Overnight Energy: Pruitt to face Senate panel | Grassley might ask Pruitt to resign | Interior to use drones to fight wildfires

Overnight Energy: Pruitt to face Senate panel | Grassley might ask Pruitt to resign | Interior to use drones to fight wildfires
© Greg Nash

PRUITT ON THE HILL: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief 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 is returning to Capitol Hill Wednesday morning for a hearing.

The event at the Senate Appropriations Committee's subpanel with authority over the EPA is ostensibly for Pruitt to answer questions about his requested budget for fiscal 2019.

But it is also the first time senators will get to question Pruitt at a hearing since the deluge of spending and ethics controversies involving him started in March. It's Pruitt's first appropriations hearing since June 2017, and his first Senate appearance since January.

While Democrats say they're eager to grill Pruitt, the anticipation and drama leading up to the hearing pales in comparison to April 26, when he faced two subcommittee hearings in the same day in the House.

"I've got a lot of questions. The question is, how do you cram them all in within five or 10 minutes," Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Dems to Trump: Reverse cuts to Palestinian aid Overnight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (D-Md.), a member of the Senate panel, said Tuesday with a grin.

"I'm going to be asking him both about environmental policies he's pushing and issues regarding betrayal of the public trust," Van Hollen continued.

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThis week: Democrats pledge ‘sparks’ in Kavanaugh hearing Congress faces September scramble on spending California passes bill to ban controversial drift net fishing MORE (R-W.Va.), a strong supporter of Pruitt's agenda, said other lawmakers are likely to ask questions about his controversies, so she won't use her time for that.

"At this point, I think those questions are probably going to be raised," she said. "I'm just going to concentrate on policy."


Grassley threatens to ask Pruitt to leave: Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley extends deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to decide on testifying Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Kavanaugh accuser seeks additional day to decide on testimony MORE (R-Iowa) threatened Tuesday to become the first GOP senator to call on Pruitt to resign.

The threat was over "hardship" waivers that the EPA has been giving to fuel refineries to allow them to avoid complying with the federal ethanol mandate. He warned in a call with reporters that Pruitt had better stop giving them to refineries owned by big companies.

"Well, they better, or I'm going to be calling for Pruitt to resign, because I'm done playing around with this" he said.

Grassley argued that waivers violate promises by Pruitt and President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE to keep the annual federal ethanol mandate at the level Congress called for in 2007, which is currently 15 billion gallons.

His state is dominant nationally in corn production, and the ethanol mandate has significantly ramped up demand for corn to create the biofuel. He fears the waivers will chip away at the mandate and hurt Iowa.

"Trump was elected with an agenda, Pruitt was not elected, and it's Pruitt's job to carry out the Trump agenda," he said in a call.

Grassley reiterated the threat later Tuesday in a tweet.

"I've supported Pruitt but if he pushes changes to RFS that permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons he will have broken Trump promise & he should step down & let someone else do the job of implementing Trump agenda if he refuses," Grassley wrote.

Read more.


Dems on another Senate committee also want to see Pruitt: Six Democratic Senators sitting on the Environment and Public Works Committee are calling on Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (R- Wyo.) to ask Pruitt to testify on his ethics and travel controversies. The Democrats, who sit on the Senate committee tasked with overseeing EPA, feel that they too should have a chance to question Pruitt over a cascade of scandals that have recently plagued the agency and the administrator.

Pruitt is slated to testify tomorrow about the EPA's fiscal 2019 proposal before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

"My only disappointment is that it's not before the Environment and Public Works and my hope is that before long it will be because there is plenty to talk to him about," 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.), ranking member of the environment committee, told reporters Tuesday. "It's not just concerning to Democrats, it's also to a lot of Republicans. And maybe sooner rather than later they'll find their voices."

Carper and the five other senators wrote in their letter to Barrasso: "Administrator Pruitt's testimony, viewed in the most charitable light, depicted a chief executive who has failed to exert any oversight over his staff as they have, as he testified, spent exorbitant funds and made impactful personnel decisions without his knowledge or approval," the senators wrote. "His ready willingness to pass blame on to everyone around him, including career staff and his top political aides, shows that he is either unwilling or unable to lead."

The senators noted that Pruitt has yet to testify before the panel on this year's or next year's budget, and they accused him of offering testimony that had been contradicted by earlier testimony and documents in his previous appearance.

Read more here.


INTERIOR TO IMPLEMENT FIRST DRONE PROGRAM TO COMBAT FIRES: The department announced Tuesday that it will sign four contracts with U.S.-based companies that will give Interior the ability to use "fully contractor-operated and maintained" small drones to aid in wildfire operations, search-and-rescue missions and other emergency situations in the U.S.

"This contract reinforces our commitment to partnering with industry to provide our employees with the latest technology in carrying out their responsibilities as stewards of our nation's public lands while also ensuring their safety is paramount," Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeMontana 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 Navajo-owned coal plant to be shut down despite Interior push to keep open MORE said. "This capability is key to implementing our new and aggressive approach to combating the threat of large wildfires."

The $17 million contract will help supplement the manned firefighter fleet by operating in situations dangerous to first responders, such as dense smoke situations.

Infrared sensors placed on the drones will additionally provide the department the opportunity to collect and analyze the effectiveness of wildfire suppression and retardant.

The effort is a collaboration between Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Read more here.



Pruitt will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee's Interior and EPA subcommittee.

The full House Appropriations Committee will vote on the chamber's proposed spending bill for the Energy Department and water development programs.

The House Science Committee will hold a hearing on using technology to combat climate change.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Trump's nomination of Francis Fannon to be assistant secretary of state for energy resources.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's environment subcommittee will hold a hearing on proposed legislation to change the EPA's New Source Review permitting program.

The House Natural Resources Committee will vote on six bills within its jurisdiction.



A federal judge overturned an attempt by Oakland, Calif., to block a coal export terminal from using the city's port, SFGate reports.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced protesters supporting Kinder Morgan's proposed TransMountain pipeline project, CTV reports.



Check out Tuesday's stories...

-San Francisco lawmakers propose bill banning plastic straws

-Interior Dept. moves forward on drone program for wildfire combat

-Senate Dems call for new committee hearing on Pruitt's ethics concerns

-Republican senator threatens to call on Pruitt to resign

-Watchdog: EPA can do more to find emissions cheating after Volkswagen scandal

-London may implement 'car-free' days to combat pollution: report