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Emails further reveal EPA chief’s relationship with fossil fuel interests

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WASHINGTON — Newly obtained emails underscore just how closely Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt coordinated with fossil fuel companies while serving as Oklahoma’s state attorney general, a position in which he frequently sued to block federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions.

The latest batch of Pruitt’s emails, provided to The Associated Press on Thursday, runs more than 4,000 pages. They include schedules and lists of speaking engagements from the years before Pruitt became the nation’s top environmental watchdog, recounting dozens of meetings between Pruitt, members of his staff, and executives and lobbyists from the coal, oil and gas industries. Many of the calendar entries were blacked out, making it impossible for the public to know precisely where Pruitt traveled or with whom he met.

A June 2016 email that was released showed a board member of the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance seeking a last-minute meeting with Pruitt’s team to brief them “regarding a pending federal tax issue that is related to the state’s position on the Clean Power Plan.”

The trade group represents independent oil and gas producers, including the billionaire Harold Hamm, a political backer of Pruitt and frequent adviser to President Donald Trump. At the time, Oklahoma was one of more than two dozen mostly GOP-led states suing the EPA in federal court to stop the Obama administration’s effort to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“Greg is Govt Relations for Denbury Resources and is a gem of a dude,” wrote DEPA Executive Director Pete Regan, referring to oil and gas lobbyist Greg Schnacke. “He serves on DEPA executive Comm w Harold Hamm. AG Pruitt was on multiple exec calls on 2015 giving updates re ‘sue and settle’, endangered species cases, etc. … Greg worked closely with Sen. Bob Dole and has great stories.”

A spokesman for Pruitt at the EPA declined to comment, referring questions to the office of current Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. Prior to his appointment by the state’s Republican governor, Hunter had worked as a top staffer for Pruitt.

Democratic senators fought unsuccessfully to get copies of Pruitt’s emails from Oklahoma prior to his February confirmation vote. Shortly after Pruitt was sworn in as EPA administrator, an Oklahoma judge ruled that Pruitt had been violating the state’s public records law by withholding his correspondence for at least two years. The judge ordered their release following a lawsuit filed by the Center for Media and Democracy, a left-leaning advocacy group.

More than 7,500 emails were released under court order in February, some of which raised questions about the accuracy of Pruitt’s testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing. In both a written statement and under questioning from a Democratic lawmaker, Pruitt said he had always used a state email account for government business and a private account for personal matters.

Yet once the emails were released, they showed Pruitt had occasionally used his private email account to communicate with his staff and others, including lobbyists. It is not illegal in Oklahoma for public officials to use private email as long as they are retained and made available as public records.

Last month, Pruitt sent a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee seeking to clarify his earlier testimony about the use of a private email account.

“My practice is to conduct official business through official channels, including my state-provided email account,” Pruitt wrote. “Under Oklahoma law, political matters must be transacted using personal email accounts. That includes emails concerning political matters that may arguably also touch on state business.”

Though Pruitt wrote that he had since provided all emails from his personal account to the Oklahoma attorney general’s office for review, the EPA chief contends he now has no say in how or when Hunter might choose to release them.

Hunter’s spokeswoman, Terri Watkins, said his office is continuing to provide documents as they are reviewed and become available.
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Causey reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington, Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Florida, Tammy Webber in Chicago, John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, and Tafi Mukunyadzi in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this story.

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The Haze Craze for Lazy Days

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There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.

Within those styles, however, are varying styles.

For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.

For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.

Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.

Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.

You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.

What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.

Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.

That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.

Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.

NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.

Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.

WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.

Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.

So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.

On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.

At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.

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Senators upend GOP health care bill in true Trump style… Twitter

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WASHINGTON — When Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran decided they were in ready to disrupt the GOP rewrite of the health care law, they chose President Donald Trump’s favorite medium.

They could not support Senate Republicans’ plan, the somewhat unlikely pair of conservatives tweeted at 8:30 p.m. Monday night, giving no heads up to the White House or Senate leaders before pressing send.

The story behind the statement reveals two senators willing to be branded as bill killers and seemingly unconcerned with trying to soften the blow with party leaders.

The announcement, coming after some 10 days of conversations between the men, stunned official Washington and left Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at least two votes short in the closely divided Senate from being able to move forward with the GOP bill, effectively sinking the measure. It landed shortly after Trump dined with a group of senators to discuss strategy – unwittingly plotting a plan that would immediately become outdated.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican leader, found out about Lee’s defection after the White House dinner of rosemary-grilled rib eye and summer vegetable succotash. He “had no idea it was coming,” Cornyn said.

Another Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, found out from TV news.

Moran, a second-term lawmaker from Kansas who isn’t known for making waves, and Lee, a two-term senator from Utah who has clashed with Trump, have been talking over the past 10 days about the health care legislation and agreed the GOP bill did not go far enough to repeal Obamacare or address rising health-care costs. They decided to announce their position to make the bill’s fate clear and allow senators to move on, Moran said.

“It could have been prolonged for days or weeks while no one said anything,” Moran said in an interview.

Moran, who oversaw the Senate Republicans’ 2014 election campaigns, concluded last week he wouldn’t vote for the latest version of the bill but “gave myself a weekend in Kansas to think about it,” he said.

Lee had helped draft an amendment, along with fellow conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow insurers to sell skimpy plans alongside more robust ones to lower costs. Cruz agreed to some changes in wording by GOP leaders, but Lee thought the new language allowed too many Obama-era regulations to remain in place.

