SIGN UP! If you’d like to continue receiving Washington Examiner's Daily on Energy newsletter, SUBSCRIBE HERE:

TRUMP’S CABINET IN HOT WATER AGAIN WITH RENEWED CALLS TO FIRE ZINKE: The administration might have thought it was out of the scandal woods when Scott Pruitt resigned in July, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke shows it has no such luck, even with the midterm elections near.

Zinke has tried to avoid the spotlight in recent months, especially when Pruitt -- the former EPA chief -- was under pressure for months to resign over a spending-spree scandal that is almost too numerous in its indiscretions to recall.

But on Thursday night, Zinke’s own spending spree was rushed back into the fore, with an inspector general report that showed he violated regulations in paying for his family’s travel expenses on the taxpayer’s dime.

But wait, there’s more: The report was released amid reports that a political appointee was poised to take over Interior’s inspector general’s office.

Those reports were followed by a rebuke by Zinke’s spokeswoman early Thursday, who refuted the claim.

Hours later the Interior inspector general’s office issued the report on Zinke’s spending spree.

And even more: And that is being followed by a rekindled environmentalist campaign calling for Zinke’s ouster.

“When Ryan Zinke is given a choice between taxpayers and himself, he chooses himself,” said Nicole Ghio, the head of Friends of the Earth’s fossil fuels program.

“Between billing tax-payers for an unnecessary romantic trip to Turkey, and the 13 other federal investigations, Ryan Zinke is unfit for office,” she added. “It is time to fire Zinke.”

Zinke, addressing a wind energy conference this week, was chided by activists calling for him to be fired.

The watchdog group American Oversight also got a shot in the arm from the report.

"Self interest, a disdain for ethics, and turning public service into a family affair have defined this administration,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “The Inspector General deserves credit for speaking truth to power and, critically, demonstrating that the truth will win out in the end."

Welcome to Daily on Energy, compiled by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers John Siciliano (@JohnDSiciliano) and Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe). Email for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list.  


  • ZINKE LET FAMILY RIDE IN GOVERNMENT VEHICLES, VIOLATING POLICY: Zinke allowed his family members to ride with him in government vehicles on multiple occasions despite it being a violation of the department's travel policies, according to the agency’s inspector general.

Zinke requested that staff members research whether his wife, Lolita, could be designated as an Interior Department volunteer, which would exempt her from travel rules. But he did not follow through with it, and denied that his intent was to skirt travel rules.

Another incident highlighted in the report involved Zinke and his wife bringing agency security detail on a recent vacation to Turkey. The move cost the federal government more than $25,000.

Interior defends its boss: A spokesperson for Zinke's office provided the Washington Examiner with a letter Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt sent Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall in response to the report.

The letter said Zinke consulted with his law and ethics teams his first day in office in an attempt to learn what protocols he was expected to follow. Ethics officials cleared his family joining him on travel. But an employee in the Interior solicitor’s office said she “routinely advised Secretary Zinke’s schedulers that it would be “cleanest” and “lowest risk” if his wife did not ride with him.

In July, Interior changed its policy to allow for family members to ride with him.

Zinke reimbursed the agency for the cost of his wife traveling in government vehicles.

Democrats set sights on more probes: Democrats have said they plan to investigate Zinke’s travel, political activities, and ties to industry if they win control of the House in November.

  • INTERIOR DENIES POLITICAL APPOINTEE WILL LEAD PROBES OF ZINKE: The Interior Department on Thursday denied that a Suzanne Israel Tufts, a Department of Housing and Urban Development political appointee, will become the acting watchdog of the agency, after critics had said such an arrangement would be inappropriate considering the ongoing investigations facing Zinke.

Interior spokesperson Heather Swift accused Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, of sharing “false information” when he told his employees in an internal email obtained by various media outlets that the Tufts would become Interior Department inspector general.

Carson wrote, in an email with a subject line of “A Fond Farewell,” that Tufts "has decided to leave HUD to become the Acting Inspector General at the Department of Interior.”

