Couple Who Rented Condo to Pruitt Tried to Get Friend Hired at EPA
New emails uncovered by a Sierra Club lawsuit show that lobbyist J. Steven Hart, whose wife rented a condo to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt for $50 a night, had a closer relationship with the EPA than either has previously admitted, The New York Times reported Sunday.
In emails sent to Pruitt's Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson during and after Pruitt rented his wife's condo, Hart tried to influence EPA hiring decisions and lobbied on behalf of Coca-Cola and HSBC.
"These emails make clear that Scott Pruitt got a sweetheart deal from a lobbyist with business before the EPA and then blatantly lied to the American people about it," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told ABC.
Pruitt is currently subject to 13 federal investigations into his spending habits, two of which involve the condo he rented from the Harts from when he first arrived in Washington, D.C. in early 2017 through to July of that year.
In an email dated April 2017, Hart tried to urge the EPA to hire Jimmy Guiliano, a family friend and recent college graduate who had applied for a position at the EPA. The email also proves that Vicki Hart herself had raised the issue with Pruitt.
"[Vicki] has talked to Scott about this kid who is important to us. He told Vicki to talk to you about how to handle this," Hart wrote, according to The New York Times.
"On it," Jackson responded.
Hart followed up in May asking if Jackson would have time to meet with Guiliano, but Jackson did not respond. An EPA spokesperson said that Guiliano was not ultimately hired by the agency.
In August 2017, Hart also suggested three candidates for the EPA's Science Advisory Board recommended b Smithfield Foundation President Dennis Treacy. The names were redacted in the emails. He also recommended a candidate for another job, also suggested by Treacy, who was not ultimately hired, according to Pruitt spokesperson Jahan Wilcox.
Hart also engaged in more traditional lobbying. In August 2017, he emailed Jackson on behalf of Coca-Cola, urging the EPA not to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are partly responsible for depleting the ozone layer.
"Some large U.S. companies like Coca-Cola have to make long-term investment decisions relating to their refrigerated beverage machines," Mr. Hart said, according to The New York Times. "There are all sorts of technical issues that arise when you get rid of HFCs. One is consumer safety. I kept hearing that the replacement technology had some problems—exploding vending machines. Thoughts?"
In May 2017, he also tried to set up a meeting between Jackson and an HSBC executive about the Paris agreement.
Following the emails' release, Hart continued to insist there was nothing inappropriate about his relationship with Pruitt and the EPA."As I have said repeatedly, I never received any special treatment from Administrator Pruitt or had any undue influence over the Environmental Protection Agency," he said in a statement to ABC News. "Ryan Jackson is an old friend whom I have known for many years prior to his service with the EPA. We have discussed numerous issues and topics during his tenure as chief of staff, but he has never performed a special favor on my behalf." Jackson, Hart and Pruitt are all from Oklahoma.
Wilcox also defended the relationship. "Many of these emails were unsolicited and did not impact any agency policy outcomes," Wilcox said, according to The New York Times.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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