Overnight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides quit | Trump offers support for Pruitt | EPA spokesman calls reporter 'a piece of trash' | Pruitt praises Chick-Fil-A as 'franchise of faith'

Overnight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides quit | Trump offers support for Pruitt | EPA spokesman calls reporter 'a piece of trash' | Pruitt praises Chick-Fil-A as 'franchise of faith'
© Greg Nash

TWO TOP PRUITT AIDES QUIT: Two of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Rate of new endangered species listings falls | EPA approves use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock | Watchdog says EPA didn't conduct required analyses EPA didn't conduct required analyses of truck engine rule: internal watchdog Is Big Oil feeling the heat? MORE's top aides reportedly announced their resignations this week.

The EPA confirmed that Millan Hupp, Pruitt's scheduler, tendered her resignation shortly after congressional Democrats released transcripts from an interview in which she said Pruitt assigned her numerous personal tasks, including trying to buy a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel.

Sarah Greenwalt, a senior counsel at the agency, also announced her resignation, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Greenwalt and Hupp worked with Pruitt in Oklahoma while he served as attorney general before accompanying him to Washington.


"Millan has been a valued member of the EPA team from day one, serving an integral role in our efforts to take the president's message of environmental stewardship across the country," Pruitt said in a statement.

"I've had the opportunity to know Millan for the last several years as a colleague, friend and trusted partner. She has done outstanding work in all of her endeavors here and will be sorely missed. I wish her all the best."

The EPA did not respond to a request to confirm Greenwalt's resignation.

Hupp, 26, and Greenwalt received significant pay raises earlier this year despite the White House rejecting those raises. Pruitt told lawmakers that he knew about the raises, but did not know his chief of staff would go around the White House process.

A top EPA official told The Atlantic that Hupp was "tired of being thrown under the bus by Pruitt" and seeing her name appear in headlines connected to the EPA's scandals.

Why it matters: Hupp and Greenwalt are two of Pruitt's closest staffers, so their departures are likely to be big losses for him. They followed him to the EPA from Oklahoma, where they both worked for him when he was attorney general.

But both women are also central to some of Pruitt's major scandals. They both got raises after the White House told the EPA not to do it, and Hupp has admitted to doing personal tasks for Pruitt, among other things, which Democrats say violates federal employment rules.

Read more.

CORRECTION: Samantha Dravis, head of the EPA office of policy before she stepped down in April, previously worked as a policy director at the Republican Attorneys General Association and the president of its affiliate, the Rule of Law Defense Fund. Pruitt was previously chairman of both organizations. An earlier version of this story included incorrect information.



EPA spokesman calls reporter who broke story 'trash': EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox is being criticized for calling a reporter a "piece of trash."

When Atlantic reporter Elaina Plott reached out to the EPA's press office about Hupp, Wilcox reportedly told her, "You have a great day, you're a piece of trash."

More on that.


Happy Wednesday! Welcome 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.


TRUMP PRAISES PRUITT: President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE reaffirmed his Pruitt on Wednesday, saying that under him the agency is "doing really, really well."

"Thank you Scott, very much. EPA is doing really, really well," Trump told Pruitt while praising Cabinet officials during a meeting at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"Somebody has to say that about you a little bit, you know that, Scott," Trump added.

Read more.


PRUITT CHICK-FIL-A UPDATE: Pruitt defended actions he took to try to help his wife secure a franchise opportunity with the fast food company Chick-fil-A, calling it a "franchise of faith."

In an interview on Wednesday with a Nexstar correspondent, Pruitt responded to reports that he sought to help his wife start a franchise with the chicken company by setting up a meeting with the help of an EPA staffer.

"Look my wife is an entrepreneur herself. I love, she loves, we love Chick-fil-A as a franchise of faith and one of the best in the country," Pruitt said.

He added: "We need more of them in Tulsa, we need more of them across the country."

Pruitt's executive scheduler helped organize a call between Pruitt and a representative of Chick-fil-A in the early months of his tenure at EPA, according to internal EPA emails released through a Freedom of Information Act request obtained by the Sierra Club that was first reported by The Washington Post.

Read more here.


HOUSE PANEL PASSES INTERIOR/EPA SPENDING BILL: The House Appropriations Committee voted 25 to 20 to move forward a $35.3 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and the EPA.

The bill gives modest cuts to both agencies, though largely rejects the bigger cuts that Trump had sought in his budget proposal.

Democrats tried multiple times to increase funding for various programs or stop policies they saw as harmful.

One such attempt was successful. Lawmakers voted, by voice, to prohibit the EPA from spending more than $50 on any pen.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturAppropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases MORE (D-Ohio), was inspired by news last week that Pruitt paid $1,560 for 12 customized pens, or $130 each.

Unsuccessful amendments included one from Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDemocrats vow court victories won't slow impeachment timeline Most US birds are facing extinction unless we take action Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' MORE (D-Ill.) that would require Pruitt and EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler to publicize their official trips, and the costs of them, within 10 days; and one to boost Office of the Inspector General funding by $12 million.


OIL GROUP LAUNCHES COALITION TO PROMOTE OFFSHORE DRILLING: A top U.S. oil and gas industry leader is setting its sights on expanding offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf and off the coast of mid-Atlantic states.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) announced a new coalition Wednesday that aims to spread acceptance of drilling off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

The Explore Offshore initiative comes at a key time for American energy, as Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE is exploring options to expand drilling off coastal U.S. states.

The coalition is led by former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson and Jim Webb, the former Navy secretary and Virginia Democratic senator.

The main goal of the initiative is to educate states on the benefits that offshore drilling could bring -- including more jobs, more state revenue and national economic and security stability.

"In order to responsibly plan for tomorrow we must continue to explore safely and develop oil and natural gas resources today to ensure America's economic future," Nicholson said in a phone call with reporters Wednesday.

Read more here.



The House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee will hold a hearing on improving the licensing process for hydropower projects.

The House Natural Resources Committee's federal lands subcommittee will hold a hearing on wildfire risk and forest health at the Forest Service.

The House Science Committee's energy subcommittee will a hold a hearing on the electric grid of the future.



United Kingdom environment minister Michael Gove says he's "prepared to make concessions" to the government's plan for environmental protections after Brexit, the Guardian reports.

Oil prices fell Wednesday after a government report on oil and gasoline inventories came out higher than expected, the Houston Chronicle reports.



Check out stories from Wednesday...

-NASA chief says he changed mind about climate change because he 'read a lot'

-EPA spokesperson calls reporter 'a piece of trash'

-Pruitt: Chick-fil-A is a 'franchise of faith'

-Another two top Pruitt aides resign: report

-Trump offers public praise for Pruitt: 'Somebody has to say that'

-Major oil group launches new coalition to promote offshore drilling

-Trump scuttles ethanol policy deal, senators say