Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: White House ‘looking into’ reports Pruitt sought used Trump Hotel mattress | Fund for black lung victims at risk | Park Service wants to move office out of San Francisco

Greg Nash

AIDE SAYS PRUITT WANTED ‘OLD’ MATTRESS FROM TRUMP HOTEL: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt had his scheduler carry out numerous personal tasks for him, including seeking out a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Millan Hupp, the scheduler, told congressional investigators about the request in an interview last month, which leading Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recounted in a Monday letter.

Hupp said she also booked personal flights for Pruitt using his credit card, and she provided new details about the work she did apartment hunting for him, some of which Pruitt told senators about last month.

“As I remember, the Administrator had spoken with someone at the Trump Hotel who had indicated that there could be a mattress that he could purchase, an old mattress that he could purchase,” Hupp said, according to Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who sent the Monday letter to Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), seeking a subpoena for more information about the allegations.

Hupp added that she did not know why he wanted it or if he ended up getting it.

She said she helped Pruitt look for rental properties, including sending “a couple emails” during work hours and visiting properties during her lunch hour, though she used her personal phone, computer and email account, according to transcript excerpts the lawmakers put in their letter.

In another instance, Hupp helped Pruitt buy airline tickets for personal use, she said. Pruitt sent her the details for flights to and from the Rose Bowl Game, in which Pruitt’s home-state Oklahoma Sooners played.

Hupp bought the flights using Pruitt’s personal credit card, which she had on hand for that kind of task, she told the congressional aides. She did not know why Pruitt needed help with that, but said she did it during vacation time, using personal resources and only using her EPA email to give details to his security detail.

Read more.


Sanders: White House ‘looking into’ it: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday that the White House is “certainly looking into” the allegations outlined in Monday’s letter.

“I couldn’t comment on specifics of furniture used in his apartment and certainly would not attempt to,” she said.

Read more.


Why it matters: Cummings and Connolly say in their letter that Hupp’s allegations, if true, could mean that she and Pruitt violated regulations prohibiting federal employees from giving gifts to supervisors or soliciting such gifts.

If she did the work during work hours that’s another violation, they said.

Pruitt is already under about a dozen federal investigations over ethics, spending and other matters. The EPA’s Office of Inspector General has previously indicated that the “use of the Administrator’s subordinates’ time” is one of numerous matters currently under investigation.


Happy Monday! Welcome back from the weekend to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. 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.


FUND THAT HELPS BLACK LUNG VICTIMS AT RISK IF COAL TAX ENDS: The government’s potential failure to reauthorize a tax on coal production could threaten a program that helps coal workers suffering from black lung, a federal watchdog has found.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Monday warns that the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund will be at risk if the government fails to extend or increase a tax on coal production, which goes toward funding the program.

The report estimates that a 55 percent decrease on the coal tax rate, which is expected to take effect in 2019, along with declining coal production, will threaten the program. This in turn could lead to increased borrowing that may exceed $15 billion by 2050, the report found.

Currently, coal companies have to pay a tax of $1.10 per ton on underground coal production toward the fund, but that amount will revert to 50 cents, the 1977 level.

The trust fund provides monthly payments and medical treatment to coal miners disabled from pneumoconiosis, or black lung, as a direct result of their employment at or near U.S. coal mines. According to the GAO, the trust fund has paid $184 million in benefits to more than 25,000 coal miners and their dependents.

“With the scheduled 2019 tax rate decrease, our moderate case simulation suggests that expected revenue will likely be insufficient to cover combined black lung benefit payments and administrative costs, as well as debt repayment expenditures,” the GAO report read.

Read more here.


PARK SERVICE WANTS TO MOVE SAN FRANCISCO OFFICE: The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to move its West Coast regional headquarters out of San Francisco, citing high rent and cost of living.

The agency wants to move the 150 or so employees in the Pacific West Region office to a building it already owns in Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Wash.

Officials formally submitted the plan for congressional approval last week.

“The NPS considered various factors in developing this proposal including, the more favorable cost of living, the expected long-term taxpayer savings from using an NPS-owned building rather than leasing, and the preservation benefits of adapting a historic building for modern use,” NPS spokesman Andrew Munoz said in a statement.

“The NPS estimates the proposal will save more than $2 million a year in rent, could reduce salary and benefits costs by about $1.8 million a year, and eliminate $12 million in deferred maintenance with the restoration of the historic building it will occupy at Fort Vancouver.”

We break it down here.



The Energy Information Administration will hold the second and final day of its annual energy conference. Speakers will include Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on wildland fire management programs at the Forest Service and the Interior Department.



When Bayer AG and Monsanto Co. complete their merger, the new company will completely drop the Monsanto name, NBC News reports.

United Kingdom fracking firm Cuadrilla has obtained an injunction against protesters at the Lancashire site where it hopes to conduct the nation’s first commercial large-scale fracking operation, the Guardian reports.



Check out stories from Monday and over the weekend…

-Volkswagen pledges to stop animal testing

-White House ‘looking into’ reports Pruitt sought mattress from Trump Hotel

-Fund that helps black-lung victims at risk if coal tax eliminated: watchdog

-Park Service seeks to move western office out of San Francisco

-Conservation group launches $1M campaign to save public parks bill

-White House required Cabinet to publicly back Paris deal exit: report

-Pruitt aide helped him book personal flights, try to buy a Trump Hotel mattress: Dems

-American Airlines warns of higher fees due to oil prices

-Dead whale in Thailand had 17 pounds of plastic in its stomach

-Zinke cites ‘environmental disaster‘ in sending park police to border

-San Diego may ban plastic foam food containers over pollution concerns

-Pruitt sat courtside in seats owned by coal executive: report

-Endangered gorilla population increases to over 1,000

-EPA taps former chemical industry attorney to oversee cleanups

-Firm discloses more EPA lobbying by advocate with ties to Pruitt condo rental

-Park Service boss apologizes to staff for ‘inappropriate’ behavior

-Lobbyist tried to schedule Pruitt trip to Qatar

Tags aide black lung Elijah Cummings gas Gerry Connolly Kevin McIntyre Mattress oil offshore drilling Scott Pruitt Trey Gowdy
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