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Overnight Energy: Investigators found Zinke's MAGA socks violated Hatch Act | Major union endorses Green New Deal | Group sues Trump over fishing permits said to endanger sea turtles

Overnight Energy: Investigators found Zinke's MAGA socks violated Hatch Act | Major union endorses Green New Deal | Group sues Trump over fishing permits said to endanger sea turtles
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MAGA FROM HIS HEAD TO HIS TOES: Federal investigators concluded that former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith Zinke5 major ways that Interior slashed protections for wildlife  Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE violated the Hatch Act when he tweeted out a picture of himself wearing socks with Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan, according to a December letter made public on Thursday.

The Hatch Act forbids most federal employees from using their position to promote partisan politics.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which is tasked with investigating possible Hatch Act violations, wrote in a December letter that Zinke broke the law when he posted the picture of his socks from his government account and wore them to a government event.

"Secretary Zinke engaged in political activity when he wore the above-referenced socks," Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the Hatch Act Unit at the Office of Special Counsel, wrote in a Dec. 20 letter to the watchdog group Campaign for Accountability. The letter was first obtained by The Washington Post.

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"Because Secretary Zinke wore these socks to an official event and also authorized their display on his official Twitter account, he violated the Hatch Act's prohibition against using his official position to influence an election."

The Office of Special Counsel confirmed the authenticity of the letter to The Hill.

The former secretary avoided repercussions since he deleted the tweet shortly after learning it could have violated the Hatch Act.

"We do not believe that his violation was willful," Galindo-Marrone wrote.

Punishments for a Hatch Act violation, which are generally decided by the president, could include a $1,000 civil penalty, a reduction in grade or removal from office.

Read more about socks and the law here.

 

Today was Thursday. Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

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A SUIT FOR SEA TURTLES: An environmental group sued the Trump administration on Thursday for issuing longline fishing permits known to ensnare endangered sea turtles off California's coast.

In its suit, the Center for Biological Diversity charged that by issuing the permits in May, the government violated multiple environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

"Industrial longline fishing has pushed sea turtles toward extinction, while also decimating seabirds and marine mammals. California has prohibited longlines for decades. The Fisheries Service has prohibited them since 2004. Yet this year the Fisheries Service has authorized longlines in waters off California currently protected for leatherback conservation," the lawsuit reads.

The Trump administration on May 8 issued permit exemptions to two vessels allowing them to use longlines 50 to 200 miles off California's coast for two years. The National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that "the impacts of the [longline exempted fishing permits] are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat."

The environmental group is challenging the administration's finding, arguing that the exemptions are a workaround to a more than decade-long ban on longline fishing in the Pacific Ocean first put in place due to sea turtle harm.

The federal government in 2004 banned longline fishing from targeting swordfish in a portion of the Pacific Ocean as a way to protect endangered sea turtles that would also get caught by the lines.

"The Fisheries Service prepared an inadequate biological opinion that fails to properly analyze the impacts of the Permit on threatened and endangered animals as required by the Endangered Species Act," the suit reads.

The group is asking the court to invalidate the two permits.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

 

A UNION SAYS YES TO GREEN NEW DEAL: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on Thursday endorsed the Green New Deal, putting it at odds with other unions that have been critical of the ambitious environmental agenda.

SEIU's International Executive Board passed a resolution in support of the sweeping environmental proposal at its board meeting in Minneapolis.

"We've been inspired by the fearlessness and courage of the climate change activists whose direct action and bold demands for change have put this issue front and center in the national conversation," said Mary Kay Henry, the international president of SEIU. "The Green New Deal makes unions central to accomplishing the ambitious goal of an environmentally responsible and economically just society."

SEIU called the Green New Deal vitally important for people of color, saying their communities are most impacted by the environmental issues the proposal is intended to address. The union added that its members support "immediate, bold action" on climate change.

SEIU said it is the first national union to endorse the Green New Deal.

Other union leaders have been skeptical of the environmental proposal introduced earlier this year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezProgressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments | Energy Dept. exempts quick dishwashers from existing efficiency standards | Ocasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic Ocasio-Cortez says Biden vote can be 'tactical' effort to support marginalized communities MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOcasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (D-Mass.).

Terry O'Sullivan, general president of the Laborers' International Union of North America called the Green New Deal "exactly how not to enact a progressive agenda to address our nation's dangerous income inequality" and "exactly how not to win support for critical measures to curb climate change."

Separately, seven unions told House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.) that they had "grave concerns about unrealistic solutions such as those advocated" by the Green New Deal.

 

A TIDBIT:

-Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Justice indicts two members of ISIS 'Beatles' cell ISIS militants expected to be sent to US for prosecution: report MORE's (D-N.H.) companion bill to H.R. 9, which would recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord, dropped today.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

California has too much solar power. That might be good for ratepayers, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Feds plan to move South Carolina nuclear waste, The State reports.

Colorado to pursue mandatory electric-vehicle standard after attempt to make it voluntary fails, The Denver Post reports.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Thursday...

DNC tells Inslee it won't host climate debate

Paris climate agreement can avert thousands of heat-related deaths in US: researchers

Centrist Dem pitches plan for Pentagon to tackle climate change

80-mile swarm of ladybugs shows up on meteorologists' radar

Robert Downey Jr. announces initiative to address climate change

Federal investigators concluded Ryan Zinke's MAGA socks violated Hatch Act

Group sues Trump administration for issuing fishing permits known to harm sea turtles

Major union endorses Green New Deal

Cal Fire says a hammer caused largest wildfire in California history