Overnight Regulation: EPA removes 7 sites from Superfund list | FTC approves settlement with Lenovo over privacy charges | Trump takes credit for air travel safety record | Coal mining deaths double in 2017

Overnight Regulation: EPA removes 7 sites from Superfund list | FTC approves settlement with Lenovo over privacy charges | Trump takes credit for air travel safety record | Coal mining deaths double in 2017
© Getty Images

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Tuesday night, and hey, Happy New Year, everyone!

The 2018 midterm news started off big today with the longest-serving GOP senator in U.S. history, Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKoch groups: Don't renew expired tax breaks in government funding bill Hatch tweets link to 'invisible' glasses after getting spotted removing pair that wasn't there DHS giving ‘active defense’ cyber tools to private sector, secretary says MORE (R-Utah), announcing plans to retire. And in the House, a fourth term-limited chairman, Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterIssa retiring from Congress House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire This week: Clock ticks toward shutdown deadline MORE (R-Pa.), announced he won't seek re-election. Shuster leads the House Transportation Committee.

 

THE BIG STORY:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partially or completely removed seven sites from its Superfund list last year.

The Superfund is part of a federal program which helps to clean up land that has been polluted with hazardous waste. The deletions of sites in 2017 -- four partial and three complete -- mean that the EPA judged those sites sufficiently cleaned up from past pollution.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is touting the deletions as a victory in his mission to chip away at the 1,300 or so sites for which the agency is overseeing cleanups.

"We have made it a priority to get these sites cleaned up faster and in the right way," Pruitt said in a Tuesday statement.

Background: Deletion from the Superfund list requires agreement both by the EPA and the state that a cleanup is complete, a public comment period before deletion and approval from EPA headquarters in Washington.

Some former Superfund sites can be reused for new development, which is a goal of the program and an emphasis of Pruitt's efforts.

Timothy Cama has the story.

 

REGULATORY ROUNDUP:

Tech: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday approved a settlement with computer manufacturer Lenovo over charges it violated user privacy with software that came preloaded on its computers.

The commission voted 2-0 to approve the settlement it reached in September with the company.

"Lenovo compromised consumers' privacy when it preloaded software that could access consumers' sensitive information without adequate notice or consent to its use," acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen said in a statement at the time. "This conduct is even more serious because the software compromised online security protections that consumers rely on."

Background: Between August 2014 and February 2015, Lenovo laptops came preloaded with software called VisualDiscovery, a program developed by the now-defunct advertising company Superfish. The FTC found that VisualDiscovery delivered pop-up ads from its retail partners to consumers while accessing their sensitive personal information, like Social Security numbers and financial data.

Harper Neidig reports.

 

Transportation: President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE took credit for the safest year on record in commercial aviation.  

"Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!" Trump tweeted Tuesday.

The president did not detail what steps he took to improve airline safety. His highest-profile initiative -- privatizing air-traffic control -- stalled in Congress.

Jordan Fabian has the story.  

More on the record safety year... Zero deaths were reported for passenger jet travel in 2017, making it the safest year on record for commercial aviation, according to the Dutch aviation group To70 and the Aviation Safety Network.

Reports released from the two groups on Monday said that there were no deaths aboard commercial passenger jet airplanes in 2017.

"2017 was the safest year for aviation ever," said To70's Adrian Young.

The last fatal commercial jet crash in the U.S. occurred in 2009, when a passenger jet crashed in Clarence Center, N.Y., killing 50 people. The last fatal commercial jet crash worldwide occurred in Medellin, Colombia, in November 2016 and killed 71 people.

More from The Hill's John Bowden.

 

Environment: Delaware's state government is threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not approving four requests to crack down on out-of-state air pollution.

The state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says that four specific coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are contributing to ozone pollution in Delaware and that the EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act to force them to control their pollution better.

"The Clean Air Act entitles Delaware to relief from upwind pollution and the remedy we are seeking is reasonable and within EPA's authority and responsibility to grant," Gov. John Carney (D) said in a statement.

Delaware officials filed four petitions with the EPA in 2016 -- one for each power plant -- asking the agency to take action under the "good neighbor" provision of the Clean Air Act.

The EPA extended its deadlines to respond to the petitions by six months, but did not decide whether to grant or deny them.

More from Timothy Cama here.

 

Energy: Workplace deaths in the coal mining industry doubled in 2017, increasing to their highest point in three years.

A total of 15 miners died on the job in 2017, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) data show, compared with eight in 2016.

That year saw the fewest mining deaths since records began.

West Virginia saw the bulk of the 2017 miner deaths, with eight.

The Senate last month approved David Zatezalo, a former coal mining executive, to lead MSHA, the main agency responsible for coal mine safety.

Timothy brings you the story.

 

Tech: The European Union's antitrust watchdog said in an interview published Tuesday that her office plans to scrutinize how corporations control large amounts of data.

Margrethe Vestager, Europe's competition commissioner, told The Wall Street Journal that she is concerned with how large companies can use their access to mass datasets of consumers to hurt potential competitors.

"In some areas, these data are extremely valuable," Vestager said in an interview with the Journal. "They can foreclose the market -- they can give the parties that have them immense business opportunities that are not available to others."

Harper reports.

 

Tech: Germany will fine social media firms that don't remove hateful content.

Germany has begun enforcing a new law that mandates that social media firms must swiftly remove hate speech, hoax stories and illegal content from their platforms. If not, they will face a fine.

Social media firms with at least 2 million users will have 24 hours to remove material that has been flagged to them and could see fines up to 50 million euros if they don't.

The law, known as NetzDG in Germany, was created to target large sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, according to the BBC, but will also affect platforms like Reddit, Tumblr and potentially others.

Read Ali Breland's piece here.

 

And the new year brings new (or renewed) fights. Here's what we're watching:

Finance: Republicans have made limited progress on President Trump's pledge to "dismantle" the Dodd-Frank Act, which the GOP had hoped to gut by the end of 2017. But the GOP and independent regulators could still make critical changes to key parts of the law's legacy.

With a conservative new director for the consumer protection bureau, bipartisan interest in amending parts of Dodd-Frank and the GOP focused on pulling back a few key rules, read up on the five ways finance laws could change in 2018.

 

Technology: Technology firms are facing tough regulatory fights in the coming year after a turbulent 2017.

Emerging technologies, such as self-driving cars and digital currencies, are at a crossroads with new scrutiny and growing calls for tougher rules.

The fight over net neutrality is now headed to the courts after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era internet rules. In another high-profile legal fight, the federal government is fighting to block the megamerger between AT&T and Time Warner.

With the midterms looming, lawmakers are also looking at ways to prevent a repeat of Russia's 2016 election interference.

Read up on the five regulatory fights the tech world will be watching closely in the coming year.

 

IN OTHER NEWS

Proposed changes to offshore drilling rules raise safety questions (The Wall Street Journal)

What to watch on the fiduciary front in 2018 (The Wall Street Journal)

The Trump effect: Business, anticipating less regulation, loosens purse strings (The New York Times)

FDA issues recall on Johnson & Johnson heart device (Reuters)

US drug approvals hit 21-year high in 2017 (Reuters)

 

Send tips, comments and your 2018 predictions on over to rroubein@thehill.com and follow me on Twitter @rachel_roubein.