Overnight Energy: Trump may waive Jones Act for Puerto Rico relief | Pruitt also took private, military flights | Maryland sues EPA over out-of-state pollution

Overnight Energy: Trump may waive Jones Act for Puerto Rico relief | Pruitt also took private, military flights | Maryland sues EPA over out-of-state pollution
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NOT A DONE DEAL: The Trump administration left the door open Wednesday to waiving a shipping law to make it easier to get goods to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria recovery.

President Trump told reporters that he is “thinking about” lifting the Jones Act, although he indicated significant hesitation at the idea.

“Well we're thinking about [temporarily lifting the Jones Act],” Trump told reporters before stepping aboard Marine One, "but we have a lot of shippers, and a lot of people, and a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted."

"And we have a lot of ships out there right now," Trump added.

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The statement came after the administration faced criticism Tuesday for not waiving the law, despite waivers for previous hurricanes this season.

The law requires that only ships that are registered, built and staffed in the United States can ship goods within the country.

Multiple lawmakers, including Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE (R-Ariz.), have asked for a waiver for Puerto Rico, as have the island’s leaders, including Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for reviewing Jones Act waiver requests, said it was working to review the requests, though officials may conclude that domestic ships are sufficient for Puerto Rico’s relief needs.

“As based upon our current conversations, there is not a lack of vessels to move the goods that we need to support the humanitarian relief efforts,” a DHS official told reporters Wednesday.

Waiver requests usually come from the Department of Defense, although DHS said it is reviewing the requests nonetheless. Non-DOD requests are subject to more scrutiny.

Read more here and here.

 

MARYLAND V. EPA: Maryland sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday over the state’s request that the EPA crack down on out-of-state air pollution.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) contends in the case that the Clean Air Act requires that EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Senate confirms top EPA air regulator | Feds to roll back emissions rule for big trucks | Defense bill mandates climate study EPA seeks to repeal part of Obama emissions rule for big trucks Senate confirms top air regulator at EPA MORE force dozens of upwind power plants in five states to curb their pollution.

But the EPA hasn’t formally responded to Maryland’s November 2016 petition on the matter, nor its July threat to sue the EPA for missing the deadline to respond.

“Emissions from power plants in surrounding states pollute Maryland’s air and violate the law,” Frosh said in a statement.

“My office has filed suit because the EPA and Administrator Pruitt have failed to stop these violations, ignoring our request to require those power plants to comply with the Clean Air Act,” he said. “This federal law is supposed to protect everyone against the harm of breathing polluted air, so the federal government must ensure that power plants everywhere be held accountable.”

Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan directed Frosh to file the case. It also has the support of the state's secretary of the environment, Ben Grumbles, who worked in the EPA under former Republican President George W. Bush.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, cites research and EPA data to argue that 36 power plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are violating the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act by not using pollution control technology that is already installed.

Those pollutants blow into Maryland and reduce air quality in cities like Baltimore, despite the state’s own efforts to improve the air.

Read more here.

 

PRUITT TOOK CHARTER, MILITARY FLIGHTS: Pruitt is the latest Trump cabinet official to be caught up in the ongoing controversy over private charter and military flights.

CBS News reported Wednesday that he took an Air Force plane from Cincinnati to New York City in June at a cost to taxpayers of at least $20,000.

And then in August, Pruitt took a charter plane from Denver to Durango, Colo., and back. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) reportedly offered Pruitt space on his plane.

Pruitt is already under scrutiny for frequently using federal money for flights to his home state of Oklahoma, where he would work before staying for a weekend.

An EPA official said the Air Force and chartered flights were justified.

For the Air Force one, Pruitt needed to ensure that he could get on a flight to Rome for a Group of 7 environmental ministers meeting. “It was the only flight available to ensure" he could make his connection, the official said.

As for the Colorado flights, the EPA official said Pruitt’s scheduled commercial flight was delayed for hours, and Pruitt would have missed an event touring the Gold King Mine, the official said. The offer from Hickenlooper only came after the EPA had booked the charter flight.

 

MANCHIN A ‘NO’ ON MINE SAFETY NOMINEE: Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell A bipartisan bridge opens between the House and Senate Collins, Manchin to serve as No Labels co-chairs MORE (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday said he plans to vote against confirming President Trump’s nominee to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Trump tapped David Zatezalo for the job earlier this month. Zatezalo is a retired former executive of Rhino Resources, which had frequent run-ins with MSHA for alleged safety violations during his tenure.

“While I appreciate Mr. Zatezalo’s willingness to serve, I cannot support his confirmation to lead MSHA,” Manchin said in his statement.

“After reviewing his qualifications and record of safety during his time in the coal industry, I am not convinced that Mr. Zatezalo is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.”

Although Manchin supported Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Stephen Miller, helped edit Trump speech: report Bannon jokes Clinton got her ‘ass kicked’ in 2016 election MORE in last year’s election, Trump won West Virginia by the highest margin of any state. Manchin is running for reelection next year in what is expected to be one of the toughest Senate races of the election cycle.

Nonetheless, he said it is important to stand up to Zatezalo.

“I have comforted too many families who have lost loved ones serving our nation in the mines,” said Manchin, the Mountain State’s former governor. “Strong leadership at the Mine Safety & Health Administration is non-negotiable.”

Read more here.

 

EPA, NUKE NOMINEES’ HEARING RESCHEDULED: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has rescheduled its hearing on five nominees, four for the EPA and one for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The hearing will now be Oct. 4.

Senators will consider Matthew Leopold to be the EPA’s general counsel, William Wehrum to head the EPA’s air office, Michael Dourson to head the EPA’s chemical safety office and David Ross to lead the EPA’s water office. They will also hear from Jeffrey Baran, an NRC commissioner nominated to a new term.

Wehrum and Dourson are likely to be the most controversial nominees at the hearing. Democrats have made it clear that they object to what they see as the nominees’ close ties to the industries they’ll be responsible for regulating.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY: The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on rural development and energy programs in the upcoming farm bill.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Illinois regulators want to loosen pollution rules for many of the state’s remaining coal-fired power plants to stop them from closing down, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled a host of efforts Wednesday aimed at reducing the city’s energy use and emissions, Curbed Philadelphia reports.

Representatives from the United States and Mexico agreed to a plan on sharing the Colorado River’s water, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday’s stories ...

-Maryland sues EPA over upwind air pollution

-Trump administration restricting lawmaker visits to Puerto Rico

-Trump administration considering Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico

-Sen. Manchin won’t vote for Trump’s mine safety nominee

 

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