Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus

Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus
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MAN WHO COINED 'LOCK HER UP' TO LEAD EPA OFFICE: Michael Stoker, best known for coining the "lock her up" chant against presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE at the 2016 Republican National Convention, will soon head the EPA's regional office that oversees the Pacific Southwest.

The agency officially announced the appointment of Stoker in a Friday email sent to employees that was obtained by The Hill.

The announcement from Environmental Protection Agency chief of staff Ryan Jackson says Stoker has "spent his career serving the public and working as an attorney specializing in agriculture, labor, land use, and environmental law."

Stoker's appointment will fill a long-open vacancy in San Francisco's Region 9 office.

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Stoker, a former Republican Santa Barbara County supervisor and agriculture attorney, will officially start May 21.

The regional office oversees more than 700 EPA staffers throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.

Why it's notable: The administration had reportedly struggled to find people interested in taking the appointment. In January it was widely expected that Ryan Flynn, an oil and gas lobbyist from New Mexico, would take on the role but he later told the Los Angeles Times that he was staying put.

The Times reported Thursday that Stoker also has no interest in moving to San Francisco to oversee the office, and is hoping to instead work out of a smaller satellite EPA office based in Los Angeles.

The report generated ire from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap F-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns MORE (D-Calif.) who sent a letter to Pruitt on Thursday warning there'd be consequences to allowing Stoker to be an "absentee" leader, and asking how the arrangement would work and cost.

We've got more on Stoker here.

 

WATCHDOG TO PROBE EPA EMAIL POLICIES: The EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) is probing how the agency retains emails, in response to congressional concerns about Pruitt's multiple email accounts.

Investigators plan to look into both preservation systems and policies, as well as what those policies mean for how the EPA responds to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

"The anticipated benefits of this project are ensuring the effectiveness of EPA processes for preserving electronic records and responding to FOIA requests," the inspector general said.

Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - US speeds evacuations as thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan Biden finds few Capitol Hill allies amid Afghanistan backlash Trains matter to America MORE (D-Del.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill Democrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill MORE (D-Ore.) had previously asked the OIG to look into why Pruitt has four email addresses and how the EPA handles them.

The EPA has said that one address is public, one is in the standard EPA format, one is for use in calendars, one is for Pruitt to use for communication and one was never used beyond three test emails.

Democrats say the setup raises the possibility that the EPA is hiding Pruitt's correspondence, and that workers responding to FOIA requests do not search in all of his addresses.

But the EPA has defended the practice as standard among EPA administrators and other high-profile government officials.

"All accounts are searched before we respond to the FOIA request," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

Why it matters: Inspector General Arthur Elkins had already told Carper and Merkley that he'd grant their request to look into Pruitt's email situation.

Friday's notification seems to be a more concrete detailing into what Elkins' office will do: an agency-wide look at how emails and text messages are preserved and searched for in FOIA requests.

If the EPA's previous statements on the matter -- that all of Pruitt's accounts are searched for FOIA requests -- is true, and the agency is complying with other retention requirements, Pruitt is likely in the clear.

Nonetheless, the probe adds to an already voluminous stack of investigations or audits into Pruitt's actions.

Read more on the probe here.

 

GREENS POKE FUN AT PRUITT SCANDALS IN NEW AD: Environmental group the Sierra Club launched a digital advertisement campaign Friday aimed at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children Science matters: Thankfully, EPA leadership once again agrees Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE.

The ad, shared on Instagam, Facebook and Twitter to Washington, D.C.- and Oklahoma-based audiences, highlights a number of controversies tied to Pruitt's relationship with lobbyists, including reports that he rented a $50-a-night condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist and worked in tandem with a number of special interest groups when booking international work trips.

Titled: "Do-it-Pruitt," the satirical digital campaign advertises services to everyday users similar to those utilized by Pruitt since his time heading the EPA.

"Looking to plan a luxury vacation to far off places like Australia, Morocco or Italy? Try Do-it-Pruitt, your one-stop shop for outrageous pay-to-play deals at the Environmental Protection Agency," the ad says. "We have a lobbyist ready to make your plane, dinner and hotel reservations for you; all you have to do is meet with their corporate polluter clients."

