EPA Chief Pruitt Admits to Breaking Law in Senate Hearing, Democrats Say
Scandal-ridden Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt faced his third congressional hearing in less than a month Wednesday, admitting to an act that Democrats say broke federal law, The New York Times reported.
In the hearing, which was supposed to be a routine budget hearing conducted by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the environment, Pruitt admitted that one of his employees, Millan Hupp, had worked for free searching for a place for him to live in Washington, DC. The leading Democrat on the subcommittee, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, said the free labor constituted a gift. Federal officials are prohibited by law from receiving gifts of more than $10 from employees.
Pruitt also admitted to establishing a legal defense fund to pay for 12 federal investigations into his management of and spending practices at the EPA.
Further, he made a claim that directly contradicted an email cited by Udall, CNN reported.
In the 2017 email, released Wednesday by Democratic Senators Tom Carper (DE) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), former EPA security chief Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta wrote agency staffers that Pruitt preferred his motorcade use lights and sirens for non-emergency drives.
Pruitt insisted after being pressed by Udall that the use of lights and sirens was not his personal preference but rather agency policy.
When asked if he requested the use of lights and sirens, he responded, "No, I don't recall that happening," CNN reported.
Like Pruitt's previous testimonies, Wednesday's questions focused more on Pruitt's spending decisions and less on the actual deregulatory policies he has implemented as EPA head.
This shift in focus was pointed out by subcommittee chair Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
"I'm being asked, really constantly asked, to comment on housing and security and travel," she said, according to The New York Times. "Instead of seeing articles about efforts to return your agency to its core mission, I'm reading articles about your interactions with the industries that you regulate."
Udall did issue criticisms hinting that Pruitt's ethical missteps—such as renting a condo from energy lobbyists at below-market rates—and pro-industry policy decisions were connected.
"You have used your office to enrich yourself at the expense of the American taxpayer and public health and such abuses have led to several investigations," Udall said, as CNN reported.
After Murkowski's opening criticism, Republican senators did not push back on Pruitt's answers.
Pruitt vaguely acknowledged that he "would not make the same decisions again," but shifted blame for some of his spending missteps, such as the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, onto EPA rules that he said did not adequately control for spending abuses. He has since instituted a policy that any expenditure over $5,000 will be reviewed by the EPA's chief of staff and chief financial officer, The New York Times reported.
Record Number of Lawmakers Sign Resolution Calling for Pruitt's Resignation https://t.co/5JCFe6BX9x @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1524182710.0
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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