Overnight energy pruitt heading before house new epa policy aimed at easing lawsuits against oil, gas trump hits opec for high prices thehill

BRACING FOR PRUITT’S HOUSE APPEARANCES: Embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt Edward (Scott) Scott Pruitt Prominent conservative helped plan, joined in Pruitt trip to Rome: report Lobbyist helped organize controversial Pruitt trip to Morocco: report Overnight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides resign at EPA | 17 states sue EPA over car emissions rules | Volkswagen to pay West Virginia .5M over emissions cheating MORE is due this Thursday to testify twice in front of House subcommittees.

The hearings before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subpanel and the House Appropriations Committee’s subpanel for EPA will be the first time Pruitt faces lawmakers since the seemingly endless barrage of scandals over the last few weeks.

We’re expecting lawmakers from both parties to hammer Pruitt with tough questions regarding his spending of taxpayer money on expenses like a soundproof booth, raises for aides, a new SUV, bulletproof vests, bringing his security detail on personal trips and more. Also expect ethics questions over his $50 per night rental from an energy lobbyist’s wife and reports that he allegedly punished employees for questioning his spending and other decisions.

The Energy and Commerce panel planned its hearing back in March — when many of the controversies had not yet come to light — to hear about Pruitt’s fiscal 2019 budget request for the EPA. The Appropriations hearing is a standard springtime practice, also for the budget request.

To date, he has only spoken to a handful of conservative media outlets to respond to the scandals, and his strategy has focused on the argument that his opponents, angry about his successes at executing the Trump agenda, have drummed up the controversies to punish him.

Adding to the anticipation for Thursday’s hearings, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and other Democrats formally asked Chairman Greg Walden Gregory (Greg) Paul Walden House Dems call for hearing on planned merger between T-Mobile, Sprint Overnight Energy: Takeaways from Pruitt’s testimony | Inside the hearing rooms | Poll finds most disapprove of Pruitt | Wisconsin refinery explodes Live coverage: Pruitt faces grilling in House hearings MORE (R-Ore.) Thursday to put Pruitt under oath for the hearing, a request Walden has not yet responded to publicly.

EPA CONFIRMS PLAN TO CUT DOWN ON ENFORCEMENT AGAINST POLLUTERS: EPA confirmed Friday that its Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) is working to create a new pilot program that would ease burdens on oil and gas polluters seeking to self audit.

"EPA is exploring whether the Range Resources agreement can serve as a model for the development of a New Owner Audit Policy for the Oil and Gas Sector. We view this as an opportunity to achieve prompt and cost-effective return to compliance. EPA will be conducting outreach and seeking feedback from industry and other stakeholders as we develop the program," Bodine told The Hill in a statement Friday.

According to an EPA case study of the Range Resources negotiation dated March 2018, the natural gas company said one of its biggest "challenges and issues" with the current audit policy was the short timeframe made available after they self disclosed their noncompliance.

"Although extensions are not generally given up front; you can submit a proposed corrective action schedule and hope that it is accepted. Again, if not accepted, you remain potentially subject to enforcement. EPA has a track record of providing reasonable extensions, but there are no guarantees," the Range Resources wrote.

In a letter that Bodine wrote to staff in in early February, she highlighted the EPA’s new approach to polluters. The memo was sent days before the agency released its annual enforcement data, which showed a distinct drop in lawsuits brought and filed against polluters under the Trump administration.