Overnight Regulation: USDA delays healthy school lunch requirements | Senate panel advances controversial environmental pick | Drone industry pushes to ease rules | Dem commish joins energy regulator

Overnight Regulation: USDA delays healthy school lunch requirements | Senate panel advances controversial environmental pick | Drone industry pushes to ease rules | Dem commish joins energy regulator
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Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Wednesday night in Washington, and the Senate has just voted to begin debate on the GOP tax bill ahead of an expected vote-a-rama on amendments Thursday.

 

THE BIG STORY

The Trump administration is delaying Obama-era requirements aimed at making school meals healthier for kids.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an interim final rule Wednesday allowing schools to serve flavored one-percent milk and get a state exemption to serve grains that are not whole-grain rich through the 2018-2019 school year.

Schools under the rule also get out of having to further reduce sodium levels in breakfasts and lunches next year.

USDA says it's working to give schools more flexibility to serve nutritious and appealing meals.

Under the Obama-era requirements, backed by former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMeghan McCain tears into Maxine Waters for urging protests against Trump officials Michelle Obama says upcoming memoir shares the 'ordinariness of a very extraordinary story' Colbert: Melania Trump’s jacket was ‘one message she did not steal from Michelle Obama’ MORE, schools were expected to gradually reduce sodium in school meals.

What did the rule require? The rule required schools to reduce sodium levels to 935 milligrams in elementary schools; 1,035 mg in middle schools; and 1,080 mg in high schools per week starting July 1, 2017.

What's the current policy? Sodium levels in school lunches must average less than 1,230 milligrams in elementary schools; 1,360 mg in middle schools; and 1,420 mg in high schools per week. USDA said it intends to retain the current levels through the 2020-2021 school year.

Lydia Wheeler has the rest of the story here.

 

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY

A House Appropriations Subcommittee holds an oversight hearing for the Interior Department.

The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities and Investments holds a hearing on cybersecurity for national securities exchanges.

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Another House Financial Services Subcommittee holds a hearing on the "effectiveness of U.S. sanctions programs."

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health gets an update from the heads of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration on implementing the 21st Century Cures Act.

A House Natural Resources subcommittee will hold a hearing on four bills, including measures to better protect the public from landslides and one to promote geothermal exploration.

Another House Natural Resources subcommittee holds a hearing on a bill to streamline how the Bureau of Reclamation handles water projects.

The full House Natural Resources Committee will mark up energy and land bills.

A House Judiciary Subcommittee holds a hearing on "the role and impact of nationwide injunctions by district courts."

 

LISTEN TO THE HILL'S NEW PODCASTS!

In today's Hillcast PM View, the daily evening update on what went down in Washington: Trump's latest tweets panic Washington and cause a stir in the media; Alabama Senate hopeful Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreGeorge Will says Trump doesn’t inspire ‘cult’ in GOP: ‘This is fear’ RNC mum on whether it will support Trump-backed Corey Stewart Loyalty to Donald Trump is new normal for the Republican Party MORE seems to be making a comeback; and the new threat from North Korea is leaving the U.S. with few good options. Host Niv Elis talks to The Hill's Jonathan Easley, Ben Kamisar, and Rebecca Kheel about what happened today. Listen here.

Subscribe here to all of The Hill's new podcasts: Apple Podcasts | Soundcloud | Stitcher | Google Play | TuneIn

 

REGULATORY ROUNDUP

Environment: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday advanced one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Fallon responds to Trump: I'll donate to pro-immigrant nonprofit in his name South Carolina GOP candidate expected to make full recovery after car accident Official: US to present North Korea with timeline, 'specific asks' MORE's environmental nominees who has been criticized for her disbelief in the science behind climate change and other issues.

Senators voted 11-10 to send the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to serve on the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) to the Senate floor. Members also advanced Andrew Wheeler, Trump's nominee to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on another party-line vote.

Hartnett White is a think tank official and former Texas environmental regulator with a reputation as a climate change skeptic who dismisses the science behind the influence of carbon emissions and other pollutants on the Earth's warming trend.

Few Republicans spoke in favor of her, but none of them voted against her.

Devin Henry has the story here.

 

Energy: The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station has obtained the approval it needs to stay open through 2019.

The Salt River Project, an Arizona utility that partially owns the plant and is negotiating on behalf of the other owners, announced Wednesday that the federal Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs had completed their environmental review of the lease extension.

The plant's owners, which include the bureau, lease the plant's land from the Navajo Nation. They had originally planned to close it this year, but the Trump administration and the Navajo Nation pushed for a renewal, and the other utilities involved agreed to it.

Read Timothy Cama's story for more.

 

Technology: The public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality docket are rife with duplicate messages and fake identities, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The organization found that of the 21.7 million comments submitted to the FCC on the Obama-era rules this year, just 6 percent were unique. The other 94 percent were duplicate comments. And in some cases thousands of identical messages were submitted simultaneously, suggesting campaigns used "bots" to influence the agency's public record.

The study also found that 57 percent of the comments were submitted by users with duplicate or temporary email addresses, making it difficult to determine their authenticity in many cases.

Harper Neidig has the story here.

