Overnight Energy: Dems probe EPA security contract | GAO expands inquiry into EPA advisory boards | Dems want more time to comment on drilling plan

Overnight Energy: Dems probe EPA security contract | GAO expands inquiry into EPA advisory boards | Dems want more time to comment on drilling plan
© Greg Nash

DEMS QUESTION EPA OVER SECURITY CONTRACT: Two Democratic senators are questioning whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a security contract to a company linked to EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE's chief of security, in violation of ethics rules.

In a letter sent to Pruitt on Tuesday, Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseKavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (D-R.I.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet EPA to abandon restrictions against chemical linked to climate change MORE (D-Del.) say a contract awarded to Edwin Steinmetz Associates, a company owned by the vice president of technical surveillance countermeasures at Sequoia Security Group, may represent a conflict of interest.

Pruitt's head of security detail, Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, is a principal of the same security company, according to his LinkedIn page.

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"These facts raise questions about Mr. Perrotta's compliance with EPA regulations and concerns that he may have used his position at the agency to influence the award of EPA contracts to a person or company in which he has a financial interest," the two senators said in their letter.

They said Perrotta's business ties could violate a number of government ethics rules and asked the EPA to provide them with details proving that Perrotta's outside employment with his security company was in compliance with the law.

Edwin Steinmetz Associates conducted a security sweep for listening devices in Pruitt's office, as first reported by The Associated Press last year. The EPA paid the company $3,000 to sweep Pruitt's office for bugs.

Read more here.

 

GAO EXPANDS EPA ADVISORY BOARD INQUIRY: Congress's watchdog agency is looking into the role that political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) played in picking new scientists and other agency advisory committee members.

In a letter that Senate Democrats made public Tuesday, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) official accepted the request last month by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to add the matter to an existing review the agency is conducting.

The GAO agreed last year to examine EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's actions and policies regarding the agency's 22 advisory committees, which advise the EPA on matters like science, health and air quality.

Pruitt refused last year to renew the terms of many advisory committee members. He then barred anyone receiving EPA research grants for being on the committees and filled many of the empty spots with industry-friendly people.

Last month, Carper and Whitehouse published documents that showed that the EPA's career staff responsible for reviewing potential advisers had flagged some candidates for potential problems in their qualifications or conflicts of interest, but political appointees overrode the recommendations.

Read more here.

 

DEMS WANT MORE TIME FOR OFFSHORE DRILLING COMMENTS: A group of Senate Democrats is asking the Trump administration to extend the comment period for its controversial offshore drilling plan.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellPartisan politics at independent agency draws bipartisan rebuke Senators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Poll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led 22 colleagues in a Monday letter to Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeEnergy development will likely land one bird on the Endangered Species list Montana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Overnight Energy: Navajo coal plant to close | NC dam breach raises pollution fears | House panel to examine endangered species bills MORE seeking the extension.

Friday is the end of a two-month period in which the Interior Department is taking comments on its plan. The plan, released in January, floated drilling almost everywhere it could be legally allowed: along the entire Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as all around Alaska, except Bristol Bay.

"Given the large scope of the Draft Proposed Program, we believe a 60-day extension of the deadline for comments is necessary to allow for more public hearings in coastal areas and to give the public sufficient time to submit comments on offshore drilling proposed for nearly the entire U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), encompassing over 90 percent of total OCS acreage -- the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever proposed," the Democratic senators wrote.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: The House Natural Resources Committee will meet to vote on three bills concerning strategic minerals, Western federal land transfers and federal land in the Virgin Islands.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's environment subcommittee will hold a hearing on the future of transportation fuels and vehicles.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

A California judge rejected environmentalists' attempt to slow down the hearing process for the Delta tunnels proposal, the Sacramento Bee reports.

New Mexico's highest court cleared a plan to close half of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Thirty-six exotic animals disappeared from a Florida wildlife refuge after a fake advertisement was posted encouraging people to take them, The Guardian reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

Consultant James Durso argues that Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline would help U.S. energy interests.

James Stock of Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy says various stakeholders would benefit from reforming the renewable fuel standard.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-GAO to examine EPA political appointees' roles in picking advisory committee members

- Senators question whether EPA security contract is conflict of interest

-Dems ask for longer comment period on Trump's offshore drilling plan

-UN taps Bloomberg for top position on climate change