By Anthony Adragna | 05/17/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Annie Snider, Darius Dixon and Alex Guillén
SENATE DEREGULATORY PUSH PICKS UP: After months of the House passing bills taking shots at the regulatory reform process, the Senate today kicks off its own overhaul efforts in earnest with a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs business meeting. Arguably the most-watched piece of legislation is the Regulatory Accountability Act (S. 951), a little-noticed but potentially hugely consequential 58-page bill that would dramatically revamp how agencies issue regulations. The measure calls for agencies to develop the least costly version of rules, require early public meetings and input into potential regulations and mandate additional economic analyses. Proponents see an opportunity - the product of negotiations between Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) - given the large number of moderate Democrats up for reelection next year in states won by President Donald Trump.
That bill has broad support from the business community with more than 600 groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, signing a letter urging Senate leaders to vote on it. "Now is the time for Congress to reclaim its constitutional legislative authority by ensuring agencies implement congressional intent, not the intent of the agency," they wrote.
But environmental advocates argue it would deliver on White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's vision of "deconstructing the administrative state" while delaying necessary protections for years. "Our regulatory process for protecting the public is broken due to unacceptable delays, and it would make the process even more paralyzed," Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, tells ME. Nine public health groups and the League of Conservation Voters released letters Tuesday urging senators to reject the legislation.
Beyond that measure, two of the other bills under consideration have already cleared the House this Congress: The Midnight Rules Relief Act (S. 34), which would allow the axing of late-term rules en bloc and the REINS Act (S. 21), which requires congressional approval for any major regulation. Another measure, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (S. 584), aims to strengthen and improve the regulatory process for small businesses, while an additional bill, the Early Participation in Regulations Act of 2017 (S.579), would require agencies to issue an additional round of advanced notice before moving ahead with rulemakings.
MURKOWSKI READY TO BRING AGENCY HEADS TO HILL: The Senate's energy policy chief says she looks forward to hearing from the trio of relevant Cabinet members in front of her committees in the next few weeks. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski , who also chairs Interior-EPA appropriations, said Tuesday afternoon that she has penciled in days to bring Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt up to Capitol Hill. "When I visited with [Pruitt] we both said 'I'll see you ... in June,' so I've got all three," she said. With Trump's full fiscal 2018 budget slated to roll out next week, Congress is itching to move their spending bills and hold hearings on agency policy.
The Alaska Republican still found the pace of nominations coming out of the White House "problematic." "There's a lot of discussion about how efficiencies can be had within the respective agencies and it would be really helpful to have an opportunity to speak to these new heads of agencies ahead of time," Murkowski said. "But it doesn't look like we're getting any of them any time soon."
Even people officially nominated aren't moving all that fast. Murkowski said that she hasn't yet received all the necessary paperwork for the two FERC nominations sent to the Senate a week ago, despite the continued anxiety caused by the agency's months-long lack of a quorum. "Our plan is to, as soon as we get that, to go ahead and notice it up [for a hearing]," she said. At DOE, Trump announced Dan Brouillette as his pick for deputy energy secretary more than six weeks ago - but the White House did not officially send his nomination to the Senate until Tuesday. (Susan Bodine's nomination to lead EPA's enforcement office also went over Tuesday, four days after it was announced.)
BUT FIRST: Murkowski appears this morning alongside ClearPath Foundation CEO Jay Faison and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association board member Meera Kohler, of the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, for a forum on energy policy in the new Congress hosted by the American Council for Capital Formation. POLITICO Deputy Energy Editor Nick Juliano will moderate. Details here.
WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY! I'm your host Anthony Adragna, and the Union of Concerned Scientists' Yogin Kothari was first to identify San Jose as the first capital of the state of California. For today: Name the two entire states that do not observe daylight savings time. Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter @AnthonyAdragna, @Morning_Energy, and @POLITICOPro.
AT LEAST 110 STAFFERS ON EPA COAL JOBS REPORT: EPA has tasked at least 110 employees with work studying the impact of agency regulations and actions on the coal industry, the agency revealed in a court filing Tuesday. A federal judge last fall sided with Murray Energy in a lawsuit arguing EPA had neglected part of the Clean Air Act requiring it to study how its actions affect employment. The 4th Circuit heard EPA's appeal last week and has not yet issued a ruling. But in the meantime, the lower court judge ordered EPA to have a report covering air rules issued since 2009 ready by July 1, a time frame EPA said has required a pull-out-all-the-stops effort.
EPA has assigned 80 economists, policy experts, attorneys and compliance officials with compiling and studying the necessary data on jobs at coal mines and coal-burning power plants, which is pulled from sources like DOE, FERC, the Labor Department and even the CDC. Another 30 workers have been assigned to set up a long-term plan to continuously study employment impacts, including a better system to collect the granular data required, a process that would include significant public input.
GETTING BY WITH HELP FROM HIS (FOX AND) FRIENDS: Pruitt's streak of softball interviews continues today with two appearances this morning on Fox-based programming. First, he's up on Fox News "Fox and Friends" at 6:40 a.m. and then he heads over to the Fox Business Network for "Varney & Co." at 9:15 a.m. That follows an interview he gave to a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association writer published Tuesday.
