Overnight Energy: Trump directs Perry to stop coal plant closures | EPA spent $1,560 on customized pens | EPA viewed postcard to Pruitt as a threat

Overnight Energy: Trump directs Perry to stop coal plant closures | EPA spent $1,560 on customized pens | EPA viewed postcard to Pruitt as a threat
© Camille Fine

TRUMP ORDERS PERRY TO RESCUE COAL PLANTS: President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE ordered Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryRepublicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Five things to know about Texas's strained electric grid | Biden honeymoon with green groups faces tests | Electric vehicles are poised to aid Biden in climate fight Five things to know about Texas's strained electric grid MORE Friday to take "immediate steps" to prevent the further closures of coal and nuclear power plants around the United States.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the president had ordered the Department of Energy to take the measures due to a national security interest in securing the national power grid's resilience.

"President Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to his recommendations," Sanders said Friday.


"President Trump believes in total energy independence and dominance, and that keeping America's energy grid and infrastructure strong and secure protects our national security, public safety and economy from intentional attacks and natural disasters," Sanders added. "Unfortunately, impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation's energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid."

The statement from the White House comes hours after Bloomberg News obtained a draft memo detailing an Energy Department plan to order grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants that are at risk of retiring due to cheaper energy available from renewable energy sources and natural gas.

"Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement," the 41-page memo reads.

Competing power sources slam move: Representatives of energy sources that compete with coal and nuclear, such as wind, solar and natural gas, slammed Trump's order and the draft memo Friday.

"The administration's draft plan to provide government assistance to those coal and nuclear power plants that are struggling to be profitable under the guise of national security would be unprecedented and misguided," said Todd Snitchler, director of market development at the American Petroleum Institute, which represents gas producers, as well as the oil industry, and which has supported much of Trump's energy and environmental agenda.

"The reported proposal would be a misapplication of emergency powers, there's certainly no credible justification to force American taxpayers to bail out uneconomic power plants," said Amy Farrell, head of government affairs at the American Wind Energy Association.

Why it matters: Friday's directive is the latest in a string of proposals from the Trump administration to help coal and nuclear plants.

But unlike a failed proposal before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to require higher payments for coal and nuclear electricity, it appears Trump is heading for an action the administration can take unilaterally.

Wherever DOE takes the issue from here, it's sure to rile up everyone involved.

We break it down here.


Happy Friday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Can we have more four-day weeks?

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill


EPA SPENT $1,560 ON CUSTOMIZED PENS: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shelled out $1,560 to pay for customized fountain pens for Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule Restoring the EPA: Lessons from the past MORE, according to internal emails.

The 12 silver pens, made by a Washington-based jewelry store, included an EPA seal and Pruitt's signature, The Washington Post first reported Friday. The order was among a larger $3,230 order that included personalized journals from Tiny Jewel Box, a store that calls itself D.C.'s "premier destination for fine jewelry and watches."

Each of the pens cost taxpayers $130, according to emails sent between an account manager and Pruitt's political aide and scheduler Millan Hupp. The emails were released in a Freedom of Information Act request by the Sierra Club this week.

"The cost of the Qty. 12 Fountain Pens will be around $1,560.00," the retailer told Hupp on Aug. 14, "All the other items total cost is around $1,670.00 which these items are in process. Please advise."

"Yes, please order," Hupp responded. "Thank you."

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the pens were created to hand out as gifts.

More on the latest Pruitt spending controversy here..


THE POSTCARD EPA THOUGHT WAS 'POTENTIALLY THREATENING': EPA received a postcard addressed to Pruitt last year regarding climate change and interpreted it as "potentially threatening."

The postcard featured a man standing on an iceberg.

The other side read, in handwritten pen, "Dear Mr. Pruitt, CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL!!! We are watching you. For the sake of our planet, our children & our grandchildren, will you be a reasonable man? I repeat, we are watching you!"

It was signed by seven people, only with their first names.

The existence of the postcard, sent in February 2017 to the EPA's Seattle office, has previously been reported. The EPA's Office of Inspector General mentioned it in a list of potential threats Pruitt had received, which Pruitt and his aides have used to justify his unprecedented 24/7 security detail, which has cost taxpayers at least $3.5 million.

Documents, obtained by The Hill under a Freedom of Information Act request, show a photograph of the postcard for the first time.

Patrick Sullivan, assistant inspector general for investigations, sent the postcard to numerous EPA executives and close aides to Pruitt on March 3.

"Although the message does not contain a direct threat, the statements 'will you be a reasonable man?' and 'we are watching you' can be interpreted as intimidating and potentially threatening,' " Sullivan wrote.

Read more here.



The Energy Information Administration (EIA) will host its annual energy conference Monday and Tuesday.

Major speakers will include EIA Administrator Linda Capuano, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyreKevin J. McIntyreWe cannot allow FERC to ignore our climate crisis GOP commissioner on federal energy panel dies Senate should reject Trump’s radical nominee to key energy panel MORE and Undersecretary of Energy Mark Menezes.

The House Natural Resources Committee will meet Wednesday to vote on six bills, with a particular focus on bills related to Utah.

Later that day, the committee's energy and minerals subcommittee will hold a hearing on four draft bills to overhaul how the federal government leases land for drilling and mineral development.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is planning a hearing for Tuesday on federal wildland fire management.



Former Alaska Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (D) is running to be the state's governor, KTVA reports.

The Statesman Journal explains why a toxic algae bloom is fouling the drinking water system in Salem, Ore., for the first time.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is implementing new permanent water conservation standards, the Mercury News reports.



Check out Friday's stories ...

-EPA looked into $10,000 charter plane for Pruitt mine visit on canceled Australia trip

-Puerto Rico agency sues government to obtain Hurricane Maria death data

-EPA spent $1,560 on customized fountain pens for Pruitt: emails

-Trump orders Rick Perry to take 'immediate steps' to stop coal plant closures

-Company creates six-pack rings that are edible for sea animals

-EPA saw postcard addressed to Pruitt as 'potentially threatening'

-Attorneys general sue EPA, claiming illegal delay of landfill regulation

-Pope to meet with oil execs to discuss climate change: report

-Trump considering emergency authority to boost coal plants