Overnight Energy — Presented by Chevron — Pruitt wants to restrict EPA from blocking water permits | Deputy says he's not angling for Pruitt's job | Greens call GOP probe 'abuse' of power

Overnight Energy — Presented by Chevron — Pruitt wants to restrict EPA from blocking water permits | Deputy says he's not angling for Pruitt's job | Greens call GOP probe 'abuse' of power
© Greg Nash

PRUITT SEEKS TO LIMIT CLEAN WATER ACT AUTHORITY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Architect of controversial EPA policies to return as chief of staff: report EPA asked to justify proposal to limit power of its science advisers MORE is planning to limit the agency's authority to block permits for activities that could pollute or harm waterways.

In an agency memo released Wednesday, Pruitt formally asked the EPA's water office to propose a regulation under which officials wouldn't be able to block a permit before it had been applied for or after the Army Corps of Engineers has issued the permit.

EPA staff in regional offices would have to get approval from headquarters before trying to block a water permit, and officials would have to provide a period for public comment before blocking permits.


Why it matters: The regulation would likely be the most significant change to how the EPA enforces the Clean Water Act's restrictions on dredging or filling waterways in four decades.

Pruitt said the actions would increase regulatory certainty while still maintaining protections for clean water.

"Today's memo refocuses EPA on its core mission of protecting public health and the environment in a way that is fair and consistent with due process," Pruitt said in a statement.

"We must ensure that EPA exercises its authority under the Clean Water Act in a careful, predictable, and prudent manner."

The permitting process at issue is at the core of the Clean Water Act. It restricts a wide range of activities that could harm lakes, rivers or other water bodies, like dumping pollutants into them or obstructing them.

The Army Corps has authority to issue or deny permits, but the EPA has the power to veto permits if it determines that they would be unacceptably harmful.

What's next: Pruitt asked the office of water to develop a regulatory proposal in six months. That would be subject to public comment, and the EPA would then have to consider the comments before making it final.


At that point, opponents, such as Democratic states and environmental groups, would likely sue to stop the rule.

Read more on the big changes ahead here.



Happy Wednesday! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest 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.


WHEELER SAYS HE DOESN'T WANT PRUITT'S JOB: EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler says he's not interested in taking over for embattled administrator Scott Pruitt.

Wheeler, who came to the EPA in April after a mostly party-line confirmation vote, would become the acting administrator if Pruitt were to resign or if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE were to fire him for the numerous ethics and spending scandals that have come to light in recent months.

While Trump's supporters and detractors have held up Wheeler as a capable replacement, Wheeler said he's not angling for the job and hasn't been preparing for a potential Pruitt departure.

"I'm the deputy administrator, that's the position I signed up for, that's the position I wanted. I didn't want to be the administrator, still don't want to be the administrator," Wheeler said to The Hill from his office in the EPA's Washington headquarters, just down the hall from Pruitt's.

"I'm here to help Administrator Pruitt with his agenda and President Trump's agenda for the agency. That's what my job is."

Read more.



GREENS ACCUSE BISHOP OF ABUSING POWER: A high-profile environmental group denied Wednesday that it is acting on behalf of a foreign government and accused a pair of GOP lawmakers of abusing their power in investigating the organization.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking House Natural Resources gives Grijalva power to subpoena Interior Overnight Energy: Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks | Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by prayer breakfast | Dems hit agency for delaying energy efficiency funds MORE (R-Utah) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) are investigating the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), saying that its advocacy against relocating a Marine Corps base in Japan might be on behalf of the local Okinawa government.

Most of CBD's response Wednesday to Bishop and Westerman is explaining its mission and why it opposes the Marine Corps project -- to protect the Okinawa dugong, an endangered marine mammal.

"The center's decision to help the dugong … [is] exclusively determined, controlled and directed by the center's board of directors and executive director. Neither its dugong campaign, nor any of its conservation work, is controlled in any matter by any other domestic or foreign interest," Kieran Suckling, CBD's president, wrote to the committee.

"If Reps. Bishop and Westerman are truly confused about the center's motivation and control, it is perhaps because they abuse their positions of power so regularly, and are so deeply influenced by powerful corporate donors, that they are unable to conceive of people being motivated by empathy, public interest and respect for the rule of law and democracy," Suckling continued.

Read more.




The World Gas Conference will continue. Big-name speakers include Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Ocasio-Cortez blasts Trump as 'corrupt' for blocking Global Entry for New Yorkers MORE (R-Alaska) and Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryInterior Secretary David Bernhardt is designated survivor for 2020 State of the Union Attorney tells McConnell that Parnas has records 'directly relevant' to impeachment Overnight Energy: Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan | Iowans push 2020 candidates on climate | Sanders offers bill on 'forever chemicals' MORE.



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U.S. oil prices settled Wednesday at their highest price of the year, MarketWatch reports.

Big parts of the Arctic Ocean are shifting to the Atlantic Ocean's climate, the Independent reports.

Atlanta's city council put on hold consideration of a new clean energy plan for the city, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.



Check out Wednesday's stories ...

- Green group: GOP reps looking for foreign ties 'abuse their positions'

- EPA deputy says he's not interested in Pruitt's job

- Pruitt seeks to limit EPA's authority to block water pollution permits

- Republicans target green groups over foreign ties