Overnight Regulation: Dems demand EPA chief recuse himself on climate rule | FDA pushed to reject alternative cigarette health claims | Senate panel advances pick for No. 2 official at EPA

Overnight Regulation: Dems demand EPA chief recuse himself on climate rule | FDA pushed to reject alternative cigarette health claims | Senate panel advances pick for No. 2 official at EPA
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Tuesday night in Washington, and senators have announced a two-year budget deal. But on Capitol Hill, it's hard to get everyone to agree, and GOP fiscal hawks are already revolting against the bipartisan deal.

 

THE BIG STORY

Four Democratic senators are demanding the EPA chief recuse himself on the Obama climate rule.

They've called on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule MORE to recuse himself from overseeing any rulemaking regarding the repeal of the Obama-era rule on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, because of his "closed mind."

In a formal comment submitted Wednesday to the docket for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report GAO to look into Trump's reduction of carbon social costs Overnight Energy: Pruitt used security detail to run errands | Dems want probe into Pruitt's Chick-fil-A dealings | Yellowstone superintendent says he was forced out MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems call for Judiciary hearing on Trump's 'zero tolerance' GOP lawmaker compares cages for migrant children to chain-link fences on playgrounds Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Ore.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator: 'Stop pretending' law banning separation of migrant families is hard to pass Hillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Dems question FCC's claim of cyberattack during net neutrality comment period MORE (D-Hawaii) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Dems press EPA nominees on ethics, climate Lawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars MORE (D-Mass.) wrote that Pruitt was unfit to oversee the repeal of CPP because of his history of lawsuits against the plan and the Obama administration when Pruitt was attorney general of Oklahoma.

"The evidence for Pruitt's inalterably closed mind on CPP rulemaking is overwhelming," the senators wrote.

"It falls into three categories: (1) his deep and wide financial ties to the fossil fuel industry which is ferociously opposed to the CPP; (2) his status as a previous petitioner suing the EPA to block the CPP; and (3) his numerous statements denouncing the CPP, questioning the ability to regulate carbon emissions under the [Clean Air Act] as the CPP proposes to do, and casting doubt on climate science."

The four argued that the law makes clear that when an administrator is proven to have bias he should be recused.

Read more from Miranda Green here.

 

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee holds a hearing on the impact of the opioid crisis on children and families.

The Senate Judiciary Committee takes up bipartisan legislation to reform sentencing laws.

The Senate Banking Committee considers a number of nominees, including Jelena McWilliams to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Marvin Goodfriend to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and Thomas Workman to be a member of the Financial Stability Oversight Council. 

 

REG ROUNDUP

Environment: A Senate committee voted Wednesday to advance President Trump's nominee to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The 11-10 vote in the Environment and Public Works Committee, along party lines, sets up former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler for a potential vote in the full Senate once GOP leaders schedule it.

The committee voted in November to confirm Wheeler. But Democrats objected to the GOP's attempt to carry over Wheeler's nomination at the end of the year, instead sending it back to Trump, who re-nominated him.

Republicans said Wheeler is a highly qualified choice to be EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's No. 2 and help him implement Trump's aggressive environmental deregulatory agenda.

But Democrats said they hadn't gotten sufficient assurances that Wheeler would act independently from his former industry clients as a coal lobbyist.

Timothy Cama reports.

 

Health care: Senate Democrats are pushing the FDA to reject alternative cigarette health claims.

They're urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reject an application from Big Tobacco to market a new "heat not burn" cigarette as less risky.

Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Ill.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter Wednesday signed by eight other Democrats asking FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to deny Philip Morris International's modified risk application for its new IQOS product, given the recent mixed findings from an FDA advisory board.

The majority of the FDA's Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee panel said last month the company had not proven its product reduced the risk of tobacco-related diseases or that switching to the product presents less of a risk than continuing to smoke cigarettes.

But the board unanimously agreed that switching from cigarettes to the IQOS system, which the company says heats tobacco enough to produce a vapor but doesn't burn the tobacco, significantly reduces a person's exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.

Lydia Wheeler has the story.

 

Cybersecurity: The Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against 36 individuals as part of a takedown of a massive online cyber crime ring that trafficked in stolen personal and financial information.

The alleged co-conspirators participated in an international cyber crime ring called Infraud, which facilitated the sale of stolen identities, credit card data, financial information, Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information through an online discussion forum. The operation was also used to sell and purchase malware.

Officials said that 13 of the defendants have already been arrested, including five Americans.

Officials estimate that the operation netted $530 million in illicit profits from financial institutions, consumers and other victims throughout the world over a seven-year period.   

Read the rest from Morgan Chalfant.

 

Environment: The head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday questioned whether global warming is harmful to humans and suggested a warm climate could be beneficial.

"We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what? Warming trends. So I think there's assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing," Administrator Scott Pruitt told KSNV News 3 Las Vegas, disputing whether climate change is an "existential threat."

"Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 in the year 2018?" he continued. "I mean, that's somewhat fairly arrogant, for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100."

Luis Sanchez reports.

 

More environment: The United States's solar power industry lost 3.8 percent of its jobs, or about 9,800 workers, in 2017, an industry report found.

The Solar Foundation said that while the industry saw record-setting growth in 2016 and previous years, activity slowed last year due to factors including policy challenges in some states and uncertainty over Trump administration tariffs on imported solar panels, which were announced in January.

But the long-term job trajectory is still very positive for solar, the group said. The domestic industry had a total of 250,271 employees last year, a 168-percent increase from 2010.

And more from Tim.

 

Energy: Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) warned Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate panel sets Pruitt hearing | Colorado joins California with tougher emissions rules | Court sides with Trump on coal leasing program Interior 'disappointed' by billboards protesting uranium drilling in Grand Canyon Court rejects greens’ climate case against federal coal mining MORE that he will sue the Trump administration if the state isn't removed from a plan to expand offshore drilling.

Ferguson in a letter sent to Zinke on Monday demanded that Washington be exempt from the plan to expand oil and gas drilling off the U.S., including off the state's coast.

The attorney general argued that the plan would damage the state's economy, including the fishing and shipping industries, and that it could hurt ecosystems on Washington's coast.

Jacqueline Thomsen has the story here.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGE

Beware of the bank deregulation Trojan horse

 

IN OTHER NEWS

Apple's bid for data-rich Shazam is drawing scrutiny in Europe -- The Wall Street Journal

Seven states team up on fintech licenses -- The Wall Street Journal

Winklevoss twins say increased regulation is bullish for bitcoin -- Bloomberg

Wells Fargo downgraded by S&P in wake of new fed asset limit -- Bloomberg

European Central Bank: Regulating cryptocurrencies not 'very high on our to-do list' -- CNBC

FEC commissioner who blocked regulation of Drudge, internet steps down -- The Washington Examiner

Ex-State Street exec faces new fraud charge -- Reuters

FDA approves Gilead's three-drug HIV regimen -- Reuters