Overnight 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

Overnight 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
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EPA WATCHDOG LOOKS INTO HARVEY RESPONSE: The internal watchdog at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking into how the agency handled last year's response to Hurricane Harvey.

The EPA Office of Inspector General on Wednesday announced its investigation, saying the self-initiated project that began in August will explore how the agency managed its Hurricane Harvey funding.

After the hurricane made landfall in Texas in August 2017 as a Category 4 storm, EPA was responsible for disseminating Disaster Relief Funding received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


The inspector general's office described its investigation as a way to "improve EPA business practices and accountability, and improve stewardship and operational efficiency," according to a letter sent to EPA staff Tuesday and shared online.

The watchdog asked employees to provide details, including all sources of funding for the hurricane response and the amounts received, a list of mission assignments, a list of expenses related to the response, and property and equipment acquisitions.

The letter did not address why the inspector general decided to open the investigation.

Read more here.


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SCIENCE COMMITTEE ASKS GAO TO EXPAND SEXUAL ASSAULT PROBE: The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO)  to consider sexual assault training measures, reporting methods and the scientific advisor structure in its probe of sexual misconduct within the scientific community.

In a letter that Chairman Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithEducation Department changing eligibility for hundreds of rural school districts receiving aid: report Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Ex-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street MORE (R-Texas) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats MORE (R-Va.) sent to the independent watchdog Wednesday, the committee requested the agency include the new considerations in its study and recommendations on the pervasiveness of sexual assault to scientific grant awardees.

The committee first asked GAO in January to conduct a full review of sexual misconduct in regards to federal grant-making agencies' compliance with current laws.

The new requests follow the release of several independent reports on allegations of a prevalent culture of sexual harassment in the science community, including one from the National Science Foundation.

"No taxpayer dollars should be awarded to a researcher who engages in harassment and inappropriate behavior toward a colleague or a student under their charge. The Committee conducted a thorough investigation and made a series of recommendations to remedy this problem," said Smith. "NSF's final rule is a significant step towards addressing sexual misconduct in the academic and scientific communities."

Read the letter here.


GREENS TARGET CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS: A major environmental group is targeting three Republican House candidates from southern California in a new six-figure advertising campaign that focuses on the state's unusually active wildfire season.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Victory Fund rolled out the web-based campaign Wednesday morning with ads criticizing Reps. Steve Knight and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherDemocrat Harley Rouda advances in California House primary Lawyers to seek asylum for Assange in France: report Rohrabacher tells Yahoo he discussed pardon with Assange for proof Russia didn't hack DNC email MORE and candidate Diane Harkey for their environmental positions.

Each Republican is running in this year's midterm elections in southern California districts that Democrats believe could flip. Harkey is running for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaGOP sues California over Newsom's vote-by-mail order Conservative group files challenge to California vote-by-mail order New poll shows tight race in key California House race MORE (R).

In one of the most deadly years for wildfires in California's recorded history, the LCV Victory Fund campaign links their politics to the fires, saying each candidate "sides with polluters" against climate change policies, to the detriment of public health.

"Even as the state takes bold action to fight climate change, Californians still need Congress to stop blocking climate action and supporting pro-polluter policies that make global warming worse," said Pete Maysmith, senior vice president for campaigns at the group, which is LCV's super PAC arm.

"Knight, Rohrabacher and Harkey are putting public health and safety in danger, and voters need to know about their records of blocking efforts to fight carbon pollution and protect clean air," he said. "They are dangerously out-of-step with California voters."

Read more here.


And in more West Coast news...


CALIFORNIA, NEW MEXICO SUE OVER METHANE POLLUTION ROLLBACK: The Democratic attorneys general of California and New Mexico sued the Trump administration to stop it from rolling back methane pollution standards for oil and natural gas drilling.

Hours after the Interior Department unveiled its final action to weaken the Obama administration's methane rule for drillers on federal land, California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds| Trump administration aims to buy uranium for reserve 'as soon as possible,' official says| 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fue 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards OVERNIGHT ENERGY: States, green groups sue Trump over rollback of Obama fuel efficiency regulations | Oil lobby says low prices still hurting industry | Conservative group wants Trump to go further in rolling back key environmental law MORE and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit in northern California's federal court.

Becerra and Balderas argue that Interior's Bureau of Land Management didn't properly justify their repeal of the key portions of the methane rule, and that the new standard is legally insufficient.

"With this attempt to axe the Waste Prevention Rule, the Trump administration risks the air our children breathe and at taxpayers' expense," Becerra said in a statement.

"We've sued the administration before over the illegal delay and suspension of this rule and will continue doing everything in our power to hold them accountable for the sake of our people and planet."

California's Air Resources Board is also part of the lawsuit.

Read more here.



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OPEC is closely watching the U.S.-China tariff war says Andrew Stanley, an associate fellow with the Center for Strategic & International Studies Energy and National Security Program.



Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Government watchdog probing EPA's handling of Hurricane Harvey response

-Trump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent'

-California, New Mexico sue over Trump methane pollution rollback

-Green group targets California GOP House candidates in new ads

-Berkeley city council passes resolution requiring vegan 'Green Mondays'