INTERIOR ADVISORY COMMITTEE SHUTDOWN CASCADES: Members of some Interior Department advisory committees got the formal notification yesterday that their work is being put on hold indefinitely. Zinke recently halted the work of long-standing local committees and advisory boards while his administration reviews their charters and missions, which the agency projects will take until September. The roughly 200 committees range from resource advisory committees that advise the Bureau of Land Management on recreation, oil and gas exploration and other issues on public lands, to scientific advisory committees like one that helps the U.S. Geological Survey understand earthquakes. In an email sent to members of USGS's Advisory Committee on Water Information yesterday, the group's chief coordinator responded to concerns from its members that that the committee will be dismantled, but said "we have no reason to believe that will occur."
DOE REG REQUEST COMING: The Energy Department hopes to post a request for information later this week asking for input on how to shape the agency's regulatory reform agenda, agency spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said by email Tuesday. The request will be open to members of the public. The agenda and a related task force was established to meet an administration-wide call under a February executive order seeking out "outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective" regulations for potential repeal or replacement. Most of the agency's regulatory footprint is in the world of writing efficiency standards for appliances. And while a few have been delayed by the new administration, the vast majority of DOE's regulations have been specifically tasked by Congress through several large pieces of bipartisan legislation.
WHERE'S THE MONEY? More than two dozen Senate Democrats want answers from Energy Secretary Rick Perry about why his agency is withholding or slowing the rollout of funds approved by Congress before the Trump administration took office, Pro's Darius Dixon reports . "We are deeply troubled by reports that the Department of Energy has delayed awarding funds and, in some cases, is refusing to release funds altogether for various activities for which Congress has already provided appropriations. These actions not only ignore Congressional intent, but are explicitly prohibited by law," the lawmakers, led by Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell, wrote in a letter.
BARRASSO: PRUITT 'VERY RESPONSIVE': Senate EPW Chairman John Barrasso told ME Tuesday that Pruitt has been "very responsive" to oversight requests from his office. "We've got the right person in that position doing a great job," he said. That stands in stark contrast to the panel's ranking member Tom Carper , who told ME a day earlier he'd only received responses back to two of his 15 letters seeking information. Barrasso said he expected to call Pruitt to the Hill for hearings on the agency's budget and for oversight of the Toxic Substances Control Act in the coming weeks.
BUSY DAY FOR HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES: Lawmakers on a House Natural Resources subpanel gather for a 10 a.m. hearing examining state efforts to decommission offshore rigs and convert them into artificial reefs. Expect Democrats to ask questions about the fate of billions in required cleanups of those rigs ignored or abandoned by oil companies. Then, a separate subpanel convenes at 2 p.m. to look at the need for increased forest management activities on federal lands.
SEEKING ACTION ON ROVER PIPELINE: More than 110 organizations are out with a letter this morning asking FERC to halt all construction on the Rover Pipeline and reopen the project's environmental impact statement in light of the recent spill of 2 million gallons of drilling fluid. The letter, signed by groups like the Sierra Club, Earthworks and Oil Change International, also asks FERC to review of its horizontal drilling regulations in general and pause all pipeline projects in its docket while undertaking that action.
CONCERNS AIRED ON SAGE GROUSE: Sens. Ron Wyden and Michael Bennet sent a letter to Zinke to respect local input on land management plans to prevent an Endangered Species Act listing for the Greater Sage-grouse. "An ESA listing for sage grouse would adversely affect land users across the West, creating regulatory uncertainty for ranchers, conservationists, sportsmen, and industry," the senators wrote. "This uncertainty threatens the longstanding principle of multiple use on public lands."
DON'T PENALIZE FLINT RESIDENTS FOR UNPAID WATER BILLS: The ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund urged Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and other city officials to impose a moratorium on putting liens on homes for unpaid water bills. "No one should be expected to pay for water that is not safe, and has caused so much physical, psychological and financial damage," the letter said. "In a city where residents have been crying out for justice, even more injustice is being proposed."
PICK ME UP SOME BBQ: Energy Secretary Rick Perry delivers opening remarks the 16th Annual DOE Small Business Forum & Expo this morning in Kansas City at 8 a.m. CST.
REPORT: TRUMP'S WALL WOULD HURT ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Center for Biological Diversity released a study Tuesday finding Trump's proposed border wall on the Mexican border would threaten 93 endangered and threatened species.
JOINING THE TEAM: Rep. Chuck Fleischmann today joins 13 other House Republicans as a member of the House Clean Energy & Innovation Working Group.
MOVER, SHAKER: Mark Antoniewicz has joined the Hip Hop Caucus as communications director; he was previously with the Obama administration's White House Council on Environmental Quality, where he worked on climate, environment, natural resource conservation and energy issues.
NAME CHANGE: Women of Wind Energy changed its name to Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy as the group broadens its focus beyond wind energy.
- U.S., Russia and Australia Defend Corporations' Role in Global Climate Talks. New York Times.
- PSC to allow more testimony at Keystone XL pipeline hearing, but opponents say it's not enough. Omaha World-Herald.
- DTE plans for no coal plants, 80 percent cut in carbon by 2050. Detroit Free Press.
- McAuliffe: Virginia will regulate carbon emissions; 'the threat of climate change is real'. Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- Duke Energy Plans to Close Coal Ponds in Indiana. Associated Press.
- NASA says April was world's second hottest in the 137 years on record. The Independent.
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