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Overnight Energy: Reporters barred from Day 2 of EPA summit | Dems blame Trump for gas price increases | Massachusetts to get new offshore wind farm

Overnight Energy: Reporters barred from Day 2 of EPA summit | Dems blame Trump for gas price increases | Massachusetts to get new offshore wind farm
© Greg Nash

REPORTERS BARRED FOR SECOND DAY OF EPA SUMMIT: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) barred reporters from attending the second day of its event on drinking water pollution.

Journalists from The Associated Press, Politico and other outlets said EPA staff at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters blocked them from entering Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMcConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant EPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him MORE's National Leadership Summit on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on Wednesday. EPA communications staff had told news outlets in advance that the sessions would be closed to journalists.

The decision to ban reporters follows a high-profile incident Tuesday in which an AP reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, was allegedly shoved by an EPA guard when she tried to enter the event.

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Knickmeyer and journalists for E&E and CNN were not invited to opening remarks at the event on Tuesday morning even as invitations were extended to reporters from other news outlets, including from The Hill. Those journalists then went to the EPA headquarters to demand entry.

The EPA later apologized to Knickmeyer and allowed journalists to enter for the afternoon session Tuesday.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended the decision to bar reporters entirely from Wednesday's session, saying it isn't a meeting covered by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) or otherwise appropriate for media attendance.

"The National Leadership Summit on PFAS scheduled is not a federal advisory committee event," he said in a statement.

"The purpose of this event is for EPA's state, tribal, and federal government partners and national organizations to share a range of individual perspectives on the Agency's actions to date and path forward on PFOA/PFAS. The Agency looks forward to hearing from all stakeholders on these crucial issues."

 

Hold on: Some news outlets, though, have argued that the meeting is subject to FACA, a law that puts certain transparency requirements on organized councils or events that agencies convene to solicit advice. Among other requirements, meetings covered by FACA must be open to the public.

FACA states that "any committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force, or other similar group, or any subcommittee or other subgroup" meant to provide an agency advice is covered.

 

Dems aren't pleased: Democratic lawmakers once again slammed EPA for closing the session.

"I can't believe I have to say this two days in a row, but @EPA works for the American people," Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, tweeted Wednesday.

Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeBlue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms Dems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching MORE (D-Mich.) said his staff was also denied entry.

Pruitt's "lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling," he wrote.

Kildee represents the town of Flint, which was hit with its own drinking water crisis four years ago.

 

Why the controversy matters: This week should have been a very positive story for the EPA. Pruitt and his staff are committing to certain steps to confront the PFAS crisis, and though environmental and health advocates wanted more, EPA could nonetheless promote the actions as a big step.

But instead, the agency has been getting significant attention and blowback for how it's handling press access.

 

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill

 

Thankfully most Hill reporters take the metro to work, but as more Americans are feeling the pain at the pump, members of Congress are starting to point fingers at the White House.

 

SENATE DEMS BLAME TRUMP FOR GAS PRICES: Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' MORE (N.Y.) is ripping the White House over high gas prices, arguing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is putting a pinch on middle-class wallets.

"According to energy analysts and experts, President Trump's reckless decision to pull out of the Iran deal has led to higher oil prices," Schumer said at a press conference held at an Exxon filling station on Capitol Hill, where a gallon of regular costs $3.89.

These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices, something we know disproportionately hurts middle- and lower-income people," Schumer said.

Schumer initially opposed the nuclear deal, which was negotiated between Iran and the United States, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia, as well as the European Union, during the Obama administration.

But like other former opponents of the pact, such as Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul to Saudi government: 'It takes a lot of damn gall' to lecture US Congress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he is cutting foreign aid over caravan | Lawmakers point fingers at Saudi crown prince | DNC chair downplays 'blue wave' talk MORE (R-Ky.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCongress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia Flake says he and his family got death threats 'from the right' Trump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.), he opposed Trump pulling out of the deal once it became established.

Schumer criticized Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement last month.

We've got more on the fight over gas prices here.

 

MASSACHUSETTS ANNOUNCES HISTORIC OFFSHORE WIND CONTRACT: Massachusetts announced plans Wednesday to build a wind farm off the coast of Martha's Vineyard that will generate enough energy to power 400,000 homes.

The state said Vineyard Wind will build a 800-megawatt offshore wind farm -- the largest ever procurement of offshore wind by a state.

Massachusetts residents are expected to start receiving energy from the state's first offshore wind farm by 2021, according to The Associated Press.

"Today's announcement brings the Commonwealth one step closer to achieving our administration's goals of creating a clean, reliable and cost-effective energy future for Massachusetts residents, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change," the state's Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said in a statement.

Massachusetts' neighbor Rhode Island also signed a partnership with Deepwater Wind on Wednesday. The Rhode Island-based clean energy developer will build a 400-megawatt wind farm off the Ocean State's coast.

The states must both negotiate a contract and get approval by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to move forward with the construction.

Read more about the deal here.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY:

The full Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on its energy and water spending bill for fiscal 2019.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

The United Kingdom's government is proposing a bill that it says would be the most strict ivory ban in the world, the Independent reports.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a bill into law to prop up the state's nuclear power plants, NJ.com reports.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has reached a confidential settlement with the families of the victims of last year's home explosion in Firestone, Colo., CBS Denver reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories ...

-Massachusetts announces historic offshore wind contract

-Trump officials discussed whether to 'ignore' climate data: report

-Senate Democrats look for traction on gas prices

-EPA again bars reporters from water pollution event

-Poll: Nearly half of Americans aren't familiar with Pruitt controversies

-NYC considers ban on disposable plastic straws