After talking again, Moran and Lee agreed Monday night on a statement drafted earlier in the day. They issued their statement shortly after a White House dinner attended by seven GOP senators – all likely yes votes on the health care bill. Neither Lee nor Moran attended.

A Lee spokesman said the statement – and its timing – “had nothing to do with the White House dinner. It was not a reaction in any way.”

The statement was made public as soon as it was ready, the spokesman said.

Neither Trump nor McConnell received advance warning about the statement, although it’s likely that neither the president nor the Senate leader was completely surprised.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spent the weekend calling lawmakers, including Lee and at least seven other GOP senators, according to the administration. Trump talked politics, while Pence discussed policy.

Trump called Lee on Saturday, and Lee told the president he was leaning against the bill, for the reasons he later made public.

Lee told Utah’s KSL Newsradio that he had a great conversation with Trump, when he told the president his “consumer freedom” amendment had been weakened and that he wasn’t sure that he could support the bill.

“He was encouraging to me and said, you know, ‘Just see what changes you can make to it,’ ” Lee said.

Lee and McConnell did not talk over the weekend, but Lee spoke twice to Cornyn, R-Texas, the majority whip.

Trump, who frequently takes to Twitter to announce proposals or denounce opponents, was blindsided by, of all things, a tweet.

He told reporters Tuesday he was “very surprised when the two folks came out last night, because we thought they were in fairly good shape. But they did. And, you know, everybody has their own reason.”

Moran said while he remained committed to repealing the health care law, Congress needs to make a “fresh start” on writing a replacement bill in an “open legislative process.”

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he said, in a statement that followed the tweet.

In his own statement, Lee said the GOP bill does not repeal all the Obamacare tax increases and “doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

Both explanations were issued on social media.

“Twitter is a nice medium to get your message out,” Lee’s spokesman said.

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Trump warns Republicans he’ll be ‘angry’ if their health care bill isn’t passed

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will be “very angry” if the Senate fails to pass a revamped Republican health care bill and said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must “pull it off,” intensifying pressure on party leaders laboring to win over unhappy GOP senators and preserve the teetering measure.

Trump’s remarks came a day before McConnell, R-Ky., planned to release his revised legislation to a closed-door meeting of GOP senators. The new legislation would keep most of the initial Medicaid cuts and makes other changes aimed at nailing down support, but internal GOP disputes lingered that were threatening to sink it.

With all Democrats set to vote no, McConnell was moving toward a do-or-die roll call next week on beginning debate, a motion that will require backing from 50 of the 52 GOP senators.

Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Wednesday he would oppose the motion and moderate Republican Susan Collins of Maine seemed all but sure to do the same — leaving McConnell with zero margin for error to sustain his party’s goal of toppling President Barack Obama’s health care law. Several other GOP senators were holdouts as well, leaving McConnell and his lieutenants just days to win them over or face a major defeat.

In a White House interview conducted Wednesday for the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club,” Trump said it was time for action by congressional Republicans who cast scores of votes “that didn’t mean anything” to repeal the 2010 law while Obama was still president.

“Well, I don’t even want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad,” he said when network founder Pat Robertson asked what would happen if the effort fails. “I will be very angry about it and a lot of people will be very upset.”

Asked if McConnell would succeed, Trump said, “Mitch has to pull it off.”

Trump has played a limited role in cajoling GOP senators to back the legislation. Asked Wednesday about the president’s involvement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the White House was providing “technical assistance.”

McConnell’s new bill was expected to offer only modest departures from the original version.

Its key elements remain easing Obama’s requirements that insurers cover specified services like hospital care and cutting the Medicaid health care program for the poor, disabled and nursing home patients. Obama’s penalties on people who don’t buy coverage would be eliminated and federal health care subsidies would be less generous.

The new package would eliminate tax increases the statute imposed on the health care industry. But it would retain Obama tax boosts on upper-income people, and use the revenue to help some lower earners afford coverage, provide $45 billion to help states combat drug abuse and give extra money to some hospitals in states that didn’t use Obama’s law to expand Medicaid.

Paul told reporters the revised measure didn’t go far enough.

“I don’t see anything in here really remotely resembling repeal,” he said.

Collins has long complained the measure will toss millions off coverage. Spokeswoman Annie Clarke said Collins would vote no next week “if the Medicaid cuts remain the same” as those that have been discussed.

Besides Paul and Collins, at least three other Republican senators publicly said they hadn’t decided whether to back McConnell on the initial vote: conservative Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Utah’s Mike Lee and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Cruz and Lee are chief authors of a proposal backed by other conservatives that would let an insurer sell low-premium, bare-bones policies as long as the company also sold a plan covering all the services — like substance abuse treatment — required by Obama’s law.

Their plan has alienated moderates worried it will mean unaffordable coverage for people with serious medical conditions because healthier people would flock to cheaper, skimpier plans. Party leaders have not determined if the proposal will be in their measure, and there have been talks about altering it to limit premium boosts on full-coverage policies.

“If there are not meaningful protections for consumer freedom that will significantly lower premiums then the bill will not have the votes to go forward,” Cruz told reporters.

Lee has said he wants their proposal in the bill, or something else relaxing Obama’s coverage requirements, for him to support it.

Their proposal endured another blow when the insurance industry’s largest trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said it would lead to “unstable health insurance markets” and said people with serious pre-existing medical conditions could “lose access” to comprehensive or reasonably priced coverage.

Scott said he was still trying to determine if the legislation would help families and consumers with pre-existing medical problems.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has fought to ease the bill’s Medicaid reductions, has also yet to commit to back the measure next week.

McConnell withdrew an initial package two weeks ago in the face of Republican discord that would have spelled certain defeat.

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