Overnight Energy: Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices | EPA: 11,000 facilities illegally discharged pollutants into nearby waters in 2018 | Warren presses Army Corps of Engineers nominee on Dakota Access Pipeline​​

Overnight Energy: Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices | EPA: 11,000 facilities illegally discharged pollutants into nearby waters in 2018 | Warren presses Army Corps of Engineers nominee on Dakota Access Pipeline​​
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HAPPY TUESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day’s energy and environment news. 

Please send tips and comments to Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com . Follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin . Reach Zack Budryk at zbudryk@thehill.com or follow him at @BudrykZack

Today we’re looking at how Democrats are looking to parry GOP hits on gas prices, a GAO report’s insights on water pollution and  Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia Warren-backed amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to defense bill MORE asking a Biden nominee about the Dakota Access Pipeline 

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STEP ON THE GAS: Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices

Democrats are looking to counter GOP attacks on rising gas prices by talking up job gains and wage growth heading into a crucial midterm election year where both the House and Senate are up for grabs.

Republicans are hammering Democrats over higher prices at the pump, where a gallon of gas averaged nearly $3.15 on Tuesday with projections of a steady increase as the summer progresses.

But Democrats are betting that people are better off now than they were earlier on in the pandemic and won’t hold gas prices against them as the economy recovers.

"I think the Democratic message ... is going to be: Look at how fast we're growing; look at the number of jobs that are available; look at how fast wages are growing; look at how much money we’ve pumped into the economy,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.

Democrats may need to start throwing those punches, and hope that they land, sooner rather than later. In recent weeks, Republicans have seized on gas prices as a way to criticize President BidenJoe BidenBiden authorizes up to 0M for Afghan refugees Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe MORE’s economic agenda.

Good to keep in mind: Analysts have said that Biden’s policies to date have had little effect on gas prices.

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Read more about how Democrats are looking to fight back on gas prices.

 

LARGE AND DISCHARGE: EPA: 11,000 facilities illegally discharged pollutants into nearby waters in 2018

Nearly 11,000 U.S. facilities discharged pollutants into local waters beyond the levels allowed under the law, the Environmental Protection Agency told a nonpartisan congressional watchdog.

In a report released Monday, the Government Accountability Office said that the EPA found that in 2018, close to 11,000 facilities with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits illegally dumped large amounts of pollutants into local waters. 

In comparison... As of fiscal 2020, some 335,000 facilities have active NPDES permits, 60,000 of which are required to monitor pollutant discharge.

The following year, the EPA announced it would prioritize reducing the number of NPDES-noncompliant facilities, an initiative set to last from fiscal 2020 through fiscal 2023.

But that’s not all: The GAO also pointed to the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA)'s lack of compliance measures, saying that while they track statistics of compliance, they do not properly track how it improves water quality. OECA does not currently have an outcomes-based measure that monitors improvements to water quality or reduction in pollutants discharged.

The EPA’s side of the story: In its explanation, the OECA said they at first estimated illegal pollutants discharged based on facilities engaged in “significant noncompliance.” However, they later reviewed the data and abandoned efforts to develop a pollution-reduction measure, focusing instead on improving underlying data, according to the report.

Read more about the findings here.

 

HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM DAPLS? Warren presses Army Corps of Engineers nominee on Dakota Access Pipeline

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she remains “very concerned” about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Army Corps of Engineers’ handling of tribal opposition to the project in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

During a hearing for Michael Connor, President Biden’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Warren described herself as “very concerned about the Dakota Access pipeline and what it reflects about the Army Corps of Engineers’ relationship with tribal nations.”

Warren went on to note the lawsuit against the pipeline by a tribal court against the Corps, as well as a federal court’s ruling that the Corps violated federal law by approving the pipeline without preparing an environmental impact statement.

“I am concerned that the pipeline continues to operate without an environmental review despite the legal requirements,” she said, asking Connor “will you commit to ensuring the Corps follows the law, and that this situation with the Dakota Access Pipeline is addressed as quickly as possible?”

His response: “The Corps will be following the law with respect to the directions of the court, and all other applicable laws and policy,” Connor replied. “Tribal consultation is not a check-the-box exercise, it’s got to be robust [and] meaningful and that means it’s got to be substantive in the interaction with tribes.”

Warren went on to press him on whether the Corps has “dragged its feet” on deciding whether to halt the pipeline under its enforcement authority, asking if he would commit to exploring a possible exercise of such powers. Connor replied in the affirmative, saying he would “promptly look into that issue” if confirmed.

Read more about their exchange here.

 

YOU SAY GOODBYE, AND I SAY HELLO: White House announces new head of climate assessment after ousting Trump-era pick

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The White House has announced that Allison Crimmins will lead a major government report on climate change after the Trump-era pick for the job was removed earlier this year. 

Crimmins, a climate scientist who spent almost a decade working at the Environmental Protection Agency, is now the director of the Fifth National Climate Assessment.

The assessment, which is expected to be released in 2023, is used to both inform government policy and provide the public with information about the changing climate. 

The backstory: Her appointment comes after the White House removed Betsy Weatherhead, a mainstream scientist who reportedly had tension with other officials, from the position in April. 

Read more about Crimmins’s appointment here.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

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  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on the nominations of Jane Nishida, who would lead international and tribal affairs at the EPA; Jeffrey Prieto, who would be the EPA’s top lawyer and Alejandra Castillo, who would be assistant secretary for  economic development at the Commerce Department. 
  • The EPW Committee will also hold a hearing on the nomination of  Michael Connor, who would be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, overseeing the Army Corps of Engineers’s civil works program
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a business meeting on its energy infrastructure legislation

 

WHAT WE’RE READING:

US drilling approvals increase despite Biden climate pledge, The Associated Press reports

Shipping industry seeks to combat dark oil transfers at sea, Reuters reports

Exxon Lobbyists Paid The 6 Democrats Named In Sting Video Nearly $333,000, HuffPost reports

Climate Change Has Made South Florida A More 'Hostile' Environment. Did It Factor Into The Surfside Condo Collapse?, WLRN reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

Warren presses Army Corps of Engineers nominee on Dakota Access Pipeline

EPA: 11,000 facilities illegally discharged pollutants into nearby waters in 2018

Miles of California beaches closed after 17M gallons of sewage spills

White House announces new head of climate assessment after ousting Trump-era pick

Justice Department files civil complaint against shuttered oil refinery

Chicago-area mayors plan 80 percent cut in emissions by 2050

Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices

 

OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: Look at those fish fly