Overnight Energy: Michigan governor to face Congress over Flint

LAWMAKERS TO GRILL SNYDER: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will come to D.C. Thursday to answer for his role in Flint's drinking water crisis.

Snyder has been a central figure in the national controversy over lead and other contaminants in Flint's water.

Discussions about Flint inevitably come back to Snyder's role, and he's apologized repeatedly about the crisis, but hasn't yet testified under oath about what he did or did not do in the lead-up to Flint's water source switch and the aftermath.

Now, the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzChaffetz says he's 'pleased' Clinton is not president shortly after handshake Why Democrats fear a successful inaugural address from Trump Federal ethics chief resists House GOP call for private interview MORE (R-Utah), will get a crack at forcing him to do just that. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyObama won’t weaken car emissions standards Overnight Energy: Rough hearing for Tillerson Trump's pick for EPA chief could clean up Obama mess MORE will also testify.

Democrats have been, by far, the loudest voices in the push to get Snyder to testify in Congress. Republicans have instead focused on the EPA's role, and Chaffetz was initially resistant to calling on Snyder to testify, until the governor volunteered.

Flint's government was under the control of an emergency manager -- appointed by and reporting to Snyder -- in April 2014 when it switched to using the Flint River for its drinking water, as part of a money-saving process to eventually get water from Lake Huron, without having to pay Detroit.

Throughout a year and a half of repeated complaints about the water's quality, Michigan's government and its Department of Environmental Quality downplayed concerns. It also resisted the EPA's demands that it implement corrosion controls, which would have prevented the city's lead pipes from leaching into water.

Meanwhile, the EPA's behavior is also under scrutiny. It pushed Michigan multiple times to act, but never went public with its concerns, and didn't formally order changes until January 2016.

Thursday's hearing is likely to reflect previous congressional action on Flint: Democrats will direct their anger at Snyder and his staff, while the Republicans will point to the EPA's failings.

If you go: The hearing starts at 9 a.m. Get in line very early, as it will certainly be packed.

Snyder's testimony: Snyder is planning to emphasize at the hearing what he and Michigan leaders have done to help Flint recover.

In his prepared remarks, released Wednesday, Snyder says he is "not going to point fingers or shift blame; there is plenty of that to share, and neither will help the people of Flint."

He does put some blame on Michigan and federal environmental officials and calls the crisis "a failure of government at all levels."

But for the most part, he'll talk about the $165 million in funding he's trying to get to Flint from the state, congressional efforts to help the city, state investigations, health assistance and everything else he and others have done since the crisis exploded last year.

Read more here.

GOP blocks expanded Flint aid in budget: Republicans on Wednesday blocked a Democratic proposal to include Flint aid in the House's budget proposal.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) offered the Flint amendment during a budget hearing on Wednesday. It was eventually rejected on a party-line vote, 21-14.

"I'm asking my colleagues to do one vote today in a nonpartisan fashion to just give them hope," Dingell said.

Read more here.

Dems: Michigan officials aren't cooperating: The Democrats on House Oversight, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) accused current and former Michigan state officials Wednesday of not cooperating with their investigation into Flint's water crisis.

Cummings and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) wrote to Snyder on Wednesday asking him to use his power to help them get compliance from the 15 current and former officials.

"As of today's date, 15 of your current and former employees have refused to comply with requests from Congress to participate in transcribed interviews and to produce documents in their possession relating to the Flint water crisis," they wrote.

"Their refusals directly contradict your multiple promises of transparency and accountability to the people of Flint, and they obstruct the ability of Congress to adequately investigate this crisis."

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said the governor has cooperated fully with the investigation himself, and he urges the other targets of the probe to do the same.

ON TAP THURSDAY I: The House Oversight Committee's Flint hearing starts at 9:00 am ET. C-SPAN will stream it here.

ON TAP THURSDAY II: A Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee panel will hold a hearing on 20 pieces of legislation.

Rest of Thursday's agenda ...

A House Appropriations Committee subpanel will consider President Obama's 2017 budget request for the Department of Agriculture.

The American Council for Renewable Energy will hold its annual policy forum. Major speakers include Sens. Ron WydenRon WydenLawmakers join women's marches in DC and nationwide Senate confirms first nominees of Trump era Senate gears up for battle over Trump's CIA pick MORE (D-Ore.) Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseFive takeaways from Pruitt's EPA hearing Health pick’s trades put STOCK Act in spotlight Dems prepare to face off with Trump's pick to lead EPA MORE (D-R.I.), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator: Trump budget chief could face confirmation 'problems' Jeff Sessions will protect life Justice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes MORE (R-Iowa) and EPA's Janet McCabe.


Authorities have banned more than 1 million cars from the roads in Mexico City, where an air pollution alert is in its third day, the Associated Press reports.

A Michigan judge refused Wednesday to lift a restraining order blocking an oil company's plan to drill an exploratory well on a church's property, the Detroit News reports.

United Airlines is beginning to use a biofuels blend in some of its flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco, ArsTechnica reports.


Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Michigan governor to focus on Flint recovery at hearing
-Republicans worry about eventual EPA control of ethanol mandate
-GOP chairman stepping up crusade against climate change study
-Republicans reject adding Flint aid to budget resolution
-Natural gas likely to overtake coal for electricity
-Top US coal company might declare bankruptcy
-Hatch questions Treasury and IRS about energy grant program

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