Overnight Energy: Senate confirms top EPA air regulator | Feds to roll back emissions rule for big trucks | Defense bill mandates climate study

Overnight Energy: Senate confirms top EPA air regulator | Feds to roll back emissions rule for big trucks | Defense bill mandates climate study
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SENATE CONFIRMS WEHRUM: Senators on Thursday confirmed William Wehrum to head the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation, making him one of the most powerful officials in the agency.

Republicans see Wehrum -- a former agency official and fossil fuel industry lawyer -- as a strong lieutenant for EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating Overnight Energy: Watchdog probes Pruitt speech to mining group | EPA chief promises to let climate scientists present their work | Volkswagen manager gets 7 years for emissions cheating Scott Pruitt's year of environmental destruction MORE in the Trump administration's deregulatory push.

"Under the Obama administration, the air office was also one of the biggest regulatory abusers," Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoScalise: House, Senate ‘pretty close’ on tax bill Top GOP senator: House and Senate 'not that far apart' on tax bill Sunday shows preview: Republicans take victory lap on taxes MORE (R-Wyo.) said during floor debate. "Now Mr. Wehrum is going to play a key role in undoing this red tape. The American people need a qualified leader in the EPA Air office. Bill Wehrum is the right man for the job."

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But Democrats have vehemently opposed his nomination, noting his work on air rules during the George W. Bush administration that courts later deemed flimsy, and questioning the independence of a long-time energy industry lawyer.

"While he worked at the EPA during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Wehrum attempted to direct the agency's air requirements to favor markets, earning praise from industry groups he would later represent in private practice," Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' Dems put hold on McFarland nomination over contradictory testimony: report MORE (D-Md.) said.

"How can we ask Mr. Wehrum to objectively administer the Clean Air Act after a career spent on one side?"

The Senate confirmed him on a 49-47 vote. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine) was the only Republican to oppose Wehrum's nomination, and no Democrats voted to confirm him.

Read more here.

 

EPA TO ROLL BACK BIG TRUCK EMISSIONS RULE: The EPA on Thursday formally proposed rolling back a key piece of former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE's greenhouse gas rule for heavy trucks.

The proposal would remove so-called glider kits from a major regulation written last year that restricted emissions from heavy-duty trucks.

Glider kits are incomplete truck bodies that owners -- frequently small businesses or individual truck drivers -- can buy and install with older engines, transmissions and axles to form complete trucks.

The Trump administration argues that the Clean Air Act, which gave Obama the authority to write the emissions rule, does not allow glider kits to be regulated because they are not motor vehicles or engines.

"The previous administration attempted to bend the rule of law and expand the reach of the federal government in a way that threatened to put an entire industry of specialized truck manufacturers out of business," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

"Accordingly, the agency is taking comment on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act that recognizes the unique nature of a vehicle made up of both new and used component parts. Gliders not only provide a more affordable option for smaller owners and operators, but also serve as a key economic driver to numerous rural communities," he said.

Read more here.

 

DEFENSE BILL MANDATES CLIMATE CHANGE STUDY: A final defense policy bill released by congressional negotiators on Thursday calls for the Defense Department to conduct a study into the impacts of climate change on American military operations.

The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to submit to Congress "a report on the vulnerability to military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years."

The legislation text cites statements about the impact of climate change from Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former officials, and highlights the way climate change is already affecting Pentagon operations.

"Climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and is impacting stability in areas of the world both where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist," the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) says.

Read more here.

 

KEYSTONE DEVELOPER EXPECTS DEMAND FOR PIPELINE: The company hoping to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline is optimistic that it has enough demand from potential customers to make it economically viable.

TransCanada Corp. executives said Thursday the interest among oil companies in the Canada-to-Oklahoma line is similar to what it was in 2008, when it was first proposed.

"Overall, we expect support for the project to be substantially similar to that which existed when we first applied for the Keystone pipeline permit," TransCanada CEO Russ Girling told investors in a Thursday call. "To be clear, production of Canadian heavy oil continues to grow, and the need for new pipeline transportation capacity remains high."

TransCanada had an "open season" for Keystone XL that ended in October. During that time, it encouraged potential customers to express interest in shipping through the 830,000-barrel-per-day line.

The company obtained at least the 500,000-barrel-per-day interest that it judged to be the point necessary to build.

Read more here.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

China's coal country is struggling as the nation moves away from mining, NPR reports.

Construction on the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline resumed in Pennsylvania this week amid a courtroom battle over the line, LancasterOnline reports.

Environmental groups are appealing a court's dismissal of their lawsuit trying to get a mine and power plant near the Arizona-New Mexico board shut down, the Associated Press reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories ...

-Final defense policy bill mandates Pentagon climate change study

-Keystone XL builder optimistic on pipeline's customer demand

-EPA seeks to repeal part of Obama emissions rule for big trucks

-Senate confirms top air regulator at EPA

-Dem senator blasts Trump environmental nominee for rejecting 'basic science'

-Alaska senator proposes drilling in Arctic refuge

 

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