FEATURED:

Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release

Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release
© Getty Images

SPENDING BILL TARGETS PRUITT OVER SCANDALS: The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill Thursday with a non-binding provision taking aim at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMcConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant EPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him MORE for his recent ethics scandals.

In a non-binding report attached to the Senate Appropriations Committee's bill to fund the EPA and the Interior Department in fiscal 2019, the lawmakers sought to further crack down on Pruitt's alleged behavior.

The language: "The Committee feels strongly that it is essential that agencies provided funding in this Act comply with all applicable ethics regulations. To that end, the Committee directs that none of the funds made available in this Act may be used in contravention of 5 CFR § 2635, the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch," it reads.

But, there's a catch: Since the language is in the committee report attached to the bill, it doesn't hold the weight of law.

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Hillicon Valley: Officials warn of Chinese influence efforts | Dow drops over 800 points | Tech stocks hit hard | Google appeals B EU fine | James Murdoch may be heading for Tesla | Most Americans worried about election security For everyone’s safety, border agents must use body-worn cameras MORE (N.M.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee that wrote the bill, pushed for the provision.

If the provision were to be in the main part of the bill, it would make it a violation of appropriations law for anyone at the EPA or Interior to break ethics regulations.

Violating appropriations law can carry numerous federal penalties, up to and including prison time.

Udall had wanted the ethics provision to be in the main part of the bill, but said he pulled back due to an agreement with Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPoll: Palin unpopular in Alaska following jab at Murkowski Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign Ex-Florida lawmaker leaves Republican Party MORE (R-Alaska), the subpanel's chairwoman, to avoid controversial policy provisions.

Udall made it clear that the provision is aimed squarely at Pruitt. Pruitt has been accused in recent months of numerous ethical and spending violations, like renting an apartment from a lobbyist below market rate, using his position and staff to get his wife a job and letting lobbyists plan his foreign travel.

"I'm appalled at the number of scandals piling up, especially at EPA. Frankly, it's hard to keep track," Udall said at the Thursday meeting in which the full committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

"While I would have preferred bill language, I think the report language we are including sends a strong message," he continued.

"These are regulations that cover situations like the use of one's position for private gain and the use of official time to perform official duties. I think it's just common sense to make it clear in a spending bill that individuals entrusted with spending taxpayer dollars must maintain a basic level of ethical behavior."

Why it matters: This provision may be the closest thing to concrete legislative action that Congress has taken in response to Pruitt's scandals.

But since the GOP controls both chambers, it would be hard to do much more than non-binding report language like this.

And while the bill had billions of dollars of other provisions that senators undoubtedly liked, the fact that this provision went through on a unanimous vote shows that, at the very least, nobody objected enough to make a major case of it.

Read more about it.

 

Happy Thursday! 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.

 

YELLOWSTONE SUPERINTENDENT LEARNED OF DISMISSAL THROUGH PRESSER: Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk found out he was officially being replaced by the Trump administration when he saw a press release announcing the news.

A little later Interior Department Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeHUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy Overnight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Interior Department sued over withholding details on trophy permits, endangered species MORE tweeted photos of the man replacing him, Cameron Sholly, meeting with members of Congress.

In an interview with The Hill on Wednesday, Wenk said he still hasn't had his calls returned by Interior or National Park Service management about when his last day will be or when Sholly will take over.

"It's nothing I didn't expect," Wenk, a decades-long veteran of the park service who has served as Yellowstone's superintendent since 2011, said of his treatment.

"I guess the best way I can capture my feelings is they are not affording me any respect for the time my 42-plus years with the park service and my career of achievement," he said. "And they won't have a conversation with me about what a transition will look like."

Wenk had planned to retire next year but on June 4 was told he would either be transferred to an office in the National Capital Region or have to retire early. Despite his desire to stay, Wenk was given 60 days to decide.

He believes he is being removed as Yellowstone's superintendent for disagreeing with Zinke about how large the park's bison herd should be.

An Interior spokesperson said the department does not discuss personnel matters.

Wenk said he had previously had "animated" conversations with Zinke over the herd of 4,400 bison. Zinke believed the number was too high and unsustainable. Wenk disagreed, arguing that the average population was a healthy size and has been actively working to move some of the animals to other land.

We've got more on the fight here.

 

RYAN ON PRUITT SCANDALS: 'I HAVEN'T PAID CLOSE ATTENTION': House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care Trump urges Dems to help craft new immigration laws: ‘Chuck & Nancy, call me!' Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa MORE (R-Wis.) declined to comment Thursday on the ongoing scandals surrounding Scott Pruitt, saying he wasn't familiar enough with them.

Asked at his weekly Capitol news conference whether he still has confidence in the embattled EPA chief amid the controversies, Ryan responded, "Frankly, I haven't paid that close attention to them."

Ryan added that he's pleased with the deregulatory agenda Pruitt has carried out at the EPA, but wasn't following the alleged violations of ethics rules and excessive spending by Pruitt.

"I don't know enough about what Pruitt has or has not done to give you a good comment," he said.

Read more.

 

LATEST ON GOP OFFSHORE DRILLING BILL: Republicans used a Natural Resources hearing Thursday to tout newly proposed legislation that would give states a larger share of royalties to incentivize them to back expanded offshore drilling.

States that do not agree to allow offshore drilling, or that propose moratoriums on it, would see their share of revenue from federal drilling drop.

Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Texas coal plant to shut down | Macron rejects trade deals with climate pact outsiders | Vote on park funding bills to miss deadline Judge restores protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears Endorsement of Dem challenger by GOP lawmaker's siblings adds 'greater weight' to Arizona voters, says progressive activist MORE (R-Ariz.) touted the bill as a way to give states more authority, while saying they should not be able to veto lease sales.

"While states are highly involved in the offshore lease planning process they do not have a veto over lease sales," Gosar said at a Thursday House Natural Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources hearing.

"It's an acknowledgment that such an attempt to strand federal assets comes at the expense of the American taxpayer," said Gosar, the subcommittee's chairman.

Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Patagonia makes its first election endorsements with two Western Democrats Daylight Saving Time costs more than it's worth MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the bill would be an example of federalism at its best.

The bill, which was proposed this week, would take away management of offshore drilling from the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and place it in the hands of states.

If a coastal state chooses to expand drilling and increase production of fossil fuels, they'd get a larger portion -- 60 percent -- of the royalties from the lease sale.

States opting to impose a moratorium on drilling or cuts would see their share of revenue from the federal lease sales drop dramatically.

Myron Ebell, the director of International Environmental Policy at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, testified that the bill would be a win for states opposed to offshore drilling because it would give them power to definitively say no to drilling.

More on the proposal here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed into law a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, making it the first state to ban the chemical that the EPA declined to prohibit, Hawaii Public Radio reports.

Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission is allowing the Mariner East 1 pipeline to continue operation, but keeping construction of Mariner East 2 halted, StateImpact Pennsylvania reports.

Conservatives in Canada's House of Commons are threatening to force an all-night session unless the government discloses how much its proposed carbon tax would cost, CBC News reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories ...

-Yellowstone superintendent officially learned of dismissal through press release

-Ryan: 'I haven't paid close attention' to Pruitt scandals

-GOP offshore drilling proposal triggers debate

-Senate committee targets Pruitt scandals in spending bill

-GOP chairman seeks 'sufficient' funding for EPA watchdog office

-Ex-Obama ethics chief: 'Pruitt just seems to be fundamentally unfit for public service'