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Overnight Energy: EPA chief takes aim at Obama's environmental record

Overnight Energy: EPA chief takes aim at Obama's environmental record
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PRUITT TAKES ON OBAMA: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt slammed former President Obama's environmental record on Thursday, saying he fell victim to "poor leadership" and "poor focus."

Pruitt, appearing on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt's show, said the Obama administration's policies led to bad air quality, more Superfund cleanup program site projects and water pollution crises.

"The past administration is viewed as the environmental savior. But when you look at air attainment in this country, we're at 40 percent non-attainment right now on ozone," he said, referencing areas of the country that have failed to reduce ozone pollution levels.

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"Superfund sites, we have more today than when President Obama came into office. Water infrastructure, you had Flint and you had Gold King. And ... the regulations that they issued on carbon, they failed twice. They struck out twice," Pruitt said.

The EPA, under Obama, took blame for some failures in the Flint, Mich. water crisis -- which was driven by failed state policies -- and at the Gold King mine site in Colorado, where an EPA team released toxic waste into a local river.

High ozone-non-attainment levels are the result of the Obama EPA's decision to tighten federal rules on ozone. His administration said that proposal is good for public health, and the EPA under Pruitt is considering reversing that decision.

Pruitt's criticism of Obama's environmental record comes as he faces backlash to his own policies, including Trump administration efforts to reverse Obama-era climate change and water quality regulations and proposed budget cuts that greens say would hamstring the agency's regulatory powers.

Read more here.

WORKERS FILL HOLE AT HANFORD NUCLEAR SITE: Workers at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington have filled a 400-square-foot hole that developed in one of the facility's tunnels this week.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday that "the system worked as it should and all are safe" at Hanford, where the roof of a tunnel filled with radioactive waste collapsed on Tuesday.

"This was accomplished swiftly and safely to help prevent any further complications," Perry said in a statement Thursday. "Our next step is to identify and implement longer-term measures to further reduce risks."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Wednesday said his state would issue an order requiring the federal government to figure out what caused Tuesday's tunnel collapse, which happened near Hanford's uranium extraction plant.

Read more here.

PENCE TO MONTANA COAL MINE: Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceThe Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Pelosi says GOP downplaying Capitol riot 'sick' and 'beyond denial' What's a party caucus chair worth? MORE will campaign for Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte on Friday, on a trip that will also see him venture into one of the state's coal mines.

Pence will meet with business leaders and officials from the Crow Nation Tribe while in the state, and he will also tour Westmoreland Coal Company's mine with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

But the headlines of Pence's trip will come from his campaign stop with Gianforte, who will face off against Democrat Rob Quist in a special election to fill Zinke's vacated House seat on May 25.

Read more here.

WASHINGTON AG VOWS TO PROTECT MONUMENTS: Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) is vowing legal action against the Trump administration if the president tries to rescind national monuments within his state's borders.

Ferguson, who grabbed national headlines by challenging Trump's travel ban in court earlier this year, sent a letter to Zinke saying that the administration has no authority to undo or reduce the size of monument designations.

"Let me be clear: If the President seeks to do harm to Washington's national monuments by eliminating or reducing them, my office will initiate litigation to defend them," Ferguson wrote in his Thursday letter.

The Interior Department started accepting comments on Zinke's review of dozens of national monument designations going back two decades, including the Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington.

The San Juan Islands National Monument, designated in 2013, was not on Zinke's review list, but he could choose to review it if he wishes.

AROUND THE WEB:

Finland, the country taking over the Arctic Council chairmanship from the United States, is worried about rising climate denialism in the U.S. and Russia, The Guardian reports.

Tesla is taking deposits for its solar roof product, at a price point lower than analysts expected, NPR reports.

Supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy have built a fake jail cell outside the Nevada jail where he and defendants are awaiting trial, the Associated Press reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories ...

-Maryland approves two offshore wind farms
-Judge approves $1.2B Volkswagen settlement
-Pence campaigns for Montana special election candidate
-EPA chief: Obama was no 'environmental savior'
-Workers repair hole in Washington nuclear site tunnel

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