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    Energy Secretary Rick Perry walks tightrope on Scott Pruitt's trip to Morocco

    14 Apr 2018

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry was grilled Thursday over whether he had a role in Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt's trip to Morocco last year to promote U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas.

    Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he doesn't believe Pruitt should be promoting energy exports to other countries.

    Pruitt's trip to Morocco is under investigation by the EPA's inspector general amid multiple scandals involving a condo deal linked to an energy lobbyist, excessive travel spending, and requirements for a 24-hour security detail.

    Perry answered Pallone's questions carefully.

    Pallone asked Perry, 'yes, or no,' does the EPA play a role in the Energy Department's role of granting permits to ship natural gas to countries such as Morocco.

    Perry answered, 'I'm sure they do,' saying he was 'no expert' on EPA's roles and functions.

    Perry was clear that it is the Energy Department's role to review license applications for LNG exports and grant permits through a review process his agency oversees.

    'Do you think this falls in the EPA's mission?' Pallone asked.

    'I'm going to leave that up to you,' Perry responded. 'I try to stay in my lane as best as I can.'

    Perry added that it would be a mistake for him to make a 'public or private observation about that' without understanding EPA's legally defined role in energy promotion.

    Pallone then asked if he or his staff had a conversation with Pruitt before his trip to Morocco.

    'There might have been some staff-to-staff-level conversations that I'm not privy to, but from the standpoint of secretary to secretary, I don't recall any conversations relative to an EPA trip to Morocco,' Perry said.

    Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman emeritus on the committee, came to Pruitt's defense, saying 'any Cabinet secretary that encourages things that are the strategic interest of the United States of America in his overseas travels is not necessarily a bad thing.'

    Reports over the last week have shown that Pruitt's link to an energy lobbyist friend associated with a condo he rented for $50 per night had ties with the natural gas export firm Cheniere, which may have benefited from exports to Morocco.

    A report by E&E News on Thursday said Pruitt's trip in December may also benefit Carl Icahn, an prominent investor and former Trump adviser who holds a controlling stake in Cheniere.

    Cheniere is the first company to ship liquefied natural gas from the U.S. to an overseas market.

    Meanwhile, Kevin Chmielewski, a former Trump campaign staffer who was deputy chief of staff for operations at the EPA, says Pruitt would often choose places to travel based on a desire to visit them rather than official business, according to Democratic lawmakers who interviewed him.

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