Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Watchdog dings Trump EPA for how it changed rule 

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, September 14, 2020.

A government watchdog is criticizing how the EPA went about changing a rule related to “forever chemicals.” Meanwhile, the Biden administration is announcing efficiency assistance for low-income households and claiming credit for falling gasoline prices.  

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 

IG: Trump EPA failed to disclose PFAS rule changes 

During the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to inform the public of “substantive” changes it made to a rule governing uses of toxic chemicals, an internal watchdog said.  

  • The Biden administration has said that one of those changes weakened the rule, which is related to the use of a group of chemicals known as PFAS.
  • The EPA made the changes to the rule after it was signed by then-Administrator Andrew Wheeler in 2020 but did not inform the public, the inspector general’s office said.  

The rule in question bars the manufacturing of goods such as carpet, textiles and appliances that contain a subset of PFAS known as long-chain PFAS without the EPA’s approval.  

A PFAS refresher: Exposure to PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been linked to health issues including kidney and testicular cancer as well as thyroid disease. They’re sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they linger in people and the environment.  

In its report issued Thursday, the inspector general’s office said that changes were made to the rule after the rule was approved, including removal of language clarifying which imported items were considered coated with the substances.  

Wheeler later issued a compliance guidance on that matter, but current Administrator Michael Regan withdrew it, saying it weakened the rule. 

EPA staff told the watchdog that the changes in question were made by someone in the Trump White House, but the report said that staff did not identify the person.  

The probe was requested by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), who warned of “potential irregularities” during the rule’s finalization. 

Read more about the IG report here.  

DOE funds climate upgrades for low-income homes

The Biden administration on Friday announced more than $40 million in funds toward weatherization and electrification of low-income areas.  

“This investment addresses a critical gap in federal assistance, and it’s just the latest action this administration is taking the lower energy costs for working families,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on a call with reporters Friday.   

The bipartisan infrastructure law, which President Biden signed in November 2021, included $3.5 billion toward the department’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which Granholm described as an increase of more than 10 times what the program typically spends over the course of a year. 

  • The additional funds, she added, will allow some 450,000 households to afford upgrades to their homes that result in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in collective savings.
  • The funding includes $36.5 million to go towards community organizations through the department’s Enhancement and Innovation Program and another $5.1 million toward state weatherization agencies.  

Read more here.  

BIDEN CLAIMS CREDIT FOR GAS PRICE DROP 

President Biden on Friday claimed some credit for a decline in gasoline prices, though presidential policies typically have little influence on the matter.  

  • “Gas prices, still way too high, have fallen now 25 days in a row, and this week we saw the second-largest single-day decrease in gas prices in a decade,” Biden said Friday according to a transcript of his remarks.  
  • “There’s a lot more work to do.  But I am suggesting we’re making progress.  The program is working,” he added.  

On Friday, gasoline prices stood around $4.72 cents per gallon, down nearly 30 cents from highs of $5.01 last month. But, that’s still considered relatively high. 

Experts told The Hill this week that the downward trend was related to reasons including a drop in oil prices and recession fears.  

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre doubled down, saying  “all the work the president has done has helped to blunt the price increase.” 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

    Wednesday 

  • Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify on the department’s budget 
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on energy prices 
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on three bills related to pollution 
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on nuclear waste cleanup that features Energy Department officials. 
  • The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on forestry in the farm bill 

    Friday 

  • President Biden is expected to begin his trip to Saudi Arabia — a major oil producer – amid high gasoline prices 
  • The House Select Climate Crisis Committee will hold a hearing on the food supply chain 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • The federal office focused on health impacts of climate crisis has no permanent staff or funding (CNN
  • Top U.S. LNG producer Cheniere asks Biden admin to drop pollution rule (Reuters
  • Wildfire in Yosemite National Park grows (The Fresno Bee
  • Bumble Bee Canned Smoked Clams Recalled Because of Dangerous PFAS Chemicals (Consumer Reports
  • Maine requires larger communities to step up fight against stormwater pollution (Portland Press-Herald

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week.  

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