Overnight Energy: Senate aims to move EPA nominees next week | Controversial nominee already working at EPA | Bill would expedite some natural gas exports

Overnight Energy: Senate aims to move EPA nominees next week | Controversial nominee already working at EPA | Bill would expedite some natural gas exports
© Greg Nash

NOMINEES FIGHT DELAYS VOTE: Republicans are aiming to move a slate of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominees next week after a dispute over the names this week.

The Environment and Public Works Committee was due to vote on six nominees, including four for the EPA, on Wednesday, but leadership delayed the hearing on Tuesday night.

The reason for the delay seems to be a dispute over the Trump administration's support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) biofuels mandate, which some Midwestern lawmakers have accused EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittWith offshore drilling scheme, Trump's America looks like a banana republic Overnight Energy: California regulators vote to close nuclear plant | Watchdog expands Pruitt travel probe | Washington state seeks exemption from offshore drilling plan Overnight Regulation: Fight erupts over gun export rules | WH meets advocates on prison reform | Officials move to allow Medicaid work requirements | New IRS guidance on taxes MORE of aiming to water down.


Bill Wehrum, Trump's pick to lead the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, has questioned the mandate in the past and lawmakers of both parties have looked to hold up movement on his nomination until the White House commits to implement higher ethanol blending requirements under the standard.

A key lawmaker in that fight is Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa voters laugh after GOP senator says Trump is standing up for Norway Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response Family caregivers need a voice in our political debate MORE (R-Iowa), who sits on the EPW Committee.

Because Republicans hold only a one-vote majority on the panel, they need everyone to support a nominee to bring it to the floor. But Ernst has been especially critical of Wehrum, and the EPA's approach to ethanol generally. She was one of several corn-state lawmakers to meet with Pruitt on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, she said discussions over the RFS and the nomination are ongoing.

"Holding the EPA's feet to the fire has put us on a path to receive strong reassurances on biofuel volumes and the EPA's commitment to follow both the letter and the spirit of the RFS, as well as a commitment to not pursue other policies harmful to our farmers across Iowa," Ernst said in a statement.

"My staff and I will continue to keep a watchful eye as these assurances come to life, and while we are still in negotiations, I do feel good about the direction we are headed."

EPA Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump’s infrastructure plan may slip to next month Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism Trump's infrastructure team to huddle with senators MORE (R-Wyo.) said a vote on the nominees is "likely next week."

"We'll let each senator speak for themselves," he told reporters. "We want to move all of the nominees together, so there were concerns and we decided to move it to next week."


A hold from Duckworth: Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Dems resurface Flynn's 'lock her up' comments after Mueller charges MORE (D-Ill.) said Wednesday she would put a hold on the Wehrum nomination, as well as that of Michael Dourson to head the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Duckworth's concerns about Wehrum stem from his opposition to the RFS. She said she opposes Dourson because of his work on behalf of chemical companies he would regulate if confirmed to his EPA spot.  

Read more here.


CONTROVERSIAL NOMINEE ALREADY WORKING AT EPA: E&E News reported Wednesday that Dourson is already working at the EPA.

He currently serves as an "adviser to the administrator," a spokesperson told E&E News.

Dourson responded to complaints about his record at his confirmation hearing earlier this month, saying that he would "dedicate my mind, body and spirit to the work of this office" and enforce the chemical safety laws currently on the books."


Gillibrand blasts Dourson: But at least one Democrat hit back at the EPA for allowing Dourson to work at the agency early.

"The fact that he has already begun advising the EPA administrator shows contempt for the committee's role in his nomination process and more importantly a profound disrespect to the families who are terrified about what toxic chemicals are going to do to their children's health," Gillibrand said, calling for the EPA to cut ties with Dourson until the Senate could vote on him.  

Read more about Dourson here, and Gillibrand's response here.


SENATORS WANT TO SPEED 'SMALL-SCALE' NATURAL GAS EXPORTS: Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTrump allies see 's---hole' controversy as overblown GOP senator: Leaking Trump’s alleged Oval Office comments ‘undermines trust’ Dems quiz Trump HHS nominee on drug pricing MORE (R-La.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (R-Fla.) introduced a bill Wednesday to expedite approvals to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) in "small-scale" volumes.

Under the bill, applications to export up to 51.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to nearly any country would get Energy Department approval "without modification or delay."

Currently, all natural gas exports from the contiguous United States must be extensively reviewed and certified by the Energy Department as being in the "public interest" before they can proceed.

"This bill promotes the growth of American natural gas, creating well-paying jobs with good benefits for hardworking families in Louisiana," Cassidy said in a statement.

"The faster approval of small-scale natural gas shipments will create American jobs, improve Caribbean energy security and lower greenhouse gas emissions," he continued.

"Expedited approval of small-scale natural gas exports would strengthen an emerging sector of Florida's economy," said Rubio.

Read more here.


ON TAP THURSDAY: The Senate is planning a "vote-a-rama" on its proposed budget resolution, a marathon series of votes in which the upper chamber could vote on non-binding amendments on any number of subjects.

Democrats have said that they plan to put forth an amendment to strip out language in the budget that could pave the way for an easy vote to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Previous budget vote-a-ramas have seen votes on topics like climate change and environmental regulations. None of those amendments have been announced yet, but they're still possible.


Join us Wednesday, Oct. 25 as The Hill goes one-on-one with Dr. Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonTrump must pair more respectful rhetoric with positive policies Trump honors MLK amid firestorm over racially charged remarks Reporter asks Trump 'Are you a racist?' after MLK event MORE, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for a Newsmaker Series exclusive. We will discuss his agency's relief efforts in hurricane-affected areas, his priorities for the department and the growing need for affordable housing. RSVP Here



Deforestation in the Amazon fell by 16 percent in the year leading up to July 2017, the Brazilian government said, according to BBC News.

New Mexico officials have agreed to rewrite proposed science education standards that had caused anuproar by omitting information such as global warming and evolution, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

California's recent spate of wildfires has taken a significant hit on some major marijuana farms, the Associated Press reports.



Check out Wednesday's stories...

-Dem senator slams Trump EPA nominee for starting work before confirmation

-Dem senator puts holds on two EPA nominees

-Senate bill would fast-track 'small-scale' natural gas exports

-Controversial EPA nominee already working for agency

-Trump claims: My admin has done more in 9 months than any president ever


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