Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation

Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation
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INTERIOR PUNISHES 1,500 FOR HARASSMENT, MISCONDUCT: The Interior Department has punished more than 1,500 employees for harassment or other misconduct since the beginning of last year.

The revelation came Wednesday in a department-wide email obtained by The Hill in which Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt updated employees on the state of the administration's attempted crackdown on misconduct.

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Bernhard also told workers about new changes to address workplace concerns included developing action plans to curtail inappropriate behavior and expanding an ethics program within the agency.

"From day one, [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke and I have been committed to leaving the Department in better shape than we found it; this includes addressing employee misconduct and harassment and improving our ethics program," Bernhardt wrote in the email.

In April, the department released its first comprehensive policy on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassing Conduct.

Bernhardt, in the email, urged staff to continue to come forward with any concerns.

"Despite these efforts, we can only take action when we are aware of misconduct or unethical behavior. For this to happen, employees have to be willing to come forward. I want you to know that your leadership is listening, and we are committed to holding individuals accountable when they have failed in their duties and obligations," he wrote.

Zinke has long blamed the Obama administration for failing to react to harassment concerns within the Interior Department, which includes the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.

Read more.

 

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EPA REMOVES 22 SUPERFUND SITES FROM LIST: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed more sites from its Superfund list in the last fiscal year than any year in more than a decade.

The agency on Wednesday announced that it deleted 18 complete sites and four parts of sites from the Superfund list in fiscal 2018, the most since 2005.

Deletion means that the EPA has formally declared that the contamination has been cleaned and monitoring has confirmed it.

"Under President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE, EPA is deleting Superfund sites from the National Priorities List at the fastest pace in more than a decade," acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

"This remarkable accomplishment is proof that cleaning up contaminated lands and returning them to safe and productive use is a top priority of the Trump EPA."

While Wheeler boasted about the milestone to support the Trump administration's agenda to put a new emphasis on Superfund cleanups, the cleanups started years or decades ago, and most were completed before President Trump took office.

The Superfund agenda, initially implemented as a top priority by former EPA chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump moves to relax Obama-era water protections Trump will seek to weaken Obama-era wetlands protections: report The Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda MORE last year, aimed in part to expedite cleanup actions and remove more sites from the list. More than 1,300 places nationwide are on the list, which gives the EPA authority to order companies to remediate sites or to use federal funding if necessary.

Read more.

 

DOJ ENVIRONMENT NOMINEE NEARS CONFIRMATION: The Senate moved Wednesday toward confirming Jeffrey Clark to be the Trump administration's top environment attorney at the Department of Justice.

Senators voted 53 to 44, mainly along party lines, to end debate on Clark, setting him up for a final confirmation vote as soon as Thursday.

As the assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division, Clark's responsibilities would include defending Trump administration policies at agencies like the EPA and Interior against court challenges, enforcing laws against polluters and certain cases involving American Indian rights.

Clark is currently a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.

He has faced criticism from Democrats and environmentalists, who predict that he would prioritize industry over environmental protections. He has defended BP from claims involving the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and said climate change science is "contestable," among other things.

Jeffrey Wood has been acting head of the environment and natural resources division since Trump took office in January 2017.

 

DOE CYBER OFFICIAL GETS SWORN IN, AGAIN: The Department of Energy held a grand swearing-in ceremony at its headquarters Wednesday for Karen Evans, the new assistant secretary for the agency's office of cybersecurity, energy security and emergency response (CESER).

Evans was sworn in in early September after gliding through Senate confirmation, but leaders wanted a bigger ceremony, complete with private sector attendees.

In celebrating Evans, Perry said she'll help carry out the new cybersecurity focus at DOE that was central to creating CESER.

"DOE is on the front lines of this battle to protect our nation, our energy infrastructure," he said. "And it's a battle, don't get confused that this is not a battle. It's a battle that's becoming more dangerous every day. These threats continue to grow, they metastasize, they attack with greater frequency and scale and sophistication every day."

"The sustained and growing threat of cyberattacks to our energy infrastructure requires us to think differently," he continued.

Evans has long been in the federal information technology world, including a six-year stint at the White House Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.

Perry created CESER in February, taking some of the office of electricity's responsibilities and adding a new cybersecurity focus.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY:

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine blackstart, the process for restoring electricity after a complete blackout.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Michigan officials are putting "Do Not Eat The Fish" signs along the Huron River due to contamination concerns, Michigan Radio reports.

The World Bank declined to help fund a planned power plant in Kosovo because it would use coal, Reuters reports.

A new report in Nature says dramatic shifts in the world's food system are necessary to protect the climate, including big reductions in meat, the Washington Post reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

- More than 1,500 Interior employees removed or reprimanded for harassment, misconduct

- Rick Scott 'scared to death' for people who didn't evacuate from Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael makes landfall in Florida as Category 4 storm

- EPA removes 22 cleaned-up sites from Superfund list

- Oil industry, green groups join to oppose Trump's ethanol plan