environment

GAO: Pruitt’s Pricey Privacy Booth Violated Federal Law
Monday report states funds were not legally available

A staffer exits the Senate subway on April 11 with a poster detailing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s ethics issues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The EPA violated federal law when it paid more than $43,000 to install a soundproof privacy booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt without first notifying congressional appropriators, the Government Accountability Office said.

The agency violated the law by using more than $5,000 of fiscal 2017 appropriated funds for an unintended purpose without giving lawmakers advance notice, GAO investigators wrote in a report released Monday.

EPA Pesticide Approval Without Endangered Species Review in Farm Bill
Environmental groups describe provision as an ‘unprecedented attack’

A provision in the 2018 farm bill would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without reviews aimed at protecting endangered species. (David McNew/Getty Images file photo)

A provision in the 2018 farm bill would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without undertaking reviews now required to protect endangered species.

Environmental groups say the provision is an “unprecedented” attack that could have lasting ramifications for ecosystems across the nation.

Dragging an Energy Bill From the Ashes
For their bipartisan bill, Murkowski and Cantwell are willing to try, try again

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski and ranking member Maria Cantwell, here in 2016, are still hoping their bipartisan bill will get somewhere this session. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid a forest of judicial appointments and other Trump administration confirmation votes, lawmakers pushing a bipartisan energy and natural resources bill in the Senate are still taking whacks in hope of moving legislation — or parts of it — before the end of this Congress.

The bill would represent the first major energy policy update in a decade, with provisions to bolster cybersecurity, speed up permits for energy infrastructure and promote energy efficiency. It could represent a rare opportunity for energy-state lawmakers to bring home some policy victories ahead of the midterm election.

Former Coal Lobbyist Confirmed as Pruitt’s Deputy at EPA
Heitkamp and Manchin join Republicans on vote

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt now has a deputy — a former fossil fuel lobbyist — after a Senate confirmation vote Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate has confirmed former fossil fuel lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as deputy EPA administrator, providing a second-in-command for Administrator Scott Pruitt as he struggles amid alleged ethical failings.

Wheeler was confirmed Thursday with a 53-45 vote. Some Democrats hoped Pruitt’s difficulties would give them the votes to block the confirmation, but their efforts were not enough. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia joined Republicans in voting for Wheeler. Both are running for re-election this year in states won by President Donald Trump.

Ethics Office Scolds Scott Pruitt as Allegations Mount
EPA chief under scrutiny for cozy rent deal, lavish spending

Posters mocking EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $50 per night housing on in Washington have been posted around Capitol Hill on Friday, April 6, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Office of Government Ethics has put EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on notice over continued allegations of ethical lapses, including a questionable rental agreement, exorbitant travel at taxpayer expense and questions over his demotions or reassignments of staff who did not agree with him.

The letter from OGE Acting Director and General Counsel David J. Apol, dated April 6 and made public Monday, comes as Pruitt struggles to defend himself against the ethical snags and as several lawmakers, including a few Republicans, have publicly rebuked him or called for his exit.

EPA Shouldn’t Have Paid for Pruitt’s Broken-Down Condo Door, McCollum Says
Minnesota rep was there when security detail kicked in door after not being able to reach him

The security detail for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, left, kicked in his door in a Washington condo building when they couldn’t awaken him from a nap. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Betty McCollum has questions for the Environmental Protection Agency after it reimbursed the owners of a condo that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was renting for the cost of repairing a broken door.

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member, who happens to sit on the House subcommittee that oversees the EPA’s budget, owns a condo downstairs from the one Pruitt was renting from the wife of energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart.

Alexander Says National Parks Bill ‘Most Important’ In Decades
Bill would use energy permit revenue to fund backlog of maintenance projects

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., redoubled his efforts this week to pass the National Parks Restoration Act to address the National Parks maintenance backlog. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Lamar Alexander and other lawmakers see an avenue to enact the “most important piece of legislation for national parks in decades,” the Tennessee Republican said Tuesday.

In March, a bipartisan group of senators and House members introduced legislation to fund nearly $7 billion in national parks maintenance projects that have been on hold for years.

Overview: Where the Omnibus Money Is Going
Congress last week passed a $1.3 trillion government spending bill

Last week Congress passed, and the president signed, a 12-bill omnibus spending package that funds the government through September. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ignoring President Donald Trump’s budget request in some cases, lawmakers last week passed a fiscal 2018 omnibus spending package with a discretionary funding level of $1.29 trillion — 10 percent higher than fiscal 2017 thanks to the budget agreement reached last month.

Here’s a look at how the enacted omnibus, previously proposed spending levels by the House and Senate, and the president’s FY18 request stack up:

Who Is Cecil Andrus?
How the late Idaho governor almost derailed the omnibus

Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus speaks during the National Audubon Society Gala Dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on March 31, 2015. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for The National Audubon Society)

Cecil who?

The spirit of the late Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus graced the political stage this week when a provision in the omnibus spending package naming the Gem State’s White Clouds Wilderness after the Democrat snarled progress on the legislation, which was needed to fund the government past Friday.

Opinion: Fossil Fuels Aren’t Dead, and North Dakota Is Proof
Investing in coal and natural gas still pays dividends for our communities

Investing in fossil fuel research doesn’t mean throwing good money after bad; it means prosperity for our communities, Hoeven writes. Above, workers watch a gas flare at an oil well site in Williston, North Dakota, in 2013. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images file photo)

One of the most important challenges we face as a nation is reducing our deficit and debt. As a proud fiscal conservative, I understand we must make tough financial decisions; that is why I have worked diligently on measures that will put our nation on a path to a balanced budget.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which formulates the federal government’s spending plans, I know there is a distinct difference between making wise investments and frivolous spending. I believe it is important that we steer our scarce federal dollars toward effective investments like energy research and innovation.