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Overnight Energy: Inhofe defends Pruitt after criticisms | Agency releases study on water contaminant | Trump rescinds Obama ocean policy

Overnight Energy: Inhofe defends Pruitt after criticisms | Agency releases study on water contaminant | Trump rescinds Obama ocean policy
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INHOFE BACKS PRUITT DESPITE 'QUESTIONABLE JUDGMENT': Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGraham: 'Game changer' if Saudis behind journalist's disappearance GOP senators ask EPA to block states that have 'hijacked' rule to stop fossil fuel production Pentagon releases report on sexual assault risk MORE (R-Okla.) said Wednesday that he's back to fully supporting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation MORE, after previously expressing concern about his scandals and saying that he might need to step down.

"There are probably times when he displayed questionable judgment," Inhofe, a longtime friend of Pruitt's from Oklahoma, told reporters after meeting with the EPA head late Tuesday.

But the senior Republican senator added that Pruitt has gotten the message that he needs to be more cautious.

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"He's had a wake-up call," he added. "He came into Washington without knowing Washington."

Inhofe, an influential voice on environmental and regulatory issues within the GOP conference, said he requested the meeting with Pruitt because of doubts he was starting to have about the EPA administrator after a wave of ethics allegations.

Inhofe said Wednesday morning that Pruitt explained away the various allegations to his satisfaction and predicted that he will be more careful in the future.

The Oklahoma Republican suggested that Pruitt got tripped up with various ethics charges because he naively didn't know how some decisions, such as the around-the-clock security detail Pruitt requested or the $43,000 soundproof booth he had built in his office, would be received.

Inhofe defended Pruitt as the victim of attacks initiated by disgruntled former employees, magnified by liberal groups funded by Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer and covered by a hostile liberal media.

Inhofe said Steyer is a man "with unlimited funds and willing to use these unlimited funds to do anything that would spread the extreme liberal agenda."

"The things that he did are things that the media doesn't approve of and most of the media is liberal," he added.

Inhofe also said he went over most of the ethics allegations against Pruitt at the meeting and felt his concerns were settled by Pruitt's explanations.

"I'm a little embarrassed that I was starting to doubt him," he said.

 

More vocal defense at hearing: Inhofe continued his defense of Pruitt later Wednesday at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on two EPA nominees.

When Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (Del.), the committee's top Democrat, started listing Pruitt's scandals during his opening statement, Inhofe butted in.

"You should qualify this by saying 'he has been accused of the following.' It's a big difference," he said.

"I happen to know him well, I know what you just said is not correct."

He later went on an extended defense of Pruitt, saying that the embattled EPA head has been a victim of the media and his opponents.

On Pruitt's costly trip to Morocco, Inhofe said, "he had to go." He said Pruitt had ethics officials review his purchases of tickets to the Rose Bowl and a University of Kentucky basketball game, which people with industry ties helped him obtain, but he paid for himself.

Inhofe justified Pruitt's expensive security detail, saying he is "the first one who's had any type of threat on his or her life of all the administrators that we've had" at EPA.

 

Why it matters: Inhofe is considered Pruitt's closest ally on the Hill, and many of Pruitt's top aides previously worked for Inhofe.

The senator's criticisms of the EPA head last week -- he said one possible solution to stopping the scandals 'would be for him to leave that job' -- were significant, showing that a main pillar of Pruitt's support was weakening.

But it seems that Pruitt solved the problems with the Tuesday meeting and gave Inhofe what he needed, and that Inhofe will now return to being one of Pruitt's staunchest defenders.

Read more.

 

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Miranda's away for the next few days, so it's just Tim here for now.

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.

 

NEW STUDY ON CONTAMINANTS: A federal health agency released Wednesday a draft study that a White House aide previously warned could be a "public relations nightmare" for the Trump administration.

The study from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that exposure to two key drinking water contaminants could be harmful at levels seven to 10 times lower than what the EPA had previously estimated in a health warning.

The substances, both in a category of manmade chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have been a hot-button issue lately. They are used in manufacturing certain non-stick and flame-retardant products, and have been used extensively in airport firefighting, leading to leeching and contamination in drinking water.

Pruitt hosted a summit with state, industrial and environmental representatives last month on the chemicals, and promised to take various actions, such as formally exploring whether to set limits for their concentration in drinking water.

The study released Wednesday attracted attention earlier in May, when an email disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act showed that an unidentified White House staffer warned EPA that the release of the study could be a "public relations nightmare" for the Trump administration, since it would show health harms at low levels.

ATSDR's research is meant to inform agencies like EPA as they consider regulations.

The study found minimal risk levels -- an estimate of how much someone could consume safely -- at about 7 parts per trillion for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and 11 parts per trillion for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

The EPA in 2016 published a "health advisory" for PFOS and PFOA that set the combined exposure level for both substances at 70 parts per trillion.

Read more.

 

TRUMP RESCINDS OBAMA'S OCEAN POLICY: President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE is repealing a controversial executive order drafted by former President Obama that was meant to protect the Great Lakes and the oceans bordering the United States.

In his own executive order signed late Tuesday, Trump put a new emphasis on industries that use the oceans, particularly oil and natural gas drilling, while also mentioning environmental stewardship.

"Ocean industries employ millions of Americans and support a strong national economy," the new order states, mentioning energy production, the military, freight transportation and other industries.

"This order maintains and enhances these and other benefits to the Nation through improved public access to marine data and information, efficient interagency coordination on ocean-related matters, and engagement with marine industries, the science and technology community, and other ocean stakeholders," it states.

The order encourages more drilling and other industrial uses of the oceans and Great Lakes.

The order stands in contrast to Obama's policy, which focused heavily on conservation and climate change. His policy was written in 2010, shortly after the deadly BP Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling explosion and 87-day oil spill.

"America's stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes is intrinsically linked to environmental sustainability, human health and well-being, national prosperity, adaptation to climate and other environmental changes, social justice, international diplomacy, and national and homeland security," Obama's order stated.

It established a federal council with the responsibility to oversee various programs and decisions that could impact the oceans or Great Lakes.

Read more.

 

ON THE MOVE: The World Resources Institute, an international group focused on climate change and other environmental matters, has tapped Dan Lashof to be its new director for the United States.

Lashof comes from Tom Steyer's NextGen Policy Center, where he was chief operating officer. He was previously in a senior role at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"With its long track record of evidence-based research and analysis, the institute is well-positioned to bring together a wide group of stakeholders in order to spur greater momentum for action at the state and local levels, as it seeks pathways to advance positive federal climate policies," Lashof said in a statement.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY:

The House Transportation Committee's subcommittee on railroads and pipelines will hold a hearing on pipeline safety oversight and implementation of the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016.

The House Science Committee's environment subcommittee will hold a hearing on state perspectives on background ground-level ozone pollution.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold an open meeting.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) named Jason Stanek, a Capitol Hill staffer, to be the chairman of the state's Public Service Commission, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Iran's energy minister wants OPEC to publicly condemn Trump for allegedly trying to meddle in the cabal's affairs, CNBC reports.

Members of the United Kingdom's Parliament from multiple parties are accusing the government of dragging its feet on air pollution, the Guardian reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, argues that Trump's tariffs on imported steel will significant raise gasoline prices.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

- Federal agency releases 'public relations nightmare' water contaminant study

- Dems press EPA nominees on ethics, climate

- Inhofe: Pruitt got 'wake-up call' after showing 'questionable judgment'

- Trump rescinds Obama policy protecting oceans

- EPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt's hometown