Nothing has changed, Interior claims: Swift said that the White House referred Tufts, who has no experience in government investigations, to the Interior Department as a potential candidate for a position in the inspector general’s office.

But, Swift said, “at the end of the day, she was not offered a job at Interior.”

Mary Kendall remains acting administrator of the inspector general’s office, a position she has held for nine years.

Democrats are not satisfied: Democrats are demanding answers about the confusion.

“If they’re trying to shift blame for their latest scandal and backtrack while there’s still time, they should just say so,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the top Democrat of the House Natural Resources Committee. “Either way, nobody is buying this explanation and we’re not going to stop pressing for answers.”

CRITICS FEAR THAT TRUMP'S COAL BAILOUT COULD RISE FROM THE DEAD: Critics of President Trump's coal bailout plan are urging vigilance, not triumphance, in the wake of reports that the plan has been shelved, fearing that a Trump "Plan B" is right around the corner.

“‘Shelved’ does not mean thrown in the garbage,” said Gillian Giannetti, staff attorney with the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. “'Shelved' is meant to be able to hold things that you can take down and use.”

Reports earlier in the week indicated that the White House decided to shelve the idea of asserting a national security justification for providing coal and nuclear plants with some sort of market-based subsidy.

It’s not over: But Giannetti warns that there are “a lot of different ways to achieve the same end here.”

The group, which houses a specific task force that monitors electricity market concerns, says there are a number of “different mechanisms that can achieve the same end,” including actions underway at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or proceedings taking place within the largest grid operator in the country, PJM Interconnection, which FERC oversees.

What’s Perry up to? Also, it is not completely known what the strategy Energy Secretary Rick Perry had been pondering since June, when the president directed him to come up with recommendations on how to save uneconomic coal and nuclear plants.

“There is still a lot of vagueness in what DOE was even considering doing itself, whether it was through the Federal Power Act or Defense Production Act,” said Giannetti. “I think there are so many balls in the air right now that just because there are reports that one type of proposal might have been shelved, doesn’t mean potentially catastrophic consequences of a bailout have been avoided.”

Throwing in the towel is not an option: Tyson Slocum, energy director at Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader, is convinced Trump is not giving up on the coal plan.

“They’re not going to throw in the towel on this,” Slocum said. He sees the bailout as slowly chugging away, but very much still alive, at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the nation’s top grid watchdog.

FERC could require PJM to apply a “minimum price” rule to make coal and nuclear more competitive with low-cost natural gas plants that are dominating the market, in addition to renewables, says Slocum and other critics of the bailout.

Coal lobby wants FERC to move faster: Coal proponents are also looking to FERC to move quickly on its resiliency efforts.

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity CEO Michelle Bloodworth released a white paper Thursday detailing how they want FERC and PJM to move forward.

MANUFACTURING GROUP LEADING OFFENSIVE AGAINST CLIMATE SUITS JOINS EPA’S INDUSTRY ADVISERS: The large trade group National Association of Manufacturers on Friday became the latest to join the Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Sectors program, which was set up under Trump to collaborate with industry on policy.

The industry group represents nearly every sector, from the autos and appliance manufacturers, to petrochemical manufacturers and refiners, and has been actively ringing the alarm bell over a spate of state and local climate suits targeting the oil industry and utilities. The industry has been winning against the suits in New York and California courts.

It’s interesting that Jay Timmons, the industry group’s CEO, played up the fact that manufacturers are leading greenhouse gas reductions in announcing the group’s joining the EPA program.

“Having decreased greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent while increasing our share of the economy by 19 percent over the last decade, manufacturers across America are delivering strong economic growth alongside environmental stewardship,” said Timmons on Friday.

He said the “regulatory certainty we’ve been given” under the current administration is helping  manufacturers not only create jobs, “but also to build a future with cleaner air, cleaner water and a healthier environment.”

MEANWHILE...A REPORT FUNDED BY SHELL AND TRUMP’S ENERGY DEPARTMENT LOOKS AT CLIMATE SOLUTIONS: The National Academies of Science issued a report Thursday that says 10 percent of all carbon pollution can be captured and turned into usable products by the middle of the century.

