Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Feds to appoint third-party oversight in Jackson

The Justice Department has announced next steps in the Jackson, Miss., water crisis, a Biden EPA nomination finally gets a committee vote and the U.S. pledges $53 million to restore Ukraine’s grid. 

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

DOJ to appoint manager in Jackson after water crisis

The Justice Department will appoint a third-party manager as part of its oversight of Jackson, Miss., following the city’s water crisis earlier in the year. 

  • The manager, who has not been named, would be responsible for stabilizing the drinking water system for the city, which saw its second crisis in as many years this August.
  • The department said in a federal court filing Tuesday that the city and the state Department of Health have agreed to the terms of the proposal. 

How we got here: The city council voted earlier in November to approve an agreement with the federal government to overhaul the city’s water system. The department also said in its announcement that it is filing a complaint on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging Jackson failed to provide reliable, clean drinking water to residents. 

“Today the Justice Department is taking action in federal court to address long-standing failures in the city of Jackson’s public drinking water system,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to keep the American people safe and to protect their civil rights. Together with our partners at EPA, we will continue to seek justice for the residents of Jackson, Mississippi. And we will continue to prioritize cases in the communities most burdened by environmental harm.” 

“I pledged that EPA would do everything in its power to ensure the people of Jackson have clean and dependable water, now and into the future,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “While there is much more work ahead, the Justice Department’s action marks a critical moment on the path to securing clean, safe water for Jackson residents. I’m grateful to the Attorney General for his partnership and commitment to this shared vision.”

And before that: The majority-Black city was left without clean water in August after flooding from the Pearl River knocked out the city’s water treatment plant. While Mississippi’s Republican leadership has said responsibility for fixing infrastructure falls on the city government, city officials have said the city needs at least $1 billion to upgrade its decaying water infrastructure. Following integration in the 1960s, a large percentage of the city’s white residents moved out, taking with them a large part of the city’s tax base. 

Read more about the order here. 

Senate panel deadlocks on long-delayed Biden pick

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee tied on the frequently postponed nomination of a key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Tuesday, sending the nomination to the Senate floor. 

  • President Biden first nominated Joseph Goffman in March to serve in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation of the Environmental Protection Agency, which handles air quality.
  • A vote on Goffman has been delayed three previous times due to lack of Democratic senators’ availability, which would have allowed Republicans on the panel to kill the nomination. 

What happened? The panel voted 10-10 along party lines on Goffman’s nomination Tuesday, meaning Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) must file a discharge petition for a full Senate vote on the nomination. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted to advance Goffman’s nomination. However, he said during the hearing that he will not vote for his confirmation until a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act providing $7 billion to incentivize solar energy installation for low-income families is implemented. 

“I will be voting for Mr. Goffman in this committee, but I will not support his nomination on the Senate floor until I receive a commitment from the EPA in writing that it will implement this program primarily to expand residential solar throughout this country,” Sanders said. 

Goffman, who already leads the office on an acting basis, has been a frequent target of Republicans for his role in developing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan for power plants to phase out carbon emissions. The Supreme Court struck down the plan with a 6-3 decision in June.

Read more about the vote here.

US giving $53M to help restore Ukraine power grid

The U.S. has announced plans to provide $53 million to Ukraine to help restore the country’s energy infrastructure amid repeated missile attacks from Russian armed forces.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement during a meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and G7+ members on Tuesday, saying that the latest equipment will be delivered on an emergency basis to help Ukrainian residents persevere throughout the winter season. 

  • The latest supply package from the U.S. will include key equipment such as distribution transformers, circuit breakers, surge arresters, disconnectors and vehicles.
  • The aid package comes as Russian forces have focused aerial missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as Moscow’s war on the neighboring country progresses into its 10th month. 

Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said last week that Russia’s airstrikes on energy infrastructure resulted in residents losing electricity all over the country and caused temporary blackouts at power plants. 

Ukrainian officials said last Friday that three nuclear power plants were online again after being shut down by such Russian attacks. Petro Kotin, the head of Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear energy company, also said on Sunday that Ukrainian officials are seeing signs that Russian forces may retreat from the Zaporizhzhia power plant, a key nuclear plant that has been the target of Russian shelling for months.  

Read more from The Hill’s Olafimihan Oshin.

MORE FROM THE HILL

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Drying California lake to get $250M in US drought funding (The Associated Press
  • U.S. warns California cities to prepare for possible water cuts and fourth year of drought (CNBC
  • Europe’s imports of Russian seaborne gas jump to record high (The Financial Times
  • Here is what scientists are doing to save Florida’s coral reef before it’s too late (NPR
  • With Federal Aid on the Table, Utilities Shift to Embrace Climate Goals (The New York Times

ON TAP TOMORROW

The Senate EPW Committee will hold a hearing on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the private sector.

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 tomorrow.

Tags Bernie Sanders EPA Jackson water crisis Michael Regan Ukraine aid
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