse ‘never actually take a stand’ against Trump GOP lawmaker on Trump's 'Horseface' comment: 'That's not the way men act' Republican senator and Sean Hannity clash over claims in new book MORE, said the meeting was productive.

"I think he listened well in understanding the concern of agriculture states and people who are living in production environments," Sasse said.

Read more here.

 

PRUITT TO LIMIT ADVISERS WHO GET GRANTS: Pruitt is preparing a new policy directive meant to crack down on scientific advisers who get grants from the agency they advise.

He did not say how restrictive the policy would be. But it has the potential to greatly reduce the body of expert scientists who could serve on the scientific boards that advise Pruitt and the EPA on matters like policy and enforcement.

"Those individuals, as they've served in those capacities ... they've received monies through grants, and sometimes substantial monies through grants," Pruitt said at a Heritage Foundation event on Tuesday.

"I think what's most important at the agency is to have advisers, scientific advisers, that are objective, independent-minded, providing transparent recommendations to me as the administrator and to our office, on decisions we're making on the efficacy of rules that we're passing to address environmental issues," he continued.

"If we have individuals who are on those boards receiving money from the agency ... that to me causes question on the independence and the veracity and the transparency of those recommendations that are coming our way."

Pruitt said his directive next week will "fix that." He compared it to his Monday directive meant to crack down on settlements with environmental groups who sue the agency over regulatory matters.

Read more here.

 

DEMS TRY TO SINK ARCTIC REFUGE DRILLING: Senate Democrats are planning an amendment to stop the GOP from using the budget process to more easily allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Sen. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyElection Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Senate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda MORE (D-Mass.) and a handful of others told reporters Tuesday that they're working on how exactly to fight the ANWR provision in the budget, and they plan to have Republicans oppose it as well.

"We're going to work together with our colleagues to determine just the right moment in this budgetary process to make this amendment," Markey said outside the Capitol. "But we are going to do so, and we are reaching out to Republicans to try to make this as bipartisan as we can. It should be a bipartisan issue."

Markey called the ANWR provision "heartless," "a budgetary scam" and "nothing more than a Big Oil polar payout."

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug Congress moves to ensure the greater availability of explosives detecting dogs in the US Overnight Energy — Presented by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Trump ends law enforcement program at wildlife refuges | Pruitt canceled trips he already had tickets for | Senate panel approves new parks fund MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, criticized the GOP for using the opaque budget process to push ANWR drilling.

"It tells you something that this idea does not stand on its own. It tells you that every time it has to be paired with something else as almost a sneak attack, you have to vote for this because of these other issues," she said.

Read more here.

 

FEDS ISSUE SUBPOENA OVER FAILED NUKE PLANT PROJECT: The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a subpoena to the developer of a canceled nuclear plant project in South Carolina.

Scana Corp., whose subsidiary was developing the V.C. Summer nuclear project with a state-run corporation, announced the subpoena in a statement on Tuesday.

The company said it intends to "fully cooperate with the investigation."

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., the Scana subsidiary, and Santee Cooper announced in July that they would suspend efforts to build the $14 billion V.C. Summer nuclear plant northwest of Columbia, S.C.

Federal and state officials are conducting a criminal investigation into the project, the two developers have said. In September, shares of Scana dropped to their lowest level in two years in light of the federal government's probe.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on a slate of nominees, including Bill Wehrum to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA.

Wehrum's nomination has whipped up opposition among greens for his work lobbying on behalf of oil interests.

 

THE HILL EVENT:

Join us Wednesday, Oct. 25 as The Hill goes one-on-one with Dr. Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy Inspector general: Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for his wife Overnight Energy: Inspector general finds Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for family | Interior says Trump appointee won't be new watchdog | EPA chief says agency taking climate report 'very seriously' MORE, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for a Newsmaker Series exclusive. We will discuss his agency's relief efforts in hurricane-affected areas, his priorities for the department and the growing need for affordable housing. RSVP Here.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

A new wildfire has broken out in California's San Gabriel Mountains, threatening a historic observatory, the Los Angeles Times reports.

An appeals court Tuesday threw out a $72 million verdict awarded to a woman who said that using baby powder and other Johnson & Johnson products gave her cancer, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports.

Developers of the Rover Pipeline in Ohio are fighting fines stemming from an oil spill in April, WOSU reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGE:

David Yarnold, the president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, writes about his opposition to proposals that would open ANWR up for drilling.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories...

-Pruitt aims to assure GOP senators on biofuels mandate

-EPA to restrict scientific advisers who get agency grants

-Senate Dems to fight 'heartless' Alaska refuge drilling proposal

-Feds subpoena developer behind canceled SC nuclear plant

-Poll: Trump approval on hurricane response down 20 points after Puerto Rico

 

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