Overnight Energy: New EPA head looks to reassure staff | New round of ex-Pruitt staffers leave | House votes to overhaul fisheries law | Trump rips Germany for pipeline deal with Russia

Overnight Energy: New EPA head looks to reassure staff | New round of ex-Pruitt staffers leave | House votes to overhaul fisheries law | Trump rips Germany for pipeline deal with Russia

ACTING EPA CHIEF LOOKS TO REASSURE STAFF: In his first major appearance since taking the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) helm on Monday, new acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler sought to reassure the agency's more than 14,000 staffers that he has their back, despite turbulence within the EPA.

Wheeler on Wednesday addressed dozens of staffers at EPA's headquarters and thousands watching around the country, recognizing the tumultuous climate at the nation's environmental agency and trying to dispel any concerns of ongoing turmoil.

"I do understand first-hand the stress that goes along with a change in management or a reorganization, and we are going through that change now. And I understand how stressful that can be," Wheeler said, referring to his predecessor, 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, who stepped down last week amid months of growing spending and ethics scandals.

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"And I want you to know that I understand that and I will try to minimize the stress that you all deal with on a daily basis as employees here at the agency."

Wheeler allowed dozens of journalists into EPA headquarters to watch the speech, breaking with Pruitt, who rarely let reporters attend his appearances.

Read more about Wheeler's first press hearing here.

 

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

Want an environmental issue solved? Consider tweeting at Silicon Valley giant Elon Musk who committed today to funding the Flint, Mich. drinking water crisis during a Twitter spat.

Also give a round of applause to Miranda, filing this newsletter from Tampa Bay, who put her reporter skills to the test today *scooping* up this scaled friend on her first fishing trip.

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.

 

MORE FORMER PRUITT STAFFERS OUT AT AGENCY: Three more aides to former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt are leaving the agency following his resignation.

Lincoln Ferguson, a communications aide and speechwriter, and Hayley Ford, the EPA's deputy White House liaison, announced their departures in the days since Pruitt resigned last week.

Kelsi Daniell, another press staffer, is also leaving, though she tendered her resignation before Pruitt left. The news follows the Tuesday announcement by Jahan Wilcox, a top spokesman, that he would leave.

Numerous other Pruitt staffers decided to leave during the former administrator's months of spending and ethics scandals, including top spokeswoman Liz Bowman, Superfund program adviser Albert "Kell" Kelly and senior counsel Sarah Greenwalt.

"I thank all those who are moving on to new endeavors for their service to EPA," Ryan Jackson, chief of staff to acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, said in a statement.

Ferguson, Ford and Wilcox had all been at the EPA since the early days of Pruitt's tenure.

Ferguson had been Pruitt's spokesman in his last job as Oklahoma's attorney general.

Read more here.

And read up on yesterday's employment change up at EPA.

 

HOUSE PASSES BILL TO OVERHAUL FISHERY MANAGEMENT LAW: The House on Wednesday passed controversial legislation that aims to overhaul how the federal government manages the nation's fisheries.

The measure would make significant changes to a 1976 law that's been credited with boosting fish stocks through restrictions on overfishing, among other successes.

The GOP-backed bill would give more authority to local fishery councils to set fishing standards such as limits and seasons. It would allow for longer timelines for species recovery, or no timelines at all in some circumstances, and let fishery councils use alternative standards for measuring the health of a fishery.

The legislation, which passed in a 222-193 vote, is supported by recreational fishing groups and opposed by conservationists and major commercial fishing organizations who argue that it would threaten sustainable fishing practices that have helped revitalize many important species.

"I'm proud to say that my bill protects our commercial and recreational fisheries' interests and allow councils to do their jobs in a more streamlined and effective manner," Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungElection handicapper moves 10 races toward Dems Dunleavy, Begich win party nods in 3-way race for Alaska governor Alaska congressional candidate has never visited the state: AP MORE (R-Alaska), the bill's sponsor, said on the House floor.

"This legislation is written for fishermen, to ensure that they are able to catch sustainable yields of fish for the communities," he added. "It is critical for the protection of coastal communities and for allowing the stakeholders to be part of the management of fisheries."

While Republicans applauded the success of the existing law, they also said it is time to add more "flexibility" for local officials, and argued the bill wouldn't threaten fisheries.

Read more here.

 

TRUMP: GERMANY IS RUSSIA'S 'CAPTIVE' FOLLOWING PIPELINE DEAL: 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 slammed Germany early Wednesday over a gas pipeline deal with Russia, claiming the agreement has made Berlin "captive to Russia" and urging NATO to assess the situation.

Trump took aim at one of America's closest allies within hours of his arrival at the NATO summit in Brussels, setting up what is expected to be an uneasy two days of meetings. He continued his long-running criticism of alliance members for what he views as a failure to contribute enough to defense spending before launching a new line of attack against Germany.

"I have to say, I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you're supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia," Trump said during a meeting with the NATO secretary-general.

"If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply," he continued. "They got rid of their coal plants. They got rid of their nuclear. They're getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it's something that NATO has to look at. I think it's very inappropriate."

The president was likely referencing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would deliver gas from Russia to parts of northern Germany. The deal has drawn criticism from the U.S. and some other European nations, because they fear it would give Russian leverage over Western Europe via energy supply, according to The Associated Press.

Read more here.

 

SENATORS LOOK TO EASE FEDERAL LOANS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE: Lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee looked at ways to improve infrastructure through low-cost federal loans, reports The Hill's Wyatt Schiff

Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) noted that it was the seventh hearing on the issue this year and said there was a sense of urgency because of the amount of infrastructure in need of repair.

"The sooner a project is built the sooner it can benefit the community around it," he said.

Ranking Member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperMelania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet EPA to abandon restrictions against chemical linked to climate change Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens MORE (D-Del.) said the loans were particularly important for transportation projects. And he said that the loans should encourage flexibility.

"Our goal should be to provide options for infrastructure investment," said Carper.

Testifying before the panel were Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the right-leaning American Action Forum; Vicente Sarmiento, director of the Orange County Water District in California; and Brian Motyl, assistant director of finance in the Delaware Department of Transportation.

 

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY:

-The House Natural Resources will hold a hearing titled "The Essential Role of Livestock Grazing on Federal Lands and Its Importance to Rural America."

-The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee will discuss issues facing interstate networks for delivering natural gas and electricity.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-California hits major greenhouse gas goal years early, The San Francisco Journal reports.

-Elon Musk appears to commit funding to fix Flint, Michigan drinking water crisis.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-House votes to overhaul fishery management law

-Acting EPA chief looks to reassure staff after Pruitt's resignation

-Poll: Record number of Americans believe in man-made climate change

-More Pruitt aides leaving EPA

-Russian mining firm places seal with Trump's face on asbestos products

-Trump: Germany 'captive' to Russia after pipeline deal

-American Airlines to stop using plastic straws