Carbon utilization is the answer: The report concludes that, in addition to cleaner energy sources, one way to limit emissions would be “capturing greenhouse gases and either sequestering them or finding productive uses for them” -- referred to by the Energy Department’s Perry as “carbon utilization.”

Over 10 percent of CO2: “Previous assessments have concluded that roughly 3.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year – more than 10 percent of current global carbon dioxide emissions – could feasibly be utilized within the next several decades if certain technological advancements are achieved,” reads the report.

The report follows the U.N.’s latest assessment that the world needs to move to an economy that is carbon-neutral by 2050, or risk the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Carbon utilization could make the U.S. and other countries net-zero producers of emissions by producing as much as they capture and use. The report calls the idea the “circular carbon economy.”

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ASKS SUPREME COURT TO HALT KIDS’ CLIMATE CHANGE LAWSUIT: The Justice Department filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Thursday asking it to halt a climate change lawsuit brought by children against the U.S. government.

In his filing, Solicitor General Noel Francisco criticized the suit, calling it "an attempt to redirect federal environmental and energy policies through the courts rather than through the political process, by asserting a new and unsupported fundamental due process right to certain climate conditions."

The move is a last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to prevent a district court trial scheduled for Oct. 29. It comes after Oregon-based U.S. district court Judge Ann Aiken on Monday rejected the government’s attempt to dismiss the case in her court before the trial.

In July, the Supreme Court declined a similar request from the government to put the case on hold.

What the children are alleging: The case involves 21 children who allege that government policy has exacerbated global warming and climate change.

Our Children’s Trust, representing the group of kids, claims the government, by propping up fossil fuels, has failed to address climate change on behalf of future generations, endangering their health and prosperity. The group originally filed the lawsuit in 2015 in Oregon federal court during the Obama administration.

OIL ANALYST DANIEL YERGIN BOYCOTTING SAUDI CONFERENCE OVER KHASHOGGI KILLING: Prominent oil analyst Daniel Yergin will not be attending the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia next week, the latest person to boycott the event because of the suspected killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A spokesman for Yergin, who is vice chairman of IHS Market, announced his decision on Friday morning. The move is noteworthy because Yergin regularly hosts Saudi oil officials at the annual CERAWeek event in Houston that draws energy leaders from across the world.

Yergin had just interviewed Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih in India last week in hosting the second annual CERAWeek energy conference in India.

TRUMP GETS A FRIENDLY TELEGRAM FROM SAUDI KING: President Trump received a telegram message from Saudi King Salman, wishing him condolences on the recent spate of hurricanes pummelling the country, the Saudi government said Friday.

The timing of the message seemed a little off, with Hurricane Michael’s devastation subsiding last week.

“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has sent a cable of condolences to President Donald Trump of the United States of America due to the hurricane that hit several US states and resulted in deaths and missing persons,” a government news blurb reads.

Amid the Khashoggi crisis, it seems even more odd. Especially since a phone call between Trump and the king earlier this week is what dominated the news on the journalist’s death.

“The King said, We have learned the news of the cyclone that hit several US states, resulting in deaths and missing people, and as We share your Excellency and the friendly people of the United States of America this disaster and on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's people and government and in our own name, We extend to your Excellency and the victim's families as well as to your friendly people, our most sincere condolences,” the blurb continued.


Wall Street Journal White House seeks to slow rollout of rules for cleaner ship fuels

Washington Post In North Carolina, hurricanes did what scientists could not: Convince Republicans that climate change is real

New York Times A new culprit is identified in China’s choking smog

Reuters OPEC, allies struggle to fully deliver pledged oil output boost


FRIDAY | October 19

1 p.m., Montana. The Senate Energy and Natural  Resources Committee’s panel on National Parks holds a field hearing to examine challenges in gateway communities of National Parks. National Parks Subcommittee Chairman Steve Daines, R-Mont., will lead the hearing.