By Anthony Adragna | 04/19/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Anca Gurzu, Darius Dixon, Annie Snider and Ben Lefebvre
PRUITT'S ON THE MOVE AGAIN: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt heads to the Chicago area today where he'll tour a lead cleanup project. The USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Ind., gained national attention last summer when some 1,000 public housing residents were forced from their homes after tests showed high levels of lead and arsenic. Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to visit the site itself, and today's trip aligns with his emphasis on the Superfund program as part of the agency's core mission. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's office said Pruitt will participate in a private briefing with local elected officials and community groups at the site, along with Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young and Rep. Pete Visclosky. They'll hold a public availability afterward at 1 p.m. CST.
The trip comes after Pruitt was spotted Tuesday... in Oklahoma. Gov. Mary Fallin tweeted a picture after meeting with him. The agency did not respond to requests for what else Pruitt was up to in his home state.
Pumping the brakes on two more: Late Tuesday, President Donald Trump's administration asked a federal appeals court to halt oral arguments over two controversial Obama-era EPA regulations. Arguably the more consequential of the two is the request to postpone oral arguments scheduled for May 18 before Judges Janice Rogers Brown, Sri Srinivasan and Thomas B. Griffith over a key part of the Obama administration's power plant mercury rule. As Pro's Alex Guillén reports , a court decision to grant the request, which environmental groups plan to fight, would allow an easier path for the Trump administration to review and potentially revise or repeal the regulation. The administration also asked the D.C. Circuit to delay oral arguments over a 2015 rule that required 36 states to rewrite their plans to remove provisions giving sources like power plants and refineries a lawsuit "shield" for excess pollutants emitted during periods of startup, shutdown or malfunction. Alex has more on this requested delay for the rule known as the "SSM SIP call" here . It's worth noting that the court has already granted similar Trump administration request to delay arguments in lawsuits over its carbon rule for future power plants and the 2015 ozone standard.
Back in Washington today, EPA officials will hold a two-hour-long confab at the agency's headquarters this afternoon with groups representing state and local officials to solicit their "input and wisdom" on the planned rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. rule. In a letter extending the invitation last week, Pruitt said the consultation is a priority "to both myself and President Trump." But don't expect unanimity from attendees: States were fiercely divided on the Obama administration's rule, with more than 30 filing suits against it, while others sided with EPA in support of the rule. Meanwhile, some of the associations that were invited to the meeting represent a specific set of interests in states - for instance, sewer administrators and wetlands managers - whose stake in the rule could differ from their governor's or even each other's.
RESCHEDULED: The White House said a scheduled meeting between senior Trump advisers on the Paris climate accord was postponed because many of the attendees wanted to accompany the president to Wisconsin, but promised it would be rescheduled. "That date has not been set when it will be, but it will be scheduled at some point over the next couple of weeks," Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
The delay comes amid divisions over Paris inside the White House, among Republican lawmakers and within the business community. But Sanders said the delay had nothing to do with those disagreements. Just before the meeting was canceled, a dozen Republican lawmakers led by West Virginia Rep. David McKinley sent Trump a letter urging him to withdraw from the accord altogether. That followed appeals from several major oil and coal companies telling Trump to stick with the agreement but adjust the U.S. emissions-reduction pledge.
WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY EVERYONE! I'm your host Anthony Adragna, and Tesoro's Stephen Brown was first to identify Lincoln as the president who ran with the slogan "Don't Swap Horses in the Middle of the Stream." For today: Whose slogan was the Washington-appropriate "Cox and Cocktails"? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter @AnthonyAdragna, @Morning_Energy, and @POLITICOPro.
SPRINT IS ON FOR RFS: It's going to be a tight squeeze if the Trump administration intends to meet the annual deadline to issue the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates, but most observers still believe it can be done by the Nov. 30 deadline, Pro's Eric Wolff reports. "EPA has repeatedly committed to the timely promulgation of the rules implementing the RFS, and I have every expectation they will meet the statutory requirement," said Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol producers group.
To get its final 2018 biofuel-volumes rule out on time, EPA would likely have to issue a proposed rule by late May but OMB hasn't yet received anything to review, making that time frame unlikely. Ethanol and oil refining sources tell Eric they've been told the proposed rule could slip to early June, which they believe still allows EPA to issue the final Renewable Volume Obligations in time to meet the deadline. The RFS rule would also seem to be a test of Trump's two-for-one deregulatory executive order, though there's some thought it falls under an exception under OMB guidance. It's worth remembering that the Obama EPA missed the annual deadlines regularly, though it did issue last year's rule on time.
KEYSTONE PUBLIC MEETINGS SET: The Nebraska Public Service Commission set aside a whopping 10 hours on May 3 for public comment on whether the controversial Keystone XL pipeline should be allowed its requested route through the state. Those wanting to speak their minds at the Holthus Convention Center in York, Neb. will have up to five minutes each at the microphone, but get there early - comment will be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis. The state commission is the last regulatory body to weigh in on the pipeline project the Trump administration approved last month, and it may decide to set aside a second public comment date, according to its public notice. It will then hold a public hearing on the pipeline's application during the second week of August before issuing its final decision later in the year.
CARPER QUESTIONS PRUITT'S WOTUS PLANS: Top Senate EPW Democrat Tom Carper asked Pruitt to disavow any discussions among some industry groups about whether the agency could hire private lawyers to rewrite the Waters of the U.S. regulation, Pro's Annie Snider reports. It comes after POLITICO reported that some industry groups with close ties to Pruitt are exploring whether EPA could outsource work on the contentious regulation. In response, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said: "To my knowledge, we are not contracting with an outside firm at this time for WOTUS."
