Overnight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels
Overnight Energy: Democrats push EPA to collect $124K in 'excessive' Pruitt travel expenses | Greens angered over new rules for rocket fuel chemical | Inslee to join youth climate strikers in Las Vegas
DEMS DEMAND I-O-U FROM EPA & PRUITT: Senate Democrats are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make former Administrator Scott Pruitt cough up almost $124,000 for excessive travel expenses from when he was EPA chief.
Four senators, in a Thursday letter to the agency, called on the EPA to modify an existing policy so that "similar abuses of agency funds are not permitted to reoccur."
A recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found that Pruitt incurred thousands of dollars in "excessive airfare expenses ... without sufficient justification to support security concerns requiring the use of first- and business-class travel."
The OIG last week said the agency should recover thousands of dollars Pruitt spent on upgraded travel.
Democrats say the EPA's decision not to pursue collection of the funds excuses Pruitt's behavior contrasts with other agency heads who have paid back funds in similar situations.
"It is disappointing to learn that the EPA decided not to heed the Acting Inspector General's findings and recommendations," the senators wrote in their letter. "These findings and recommendations were based on a meticulous analysis of the EPA's own records. Failing to heed them essentially writes Mr. Pruitt a blank check for his lavish travel."
The letter, signed by Democratic Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Gary Peters (Mich.), asks the agency to explain its rationale for not seeking to recover the funds.
"A decision to ignore these findings puts EPA at odds with other federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Veterans Affairs, that have required senior officials to pay the agency back for similar transgressions," the senators wrote.
EPA's response: When reached for comment, the EPA reiterated its earlier position on many of the OIG report's findings.
"The basis for the recovery of these funds rests on OIG contesting whether there was a proper delegation within EPA to approve first-class travel and whether that travel was justified," the agency said in a statement Friday. "In evaluating the delegation EPA believes that the trips were authorized by an appropriate official, making cost recovery inappropriate."
The agency added that it also recently provided "retroactive approval" of each trip Pruitt took as administrator.
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GREENS ANGERED BY EPA'S NEW REGS FOR ROCKET FUEL CHEMICAL: Environmental groups are saying the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn't going far enough with its new regulations for a chemical commonly used in rocket fuel.
Scientists in various organizations are saying that proposed limits for perchlorate in drinking water were significantly higher than experts recommended.
"This is enough to make you sick -- literally," Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a statement. The NRDC sued the EPA in early 2016 to force it to take action on perchlorate.
EPA's proposed standard for perchlorate released Friday suggests placing the maximum contaminant level at 56 parts per billion (ppb). In addition, EPA proposed requirements for water systems to conduct monitoring and reporting for perchlorate.
Yet environmentalists said the standard is 10 to 50 times higher than what scientists recommend for the chemical compound that is widely used by the military. It's commonly found in solid rocket propellants, fireworks, matches and signal flares.
EPA under the Obama administration proposed a safe level of 15 ppb for the compound.
Some states have developed their own standard for the chemical in public drinking water. In Massachusetts the standard is 2 ppb, and in California it is 6 ppb.
INSLEE TO JOIN CLIMATE STRIKE IN VEGAS: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Friday said that he plans to join youth climate protesters in September for a general global strike.
Inslee, who is among two dozen Democrats vying for the presidency, is presenting himself as the climate candidate, focusing much of his campaign message on the environment.
He tweeted that he is "proud to be joining strikers in Las Vegas," telling Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg: "I'll be there."
Thousands of youth activists worldwide, inspired by Thunberg's weekly protest at the Swedish parliament, have led the Fridays for the Future movement by walking out of school to demand their governments take action to thwart climate threats.
A global strike is planned for Sept. 20, and activists are asking adults to join them.
"To change everything, we need everyone," they wrote in The Guardian this week. "It is time for all of us to unleash mass resistance -- we have shown that collective action does work. We need to escalate the pressure to make sure that change happens, and we must escalate together."
Earlier this month, Inslee unveiled his first proposals on climate policy, including calling for investing $9 trillion in green jobs.
He also outlined his goal to transition the U.S. electric grid, vehicles and buildings to 100 percent clean energy by 2030.
Read more on his trip to the strip.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Vermont bill to update toxics law heads to governor, Bloomberg reports.
Flooding worst Mississippi's seen since Great Flood of 1927, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
Flame retardant ban becomes Minnesota state law, MPR News reports.
Stories from Friday
-Green groups angered over EPA's newest regulations for rocket fuel chemical
-Democrats push EPA to collect $124K from Pruitt for 'excessive airfare expenses'
-Inslee says he'll join youth climate strikers in Las Vegas
-Castro swears off donations from oil, gas, coal executives