Overnight Energy: EPA enforcement numbers at historic low | Dems push resolution to back Paris climate agreement | Top lawmaker demands Interior nominee's schedules

OFFICIAL EPA NUMBERS SHOW ALL TIME LOW IN ENFORCEMENT: Penalties handed down to corporate polluters in 2018 by the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were the lowest in over a decade, the agency announced in its annual report Friday.

By two key measures, the agency assessed lower penalties for breaking pollution laws on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year in at least 15 years, according to the official figures.

The dipped fines include a significant drop in injunctive relief -- the monetary commitments polluters pledge to spend in order to remediate their pollution and keep it from recurring -- and the civil penalties the EPA charged to companies.

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The EPA obtained a total of $3.95 billion in injunctive relief in fiscal 2018, which stretched from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018. That number was the lowest in 15 years.

The last time the numbers were that low was in 2003 during the Bush administration, at $3.94 billion.

Looking at civil penalties, the total amount fined to polluters who broke EPA regulations was $69.47 million in the same period, the lowest amount on record since the EPA's enforcement office was established in its current form in 1994.

The 2018 figures were both a drop from the alarming amounts the EPA collected in 2017. Injunctive relief in 2018 was an 80 percent decrease from the EPA's 2017 numbers of $20 billion. Civil penalties in 2018 dropped nearly 96 percent from the agency's 2017 numbers of $1.6 billion.

The drop in penalty numbers assessed under Trump in 2017 are already under investigation by both Interior's Office of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office.

EPA cheers numbers: Despite the drop, agency officials Friday nonetheless appeared proud of their enforcement results.

"A strong enforcement and compliance assurance program is essential to achieving positive public health and environmental outcomes," Susan Bodine, head of the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement on Friday's report.

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"In fiscal year 2018, we continued our focus on expediting site cleanup, deterring noncompliance, and returning facilities to compliance with the law, while respecting the cooperative federalism structure of our nation's environmental laws."

Read more here.

 

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DEMS -- AND ONE REPUBLICAN -- BACK RESOLUTION ON PARIS AGREEMENT: Dozens of House Democrats and one Republican introduced legislation Friday meant to demonstrate congressional support for the Paris climate agreement.

The short, nonbinding resolution would declare that Congress "reaffirms its commitment" to the 2015 pact that every other nation in the world has signed onto, and that the United States "should not withdraw." The measure would not mandate that the U.S. return to the agreement.

The move is designed to rebuke President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE's 2017 announcement that the U.S. would pull out of the landmark global accord, under which nearly 200 countries made nonbinding pledges to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"I'm glad my colleagues on both sides of aisle are joining me on this bipartisan resolution to set the record straight and support the Paris agreement on climate action," Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanPelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Harris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires Overnight Energy: Fight between EPA watchdog, agency lawyers heats up | Top EPA official under investigation over document destruction | DOJ issues subpoenas to automakers in California emissions pact MORE (D-Calif.), a lead sponsor of the legislation along with Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickOvernight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Billboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving Mark Ruffalo brings fight against 'forever chemicals' to Capitol Hill MORE (R-Pa.), said in a statement.

"The Still-In Resolution is an important message that the world desperately needs to hear," Huffman said. "It's by no means the only thing this Congress needs to do on the climate crisis, but it's an important starting point."

"Climate change must be addressed proactively with leaders from both sides of the aisle working to protect our planet," Fitzpatrick said in Friday's statement. "I continue to urge the administration not to leave the Paris Climate Accord -- but in the meantime, Congress should send a message to the world: the people of the United States remain committed to pursuing bipartisan solutions to address climate change and protect our environment."

More on the resolution here.

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TOP DEM LAWMAKER DEMANDS SCHEDULE DETAILS FOR INTERIOR NOMINEE: The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee is requesting that the acting secretary of the Interior Department provide more details from his public schedule, suggesting omissions may indicate possible conflicts of interest.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose committee oversees the Interior Department, sent a letter to David Bernhardt, President Trump's nominee for Interior secretary, asking him to provide more information about the people he has met with during his time as deputy secretary and later as acting secretary.

"The versions of calendars that have been obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and posted to the DOI website are missing important details," Grijalva wrote, adding that there are more than 100 hours of meetings where Bernhardt didn't specify the participants.

Sections of his schedule that raised red flags to the lawmakers included parts labeled "external meeting," "call" or "event."

"Last month, as you assumed the role of Acting Secretary of the Department of Interior, you began publishing your schedule on the DOI website with even fewer details," Grijalva wrote.

The Arizona Democrat added he's concerned that some of the missing details were purposely left out.

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"There is further concern that some of your calendar entries may have been altered or left incomplete," Grijalva wrote.

He compared one of Bernhardt's entries with the calendar of former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE, who listed more details, including meeting participants.

"The discrepant entries in both calendars appear to be the same appointment, generated by the same person, indicating that both entries should be identical unless altered or withheld," he wrote.

Read more on the request here.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

The Senate is due to continue consideration of its wide-ranging bipartisan public lands package, which includes an indefinite extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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Senators are likely to vote on an amendment by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Pelosi works to remove legal protections for tech companies from USMCA | Treasury sanctions Russian group over 0 million hack | Facebook sues Chinese individuals for ad fraud | Huawei takes legal action against FCC Senators defend bipartisan bill on facial recognition as cities crack down Trump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans MORE (R-Utah) to limit presidents' authority to use the Antiquities Act to unilaterally create national monuments within Utah.

House Democrats are planning to continue their streak of hearings on climate change.

Three of the hearings will be in the Natural Resources Committee, tailored to specific subcommittees. The energy and mineral resources subcommittee and indigenous peoples subcommittee will have climate hearings Tuesday, and the national parks and public lands subcommittee on Wednesday.

Over in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the energy subcommittee will have a Tuesday hearing on the Energy Department's energy efficiency standards.

And in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, lawmakers are gathering Tuesday for a hearing on the state of climate science.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

A California state employee filed a lawsuit making charges including corruption and sexual harassment related to the Oroville Dam crisis, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The European Union decided to impose stricter standards on the planned Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia, BBC News reports.

A Missouri oil leak likely originated from the Keystone pipeline, according to its owner, Reuters reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Friday:

- EPA polluter enforcement hit historic lows in 2018

- House lawmakers introduce resolution to support Paris climate agreement

- Top Dem demands schedule details from Interior nominee

- Kids in climate lawsuit ask to block fossil fuel production on federal land