EXAMINING TRUMP'S FIRST 100 DAYS ON THE ENVIRONMENT: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and former Obama climate adviser Carol Browner participate in a call with the League of Conservation Voters today at noon to examine the environmental and public health impacts of the first 100 days of the Trump Administration. They'll also urge citizens to participate in the Peoples Climate March on April 29 (which happens to be Trump's 100th day).
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NOT YOUR AVERAGE CLIMATE RALLY: A diverse array of religious leaders will gather outside the White House today at 10:30 a.m. to offer a moral call for the Trump administration to take action to address climate change. They'll wear air filter masks over their traditional garments to stress how they worry rolling back environmental protections will endanger human health.
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Former Vice President Al Gore and former EPA Administrator (and current senior Apple official) Lisa Jackson are holding a conversation on "climate optimism" today at 7 p.m. PST. It'll take place at Apple's Union Square store in San Francisco.
SHUTDOWN CHECK IN: Schumer said Tuesday talks have been going swimmingly with GOP leaders behind closed doors to fund the government, but warned the White House against any last-minute plays that could grind negotiations to a halt. "If the president doesn't interfere and insist on poison pill amendments to be shoved down the throat of Congress, we can come to an agreement," Schumer said. "I want to come to an agreement" (h/t Budget and Appropriations Brief).
NUCLEAR STORAGE FIRM ASKS NRC FOR PAUSE: Waste Control Specialists has asked the NRC to put its application to store high-level nuclear waste at its Texas facility on hold, the San Antonio Express-News reports . WCS has been in merger talks with Energy Solutions, which specializes in low-level nuclear waste, for several months and now wants to wait until the deal is completed before moving further with the new storage license. "WCS expects to go forward with this project at the earliest possible opportunity after completion of the sale," WCS CEO Rod Baltzer said in a letter to the NRC. The sale isn't a sure thing since the Justice Department sued the two companies last fall in order to block Energy Solutions' $367 million purchase saying that "eliminating competition between ES and WCS would have wide-ranging effects throughout the United States."
ANOTHER SCIENCE CONTENDER EMERGES: Michelle Lee, director of the Commerce Department's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property, is in the running to head up the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, according to sources familiar with the job search. Lee worked in the Obama administration. Earlier in her career she worked for Google as deputy general counsel, and the company's first head of patents and patent strategy. Lee didn't respond to requests for comment and the White House did not have any comment in time for publication (h/t POLITICO Playbook).
MAIL CALL! TIME TO GET REAL ON IG VACANCIES: Every senator on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wrote Trump asking him to fill a host of federal inspectors general vacancies, including those for the Interior and Energy Departments. "While many acting IGs have served admirably in the absence of permanent leadership, the lack of a permanent leader threatens to impede the ability of these offices to conduct the oversight and investigations necessary," the bipartisan group of senators wrote.
NATIONAL MONUMENT PROTECTION URGED: The chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, composed of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, sent a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to oppose any efforts to limit presidential authority to declare national monuments under the Antiquities Act or alter existing monumental boundaries. "Any attempt to curtail the President's authority to protect these places or to remove protections already put in place by other Presidents is an attack on our shared history," Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Cedric Richmond and Judy Chu wrote.
REPORT CALLS FOR BETTER FED-STATE CYBER PLANS: State and federal agencies still need to better lay out each of their roles and responsibilities in the event of a cyberattack that knocks out energy infrastructure for an extended period of time, a new Energy Department report finds. The 25-page report summarizes a multi-state exercise in December that looked at how different agencies might respond to a massive power outage that also knocked oil refineries offline. It included several findings concerned with gaps in communication between agencies, as well as with the public. "DOE should identify opportunities to best align and communicate coordination procedures with states and industry for cyber incidents in the energy sector," the report recommends. It also urges DOE to help state regulators develop new ways of determining what kind of cybersecurity expenses utilities can pass on to their customers, and says there's "a need to improve state petroleum response plans." The report was prepared by the National Association of State Energy Officials and DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
MOVERS, SHAKERS: Former League of Conservation Voters spokesman Seth Stein has become deputy press secretary for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; his portfolio includes issues concerning immigration, child services and sustainability and resiliency.
Former EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison has joined the corporate and public affairs group at Ogilvy Washington; her portfolio will include sustainability and others issues.
REPORT: HEAVY FUEL OIL TOO RISKY FOR ARCTIC: The risks of using heavy fuel oil (or HFO) in Arctic shipping outweigh the benefits, according to a new study published Tuesday by the International Council on Clean Transportation. HFO represents the leftover residues from the crude oil refining process. The study, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, found that transitioning to alternative fuel sources such as liquefied natural gas or distillates by 2025 would bring both financial and environmental advantages to the shipping industry. HFO currently powers 44 percent of shipping vessels in the Arctic. "HFO may be cheap, but it's seven times more expensive to clean up than distillate fuel," Bryan Comer, researcher at ICCT's marine program, said in a statement. "It seems prudent, therefore, to seriously consider eliminating HFO in the Arctic."
- Big Oil's Rejection of Silicon Valley Is Finally Coming to End. Bloomberg.
- Lamborn pens letter urging EPA to drop lawsuit against Colorado Springs. KRDO.
- 'The Ocean Is Boiling': The Complete Oral History of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill. Pacific Standard.
- When Rising Seas Transform Risk Into Certainty. New York Times Magazine.
- Environmental group asks court to block work on Pinelands pipeline until appeals are heard. Philly.com.
- Oil slides more after U.S. settlement on API inventory report. Reuters.
THAT'S ALL FOR ME!
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