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Overnight Energy: Ethics office scolds Pruitt | Some Republicans rally round EPA chief | Perry might not issue grid emergency order | Apple hits renewable energy milestone

Overnight Energy: Ethics office scolds Pruitt | Some Republicans rally round EPA chief | Perry might not issue grid emergency order | Apple hits renewable energy milestone
© Greg Nash

ETHICS HEAD WANTS EPA TO ACT ON PRUITT CONTROVERSIES: The federal government's top ethics official scolded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA's scientific integrity in question over science rule Major unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE Monday and pushed the agency to investigate and, if necessary, take action against him.

The rare letter to Kevin Minoli, head of ethics at EPA, sounds alarm bells over multiple recent controversies Pruitt is at the center of, like his housing rental from a lobbyist last year and reports that he enlisted an aide to help him apartment shop.

David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), told Minoli that Pruitt's actions "raise concerns and may constitute a violation of the States of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch" as well as President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE's ethics pledge.

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"The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed," Apol wrote in the letter.

Apol's letter focuses on three areas: Pruitt's housing rental from the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 a day; his taxpayer-funded travel that has taken him home to Oklahoma and a report that EPA staffers who questioned Pruitt's spending or management were punished.

"If true, it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency's integrity than punishing or marginalizing employees who strive to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that safeguard that integrity," Apol wrote.

Read more.

 

Why it matters ... or does it? Apol, who the White House tapped to lead OGE last year after Walter ShaubWalter Michael ShaubEthics experts ask Senate to investigate Graham's probe of mail-in voting Interior 'propaganda' video and tweets may violate ethics laws, experts say Louisiana House candidate fundraises off opponent's tweet about wife's 'premonition' dream MORE's exit, doesn't have the ability to punish Pruitt.

Instead, the office acts as more of a watchdog, relying on agencies or the White House to take action on its recommendations.

But the letter nonetheless shows that Pruitt's actions could have real implications in terms of compliance with laws, regulations or Trump's ethics pledge.

The EPA's inspector general is investigating at least some of the allegations against Pruitt, and the Government Accountability Office is also looking into some of them.

 

Barrasso backs Pruitt: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Wyo.) said Monday that he's taking a wait-and-see approach on the Pruitt controversies, but he welcomes the EPA chief's policy actions.

"Administrator Pruitt has accomplished key priorities as head of the EPA. With the support of the president, he has been instrumental in returning the agency to its original mission. American workers are benefiting from his reversal of punishing regulations," Barrasso said in a statement.

"Certain questions have been raised about internal operations of the agency and the administrator's actions. The White House has indicated it has taken on a formal review of these questions. I will wait for the outcome of that process."

Read more.

 

What it means: Barrasso is taking the same strategy that many Republicans in Congress and conservative activists are: cheering Pruitt's accomplishments without directly defending his actions in the controversies.

So far, it's working. Trump is supporting Pruitt for the time being and showing no signs that he'll changing his mind.

Click here for more on the Republican lawmakers rallying around Pruitt.

 

Email suggests Pruitt knew about raises: An internal EPA email seems to show Pruitt knew about at least one of the raises that the agency gave to two top Pruitt staffers last month after the White House asked it not to, The Atlantic reports.

Pruitt told Fox News' Ed Henry that he didn't know about the raises until last week, and he immediately worked to stop them.

But Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt's senior counsel, reportedly sent an email to a human resources staffer saying Pruitt had blessed her raise.

"It's an 'oh, shit' moment that they're trying to figure out before the IG finds the email," an administration official told the Atlantic. "Because it'll be damn near impossible to have Sarah explain her way out of it."

Ryan Jackson, Pruitt's chief of staff, said Pruitt "had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired."

Read more.

 

Duckworth: EPA broke the law if Pruitt didn't know: Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE (D-Ill.) -- who gave birth Monday -- said the EPA broke the law if Pruitt wasn't aware of the raises.

The section of the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows for the raises gives the authority to the administrator, she wrote in a letter to the GAO, asking for an investigation.

"If Administrator Pruitt did not make false and misleading statements in his television interview, then it appears the EPA violated the Antideficiency Act when finalizing the two appointments without the knowledge, involvement or approval of the EPA administrator," she wrote.

 

Sanders: White House is still reviewing the Pruitt allegations: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that officials are still investigating the allegations against Pruitt.

