Watchdog Group: EPA Sharing Pro-Trump Resignation Letter Violated Laws Against Campaigning on Public Dime
The Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ran afoul of a law against campaigning when it made a resignation letter praising President Donald Trump available to the press, watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said Monday.
On Feb. 7, former Principal Deputy Administrator in the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation Mandy Gunasekara sent a letter to the president on official EPA stationary saying she was leaving to work educating the public about the successes of the Trump administration. This letter was then made available to reporters, the EPA confirmed to Government Executive.
"Ensuring eight years of your leadership is of utmost importance," she wrote.
FOR RELEASE: US EPA Press Office Distributes Trump Campaign Promo in Violation of the Hatch Act #pressrelease @EPA… https://t.co/7brrT2kgYV— PEER (@PEER)1549905805.0
PEER claims the press office's actions violated the Hatch Act, or An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, which mandates that civil servants not campaign on official time or with official resources. The organization sent a letter Monday to the Hatch Act Unit of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) asking them to investigate the issue.
"By all appearances, EPA is illegally using taxpayer dollars to promote political propaganda," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a press release. "Unfortunately, EPA's Office of Public Affairs now operates like a political war room and seems to have lost sight of its public service obligations."
Gunasekara said in her letter to Trump that she was leaving to start an organization "built to defend you and the many energy, regulatory and economic successes of your administration." That organization, The Energy 45 Fund, is headquartered out of Gunasekara's home state of Mississippi, ThinkProgress reported. Both Gunasekara's letter and her organization's website criticize the Paris agreement and the emerging Green New Deal. Her letter warned of "dangerous rhetoric from the far-left supportive of Venezuelan-style socialism, government take-overs, and crony green new deals."
In their letter to the OSC, PEER said that Gunasekara's use of official letterhead would have been a violation of the Hatch Act had she not resigned. As is, they want an investigation into whether other officials, including Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to run the agency permanently, could be held accountable. The letter explains:
"The employees within the EPA Office of Public Affairs who distributed or provided the letter to reporters also violated the Hatch Act because they are using official time and resources to engage in political activity. They remain on the federal payroll and are subject to penalties for Hatch Act violations.
In addition, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a statement about her departure, praising her work. This suggests that he had advance knowledge of the resignation and may have played a role in distributing the letter."
The EPA's press office defended itself in a statement to Government Executive, saying that it "has provided resignation letters and statements when asked by the press and with consent from former employees. Content of the resignation letters is the work of the former employees."
'As Trumpian As it Gets': Coal Lobbyist #AndrewWheeler Moves Closer to Full-Time #EPA Spot https://t.co/DSJAlUR5ob @DeSmogBlog @BeyondCoal— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1549483225.0
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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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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