Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Interior halts study on offshore safety | Researchers sue over EPA advisory board rules | Regulator considers changes to gas pipeline policy


INTERIOR HITS PAUSE ON SAFETY STUDY: The Trump administration has paused its funding for a major study meant to improve how regulators enforce offshore oil and natural gas drilling safety.

The congressionally chartered National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said Thursday that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) sent a stop-work order for the study earlier this month.

The National Academies had already gathered a committee of researchers for the study and conducted a meeting on the matter in October.


“The National Academies are grateful to the committee members for their service and disappointed that their important study has been stopped,” it said in a statement.

BSEE spokesman Gregory Julian said the pause will allow the agency to evaluate whether the National Academies study is duplicating efforts already under way to improve its inspections.

“As BSEE moves forward with implementing a risk-based inspection program to strengthen and improve its existing inspection program, the NAS study was paused by BSEE to allow time to ensure that there are no duplicate efforts,” he said.

Read more here.


RESEARCHERS SUE TO STOP EPA’S ADVISOR POLICY: Researchers and public health groups are suing the Trump administration to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) policy blocking grant recipients from serving on advisory committees.

The litigants say the policy, unveiled in October by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, violates government ethics standards, the federal law governing advisory committees and laws that created the specific committees.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Washington, D.C., federal court by Earthjustice and Columbia University’s Environmental Law Clinic, on behalf of Physicians for Social Responsibility, National Hispanic Medical Association, the International Society for Children’s Health and Environment, Robyn Wilson, Joseph Árvai and Edward Avol.

“EPA’s effort to purge independent scientists from its advisory committees has harmful implications for the nation’s health,” Barbara Gottlieb, director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a statement.

“Losing top-flight academic researchers, and replacing them with industry-dependent voices, will undermine actions to protect us from toxic pollutants and life-threatening climate change. If EPA won’t abandon this harmful approach, we’re happy to take them to court,” she said.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox declined to comment, saying it’s the agency’s policy to avoid commenting on pending litigation.

Read more here.


REGULATOR MULLS CHANGES TO GAS PIPELINE APPROVAL: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said Thursday it would review its nearly two-decade-old policy for approving natural gas pipelines.

While the commission did not commit to any particular changes, the announcement is a win for environmentalists who have long complained that FERC acts as a “rubber stamp” and approves too many gas lines.

FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre, who was a lawyer representing some of the companies that have applied for pipelines at the agency, announced the major initiative at the five-person commission’s meeting, his first since being sworn in two weeks ago.

“1999 was quite a while ago, particularly in the natural gas pipeline area. So much has changed. So much has changed in our entire industry, of course, since then,” McIntyre told reporters after the meeting, referring to the year that the current gas pipeline policy was set.

“But it would be hard to find an area that has changed more than natural gas and our pipeline industry.”

McIntyre, a Republican, is referring to the initiative as a “fresh look,” but he clarified that he is not currently proposing changes to any part of the process.

“It’s a matter, we believe, of good governance, to take a fresh look at this area, and to give all stakeholders and the public an opportunity to weigh in on what they believe should be changed to our existing policies,” he said.

Read more here.


NJ GOV-ELECT TAPS EX-EPA OFFICIAL: New Jersey governor-elect Phil Murphy (D) has tapped former EPA official Catherine McCabe to lead the state’s environmental agency.

McCabe was the deputy regional administrator for the EPA’s New York City office, and served as acting administrator for the full agency in January and February between Trump’s inauguration and Pruitt’s confirmation.

“It is time for New Jersey to lead again. We have no more time to waste,” McCabe, 66, said Thursday, according to NorthJersey.com. “Now is the time to take action, both to help lead the way in slowing climate change, and adapting to make our communities more resilient.”

McCabe will be responsible for reversing many of the policies of the previous Republican administration. That includes implementing Murphy’s plan to re-join New Jersey into the Regional Greenhouse Gas initiative.


PEBBLE TO APPLY FOR FEDERAL PERMIT: The Pebble Partnership plans Friday to formally submit an application for a federal Clean Water Act permit for its proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska.

The company, wholly owned by Northern Dynasty Minerals, can submit its application thanks to a Trump administration decision earlier this year to withdraw the EPA’s attempt preemptively block the project.

The proposed gold and copper mine has been controversial for years. Supporters say it would be an economic and employment boom with little environmental impact, while opponents say it would be disastrous to the ecosystem, including the large salmon population.

Pebble said the footprint of the mine will be about 5.9 square miles, smaller than previous plans.



Georgia regulators voted Thursday to let a utility keep building the nuclear Plant Vogtle despite delays and cost overruns, the Augusta Chronicle reports.

The Western Australia governor rejected a proposal to expand a major iron-ore mine, News.com.au reports.

Memphis, Tenn.’s city government sold two parks to a nonprofit, leading officials to remove Confederate statues there, the Commercial Appeal reports.



Check out Thursday’s stories …

– Trump administration halts funding for offshore drilling safety study

– Researchers sue EPA over advisory committee policy

– Pentagon’s new defense strategy won’t mention climate change

– Regulators to consider changing gas pipeline approval policy

– Greens launch ads against Trump environmental pick


Tags Kevin McIntyre Scott Pruitt

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video