OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds| Trump administration aims to buy uranium for reserve 'as soon as possible,' official says| 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fue

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds| Trump administration aims to buy uranium for reserve 'as soon as possible,' official says| 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fue
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IT’S ALL RELATIVE: A top Trump official at the Interior Department used his government connections to help a relative secure a job at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to an internal government watchdog.

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Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report Friday saying Assistant Interior Secretary Douglas Domenech wrongly used government resources by reaching out to a former high-level EPA employee both in person and by email about a job for his son-in-law.

The report said Domenech “took advantage of his position... to gain access to the EPA senior official.”

It detailed how Domenech first made contact with the EPA official in 2017 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, where he had received free tickets to sit in the Interior secretary’s box.

Wolf Trap, located outside of Washington, D.C., is affiliated with the National Park Service, and OIG has repeatedly suggested Interior stop accepting free tickets in order to avoid ethical issues.

Sources told The Hill the relative is Domenech’s son-in-law. The OIG report refers to the relative as "family member 1."

While chatting with the unnamed EPA official, Domenech mentioned that his son-in-law applied for a job with the EPA, and the next day emailed the official to follow up on the application, the OIG said.

According to the report, “When asked if moving the process along was a way to influence the EPA hiring process, Domenech said, ‘Well, when I think of influencing ... I guess you're right. I was trying to influence the process to move along. That's different than influencing the process to hire [family member 1].' "

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The EPA official responded favorably to Domenech's email, telling him, “We could use the help frankly so I’m going to get [on] this.”

Domenech’s son-in-law was ultimately offered the job, and accepted, leaving his position working for an unnamed senator.

The report found Domenech’s behavior “implicate[s] a variety of federal ethics regulations,” including misuse of his office and of his government email.

When reached for comment, an Interior Department spokesperson said: “The underlying events regarding Mr. Domenech occurred in 2017 before the Department initiated an unprecedented effort to invest in building a culture of ethical compliance and dramatically expanding the Department of the Interior’s Ethics Office Program, which has resulted in tripling the number of career ethics officials within the Department.”

The OIG report noted that Domenech had already received ethics training at the time of the email exchanges with the EPA official. Those trainings both took place during the George W. Bush and Trump administrations.

“Over those years, he received initial and annual ethics trainings. Moreover, he received two ethics trainings in the first two months of his arrival in 2017, both of which specifically addressed the federal prohibitions against misuse of position, title, and government resources," the report said.

Read more on the report here

GOING NUCLEAR: An Energy Department official said Friday that the government is aiming to start buying mined uranium for a proposed uranium reserve “as soon as possible” as the Trump administration looks to increase its production of nuclear energy. 

“What we’re looking to do is begin as soon as possible by purchasing uranium starting at the mines where the danger of collapse is the most acute in the fuel cycle,” Benjamin Reinke, who leads the department’s Office of Policy, said in a discussion moderated by radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“We would begin with the purchase of uranium and beginning of standing up the conversion services that would be necessary to create a full uranium reserve,” he said, referring to the method by which uranium is processed. 

He stated that the reserve would be “ready to go” in case of a market failure so that reactors would not have to be shut down.

The Energy Department did not immediately respond to a follow-up question from The Hill about how soon a uranium purchase could occur. 

The department last month issued a report detailing its plans to boost the nuclear energy industry, including a $150 million uranium reserve proposal, which would include purchasing the mineral from a small group of domestic producers. 

Read more on that here

ONE BIG PARTY: A coalition of 18 states is pushing to intervene in a lawsuit from a conservative group challenging the Trump administration’s plans to drastically reduce fuel economy standards.

The suit from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed earlier this month argues the administration erred in requiring automakers to increase fuel economy by 1.5 percent each year instead of freezing or reducing the standards even further.

“We’ll go to the mat to defend our nation's Clean Car Standards against any illegal dismantling by the Trump Administration, including this latest unfounded lawsuit by its transparent allies,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraStates say Education Department is illegally diverting pandemic relief to private schools Trump's use of Pentagon funds for US-Mexico border wall illegal, court rules LA coroner walks back suicide ruling in hanging death of Robert Fuller amid backlash MORE said in a release. 

“CEI would like to take America back to the 20th Century. We’re prepared to remind CEI that this is 2020, not 1920," he added. 

CEI lawyer Sam Kazman said the suit was a battle against overregulation. 

"As for the California AG's claim that we're trying to 'take America back in time,' he's not totally wrong--we're trying to take it back to a time when consumers could choose what kinds of cars to drive, and not have to worry about their being made less safe by overregulation," Kazman said. 

The motion follows a similar suit filed by California alongside 22 others that challenged the new standards directly.

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Read more on the suit here

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

EPA opts not to delay controversial Alaska mine for now, The Washington Post reports

Ojibwe prophecy led to the Great Lakes. Now it's threatened, E&E News reports

EPA Defeats Challenge to Permit Approval for Exxon Expansion, Bloomberg Law reports

Paper mill still polluting Potomac River in Western Maryland, state attorney general alleges in lawsuit, The Baltimore Sun reports

ICYMI: Stories from Friday…

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Eighteen states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards

Trump administration aims to buy uranium for reserve 'as soon as possible,' official says

IRS proposes guidance for expanded carbon capture tax credit

Trump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds

Trump administration looks to fast track logging on public lands