Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: States press Trump on pollution rules | EPA puts climate skeptic on science board | Senate tees up vote on federal lands bill

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STATES PETITION TRUMP OFFICIALS ON ASBESTOS RULE: The attorneys general from 15 states are petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draft a policy to collect more data on the harm from asbestos.

The Democratic AGs from California and Massachusetts lead the group, which is asking the EPA to create a new reporting rule requiring those who import the cancer-linked mineral fiber or use it domestically to give the EPA more data on its use.

{mosads}”Each year, tens of thousands die from exposure to asbestos,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D). “We urge Acting Administrator [Andrew] Wheeler to issue a rule that will protect the lives of thousands of workers, families and children in Massachusetts and across the country.”

Currently, importers of raw asbestos or articles that contain asbestos are exempt from having to report information about the products to EPA, according to the attorneys general.

The group argues that the information is necessary to protect the public from asbestos exposure. Their petition asks EPA to both eliminate the exemption for “naturally occurring substances” and require all imported articles containing asbestos to be reported to the EPA.

“It is widely known that asbestos is one of the most harmful chemicals known to humankind,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D). “There is no excuse to continue allowing any amounts of toxic asbestos to pass into our community, especially into the lungs of workers and children, when we know the danger it presents. We call on Acting Administrator Wheeler to begin the process of eliminating exemptions that allow this unsafe chemical to continue to harm tens of thousands of people each year.”

Asbestos is not banned on the federal level, except for a few specific uses. A 2016 law gave the EPA new authority to prohibit the carcinogen.

Last June EPA introduced a proposal intended to require companies to notify the EPA if they planned to import or manufacture various out-of-date uses of asbestos, like roofing felt and floor tile.

The agency chose to list 15 known uses of asbestos, even though none are currently in use, and proposed companies be required to notify the EPA if they want to use asbestos in those situations, a move that would give the agency time to examine and potentially ban them.

That move led to a firestorm, including well-known figures like Chelsea Clinton and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) charging that the EPA is opening the door to asbestos — something the agency strongly refutes.

The EPA later pushed back with a PR blitz through interviews, social media and a fact sheet.

Internal EPA emails later reported by the New York Times showed that EPA staff also objected to the reporting change.

Read more on the asbestos controversy here.


And in more AG news…


ATTORNEYS GENERAL SUE TRUMP OVER SMOG DECISION: New York lead a group of six attorneys general in a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Trump administration, alleging that officials failed to implement adequate and timely smog regulations. The group argued that the EPA’s decision to take no further action to control emissions of ground level ozone pollution stemming from upwind states until 2023 at the earliest is in violation of the Clean Air Act. The AGs said the failure to act was violating the Clean Air Act’s “Good Neighbor” provision, which requires the agency to regulate emissions across states.

Read the lawsuit here.


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CLIMATE SKEPTIC PUT ON EPA SCIENCE BOARD: Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler has put eight new members on the agency’s main board of external science advisers.

The new members include an outspoken skeptic of climate change science, a scholar at a conservative group funded in part by billionaire businessman Charles Koch and researchers who have received industry funding.

The Science Advisory Board is the main body that advises the EPA on scientific matters, like scrutinizing regulations and directing the agency’s actions.

The new members announced Thursday continue former EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s controversial policy of banning members who received EPA grants, a move that critics assailed as an attempt to make the committee more industry-friendly.

“In a fair, open, and transparent fashion, EPA reviewed hundreds of qualified applicants nominated for this committee,” Wheeler said in a statement.

“Members who will be appointed or reappointed include experts from a wide variety of scientific disciplines who reflect the geographic diversity needed to represent all ten EPA regions.”

The EPA noted Wheeler kept on the board everyone who was eligible to remain, including many named by the Obama administration.

The new members include John Christy, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Alabama – Huntsville who is an outspoken climate skeptic and often cited by pundits and politicians opposing climate policies.

Christy’s work includes arguing that the climate is less sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions than the scientific consensus has found, including the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He argues, therefore, that human activity has a very small impact on the climate.

He told the House Science Committee in 2017 that the climate models that international bodies rely upon have failed in the past and shouldn’t be used to set policy.

Another new member is Richard Williams, a scholar at the Mercatus Center, a conservative think tank affiliated with George Mason University. It counts billionaire Republican donor Charles Koch as a board member and has received funding from him and his brother, David.

Read more here.


SENATE LINES UP NATIONAL PARKS AND FEDERAL LANDS BILL FOR VOTE: The Senate on Thursday lined up a major federal lands bill for a potential vote next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) action paves the way for a procedural vote on the measure, which could happen after the upper chamber finishes consideration of the Middle East foreign policy bill.

The legislation would allow the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a key revenue stream for parks and recreation facilities, to operate indefinitely. Its authority expired last October.

It also includes provisions aimed at increasing recreational access to federal land and has dozens of specific local provisions to add to national parks and other land holdings.

The legislation, which has broad bipartisan support, came close to passing through the Senate in December, and was expected to easily pass through the House as well.

But Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held it up, leading to an impassioned late-night exchange on the Senate floor between Lee and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

{mossecondads}”While we are disappointed that this package could not pass last year, we remain committed to its provisions and the spirit of our bicameral agreement,” Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the lead sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement earlier this month when they reintroduced the lands bill.

“The vast majority of bills in this package have been considered through the regular order process and have strong support from members of both parties. States and communities throughout the west, in particular, are counting on us to work together to pass them into law.”

More on the bill here.



Shell acquires Greenlots to lead North American EV charging push, Green Tech Media reports.

Thai officials close schools as toxic air pollution chokes Bangkok, NPR reports

Germany sees surge in new solar power as prices drop, ABC reports.



Check out stories from Thursday …

-Utility companies asking Midwest customers to lower thermostats due to record cold temperatures

-15 AGs petition Trump administration to draft asbestos rule

-University of Iowa student found frozen to death amid minus 51 degree windchill

-Senate lines up major national parks, federal lands bill for potential vote

-Hole two-thirds size of Manhattan found in Antarctic glacier

-Sales of oil leases proceeding near sacred sites in NM: report

-Ocasio-Cortez, Markey to unveil Green New Deal legislation

Tags asbestos Brian Schatz climate skeptic Cory Gardner EPA lands Lisa Murkowski Maria Cantwell Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Parks Rand Paul Science board Scott Pruitt utilities Xavier Becerra
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