Overnight Energy: Zinke defends ‘Konichiwa’ greeting | Lowe's drops cancer-linked chemical from stores | Fight between EPA, Dem over summit heats up

Overnight Energy: Zinke defends ‘Konichiwa’ greeting | Lowe's drops cancer-linked chemical from stores | Fight between EPA, Dem over summit heats up
© Greg Nash

Happy Tuesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of energy and environment news of the moment.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights won game one of the Stanley Cup Final last night. According to Interior Department Press Secretary Heather Swift, in a light-hearted tweet it was likely due to the motivational speech Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior shortlist puts focus on New Mexico lawmakers | Progressives criticize Biden transition over volunteer who represented Exxon | Trump DOJ appointees stalled investigation into Zinke: report Trump DOJ appointees stalled investigation into Zinke: report GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte wins Montana governor's race MORE gave the team last year. In case you don't remember, that speech garnered criticism after Zinke used a chartered plane on the taxpayer's dime to get to the event from official business.

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ZINKE CITES 'FRIENDS THAT WERE JAPANESE' TO DEFEND 'KONICHIWA' GREETING: Interior secretary Ryan Zinke is defending a greeting he gave to a Japanese-American member of Congress that was criticized at the time by Asian-Americans. Zinke told a radio station Monday that he believes the comment was "appropriate" based on having had "friends that were Japanese."

In an interview with Breitbart Radio on Monday, Zinke defended saying "konichiwa" to Rep. Colleen HanabusaColleen Wakako HanabusaHawaii New Members 2019 Ige wins second term as Hawaii governor The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts MORE (D-Hawaii) during a House Natural Resources Committee in March.


"I grew up in a little logging, timber town, railroad town in Montana and a lot of my family lived through the years of the internment camps. I've long since had friends that were Japanese families that went through that," he told Breitbart Radio.

Zinke added that he thought it was an "appropriate greeting."

"I've been to the Japanese War College at Etawah Jima and saying 'konichiwa' past ten o'clock as a greeting, I don't think it's any different than greeting anybody else in a language that's respectful," he said. "I grew up in Montana saying 'good morning,' saying 'good afternoon.' I think it's an appropriate salute."

When Zinke originally made the comment, Hanabusa had told him she had recently learned about her family's ties to Japanese internment camps. Hanabusa was questioning Zinke during the congressional hearing about planned cuts to grant programs that fund institutions that focus on the history of Japanese-Americans, particularly during World War II.

"I believe it is essential that we as a nation recognize our darkest moments so we don't have them repeat again," she concluded as part of a longer statement.

"Oh, konnichiwa," Zinke said in response.

Read more here. And listen to the interview.



LOWE'S TO RID STORES OF CHEMICAL LINKED TO CANCER: Home improvement retailer Lowe's will soon be ridding all of its stores of products carrying a toxic chemical known to cause cancer.

The company announced Tuesday it will soon phase out all products, including paints and paint thinners, that contain the toxic chemical methylene chloride. The change will occur throughout its global market by the end of the year.

The chemical, commonly found in paint thinners and metal cleaning products, can affect the central nervous systems of those who come in contact with it. Long exposure can at times lead to liver cancer. The chemical has been linked to dozens of deaths.

"We care deeply about the health and safety of our customers, and great progress is being made in the development of safer and more effective alternatives," said Mike McDermott, chief customer officer at Lowe's, in a statement. "As a home improvement leader, we recognize the need for viable paint removal products and remain committed to working closely with suppliers to further innovate in this category."

Additionally, the company said in a statement it will be actively working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to "lead change in the industry."

Why the decision is making waves: The move by Lowe's comes at a time where the federal government appears to be slow rolling a decision on whether to ban the chemical. The agency under the final days of the Obama administration proposed a rule to ban paint strippers containing the chemicals, but the Trump administration has yet to follow through with the proposal.

Read more here.


EPA SAYS DEM 'MISCHARACTERIZED' BARRING OF STAFF: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is defending a decision to restrict attendance to the second day of a summit on hazardous chemicals, calling a congressman's criticism that his staff was barred from coming a "mischaracterization."

In a letter sent to Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal Democrats set to hold out for big police reform MORE (D-Mich.) Tuesday, EPA Associate Administrator Troy Lyons criticized Kildee for publicizing to media the accusation that his staff was restricted from attending the event on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) last week. Lyons suggested that the media blitz was a political ploy.

"In our email communications with your office, EPA made it clear that the summit continued into May 23, but would be limited to federal agency and state representatives," Lyons wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill. "Regardless of these details, a representative from your office arrived on May 23 with less than two hours before the entire event concluded. Your office subsequently proceeded to tell members of the media that the agency barred your staff from the summit, which mischaracterized the events that took place."

Lyons additionally wrote that Kildee's staff did not attend the summit on May 22, the day it was open to congressional staffers, despite having RSVP'd.

Kildee last week tweeted that his staff was barred from attending the summit to discuss the potential health effects of PFAS in drinking water and how to regulate it.

"My staff was not allowed to attend today's @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination," Kildee tweeted. "@EPAScottPruitt's lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling."

We have more on the controversy here.



Mike Carr, executive director of New Energy America, argues that campaigns aimed at millennials won't change the fact that coal has no future.

Some mussels caught in Puget Sound are testing positive for opioids, KIRO reports.



Check out stories from Tuesday and over the long weekend...

-Zinke cites 'friends that were Japanese' in defending 'konichiwa' greeting

-U.S. Geological Survey warns: Don't roast marshmallows over volcano

-EPA: Rep. Kildee 'mischaracterized' barring of staffer from chemical summit

-Emails show climate change skeptics tout 'winning' under Trump

-Lowe's commits to phasing out chemical products linked to cancer

-EPA's internal advisory board recommends investigating science behind auto emission rollback

-Schwarzenegger: Pruitt is the worst EPA head 'we have ever had'

-Pro-hunting Trump officials take ax to wildlife protections