Overnight Energy: Lawmakers closing in on chemical safety deal

NEAR THE FINISH LINE: Senate and House lawmakers said Thursday they're putting the finishing touches on a chemical safety bill, with or without Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.).

Senators from both parties told reporters that the final text of the negotiated deal to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) would be posted for House consideration within a day or so. They predicted that Congress could pass it by the end of next week.

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"We are on the cusp here of delivering an agreement, which is a major agreement, in terms of protecting the health and safety of American families," said Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart Udall Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog opens investigation into new secretary | Warren unveils 2020 plan to stop drilling on public lands | Justices reject case challenging state nuclear subsidies | Court orders EPA to re-evaluate Obama pollution rule Interior watchdog launches ethics probe into new secretary MORE (D-N.M.), who led talks for Democrats on TSCA reform since Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) died in 2013.

Lautenberg was an advocate for TSCA reform, and the final bill will be named after him.

"I, too, am really excited about this positive accomplishment," said Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom Line Bottom Line Top 5 races to watch in 2019 MORE (R-La.), who led the GOP side of the effort.

A spokesman for House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said he was on board with the deal, even though he wasn't at the Thursday event.

But Pallone and Tonko, the top Democrats on the House committee and subcommittee dealing with the issue still aren't on board. They publicly distanced themselves from the process earlier this week.

"The problem is that the Republicans have made this bill, from what I understand, that the draft that they're proposing, is weaker than the current law," Pallone said Wednesday. "So there wouldn't be any point in having it."

Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D-Calif.) spoke to Pallone's concerns Thursday about preempting state authority over chemicals and, without mentioning him by name, pushed him to rejoin the talks.

"I worked with Democratic members in the House as they attempted to negotiate the pre-emption provisions of this bill. I took that agreement as far as I could take it," she said. "And we have something we can live with."

Read more here.

MURKOWSKI VS. OBAMA ON ARCTIC DRILLING: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America On The Money — Presented by Job Creators Network — Cain expected to withdraw from Fed consideration, report says | Dem bill directs IRS to create free online filing service | Trump considered Ivanka for World Bank MORE (R-Alaska) on Thursday challenged a top Obama administration official to include Arctic Ocean drilling leases in their upcoming five-year drilling strategy.

During a hearing, Murkowski questioned whether the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is being objective in its assessment of three proposed Arctic lease sales in the drilling plan proposed earlier this year.

The question, she asked the head of the agency, is "whether you will treat that lack of local opposition and the overwhelming support of Alaskans in favor of development as a reason to maintain the three Alaska [Outer Continental Shelf] sales in the final program?"

Bureau Director Abigail Ross Hopper said it is too early to say whether those lease sales will stay in the final plan, which is Obama's chance to shape the American offshore drilling strategy well into his successor's term as president.

But Murkowski said she doubted the agency is reviewing that plan impartially, pointing to a recent bureau tweet with a picture of Hopper posing with anti-drilling activists.

"I looked at it and said, how do we conclude that the die has not already been cast and your agency has already decided what it is you're going to get done?" Murkowski said.

Read more here.  

NEW YORK A.G. VS. CONGRESS ON EXXON PROBE: New York's attorney general is dismissing a House GOP letter about his investigation into ExxonMobil Corp. as "ironic."

Members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee sent a letter to Eric Schneiderman this week requesting information related to his investigation into claims Exxon misled the public about its climate science research.

"The committee is concerned that these efforts to silence speech are based on political theater rather than legal or scientific arguments, and that they run counter to an attorney general's duty to serve 'as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens,'" the letter said.

Schneiderman's office slammed the request on Thursday, saying the letter's authors -- lawmakers including Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) -- "appear to be part of a multipronged media campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry aimed at suppressing the free exchange of ideas among scientists, academics and responsible law enforcement."

The Exxon probe has lead to a back-and-forth between liberal attorneys general and Republicans, who have said the investigation into the oil giant's climate science research is an infringement of the company's First Amendment rights.

Read more here.   

AROUND THE WEB:  

Minnesota pollution authorities are looking to shut down a Minneapolis metal shredder they say has violated state air quality laws, the Star Tribune reports.

Google mapping technology contributed to a new map of natural gas leaks in Dallas, the Dallas Morning News reports.

That edible six-pack ring in the video your friends are sharing on Facebook is, apparently, real. Discovery Magazine has more.  

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories...

-Feds fault pipeline company in California oil spill
-GOP chair pushes Obama official on Arctic drilling plan
-New York AG hits 'do-nothing Congress' for Exxon probe pushback
-Puerto Rico bill drops GOP's wildlife refuge transfer
-Lawmakers near compromise on chemical safety overhaul
-Coal war intensifies with Obama review

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill