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 ClintonTrump knocks BuzzFeed over Cohen report, points to Russia dossier DNC says it was targeted by Russian hackers after fall midterms Special counsel issues rare statement disputing explosive Cohen report 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 FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Feinstein grappling with vote on AG nominee Barr 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony 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 CarperIRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Last-minute deal extends program to protect chemical plants MORE (D-Del.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDem senator requests FBI investigate Nielsen for potential perjury Trump officials discussed ‘deterrent effect’ of prosecuting migrant parents: report Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest partial shutdown 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 PruittOvernight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Dem senator expresses concern over acting EPA chief's 'speedy promotion' 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 MacArthur 10 things we learned from the midterms New Jersey New Members 2019 On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal MORE (N.J.), Pete Roskam (Ill.) and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenThe 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall Minnesota New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president MORE (Wis.) joined the Climate Solutions Caucus this week alongside two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Elliot Engel (N.Y.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindOcasio-Cortez sparks debate with talk of 70 percent marginal rate The 15 Democrats who voted against Pelosi Live coverage: House elects new Speaker as Dems take charge 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 MeehanMany authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress Dem Scanlon wins House seat in Pennsylvania US athletics watchdog closes probe into GOP House hopeful 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 UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSchumer wants answers from Trump on eminent domain at border Senate in last-minute talks to find deal to avert shutdown  House-passed stopgap measure in Senate limbo MORE (N.M.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Dems introduce legislation to back-pay low-wage contractors Government shutdown impasse is a leveraging crisis 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries 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