Overnight Energy: New controversies cap rough week for Pruitt | Trump 'not happy about certain things' with Pruitt | EPA backtracks on suspending pesticide rule

Overnight Energy: New controversies cap rough week for Pruitt | Trump 'not happy about certain things' with Pruitt | EPA backtracks on suspending pesticide rule
© Greg Nash

TRUMP SAYS HE'S 'NOT HAPPY ABOUT CERTAIN THINGS' INVOLVING PRUITT: President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE said he's "not happy" with certain aspects of the ethics and spending scandals involving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head 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.

"I'm looking at Scott, and Scott's done a fantastic job at EPA," Trump told reporters Friday at the White House. "I'm not happy about certain things. I'll be honest."

Trump added that Pruitt has "done a fantastic job running the EPA, which is very overriding. But I am not happy about it."

The embattled EPA chief is under fire over allegations that he's wasted taxpayer money on himself, violated ethics standards and used government staff for personal tasks like running errands and trying to find jobs for his wife at Chick-fil-A and conservative organizations.

Just Friday morning, the EPA confirmed that Pruitt had a communications consultant with energy clients help get him tickets to the Rose Bowl game, had a former Virginia lawmaker help his daughter get into law school and had his staff assist in getting his daughter a White House internship -- more about that later.

Why it matters: Trump has consistently stood strongly behind Pruitt, and by some standards, Friday's comments aren't that different. He's frequently said that the scandals concern him to some degree.

But every time Trump expresses any hint of doubt about Pruitt, it's significant. It's been difficult to predict when Trump would dismiss previous administration officials who eventually got kicked out. With Pruitt it's a constant game of tea-leaf-reading.

Still, it's probably more important to focus on the positive parts of what Trump said: that Pruitt's done "a fantastic job ... which is overriding."

Read more.

 

Happy Friday! 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.

 

PRUITT USED AIDES TO HELP DAUGHTER GET INTO LAW SCHOOL: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt has frequently blurred professional and personal lines including asking aides to help in personal matters for his family, according to a New York Times report Friday.

On one occasion Scott Pruitt asked his political aides to set up a meeting as a way to help his daughter gain admission into law school, current and former EPA officials told the Times.

Not long after joining the EPA, Scott Pruitt asked aides to arrange a meeting with the former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, William Howell (R), to request a letter of recommendation for his daughter McKenna Pruitt, who was applying to the University of Virginia Law School. Howell, who appears on Scott Pruitt's public EPA calendar, confirmed to the Times he was approached and wrote the letter.

McKenna Pruitt currently attends the university's law program.

In another instance Scott Pruitt used at least three of his staffers to help get his daughter a summer internship at the White House, a coveted spot, The New York Times reported.

McKenna Pruitt served as a clerk of the White House Counsel in the summer of 2017.

Kevin Chmielewski, former EPA deputy chief of staff for operations turned whistleblower, told the Times of a conversation where he and other top aides were instructed by Scott Pruitt to "see what you can do" about getting his daughter the internship.

Reports of Scott Pruitt's tendency to ask staffers to conduct personal tasks is prolific, starting from the first moments he took office.

Chmielewski told The Hill that days before Pruitt officially joined the EPA he had his senior scheduler at the time, Sydney Hupp, arrange hotels for his family members to stay at during the Presidential Inauguration.

We've got more on the latest controversy.

 

EPA BACKPEDALS ON SUSPENDING PESTICIDE RULE: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday backtracked on its suspension of a chemical requirement that aimed to help farmworkers handling toxic pesticides.

The EPA announced an intent to publish in the Federal Register new pesticide safety training materials that are required under the rule. The policy reversal followed a lawsuit filed by California, Maryland and New York at the end of May that argued that suspending the rule would hurt farm laborers.

An EPA spokesperson said that the agency revised materials under the agency's Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to implement more protections from pesticide exposure incidents for agricultural workers, handlers and their families.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback Some states back plaintiff suing DHS over Haitians' protected status California, New Mexico sue over Trump methane pollution rollback MORE (D) celebrated the EPA's decision.

"EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has backed down to do what the law requires: implement critical safeguards for agricultural workers. This is an important victory for some of America's hardest workers and for the Rule of Law," said Becerra in a statement Friday. "Day in, day out, our families enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables because of our agricultural workers, many of whom are immigrants living in California."

Becerra joined the other two attorneys general to sue the Trump administration for indefinitely suspending a key requirement in the WPS, which requires employers to give training to workers meant to protect them from pesticide poisoning.

More here.

 

THE WEEK THAT WAS: The past week has been yet another rough one for Pruitt, with more developments in his ongoing scandals.

Some of the biggest developments were earlier Friday -- allegations that he had an aide help get his daughter into law school and a public relations consultant helped him get Rose Bowl tickets. See above for more on those.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Pruitt enlisted an aide and Republican donors in an attempt to get his wife, Marlyn, a job. She did get a part-time gig with the Judicial Crisis Network.

That spurred conservative commentator Laura Ingraham to call for Pruitt's ouster, arguing that Pruitt is embarrassing the president.

And then Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Steady Kavanaugh proves to be a tough target for Democrats MORE (R-Okla.), one of Pruitt's closest long-time allies on Capitol Hill, said that the scandals are getting to be a bit much, and Pruitt might need to resign.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on two EPA nominees: Peter Wright to lead the office of land and emergency management and William Charles McIntosh to lead the office of international affairs.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the effects of tax reform on the energy industry and consumers.

The House Natural Resources Committee's federal land subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday on five bills.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Scientists studying the Chesapeake Bay are now confident that its pollution levels are improving, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Japan's Upper House passed a bill Friday aimed at fighting microplastic pollution, the Japan Times reports.

Enbridge told Michigan officials that it is "feasible" to replace the Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, the Detroit News reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories ...

-Trump 'not happy about certain things' involving Pruitt

-EPA backpedals on suspending pesticide rule following lawsuit

-Pruitt enlisted aides to help daughter get into law school, gain internship: report

-Trump taps critic of pro-renewables policies to lead renewables office

-EPA moves toward rewriting Obama water rule

-Consultant with energy clients helped Pruitt get Rose Bowl tickets

-McDonald's to test alternative to plastic straws in some US restaurants