Check out the ad here.

 

THREE REPUBLICANS JOIN CLIMATE CAUCUS: Three House Republicans have joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers dedicated to addressing the threat posed by climate change.

GOP Reps. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Republican David Richter wins NJ primary in race to challenge Rep. Andy Kim What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday MORE (N.J.), Pete Roskam (Ill.) and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenThe Biden 15 percent global tax puts foreign companies ahead of American workers House panel opens probe into Tom Reed over sexual misconduct allegations GOP Rep. Tom Reed accused of sexual misconduct MORE (Wis.) joined the Climate Solutions Caucus this week alongside two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Elliot Engel (N.Y.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindWisconsin governor seeks to intervene in redistricting case Retail group backs minimum corporate tax, increased IRS enforcement LIVE COVERAGE: House panel launches work on .5T spending package MORE (Wis.), bringing the total number of lawmakers in the caucus to 78.

The group, which is split evenly among Republicans and Democrats, released a statement saying members were excited to see the group growing in an election year. Paulsen filled a slot vacated by Rep. Pat MeehanPatrick (Pat) Leo MeehanBottom line Freshman lawmaker jokes about pace of Washington politics Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress MORE (R-Pa.), who resigned earlier this year.

The Hill's John Bowden has more here.

 

RECAPPING THE WEEK: Pruitt faced questioning from senators Wednesday for the first time since the rash of scandals surrounding him blew up in March.

While Republicans were largely happy with his performance at the EPA, Democrats -- particularly Sens. Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin MORE (N.M.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Democrats seeking information from SPACs, questioning 'misaligned incentives' Bottom line Spendthrift Democrats ignore looming bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare MORE (Md.) -- used the opportunity to press him repeatedly on multiple scandals involving spending, ethics, his relationships with lobbyists and the like.

"Your tenure at the EPA is a betrayal of the American people. You have used your office to enrich yourself at the expense of the American taxpayer and public health, and such abuses have led to several investigations," Udall said in one particularly illustrative speech.

Meanwhile, we learned that Pruitt requested a 24/7 security detail before he even got to EPA, due to expectations of a backlash to early policy moves.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden confronts sinking poll numbers Congress needs to push for more accountability in gymnasts' tragic sex abuse Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour MORE (R-Iowa) threatened to join the ranks of lawmakers calling on Pruitt to resign, Pruitt's scientific advisers criticized his science "transparency" proposal, and Pruitt proposed rolling back some of the Obama administration's safety rules for chemical plants.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

EPA forum on water contaminant: The EPA will host a summit Tuesday and Wednesday on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment, particularly in drinking water.

The substances, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and GenX, have gotten significant attention in recent months, due to water contamination crises in areas like Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and North Carolina's Cape Fear River.

Documents made public this week show that the Trump administration sought to delay release of a study on the health risks of PFAS, fearing a "public relations nightmare."

Appropriations action in House, Senate: The House and Senate appropriations committees will move forward on spending bills for fiscal 2019.

In the House, the full Appropriations Committee will meet to vote on the bill to fund the EPA and Interior Department, with small cuts to both. The subcommittee for those agencies approved the bill this week.

In the Senate, the subcommittee overseeing funding for the Energy Department and water development programs will consider its bill Wednesday. The Senate's Interior/EPA panel will consider its own bill Thursday.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

The teen who has admitted to starting a massive Oregon wildfire may have to pay $37 million in restitution, the Associated Press reports.

The United Kingdom's government is under fire for a new policy to let oil and natural gas drillers use hydraulic fracturing without special permission, The Guardian reports.

Tropical Cyclone Sagar is heading toward Somalia, Djibouti and Yemen, bringing significant risk of rare flooding to the nations, the Weather Channel reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories...

-Man who coined 'lock her up' chant to lead EPA's Pacific Southwest office

- Three Republicans join climate change caucus

-Watchdog to probe EPA email preservation

-Environmental group launches ad campaign targeting Pruitt's lobbyist ties

-Trump dials back Obama policy asking agencies to reduce emissions

-Utah governor signs climate change resolution after push from students