Overnight Energy: Perry replacement faces Ukraine questions at hearing | Dem chair demands answers over land agency’s relocation | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil $180B Green New Deal public housing plan
PERRY REPLACEMENT DODGES UKRAINE QUESTIONS: Energy secretary nominee Dan Brouillette on Thursday moved one step closer to confirmation, receiving words of praise from members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, despite lingering questions from Democrats about any potential involvement in Ukraine.
Brouillette, currently the deputy secretary for the Department of Energy (DOE), was nominated to the post after Secretary Rick Perry announced he would leave the position in October. But Perry’s exit comes as questions have been raised about his role in the Ukraine controversy engulfing the White House.
President Trump has cited Perry as the impetus for taking the controversial July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that spurred an impeachment inquiry into him.
Perry was also one of the so-called three amigos, alongside former special envoy Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who dealt with Ukraine.
Skepticism over Perry’s dealings with Ukraine has led to questions for Brouillette, who told lawmakers his involvement with the country extends only to providing help for expanding their natural gas markets.
Brouillette said the department was called upon to provide technical assistance to Natfogaz, a Ukrainian gas company.
“I am aware that the secretary met on occasion with individuals who were asking for assistance with the restructuring, if you will, or reorganization of the state-owned enterprise,” Brouillette said in reference to Natfogaz.
“I am not aware of any conversation that [Perry] had either with Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani or others within the Ukrainian government,” he added, referring the president’s personal lawyer.
Brouillette said meeting with eastern and central European countries is in the interests of the U.S., as promoting their energy industries could reduce European reliance on natural gas from Russia.
But Brouillette said he was not present for Perry’s conversations or “any of the conversations related to the House’s inquiry.”
“I’m not aware of the conversations that Secretary Perry had or did not have,” he said. “I wasn’t a party to that; I didn’t have any knowledge of that.”
What about a subpoena? Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) questioned whether Brouillette, like Perry, would defy congressional subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry.
His answer mirrored closely the response from Perry, who refused to show at hearings after DOE staff said the inquiry was not valid.
“If I were to receive a subpoena from the U.S. Congress I would of course consult with executive branch counsel and, assuming that the subpoena was properly served and [I was given] the opportunity to be represented by executive branch counsel, I would make myself available,” he said.
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MORE QUESTIONS ON BLM MOVE: The top Democrat on the House committee that oversees the Interior Department is demanding answers on the reasoning behind the forthcoming relocation of nearly 250 federal employees out West.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, sent two letters Thursday asking for answers about the Interior Department’s (DOI) anticipated plan to ship the majority of its Washington, D.C.-based Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees to new offices in the West.
In his letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Grijalva asks for the analysis and documents justifying the move, which critics argue could silence career employees by moving them further away from the political action in the nation’s capital.
“It is unacceptable that the DOI would begin relocating agency staff before sharing basic information with Congress justifying these moves,” Grijalva wrote in his letter to Bernhardt.
“While DOI does have funding to complete at least part of these relocations, it does not have unlimited authority to restructure agencies in a manner that former BLM staff have suggested risk destroying the BLM entirely.”
The BLM on Tuesday issued formal relocation notices to its Washington-based staff, giving them 30 days to accept the move or resign. They have until Dec. 12.
The lawmaker has long argued that Interior has slow-walked responses to various questions the committee has asked about the proposed move. He said in the letter Thursday that “DOI has failed on numerous occasions to respond to verbal and written requests for documents, instead sending already public or unrelated information.”
Grijalva has cited Interior’s lack of response on the issue as a main reason for why the committee may soon be issuing a subpoena for answers.
Interior’s response: Department officials have maintained they’ve been responsive to all requests.
“Chairman Grijalva continues to perpetuate a false narrative about our congressionally funded and supported relocation efforts that will better serve the American people and the Bureau of Land Management’s multiple-use mission,” said Nick Goodwin, Interior spokesperson, in a statement to the Hill.
GREEN NEW DEAL–HOME EDITION: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday unveiled the next step to their Green New Deal plan with a bill focused entirely on reimagining public housing.
The bill from the two progressive firebrands places a sharp focus on decarbonizing the nation’s public housing units.
The proposal calls for an investment of $180 billion over 10 years to sustainably retrofit and repair public housing with the goal of eliminating all carbon emissions. The housing units would meet the zero-emissions goal through the use of solar panels and renewable energy sources.
The lawmakers say the legislation would not only cut the carbon footprint of the country’s fleet of housing units but enrich the lives of their inhabitants.
“This bill shows that we can address our climate and affordable housing crises by making public housing a model of efficiency, sustainability and resiliency,” Sanders, who is one of the top-tier hopefuls running in the 2020 Democratic primary, said in a statement Thursday.
“Importantly, the working people who have been most impacted by decades of disinvestment in public housing will be empowered to lead this effort and share in the economic prosperity that it generates for our country.”
Ocasio-Cortez said the bill offered the promise of a climate change opportunity.
“The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will train and mobilize the workforce to decarbonize the public housing stock and improve the quality of life for all residents,” she said in a statement.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
OPEC cuts U.S. oil output growth forecast, The Wall Street Journal reports.
16-year-old taken in for questioning over Australia bushfires, CNN reports.
Dutch government slashes highway speed limit to tackle climate change, CNN International reports
ICYMI. Stories from Thursday…
-Perry replacement moves closer to confirmation despite questions on Ukraine
-Lawmaker demands answers from administration over land agency’s headquarters relocation
-Australia recovers some koalas caught in massive wildfires
-Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil $180B Green New Deal public housing plan
-Biden rolls out $1.3T infrastructure plan