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: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks 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 conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report 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 BishopHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban 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 MurkowskiSinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh MORE (R-Alaska) and Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryGas prices could rise 15 to 30 cents following Saudi attack Trump envoy presses Saudi Arabia to allow nuclear inspections Perry confident energy market 'will rebound positively' after Saudi oil attack 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