Overnight Energy: Flint fight threatens energy bill

FLINT A STICKING POINT IN ENERGY DEBATE: An aid package for the water crisis in Flint, Mich. is increasingly turning into a sticking point for lawmakers considering a broad energy bill in the Senate.

Negotiations to attach the aid to the energy bill appeared to be breaking down on Wednesday, with a key Democrat saying her caucus could block the underlying legislation if it does not get a good deal on Flint.

"We want to do something that will help people that need help," said Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDems press Trump for 'Buy American' proposals in infrastructure plan Kid Rock: Al Franken shouldn't have resigned Michigan State president resigns amid sexual abuse scandal MORE (D-Mich.), who has taken the lead in negotiating for Flint aid with Republicans.

"We're not going to stop and we're not going to support moving forward until we have something that is a reasonable way that we can tell the people of Flint that we have done something to help them."

Stabenow and other Democrats had hoped to secure a $600 million aid package to repair and replace water infrastructure in Flint. She said earlier Wednesday that she could accept a number less than half that figure.

But Republican leadership grew increasingly hostile to the request, with Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation MORE (R-Texas) calling it a "blank check."

Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeRepublican agenda clouded by division Overnight Regulation: Dems go on attack during EPA chief's hearing | Mnuchin promises more Russia sanctions | Regulators subpoena major bitcoin exchange | New lawsuit over FDA e-cig rule Dems go on the attack during EPA chief's hearing MORE (R-Okla.) on Wednesday pushed a compromise package worth $200 million in loans for Flint and other cities with lead problems. But the deal would use money taken from the Energy Department's advanced vehicle manufacturing loan program, a high priority for Michigan.

"That's not something we're interested in," Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said.

Read more of The Hill's Flint coverage from Wednesday:
-The aid package puts the energy bill in jeopardy;
-Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo end sugar subsidies, conservatives can't launch a frontal attack House presses Senate GOP on filibuster reform A pro-science approach to Yucca Mountain appropriations MORE calls for a deal;
-Michigan Democrats slap down Inhofe's proposal

Flint hearing turns into blame game: Across the Capitol, federal and state officials looked to blame each other for the underlying problems in Flint.

At a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday morning, an Environmental Protection Agency administrator said the agency did what it was supposed to do in Flint by warning state regulators about lead levels in the city's water.

But Flint itself, said Keith Creagh, the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, was charged with testing and treating the city's drinking water after it began pulling from the Flint River in 2014.

Neither answer satisfied lawmakers. Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzLet’s not fail in our second chance to protect Bears Ears Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress House Oversight slams TSA after report says officials 'interfered' in disciplinary case MORE (R-Utah) bristled at the prospect the EPA moved slowly to tell state officials about the water problems, and said the agency should have announced its findings publicly.

And Democrats, especially members from Michigan, said Gov. Dan Snyder's (R) administration deserved blame for the lead problem because it was a Snyder appointee's decision to switch the water supply.

Democrats had hoped Snyder would be invited to speak at the hearing, and said they would look to use House rules to compel his testimony later on. Two other key figures -- the former EPA regional director for Flint and the city's former emergency manager -- declined requests to testify at the hearing, leading Chaffetz to subpoena the two.

"Participation before this committee is not optional," he said. "When you get invited to go before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, you are going to show up."

Read more here and here.

Energy committee probes environmental agencies: Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters late Wednesday to the federal EPA and Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality with more questions on the Flint crisis.

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) are seeking details from both agencies on what they've done up to this point on Flint and what officials' responsibilities are going forward.

They're also specifically asking what state and federal officials have done in response to the EPA's Jan. 21 order compelling Michigan to take quick action to comply with federal drinking water rules.

See the letters here.

HOUSE UNVEILS COAL COMMUNITIES BILL: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) unveiled legislation Wednesday aimed at revitalizing communities hurt by the coal industry's decline.

The bill, known as the Reclaim Act, takes numerous cues from the Obama administration's Power Plus Plan, and is the result of negotiations between both parties in the House and the White House.

"Many coal communities in Appalachia simply do not have the resources to reclaim the abandoned mine sites within their borders," Rogers said in a statement. "This bill allows these communities to be proactive in restoring these sites and utilize them to put our people back to work."

The bill would move $1 billion from existing funds in the Abandoned Mine Lands program to states and tribes for economic development.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia rolled out the bill with Rogers on Wednesday.

"For the families that depended on mining jobs, benefits, and pensions that have disappeared as coal companies have closed their operations, we must act to provide new opportunities," said Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.).

A White House official applauded the introduction of the bill and said it's consistent with what the administration's been looking for with Power Plus.

ON TAP THURSDAY: The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture vote on the energy reform bill sponsored by Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiLawmakers scold Trump official over Pacific island trust fund Republican agenda clouded by division Greens sue over Interior plans to build road through Alaska refuge MORE (R-Alaska) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellGreen group backs Sens. Baldwin, Nelson for reelection The US is falling behind in artificial intelligence research WHIP LIST: Shutdown looms as Senate lacks votes to pass House spending bill MORE (D-Wash.). Late maneuvering over the Flint aid package could derail that vote.


Environmentalists in Oregon sued the Agriculture Department Wednesday to challenge the legality of a federal program to kill wolves, the Associated Press reports.

Federal prosecutors aren't sure if they'll seek jail time for two key officials from the company that caused the massive chemical spill into Charleston, W.Va.'s water supply in January 2014, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports.

A Danish company has committed to building the world's largest offshore wind farm off the coast of England, the Financial Times reports.


Check out Wednesday's stories...

-Dem: GOP aid offer for Flint a 'slap in the face'
-Feds deploy health 'strike team' to Flint
-Finance Democrats push Hatch for energy hearing
-Oregon Dem wants to reimburse law enforcement for armed standoff costs
-Officials point fingers over Flint water crisis
-State AGs bullish about challenge to 'unlawful' Obama climate rule
-Flint crisis threatens to derail energy bill
-EPA chief: Michigan officials 'misled' us about Flint water crisis
-Reid pushes for Flint aid as energy bill nears finish line
-Oversight Republican threatens to have US marshals 'hunt down' Flint witness

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