 

Health care:  Alex Azar, President Trump's nominee to lead the Health and Human Services Department took his first step forward Wednesday at a relatively quiet confirmation hearing before the Senate Health Committee.

If confirmed, the former HHS general counsel and deputy secretary would replace former Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceHere’s how Trump’s tax law is raising health insurance premiums Press: Drain the swamp – of Scott Pruitt States must hold Trump to his word on working with them to solve ObamaCare MORE (R-Ga.), who resigned after reports that he'd repeatedly used private jets to fly around the country at taxpayer expense.

He's likely to be confirmed.

During the hearing, Azar said the administration is not sabotaging ObamaCare and said he supports rolling back birth control requirements.

Rachel Roubein has more takeaways here.

 

Environment: A preliminary investigation has found that the 210,000-gallon oil spill last week from the Keystone pipeline was caused by damage sustained when the line was constructed in 2008.

The Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) outlined its initial conclusion in an order released late Tuesday that allowed TransCanada Corp. to return the line to operation nearly two weeks after the South Dakota leak was reported, but under lower pressure, among other conditions.

"The rupture has characteristics of mechanical damage from original construction. Preliminary information indicates the failure may have been caused by mechanical damage to the pipeline and coating associated with a weight installed on the pipeline in 2008," Alan Mayberry, PHMSA's associate administrator for pipeline safety, wrote in the order.

Timothy Cama has the full report here.

 

Courts: Members of the Supreme Court appeared troubled Wednesday that police can search cellphone location histories without a warrant, but struggled with where the line should be drawn on privacy in the digital age.

The case, Carpenter v. U.S., centers on Timothy Carpenter, who is appealing his conviction for a string of armed robberies of Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Ohio and Michigan in 2010 and 2011.

Carpenter says the FBI violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure by obtaining a history of his cellphone location data without a warrant from his wireless carriers, MetroPCS and Sprint. The government then used that information at trial to convict him.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said most Americans want to avoid a situation where the government can peer into every aspect of their lives, including their whereabouts. She asked whether the government really believes that police should be able to search location history without probable cause.

Lydia Wheeler has the full rundown from the Supreme Court here.

 

Energy: Democrat Richard Glick formally joined the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Wednesday, bringing the board one step closer to being fully staffed.

The Senate confirmed Glick and Republican Kevin McIntyreKevin J. McIntyreLots of conservatives hate Trump’s coal and nuclear bailout — that’s a big political problem Overnight Energy: White House 'looking into' reports Pruitt sought used Trump Hotel mattress | Fund for black lung victims at risk | Park Service wants to move office out of San Francisco Overnight Energy: Trump directs Perry to stop coal plant closures | EPA spent ,560 on customized pens | EPA viewed postcard to Pruitt as a threat MORE to FERC on Nov. 2, though neither were sworn in to the panel until Glick was formally added on Wednesday.

McIntyre, Trump's pick to lead the commission, has yet to join FERC, though acting Chairman Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeOvernight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Journalists take a trip down the rabbit hole at CNN's 'Alice in Wonderland'-themed brunch Regulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage MORE said Tuesday that it's "simply a matter of timing, prioritization, getting documents signed" before McIntyre is sworn in.

Devin Henry has the story here.

 

Environment: President Trump's nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday he will leave his family-run weather forecasting company if he is confirmed to the post.

Barry Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee he and his wife will "resign from every company, board and organization that could be conflict with my new role" and "sell all of our ownership interests, shares and options in AccuWeather" if he is confirmed to lead NOAA.

Critics of Myers have warned that, if confirmed as NOAA chief, he could hurt the National Weather Service, a NOAA agency that serves as competition for private weather forecasting companies such as AccuWeather.

Devin Henry has more here.

 

Transportation: The drone industry pleaded with Congress on Wednesday to ease restrictions on flight operations, warning that the U.S. is falling behind to other countries that are using the emerging technology in innovative ways.

The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) has exploded in recent years, with drones being deployed to monitor crops, fight wildfires, inspect infrastructure and assist with first response and hurricane recovery efforts.

But even though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized the first-ever rule allowing small commercial drone use last year, there are still strict limits on the types of operations that are allowed, including restrictions on flights over people, nighttime operations and flying beyond the visual line of sight.

Read Melanie Zanona's full report here

 

Technology: AT&T is pushing back on the Department of Justice's (DOJ) arguments against its proposed merger with Time Warner.

In its formal response to the DOJ on Tuesday, the company said that, because the television industry has changed with the rise of platforms like Netflix and Hulu, the merger deal is actually "a pro-competitive, pro-consumer response to an intensely competitive and rapidly changing video marketplace."

DOJ has said it fears that after the merger AT&T could use its leverage in owning both Time Warner and DirecTV to withhold programming from other distributors. Time Warner currently owns several prominent networks like CNN, TBS and TNT.

Ali Breland has the story here.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS:

Philly-area lawmakers question changes at EPA, Department of Energy (WHYY)

Wells Fargo is dubbed a repeat offender and faces new wrath from its regulator (The Wall Street Journal)

Uber breach compromised data of 2.7 million British accounts: U.K. regulator (Washington Times)

AT&T hinted at First Amendment issues in saying it's not willing to sell CNN to acquire Time Warner (Recode)