Overnight Energy: Pruitt blames bad coach ‘interactions’ for upgraded travel | WH environment adviser resigns | Utility spent nearly $40m on private aircraft

Overnight Energy: Pruitt blames bad coach ‘interactions’ for upgraded travel | WH environment adviser resigns | Utility spent nearly $40m on private aircraft
© Greg Nash

PRUITT BLAMES BAD COACH 'INTERACTIONS' FOR FIRST CLASS TRAVEL: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards MORE says he flies first class on airplanes due to past interactions that have "not been the best."

In an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire Tuesday, Pruitt said he flies first class for security purposes stemming from past negative travel experiences.

"There have been instances, unfortunately, during my time as administrator, as I've flown ... of interaction that's not been the best," Pruitt said.

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Pruitt was quick to note that his security team made the decisions on which class he traveled.

"Ingress and egress off the plane, the security aspect, those are decisions all made by our detail team, by the chief of staff, by the administration. I don't make any of those decisions, they place me on the plane where they think is best from a safety perspective."

When asked specifically whether he's encountered "near confrontations" in coach, Pruitt declined to give specifics.

"Well it's, I don't really want to get into the specs. It's just been situations where the inspector general many, many months ago actually did an assessment about the threats we faced, unfortunately, are multiple of what previous administrators have faced. And so all of those decisions are made, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat."

Read more here.

 

- Dems want IG to investigate: Leading House Democrats want the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) internal watchdog to look into EPA head Scott Pruitt's premium-class flights on the taxpayer's dime.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Lawmakers pay tribute to John Dingell's legacy on health care | White House denies officials are sabotaging ObamaCare | FDA wants meeting with Juul, Altria execs on youth vaping Hillicon Valley: Dems ready to subpoena Trump Tower meeting phone records | Dems, Whitaker in standoff over testimony | Bezos accuses National Enquirer of 'extortion' | Amazon offers rules for facial recognition | Apple releases FaceTime fix MORE (N.J.), the Energy and Commerce Committee's top Democrat, wrote to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins about the matter Wednesday.

Elkins is already investigating all of Pruitt's official travel through 2017. But Pallone and two other top Democrats on the panel want to ensure that Elkins is probing recent revelations that Pruitt has flown first or business class repeatedly, and he has a "blanket exemption" to rules limiting premium-class flights by federal employees.

"Administrator Pruitt's many first-class flights around the country at taxpayers' expense raise renewed concerns of secrecy and waste at the Trump EPA," Pallone wrote along with Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid Dem chair asks FDA for documents on powerful new opioid Trump health official says agency would never have supported family separations MORE (Colo.) and Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Republicans push back at first climate hearings Climate change on front burner after 8 years of GOP rule MORE (N.Y.).

"In light of these recent reports, we would expect your ongoing review would determine whether Administrator Pruitt's 'blanket waiver' for premium-class travel is in compliance with all applicable regulations, policies and procedures," they wrote.

Read more here.

 

WH ENVIRONMENT ADVISER RESIGNS: President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE's top adviser for international energy and environmental policy has stepped down.

George David BanksGeorge (David) David BanksOvernight Energy: House energy panel to address climate change at first hearing | DOJ investigating whether Zinke lied to watchdog | Landmark greenhouse gas agreement takes effect Novel international greenhouse gas commitment goes into effect White House nominating new science adviser with extreme-weather background MORE, who worked in the National Economic Council, resigned Tuesday after the White House Counsel's office informed him that he would not be granted a full security clearance because he admitted to smoking marijuana in 2013, Politico reported.

Banks's departure makes him the third White House official to step down in the past week amid mounting scrutiny over the White House's handling of security clearances.

Reports have indicated that dozens of White House officials have been operating without a full security clearance. The issue was thrust into the spotlight after former staff secretary Rob Porter resigned last week over accusations of past domestic abuse.

Porter had been working under an interim security clearance. Days after he resigned, White House speechwriter David Sorensen also stepped down amid allegations of prior domestic abuse, claims which he denied.

Read more here.

 

TVA SPENT NEARLY $40M ON PRIVATE AIRCRAFT: A federal energy utility is under investigation for allegedly purchasing multiple private jets and a helicopter once used by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Government auditors are looking at nearly $40 million in purchases by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Bloomberg News first reported Wednesday.

An investigation by energy watchdog group The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) found that the utility used the rate-payer funding to purchase new corporate jets, airplanes and a luxury helicopter.

Details in the Federal Aviation Administration's registry show that the utility authorized the purchasing of 19 aircraft over the past two and half years.

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said private aircraft travel is the only safe and timely means to travel through the authority's 80,000 square miles that span across seven states.

"We believe this is a valid use of the aircraft," Hopson told Bloomberg.

Hopson told Bloomberg that the utility's inspector general is looking into their use.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY I: The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on border patrol officers' access to federal land along the United States-Mexico border.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY II: The Natural Resources Committee's subpanel on energy and mineral resources will hold a hearing on a bill meant to boost mineral mining.

 

Rest of Thursday's agenda ...

The Natural Resources Committee's subpanel on federal land will hold a hearing on five bills.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for three nominees, including Francis Fannon, the State Department's nominee to be assistant secretary of state for energy resources.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

The Brunner Island coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania plans to almost completely phase out coal use by 2028, Lancaster Online reports.

More than 13,000 Pennsylvania homes still don't have secure heating sources for this winter, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.

San Diego County's board of supervisors voted to lobby against Trump's offshore drilling plan, Fox 5 San Diego reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

-Jennifer Krill, executive director of Earthworks, says that mining policies should be strengthened not loosened.

-Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, argues in favor of creating more clean energy generation projects in order to create jobs.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Draft UN report: 'Very high risk' global warming will exceed key threshold

-House Dems want watchdog to probe Pruitt's first-class flying

-Watchdog: Federal utility spent nearly $40M on private aircraft

-Ex-WH science advisers concerned as Trump enters second year with post unfilled

-White House official resigns after issue with security clearance: report

-Energy Department creates new office for cyber, energy security

-Pruitt: Coach travel yielded interactions that have 'not been the best'

-Analysis: Outdoor recreation was 2 percent of GDP in 2016