Overnight Energy: Group accuses Interior officials of breaking ethics pledge | Climate skeptic to lead White House panel | Carbon dioxide from power plants on the rise

GROUP ALLEGES INTERIOR OFFICIALS VIOLATED ETHICS STANDARDS: A government ethics group is accusing six political officials at the Interior Department of violating the Trump administration's ethics pledge.

The Campaign Legal Center sent a formal complaint to Interior's Office of Inspector General, asking it to investigate those officials' compliance with provisions of the pledge all political appointees sign, including cooling-off periods for working on matters involving former employers, restrictions on meeting with former employers or clients and restrictions on dealing with matters for which an employee used to lobby.


"Several political appointees at Interior appear to have violated these provisions, which are specifically designed to prevent public officials from using their positions to favor former employers or lobbying clients," the group wrote.

"Taken together, the violations outlined below suggest a disturbing pattern of misconduct across the Department of the Interior that warrants your office's immediate attention."

The targets of the Wednesday letter are assistant secretary for insular and international affairs Doug Domenech, senior deputy director of intergovernmental and external affairs Benjamin Cassidy, former energy adviser Vincent DeVito, deputy director of intergovernmental and external affairs Timothy Williams, White House liaison Lori Mashburn and director of intergovernmental and external affairs Todd Wynn.

Read more on the complaint here.


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WHITE HOUSE TO PUT CLIMATE SKEPTIC ON NEW PANEL: The White House is putting together a special panel to look into the potential effects of climate change on national security and the group will include at least one well-known climate change skeptic.

The panel, called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security in the proposal, will be formed via executive order and driven by William Happer, a senior director on the White House's National Security Council (NSC), according to an email obtained Wednesday by The Washington Post.

According to the NSC discussion paper obtained by the Post, the new order sent Feb. 14 would create a 12-member federal advisory committee "to advise the President on scientific understanding of today's climate, how the climate might change in the future under natural and human influences, and how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States."

Happer, a retired Princeton University physics professor and vocal critic of mainstream science including climate change, joined the NSC as an adviser to Trump last September.

In the past, Happer has said that carbon emissions, a major contributor to greenhouse gas, should be seen as an asset. In 2017, he called efforts to reverse global warming "sort of a cult movement in the last five or 10 years" and called climate change science "tremendously exaggerated."

Read more.


CO2 FROM POWER PLANTS ON THE RISE: Carbon dioxide emissions from power plants rose slightly last year while overall electricity production grew by a larger factor, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Wednesday.

As part of its required annual reporting of emissions, the EPA said carbon dioxide output grew 0.6 percent in 2018 over the previous year, to 1.93 billion tons, while electricity generated grew 5 percent, to 23.4 quadrillion British thermal units.


At the same time, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions from the power sector fell, the EPA said, by 4 percent and 6 percent respectively.

The EPA celebrated the decreases.

"These data show that America is enjoying ever cleaner air as our economy grows, and the U.S. continues as a global leader in clean air progress," Bill Wehrum, the EPA's associate administrator for air, said in a statement.

"Through state and federal fulfillment of the Clean Air Act, and advances by the power sector, we've seen significant reductions in key pollutants while electricity generation has increased."

Read more here.



Kinder Morgan is planning to expand its ethanol hub in Chicago, Reuters reports.

Oil prices reached a three-month high Wednesday on production cuts from OPEC, The Wall Street Journal reports.



Check out Wednesday's stories ...

- Interior officials accused of violating ethics pledge

- EPA: Carbon dioxide from power plants rose last year

- New White House special climate panel to include climate denier

- AP: 50M gallons of contaminated wastewater dumped daily by mining sites

- Gabbard cites 'concerns' about 'vagueness' of Green New Deal

- Green groups seek to block Atlantic offshore oil testing

- Durbin after reading Green New Deal: 'What in the heck is this?'

- Tanzania court sentences 'Ivory Queen' to 15 years in prison for trafficking elephant tusks