Overnight Energy: Wheeler vows to keep funds for Great Lakes cleanup | Inslee presses Trump on climate in House testimony | Dems seek more funds for Interior watchdog

WHEELER VOWS TO KEEP FUNDING FROM GREAT LAKES PROGRAM: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler confirmed Tuesday that the agency is no longer looking to strip a beloved Great Lakes program of nearly 90 percent of its funding.

Speaking to House lawmakers at a hearing on the EPA's proposed 2020 budget, Wheeler confirmed that the agency supported President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE's promise last week to restore full funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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"I believe I am the only EPA administrator in the history of the agency to go swimming in the Great Lakes," Wheeler told the lawmakers.

"I love the Great Lakes and completely agreed with President Trump last week when he announced we would fully fund the Great Lakes initiative."

Back story: Trump first announced at a rally in Michigan last week that he would make sure the Great Lakes program, which provides money toward clean-up efforts, would keep its $300 million funding.

"I support the Great Lakes. Always have. They're beautiful. They're big. Very deep. Record deepness, right? And I'm going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which you've been trying to get for over 30 years. So, we'll get it done," Trump said.

The problem: The claim ran counter to the White House's proposed 2020 budget for the EPA submitted to Congress in February. That budget suggested a 90 percent cut to the initiative.

Read more on the controversy here.

 

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INSLEE PRESSES TRUMP ON CLIMATE CHANGE IN HOUSE TESTIMONY: Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOvernight Energy: Trump officials formally revoke California emissions waiver | EPA's Wheeler dodges questions about targeting San Francisco over homelessness | 2020 Dems duke it out at second climate forum Yang floats nominating Inslee as 'climate czar' The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate MORE became the first Democratic presidential candidate to testify before Congress on Tuesday, appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to offer sharp criticism of the Trump administration on his signature issue of climate change.

As Democrats work to fast-track a bill that would recommit the U.S. to the Paris climate accord, Inslee said that President Trump abandoned America's international responsibility by walking away from the agreement.

Responding to committee members who argued the agreement did not do enough to push developing nations to curb their carbon use, Inslee said U.S. inaction discouraged other countries from taking action on climate change.

"There are a lot of people … saying we shouldn't do something until the last person on earth does something, and then they turn around and say we shouldn't be in the Paris agreement. It's not very inspiring to the rest of the world and encouraging them to do things when we tear up an international agreement we're a part of," Inslee said. "That's not going to inspire representatives of China or India."

But he was quickly questioned by a fellow Washingtonian, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R), who asked how Inslee arrived at the hearing and what he would be doing to offset his carbon footprint.

2020 stakes: Inslee has made fighting climate change the cornerstone of his fledgling presidential campaign, saying he wants to be known as "the climate guy."

Read more on his testimony here.

 

DEM SEEK MORE FUNDING FOR INTERIOR WATCHDOG: Two top House Democrats are asking Congress for additional funds for the Interior Department's top watchdog following a steep increase in investigation requests.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman TJ Cox (D-Calif.) sent a joint letter to the House Committee on Appropriations Tuesday asking for $2.5 million in additional funding for the Interior's Inspector Generals (OIG) office.

"The funds would allow the OIG to meet the growing need to address oversight of grants, cybersecurity, and the bureaus with troubling track records, as well as potential ethical lapses, conflicts of interest, waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse at DOI," the lawmakers wrote.

In their request, the lawmakers note that the OIG received only a two percent increase in funding between fiscal years 2015 and 2018 and during that time period, complaints filed against Interior increased 48 percent.

Despite the increase in requests, the percent of cases opened by OIG have not reflected the increase. Lawmakers say the office opened seven percent of cases in 2018 compared to 14 percent of cases in 2015.

It's a result the lawmakers are pointing to lacking financial resources.

"The result is that the OIG is referring increasing numbers of hotline complaints to the Interior Department, where the investigation suffers from a loss of independence and transparency," they wrote.

"Because of funding and staffing shortfalls, the OIG has been increasingly unable to take up investigation requests from Congress and from within the DOI."

Investigation requests sent to the OIG have dramatically ticked-up under the Trump administration. A number of those probes have focused specifically on former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior gains new watchdog The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks BLM issues final plan for reduced Utah monument MORE, who quit in January. One of those probes was later referred to the Department of Justice and is currently being considered by the Grand Jury.

The lawmakers blamed Zinke's questionable ethics in part for the surge in OIG requests, but say they don't believe Interior's Acting Secretary David Bernhardt will fair much better.

"Former Secretary Ryan Zinke, one of the most scandal-prone cabinet members in history, left behind significant damage when he department in January," they wrote.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP WEDNESDAY:

National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith will testify before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands about spending priorities.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will review the budget for the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies will review the budget for environmental management programs.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will once again be testifying, this time before the Senate Appropriations Committee on his fiscal 2020 budget request.

FEMA Acting Administrator Peter Gaynor will also be defending his agency's 2020 budget before the committee.

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzLewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing State probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws Five takeaways on Trump's ouster of John Bolton MORE (R-Fla.) will unveil the conservative response to the Green New Deal.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-A key to the Arctic's oil riches lies hidden in Ohio, The New York Times reports.

-Ohio House, Senate negotiators settle on 10.5-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

-Canada is warming at twice the global rate, The Guardian reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Tuesday:

Dem lawmakers request $2.5 million more funding for Interior watchdog after increase in probe requests

Delaney: Green New Deal is 'not the best way forward'

Inslee presses Trump on climate change in House testimony

EPA chief doubles down on Trump's commitment to fully fund Great Lakes program

Carole King lobbies lawmakers in support of bill to protect the Rockies

Australia will no longer contribute to major UN climate change fund

Senators press Perry on nuclear work with Saudi Arabia