Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer

Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer
© Getty

EPA WANTS TO ROLL BACK CHEMICAL PLANT SAFETY RULE: The Trump administration wants to roll back some key parts of a major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule meant to reduce the risks of chemical plant disasters.

The proposal to tweak the Risk Management Program rule aligns with the wishes of the chemical industry, which argued that the original January 2017 regulation from the Obama administration was too expensive and unnecessarily burdensome.

From the top: "Accident prevention is a top priority at EPA, and this proposed rule will ensure proper emergency planning and continue the trend of fewer significant accidents involving chemicals," EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE said in a Thursday statement announcing the proposal.

"The rule proposes to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, address the concerns of stakeholders and emergency responders on the ground, and save Americans roughly $88 million a year."

What the roll back would entail: Thursday's proposal would eliminate or ease some major pieces of the rule, including requirements that plant owners consider safer alternatives to various technologies, get third-party audits to check for compliance with accident prevention rules, conduct "root cause" analyses after incidents and disclose certain information to the community about operations.

Other big parts of the rule now have delayed implementation dates, like provisions on coordination with local emergency services and exercises for emergency situations.

The EPA argued that those changes, sought by industry groups and companies, would answer security concerns, reduce unnecessary regulatory costs and better align the standards with worker safety rules.

The $88 million estimated savings would come mostly from removing the requirement to consider safer alternatives, with other savings coming from eliminating audits and root-cause investigations.

Why it matters: The Risk Management Plan rule is a prime example of the Trump administration's environmental agenda: implementing regulatory rollbacks long sought by industry and the GOP in an attempt to reduce costs.

But the chemical rule has also been one of the most vocally contested Trump administration rollbacks. The EPA delayed its implementation multiple times -- and went to court to defend the delays -- while it figured out what revisions to make.

The rule has also provided key arguments for greens and Democrats against the Trump agenda. They see the Obama rule as a strong attempt to stop chemical plant disasters, and the Trump actions as increasing those risks.

What's next: In the coming days, the proposal will be published in the Federal Register, opening a 60-day public comment period.

The EPA would then have to analyze those comments before it can make the changes final. That action would open the rule to lawsuits, which are nearly guaranteed, from environmentalists and Democratic states.

We break it all down here.

 

TRUMP'S NASA CHIEF SAYS HUMANS CONTRIBUTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE: A former Republican lawmaker and newly confirmed head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says that climate change is happening and humans are contributing to climate change in a "major way."

Speaking to employees at his first town hall Thursday, Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineNASA looking into selling naming rights for rockets to corporate brands: report NASA administrator says he always thought humans caused climate change We really are going back to the moon and then on to Mars MORE said, "I don't deny the consensus that the climate is changing in fact I fully believe and know that the climate is changing. I also know that we human beings are contributing to it in a major way."

He added: "Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. We are putting it to the atmosphere in volumes that we haven't seen and that greenhouse gas is warming the planet. That is absolutely happening and we are responsible for it.

Bridenstine, a former Oklahoma Congressman, was narrowly confirmed to lead NASA in April after facing a months-long confirmation process due to Democratic and some Republican opposition to his nomination.

Democrats argued that he was unqualified for the high-profile scientific spot and too divisive of a politician. As a Republican, Bridenstine had a clear record of denying humans are adding to climate change.

Why the change is notable: During his Senate confirmation last November, Bridenstine wouldn't say how much humans were contributing to climate change.

"I believe carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. I believe that humans are contributing to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," he said.

Asked if they were the primary cause of global warming Bridenstine responded, "It's going to depend on a whole lot of factors, and we're still learning more about that every day. In some years, you could say absolutely. In other years, during sun cycles and other things, there are other contributing factors that would have more of an impact."

Read more about his comments here.

 

PRUITT LAWYERS UP: Scott Pruitt has reportedly hired an outside defense attorney after a string of federal investigations into controversies related to his ethics and spending as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Pruitt recently hired white-collar defense lawyer Paul Rauser to advise him as he and the agency deal with 12 separate investigations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the EPA inspector general's office, according to Politico.

Rauser, co-founder of the firm Aegis Law Group, has reportedly been advising Pruitt for weeks now as the EPA chief faces scrutiny over his rental of a $50-a-night condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist, the construction of a $43,000 soundproof booth found to be in violation of congressional laws and major raises given to close aides.

According to a description on his website, Rauser's practice focuses on high-stakes commercial litigation, internal investigations and white-collar criminal defense. The website lists his clientele as those operating in "heightened-risk environments" including those facing charges of securities fraud, financial crimes and foreign corrupt practices.

We have more here.

 

WATER INFRASTRUCTURE BILL COMING FRIDAY: The House's bipartisan water infrastructure bill will be introduced formally Friday.

It's lead sponsor, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterHouse and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure MORE (R-Pa.), told The Hill a panel will mark up the bill to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act May 23.

A senior House GOP aide said the legislation will be bipartisan and will include two Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors.

The biennial water infrastructure bill is one of several pieces of legislation House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage How does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act MORE (R-Wis.) has referenced as part of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE's push for an infrastructure overhaul. Congress regularly takes up the water resources bill every two years.

The Senate last week unveiled its own bipartisan version of the legislation, which was introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) and ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet EPA to abandon restrictions against chemical linked to climate change MORE (D-Del.). Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePentagon releases report on sexual assault risk Trump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Okla.), who chairs the panel's Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and subcommittee ranking member Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment More Dems come out in public opposition to Kavanaugh MORE (D-Md.) joined Barrasso and Carper in released the bill.

Read more.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. is plotting a $11.4 billion restructuring after the U.S. tax bill killed off a key loophole, the Canadian Press reports.

The European Commission is taking six European nations to court, saying they haven't done enough to reduce air pollution levels, the Guardian reports.

The energy use from Bitcoin could reach the level of the entirety of Austria's consumption, Mashable reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories...

-Trump's new NASA head: Humans contributing in 'major way' to climate change

-Trump officials propose easing EPA chemical plant safety rule

-Interior official expected 'no new information' from national monument public comments

-Nonprofit sues Forest Service for denying medical aid to pipeline protestor

-GOP lawmaker says rocks falling into ocean to blame for rising sea levels

-Pruitt hires outside attorney as investigations mount: report