Sanders also clarified that when Trump tweeted over the weekend that Pruitt's apartment was "about market rate," he was referring to the much-criticized EPA ethics opinion over his rent of $50 for each night he spent there.

"In that, it cites that the apartment was at market value and goes into other details, and that was what the president was reflecting," she said.

 

PERRY MIGHT NOT DECLARE GRID EMERGENCY: Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryChip Roy fends off challenge from Wendy Davis to win reelection in Texas The Memo: Texas could deliver political earthquake The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE said Monday that he may not declare there is an emergency in the Northeast's electric grid.

FirstEnergy Solutions, a power generating company, asked for such a declaration last month, saying that it plans to close its coal and nuclear power plants, which would devastate the PJM Interconnection grid that runs from Ohio to New Jersey and many other nearby states.

Perry said that while he sympathizes with the need to prevent coal and nuclear plants from closing, he might not endorse FirstEnergy's plan.

The relief FirstEnergy requested "may not be the way that we decide that is the most appropriate, the most efficient, way to address this. It is not the only way," Perry said at a New York City event hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Nonetheless, the request for Perry to use his power under section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act and mandate higher electricity payments to coal and nuclear plants in the region is "an issue in front of [the Energy Department] that is being looked at as we speak," he said.

Speaking in West Virginia last week, President Trump acknowledged FirstEnergy's petition, saying, "we'll be looking at that."

 

So what now? Perry was far from declaring that FirstEnergy's request is dead. The Energy Department is still considering it and is likely to issue a decision soon.

But he made it clear that, even after his plan for higher payments to coal and nuclear power plants was defeated, he still wants to find a way to save those plants from closing, probably by paying them more.

This particular legal provision might not be the way he tries to do that, but he's definitely interested in trying something.

 

INTERIOR OFFICIAL COMPARED PARKLAND STUDENTS TO NAZIS: An official in the Interior Department compared student survivors of the Parkland school shooting to Nazis on his personal Facebook page.

In one post, Kevin Sabo, acting chief of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the Bureau of Reclamation in Interior, shared an article from conservative commentator Ben Shapiro showing Parkland student David Hogg with a raised fist.

He added the comment: "Is this child giving a nazi salute? What the hell is the left doing to these kids?"

Sabo's controversial posts were first reported by Talking Points Memo, and most appear to have been removed from his Facebook page, though the one about the salute could still be seen on Monday.

In one post reported by TPM that can no longer be seen on his Facebook page, Sabo wrote: "The Nazis took everyone's guns away too. A lot of similarities with these kids."

Sabo is a career employee at the Bureau of Reclamation, serving as a civil service congressional affairs liaison. He was hired before the Trump administration.

A spokesperson for the Bureau said the agency has "no comment on the personal views expressed on his Facebook page," adding that "civil servants are guaranteed First Amendment rights to communicate their own views on their own time on their own social media sites, even if some would find those views disagreeable or the primary sources erroneous."

Read more.

 

APPLE HITS RENEWABLE MILESTONE: Apple Inc. said it has hit a major milestone for renewable energy, and is currently buying energy-renewable electricity to power all of its operations.

The milestone includes stores, offices, data centers, and co-located facilities in 43 countries, Apple said Monday.

In addition, 23 Apple suppliers have committed to using 100 percent clean energy.

"We're committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we're proud to have reached this significant milestone," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

"We're going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it."

A major piece of Apple's efforts has been installing renewable energy facilities at certain sites like data centers. It now has 25 operational facilities with 626 megawatts of capacity.

 

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Kinder Morgan is halting most construction on its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Canada, the Associated Press reports.

Demolition at a facility in Washington state's Hanford nuclear site is on hold due to radiation exposure in numerous workers, the SFGate.com reports.

Westmoreland Coal Co. may consider filing for bankruptcy, Colorado Public Radio reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Monday's stories ...

- Some Republicans are rallying around Pruitt

- Schumer to Trump: Get rid of Pruitt

Internal email contradicts Pruitt's story on raises: report

- Perry says he may not declare an electric grid emergency

- Interior official compared Parkland students to Nazis: report

- Top ethics official asks EPA to 'appropriately address' Pruitt controversies

- Agencies to sign Trump memo cutting review time for infrastructure: report

- GOP chairman backs Pruitt amid controversies