Overnight Energy: Dem accuses Pruitt of delaying records requests | GOP senators want Trump to submit pollution treaty | Daimler to recall 774K cars in Europe

Overnight Energy: Dem accuses Pruitt of delaying records requests | GOP senators want Trump to submit pollution treaty | Daimler to recall 774K cars in Europe
© Camille Fine

DEM ACCUSES PRUITT OF OBSTRUCTING FOIA: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE has instituted policies that are delaying or obstructing the release of documents under public records requests, a top congressional Democrat says.

Two Pruitt aides who recently spoke with staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee detailed a set of policies Pruitt has instituted to prioritize Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the Obama administration and have political appointees review certain documents before they are released.

Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsRep. Cummings: Will Kavanaugh take lie detector test and ask for FBI investigation? Graham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests MORE (Md.), that panel's top Democrat, said in a Monday letter to Pruitt that the prioritization policy violates the EPA's own regulations and both policies show attempts to avoid transparency, especially as the administrator weathers numerous scandals and more than a dozen federal investigations.

"Combined with your refusal to produce documents requested by Congress, your actions in delaying records under FOIA raise concerns about a fundamental lack of transparency at EPA," Cummings wrote.

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"Your actions injecting politics into the FOIA process mark a stark departure from previous practice," he continued. "Your actions are particularly troubling in light of multiple reports that you have retaliated against EPA staff who disclose waste, fraud, and abuse."

EPA spokeswoman Kelsi Daniels said the agency would respond to Cummings through the proper channels, and defended EPA's handling of FOIA requests.

"Since the beginning of this administration, EPA has seen a dramatic increase in FOIA requests as compared to the last administration, including a nearly 200% increase in the administrator's office alone, and the agency is working to release them in a timely manner," she said. "When Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA he inherited a backlog of FOIA requests, some dating back to 2008, and over the last year and a half, EPA has worked tirelessly to clear this backlog."

Why it matters: The letter comes as Pruitt's scandals keep piling up, and news outlets, watchdog groups and the public are clamoring for more information about them.

To Cummings, Pruitt's FOIA policies look like ways to avoid public scrutiny of his actions and transparency into his handling of the EPA.

We have more on the dispute here.

 

Happy Monday! 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.

 

GOP SENATORS WANT VOTE ON GREENHOUSE GAS AGREEMENT: A group of Republicans senators is pushing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE to let them approve a treaty amendment meant to cut emissions of certain greenhouse gases.

The Obama administration helped negotiate the Kigali amendment in 2016, meant to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) around the world. HFCs are used mainly in refrigeration and air conditioning and are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere.

But Trump still hasn't decided whether he supports it, in which case he would have to send it to the Senate for ratification.

The 13 Republicans, led by Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Feinstein's office says it has received threats over Kavanaugh Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing MORE (Maine), said the amendment would help domestic companies by leveling the playing field worldwide and giving them long-term certainty on what chemicals to use going forward.

"By sending this amendment to the Senate, you will help secure America's place as the global leader in several manufacturing industries, and in turn give American workers and advantage against their competitors in the international marketplace," the senators wrote.

Read more here.

 

DAIMLER ORDERED TO RECALL 774K CARS IN EUROPE OVER CHEATING SCANDAL: European automakers were delivered a fresh blow on Monday, with the German government demanding Daimler recall hundreds of thousands of cars equipped with emissions cheating software that similarly landed Volkswagen in hot water in the U.S.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler was ordered to recall 744,000 vehicles across Europe as a result of the decision.

The Mercedes C-CLass, Vito and GLC diesel models are the vehicles mainly affected by the recall, according to the German transportation ministry. The recall will force the company to fix the software settings on its cars.

German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said in a statement Monday after a meeting with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche that the company was expected to work "with cooperative transparency" with the government and "at maximum speed," The Associated Press reported.

We've got more on Daimler's troubles here.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY:

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will bring in all five Federal Energy Regulatory Commission members for an oversight hearing. Even though FERC has long rejected a Trump administration proposal to boost coal and nuclear power plants, expect senators to bring up the topic again, in the context of what the Department of Energy is now doing on the topic.

The Senate Appropriations Committee's Interior and EPA subcommittee will mark up its fiscal 2019 spending bill for those agencies.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

San Antonio, Texas, residents will now be subject to stricter limits on watering their lawns, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Officials in Miami-Dade County, Fla., want to expand a highway by building over wetlands, the Miami Herald reports.

A spill at a Kinder Morgan oil pipeline pump station in British Columbia was more than 40 times bigger than the province previously said, CBC News reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

David Spence, professor of law, politics & regulation at the University of Texas at Austin, argues that with every fracking boom comes a bust.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and the weekend ...

-Volkswagen parent ordered to recall 774K cars in Europe over emissions cheating

-GOP senators push Trump to submit pollution treaty amendment for Senate approval

-Green group hits administration over staff cuts that hamper wildlife refuge visitor center

-Pruitt delaying document releases, top Dem says

-Pope warns oil executives: Climate change may 'destroy civilization'

 

This story has been updated.