Overnight Energy: Congress slams Michigan, EPA on Flint

SNYDER, MCCARTHY ON THE HOT SEAT: Lawmakers roundly criticized the governor of Michigan and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, with many telling the pair they should resign for their role in the Flint, Mich. water crisis.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee got their first stab at Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), whom they blamed for both instituting policies that caused the water crisis and not moving quickly enough to solve it.  

Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyRepublicans refuse to back opioids bill sponsored by vulnerable Dem Dem lawmaker calls on Fox News to fire Hannity Overnight Energy: Former Pruitt aide alleges more wasteful spending, retaliation | Senate confirms EPA No. 2 | Zinke backs off big park fee increases MORE (D-Md.) and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) joined the calls for Snyder to resign, echoing Democratic presidential candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge HW Bush wears 'book socks' to Barbara Bush's funeral to honor her passion for literacy Obamas, Clintons to attend funeral of Barbara Bush Hillary Clinton to fundraise in DC for public charter high school MORE and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' Chuck Todd lashes out at Fox, defends wife in radio interview Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report MORE at a recent debate in Flint.

"Gov. Snyder, plausible deniability only works when it's plausible. And I'm not buying that you didn't know about any of this until October 2015," Cartwright said.

"You were not in a medically induced coma for a year. And I've had about enough of your false contrition and your phony apologies."

McCarthy fared no better, with Republicans battering her agency for not doing more to prevent the water crisis despite knowing about it early on.

Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzIngraham’s ratings spike a wake-up for advertisers Boehner to campaign for House GOP candidates Americans want to protect public lands, Congress should listen MORE (R-Utah), the committee's chairman, said EPA chief Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyEPA chief upgraded official car to one with bulletproof seat covers Watchdog requests probe into relationship between top EPA aide and man investigating him GOP senators push back on calls to investigate Pruitt MORE should do the "courageous thing" and resign.

"You had the opportunity, you had the presence, you had the authority, you had the backing of the federal government, and you did not act when you had the chance," he said. "And if you're going to do the courageous thing then you, too, should resign."

Thursday's hearing was the Oversight panel's third on the Flint water crisis in the last two months. It was the first time Snyder and McCarthy had appeared before the panel, an occurrence that showed the partisan rifts in the congressional response to the Flint crisis.

"The more I listened and the more I watched the governor, I think that it is time for him to go. He seemed to have an utter disregard for the people who he has sworn to safeguard," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee's ranking member, said after the hearing.

"I'm hoping that the governor, when he takes some time, will reflect on this hearing and all that has been said and make the right decision and leave."

Read more here.

Snyder, McCarthy tell their sides: Snyder tried to avoid finger-pointing while taking responsibility for his role in the matter, saying repeatedly that "all levels" of government were responsible.

"Let me be blunt. This was a failure of government at all levels," Snyder told lawmakers. "Local, state and federal officials -- we all failed the families of Flint."

Of course, his testimony wasn't completely free of blame. He focused heavily on blaming experts at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA for telling him and Flint that the water was safe.

McCarthy wasn't afraid to rat Snyder out, saying it was impossible for EPA to effectively oversee Michigan's enforcement of water standards when the state hid so much.

"Looking back on Flint, from day one, the state provided our regional office with confusing, incomplete and incorrect information," she said.

"Their interactions with us were intransigent, misleading and contentious. As a result, EPA staff were unable to understand the potential scope of the lead problem until more than a year after that water supply was switched."

Read more here.

Read the rest of our Flint coverage:

- Chaffetz, Cummings set the stage
- Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) to Snyder: 'I've had about enough of your false contrition and your phony apologies'
- Chaffetz to McCarthy: 'You too should resign'

No, D.C.'s water is safe: D.C. locals were probably shocked Thursday to see that the city had lead levels 20 to 30 times those in Flint, according to a story in InsideSources.

The problem? That was more than 10 years ago, and the problem's been solved. The publisher responsible for the story tells DCist that he stands by the report.

MORE MONEY FOR COAL COMMUNITIES: The Obama administration on Thursday released $68.5 million for an economic growth fund for Appalachian communities dealing with the downturn in coal demand.

The funding -- from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) -- comes from the Obama administration's Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative. It will go toward local partnerships to diversify the economies in coal communities that have seen jobs dwindle as the demand for coal has fallen.

"Many communities across Appalachia – from coal mines to Main Streets – are being impacted as the world changes the way it produces and consumes electricity." ARC federal co-chair Earl Gohl said in a statement.

"The POWER Initiative can be a game-changer for Appalachia by partnering with these communities and investing Federal resources to support local initiatives that will forge sustainable economic paths for the future."

Economic development in downtrodden coal communities is a priority for the Obama administration and Democratic presidential candidates, who are pushing regulations the industry blames for hurting jobs.

Appalachia-region Republicans in Congress have introduced their own aid package for those communities, though it's yet to move forward this session.


SeaWorld is ending its controversial killer whale breeding program, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Environmentalists are criticizing U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne for saying his new budget "puts the next generation first," arguing it doesn't do enough to confront climate change, Bloomberg reports.

TransCanada Corp. is buying Columbia Pipeline Group for $10.2 billion, Reuters reports.

Bonus Around The Web: You can watch a live stream from the National Arboretum in D.C. as a pair of bald eagle eggs is expected to hatch Thursday or Friday, the first bald eagle hatching at the arboretum.


Check out Thursday's stories ...

-Regulators seek new rules for natural gas pipelines
-Trudeau: Climate change is an 'incredible opportunity' for Canada
-Michigan governor, EPA chief under fire for Flint
-Oversight chairman to EPA chief: You should resign over Flint
-Dem to Michigan gov: 'Plausible deniability only works when it's plausible'
-Michigan governor: 'We all failed the families of Flint'
-House watchdogs slam EPA, Snyder for Flint response

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill