HOUSE VOTES TO ADVANCE YUCCA NUCLEAR SITE: The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to pass a bill that seeks to move forward a process toward building the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, sponsored by Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Lobbying world Ex-Rep. John Shimkus joins lobbying firm MORE (R-Ill.), passed 340 to 72.
It would set a path forward for the Department of Energy (DOE) to resume planning for and building the southern Nevada site, transfer land to the DOE for it, ease the federal funding mechanism and allow DOE to build or license a temporary site to store waste while the Yucca project is being planned and built.
"The bill we're considering today reinforces a promise that the United States Congress, on behalf of the entire federal government, made to our constituents a generation ago. Today, we're keeping that promise," Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Ex-Rep. John Shimkus joins lobbying firm Lobbying world MORE (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on the House floor.
"We will accept responsibility for, and properly dispose of, radioactive waste. This is long overdue."
The bill received widespread support. Many lawmakers justified their votes by arguing that spent nuclear fuel stored at operating or closed power plants in their districts ought to instead be at a centrally-located facility designed for long-term storage.
"Regardless of your position on nuclear energy, we have to acknowledge the reality that tens of thousands of tons of waste already exist," said Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoManchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill House Democrats outline plan for transition to clean electricity The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Final countdown: Senate inches toward last infrastructure vote MORE (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment.
Why it matters: Congress already decided, in 1987, that Yucca would be the nation's sole disposal site for high-level nuclear waste from energy and weapons activities.
But the bill passed Thursday would allow a series of steps to move that process along and potentially get the facility operating in the foreseeable future.
It also serves as an important sign of Congress's strong support for the project, despite the fact that the bill isn't a direct referendum on it.
What's next: The bill is likely not moving anywhere in the Senate anytime soon. Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoAdam Laxalt to be called to testify in trial of Giuliani associate Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Top Hispanic group endorses Cortez Masto for reelection MORE (D-Nev.) declared Thursday that it is "dead on arrival."
In addition, Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTexas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Heller won't say if Biden won election Ex-Sen. Dean Heller announces run for Nevada governor MORE (R-Nev.) is running for reelection in what is likely to be one of the Senate's closest races this year. He opposes Yucca, but forcing him to vote on the bill is not likely to help his chances.
But the Senate, like the House, has many lawmakers worried about the nuclear waste sitting in their states, and they want it taken out and put somewhere here safer. So the bill may have a chance in another year.
EPA TO UPHOLD OBAMA-ERA DETERMINATION ON DANGEROUS CHEMICAL: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Thursday that it won't reverse an Obama administration report that enumerated various harms from exposure to paint-stripping chemical methylene chloride.
In a Thursday morning statement, the EPA stopped short of saying whether it will ban the chemical or certain uses of it.
But the announcement that the EPA "is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments" is a welcome sign for environmental and health advocates who had suspected that the Trump administration would go soft on the substance.
The EPA also announced that it plans to continue the regulatory process for methylene chloride started under former President Obama in 2016 and will send it to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final review "shortly."
The announcement came days after EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children Science matters: Thankfully, EPA leadership once again agrees Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE met personally with Wendy Hartley and Cindy Wynne, whose sons are among the dozens of people who have died from exposure to the solvent.
Hartley and Wynne said they were glad Pruitt agreed to meet with them, but disappointed that he did not make any commitments at the Monday meeting.
In the EPA's semiannual regulatory agenda released in December, it did not commit to a timeline on a regulation for methylene chloride. Advocates took that as a sign that Pruitt wanted to abandon the effort.
Why it matters: Methylene chloride's uses include stripping paint, degreasing and certain food production techniques. If inhaled, it can cause symptoms ranging from dizziness, nausea and headaches to suffocation, coma and death. The Obama administration previously suggested banning the chemical based on a risk assessment but the Trump administration previously avoided committing to a ban. While this announcement doesn't confirm a ban will happen, advocates are cautiously optimistic.
ANOTHER COUNTY SUES OIL INDUSTRY OVER CLIMATE CHANGE: A Washington state county filed a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry Thursday for contributing to climate change.
King County's suit is targeting five fossil fuel companies -- BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch and ConocoPhillips -- "for knowingly contributing to climate disruptions and putting the residents of King County at greater risk of floods, landslides, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and other impacts," according to a county statement.
The county, which encompasses Seattle, aims to require those companies to establish an abatement fund to mitigate the effects of climate change on salmon recovery, public health, storm water management and infrastructure.
"The science is undisputable [sic]: climate change is impacting our region today, and it will only cause greater havoc and hardships in the future," King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement.
"The companies that profited the most from fossil fuels should help bear the costs of managing these disasters. Big Oil spent many decades disregarding and dismissing what is our most pressing generational challenge. We must hold these companies accountable as we marshal our resources to protect and preserve what makes this region great."
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Idaho officials have approved a limited grizzly bear hunting season, the first in four decades, the Idaho Statesman reports.
Hazardous chemicals spilled into a river near California's Lake Tahoe, closing highways and forcing evacuations, The Lake Tahoe New reports.
The United Kingdom is planning a new watchdog commission to protect the environment, intended to replace the European Union's systems after Brexit is complete, the Guardian reports.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out Thursday's stories ...
-Pentagon warns against offshore drilling in eastern Gulf of Mexico
-Trump officials kill NASA project monitoring greenhouse gas emissions
-Washington county files lawsuit against oil and gas industry over climate change
-EPA won't reverse findings of danger from paint stripping chemical
-House votes to advance Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project
-Pentagon removes numerous climate change references from Obama-era report