Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry

EPA 'SMART SECTORS': The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to work more closely on regulatory matters with the industries those rules affect.

The EPA announced Tuesday that it's reviving the "Smart Sectors" program to more formally cooperate with industries like oil and natural gas drilling, mining, steelmaking and agriculture for regulating.

It's part of the administration's efforts to be more industry-friendly while still protecting the environment, the EPA said.

"When we consider American business as a partner, as opposed to an adversary, we can achieve better environmental outcomes," EPA head Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

"The Smart Sectors program is designed to effectively engage business partners throughout the regulatory process. The previous administration created a narrative that you can't be pro-business and pro-environment. This program is one of the many ways we can address that false choice and work together to protect the environment," he continued.

The initial industries involved will be aerospace, agriculture, automotive, cement and concrete, chemical manufacturing, construction, electronics and technology, forestry and paper products, iron and steel, mining, oil and gas, ports and marine, and utilities and power generation.

No environmental, health or conservation groups are initially included, although the EPA left the door open for inclusion in the future.

Read more here.

EPA MISSES OZONE DEADLINE: The EPA missed its Monday legal deadline to kick off the process of designating areas that do not meet the new ground-level ozone standard.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday should have published his initial determinations on which areas of the country exceed the new, stricter standard on ozone, a component of smog that is linked to respiratory illnesses.

But the EPA did not release any information on the initial findings on Monday. An agency spokeswoman said Tuesday that she did not have any more information on the matter.

In his last job as Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt sued to stop the 2015 regulation written under former President Barack Obama.

Pruitt tried earlier this year to delay the initial compliance findings for a year. But when environmentalists and Democratic states sued, the agency walked back and said it would meet the Oct. 1 deadline -- which fell on Sunday, but was pushed to Monday for the weekend.

Greens threaten lawsuit: Environmental and public health groups gave the EPA formal notice Tuesday that they plan to sue to enforce the obligation to propose nonattainment designations.

The letter is a requirement for anyone who wants to sue to force action on the ozone standards. The groups, including the Sierra Club, the American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association, now must wait at least 60 days before filing suit.

"It's an outrage that Scott Pruitt just willfully ignored his legal and moral obligation to keep American communities safe from dangerous air pollution that sends children to the hospital," Matthew Gravatt, senior director for federal and administrative advocacy, said in a statement.

"His lack of respect for the millions of families across the country that are suffering from air pollution perfectly illustrates the disregard for the law that is plaguing the Trump administration."

BLANKENSHIP ATTACKS MANCHIN IN AD: Convicted former coal boss Don Blankenship released a 30-second advertisement going after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for his alleged role as governor in the 2010 Upper Big Branch disaster that killed 29 workers at a mine Blankenship's company owned.

The ad heavily evokes the controversy surrounding the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, consulate attack and Hillary Clinton's alleged role in it to ask, "Does Manchin have blood on his hands?"

"In 2012, four Americans were killed by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya. Many say the Obama administration hid the Benghazi truth," the narrator says. "The truth about more killed Americans has also been hidden. In 2010, 29 Americans were killed. None of them were an ambassador, none were CIA agents, none were killed by terrorists. They were coal miners who were killed when the U.S. government reduced their mines' airflow. President Trump must be told the truth about Obama's deadliest cover-up."

It's part of a series of ads that Blankenship has released on Upper Big Branch since finishing a one-year prison sentence earlier this year for charges that stemmed from the federal investigation into the disaster.

Manchin, who was West Virginia's governor at the time and is now running a tough reelection fight, is the focus of many of the ads Blankenship has produced.

The Supreme Court is due this Friday to consider whether or not to take Blankenship's appeal of his conviction.

MANCHIN TRIES AGAIN ON MINERS' PENSION BILL: Manchin and other coal-country lawmakers launched a new effort Tuesday to shore up a pension fund for coal miners.

The new bill would use excess funds meant for mine cleanups and borrow some general Treasury money to pay for pension checks.

The effort revives the heated debate over whether and how to bail out the United Mine Workers of America's (UMWA) pension fund, which is in danger of going insolvent due to a rash of coal mining company bankruptcies that have reduced the money going into it, putting more than 100,000 beneficiaries at risk.

Since the pension program originated from a federal government effort, coal-state lawmakers see it as a federal responsibility to keep it solvent.

"It's time that we keep our promise, that's all we're asking for," Manchin, who facing one of the Senate's toughest reelection battles next year, said at a Capitol Hill news conference with retired miners and allied lawmakers.

"We've got to fix this, and we've got to make sure that we take care of the people who paid for it," he said.

Read more here.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a confirmation hearing to consider the nominations of four people for high-level EPA jobs: Michael Dourson to lead the chemical safety office, Matthew Leopold to be general counsel, David Ross to lead the water office and William Wehrum to lead the air and radiation office. Senators will also consider the renomination of Jeffrey Baran, who is currently a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The House Natural Resources Committee will continue its markup of nine bills on endangered species, national parks and energy.

Rest of Wednesday's agenda...

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on three bills in its jurisdiction.

AROUND THE WEB:

Canada's environment commissioner said the country's federal government is nowhere near ready for the effects of climate change, the Canadian Press reports.

Scotland's government said it is indefinitely extending its moratorium on fracking, BBC News reports.

Livestock grazing in a China nature preserve is hurting bamboo stocks that pandas depend upon, Science Daily reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-EPA launches industry partnership program for regulating

-Schumer to Trump: Stop blaming Puerto Rico for the storm

-Lawmakers try again on miners' pension bill

-EPA misses smog rule deadline

-EPA chief's schedule heavily favors industry contacts: report

-Perry seeking to prop up nuclear, coal plant

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

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