OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump order aims to curb US agencies' use of foreign workers after TVA outrage | EPA transition back to the office alarms employees | Hundreds of green groups oppose BLM nominee

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump order aims to curb US agencies' use of foreign workers after TVA outrage | EPA transition back to the office alarms employees | Hundreds of green groups oppose BLM nominee
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TVA ON THE TV: President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE on Monday signed an executive order aimed at blocking U.S. agencies from outsourcing jobs to foreign workers, a move partly sparked by outrage among some conservatives over outsourcing plans from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

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The order specifically targets the use of H-1B visas and requires federal agencies to prioritize hiring U.S. residents and green card holders before outsourcing contract jobs to foreign workers. The Department of Labor will also finalize guidance to prevent employers from moving H-1B workers to job sites that would displace American workers.

The order additionally requires federal agencies to complete an internal audit to determine whether they are only appointing U.S. citizens and nationals to government jobs in the competitive service.

H-1B visas are used for skilled workers and are common in the tech industry. They are the largest visa program of those included in Monday's order, as such recipients can stay for multiple years.

Several TVA employees were in attendance for Monday's announcement. TVA is a federally owned corporation created amid the Great Depression that provides utility services to parts of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky, among other states.

The company was a target of outrage among immigration hawks and some conservatives earlier this year, both because of its CEO's high pay and because of an announcement that it would lay off roughly 60 American workers as part of outsourcing plans.

The president on Monday said he was removing two appointees to the TVA's board of directors, including Chairman James Thompson. Trump nominated Thompson to the board in 2017.

And...he apparently had one replacement ready, nominating Charles Cook Jr., the Chairman of Bandwidth Infrastructure Holdings, LLC,  to the board Monday. 

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The president also spoke critically of its CEO, Jeff Lyash, warning that he would seek his ouster. He later said the CEO had reached out and expressed openness to reversing course on outsourcing jobs, but Trump indicated he still hoped Lyash would agree to lower his salary.

A TVA spokesperson said they were not aware of the language in the executive order prior to its release and noted that Trump does not have the sole authority to fire the CEO.

"We understand and support today’s Executive Order," spokesperson Jim Hopson said in a statement. "We want to ensure that U.S. employees have good opportunities through our employment and supply chain practices. We look forward to working with the White House, continuing a dialogue and supporting future policies in this direction."

Hopson noted that all TVA employees are based in the U.S. and all of its information technology workers must able to work in the country legally.

Lyash is the highest-paid federal employee in the U.S., making roughly $8 million annually, a point of contention among some conservatives. Trump was asked about Lyash's pay during an April press briefing, calling it "ridiculous." TVA responded at the time by noting that taxpayer money does not go toward compensation or benefits to Lyash.

Read more about the president’s actions here.

 

FACING A NEW PHASE: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving ahead with the second phase of returning employees to the office, prompting concerns from employees as the agency’s internal dashboard shows an uptick in cases.

The new guidelines don’t force employees back to the office, but they kick off new restrictions on telework.

“Telework is at the option of the employee but you should notify your supervisor if you choose to telework. Facilities are open and employees have the option to return to the workplace,” EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training OVERNIGHT ENERGY: California seeks to sell only electric cars by 2035 | EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities | House energy package sparks criticism from left and right MORE wrote to employees in an email obtained by The Hill.

Employees are also expected to return to normal work schedules unless they have “dependent care issues.”

Unions representing EPA employees expressed alarm to the sudden change in status.

“What the email failed to mention is that this week’s update to the Facility Status Dashboard indicates that HQ does not meet all the criteria set forth in the guidelines,” the National Treasury Employee Union, which represents some EPA employees, said in a release.

The changes are in effect for EPA employees in the Washington, D.C. area as well as Boston and other locations.

But internal EPA data for D.C. shows the 14-day trend of new cases is up, and the 14-day incidence rate of new cases is 141.6 per 100,000 people, not under 10 per 100,000 as the agency set forth in its initial guidelines.

“The dashboard is the not the sole driver in reopening decisions but rather helps form decisions,” EPA spokesperson James Hewitt said by email. 

“Moving into Phase 2 doesn’t put any staff at additional risk as it gives employees the option to telework.  The Phase 2 reopening for the Capital Region is also determined by guidance from local and state officials.”

Read more about the agency’s plans here.

 

LOTS OF OPPOSITION: More than 300 environmental groups are calling on senators to vote against President Trump’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), arguing William Perry Pendley should be disqualified because of his history of controversial comments and opposition to federal ownership of public lands.

Pendley was nominated at the end of June but has been serving as the agency's acting director since July 2019 through a series of temporary orders that have since been challenged in court.

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Pendley’s presence at the BLM sparked immediate pushback from critics who cited his earlier support for selling off public lands.

“Mr. Pendley’s public record over decades both in and outside of government have made abundantly clear that he is abjectly unfit to lead any government agency and particularly the BLM,” the groups wrote in a letter Monday to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has not yet set a date for his confirmation hearing.

The groups, which consist of almost every major U.S. environmental organization including the Natural Resource Defense Council and Sierra Club, as well as a handful of civil rights groups, said the Senate has a “constitutional and moral duty to reject the nomination.”

They added that his disqualifications include “radical anti-conservation positions, a deeply held belief antithetical to the agency’s mission that public lands should be privatized, virtually unprecedented conflicts of interest and ethical issues, a history of supporting anti-government extremists, and a track record of dismantling the very agency he is tasked with managing.”

Read more here

 

CHAIRMAN TESTS POSITIVE: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has tested positive for COVID-19 after being in Washington, D.C., last week, becoming the latest member of Congress to be diagnosed with the disease.

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"While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some Members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously," Grijalva said in a statement. 

Grijalva, who is the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, had been self-quarantining at his D.C., residence last week after chairing a hearing attended by Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertRep. Dan Meuser tests positive for COVID-19 Watchdog calls for probe into Gohmert 'disregarding public health guidance' on COVID-19 Massie plans to donate plasma after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies MORE (R-Texas), who tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.

Gohmert tested positive during a screening at the White House before he was supposed to accompany President Trump on a trip to Texas. The lawmaker is one of the House members who has been seen without a mask in recent weeks.

It is unclear where exactly Grijalva contracted COVID-19. The Arizona Democrat said in his statement Saturday that he was asymptomatic and felt "fine," but he criticized House Republicans who have been resistant to wearing masks around the Capitol complex.

"Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families," he said. 

"I’m pleased that [Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with 0 drug coupon plan Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Calif.)] has mandated the use of masks at the Capitol to keep members and staff safe from those looking to score quick political points," he added.

And the Interior Department talked about “showing up for work” in its response to the news....

“We wish Chairman [Raúl] Grijalva a speedy recovery. He’s paid a lot of money by the American people to be an elected official – a job he sought and was entrusted to uphold – and showing up for work like millions of other dedicated public servants, such as our law enforcement officers and firefighters, is true leadership,” Interior said in a statement.

Interior and Grijalva have repeatedly feuded, and the statement underscored the department's insistence that hearings should be in person and not remotely, even during the pandemic.

Read about Grijalva testing positive here and read more about Interior’s response here

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

President Trump is expected to sign the Great American Outdoors Act into law. The bill woul\d provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and attempt to address a maintenance backlog at national parks 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

The Guardian looks at the US lawyers rolling back wildlife protection one species at a time

Life and death in our hot future will be shaped by today’s income inequality, Bloomberg reports

Noble Corp. files massive bankruptcy in Houston, the Houston Business Journal reports

Fires in Brazil’s Amazon up 28% in July, worrying experts, The Associated Press reports

ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend...

Global coal capacity shrinks in first half of 2020 for the first time on record

Governors declare emergency as hurricane bears down on East Coast