Overnight Energy: Collins to oppose Wheeler for EPA chief | Feinstein clarifies views on Green New Deal | Schumer calls McConnell push for vote on deal a 'diversion'

Overnight Energy: Collins to oppose Wheeler for EPA chief | Feinstein clarifies views on Green New Deal | Schumer calls McConnell push for vote on deal a 'diversion'
© Stefani Reynolds

COLLINS TO VOTE AGAINST TRUMP EPA NOMINEE: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Romney calls lunch with Trump 'delightful' Trump lunches with two of his biggest Senate GOP critics MORE (R-Maine) says she will vote against the confirmation of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying his policies are "not in the best interest" of the environment or the country's public health.

In a statement tweeted Wednesday, Collins said she has "too many concerns" about actions acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has overseen while leading the EPA since July

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"While Mr. Wheeler is certainly qualified for this position, I have too many concerns with the actions he has taken during his tenure as Acting Administrator to be able to support his promotion," she wrote.

"I believe that Mr. Wheeler, unlike Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittIs Big Oil feeling the heat? Overnight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging EPA delays advisers' review of 'secret science' rules MORE, understands the mission of the EPA and acts in accordance with ethical standards; however, the policies he has supported as Acting Administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health, particularly given the threat of climate change to our nation."

Wheeler took over as acting EPA administrator following the resignation of Pruitt, who stepped down amid a series of ethics and spending scandals.

Collins specifically pointed to the agency's rollback of its rules on mercury air pollution, power plant pollution and car emissions as examples of policies concerning her. Wheeler oversaw the rollout and was involved in the final construction of the policy changes.

"Reducing harmful air pollutants is critical for public health, particularly for Maine which has among the highest rates of asthma in the country," Collins wrote.

"The agency's recent efforts to halt progress in these critical areas takes us in the wrong direction."

Why it matters: The vote on Wheeler's confirmation will be held Thursday. Trump nominated Wheeler to take over the EPA in a formal capacity in early January.

Collins in the past has been considered a swing voter. She voted to confirm Wheeler to be EPA assistant administrator last year.

Read more here.

 

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FEINSTEIN TAMPS DOWN COMMENTS AGAINST GREEN NEW DEAL: Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping GOP senator wants Violence Against Women Act passage by year end MORE (D-Calif.) is walking back comments she made before child climate protesters that were caught on video over the weekend and went viral, saying she wasn't aware she was being filmed.

"I don't understand. You know what somebody said to me -- you know I didn't see any of this -- they said that anybody with a cell phone in their hand can get you on international news in two minutes. I never knew that," Feinstein said Tuesday afternoon.

Referencing the heated exchange about the "Green New Deal" resolution with a group of children and one parent at her congressional office in California, which was quickly criticized as condescending, Feinstein said she is "pro-moving on global warming."

"I believe it's the number one problem facing the planet and we have very limited time," she said Wednesday.

A plan of her own: The lawmaker said she plans to push her own resolution soon that focuses on the science.

"I'd rather do it from the science point of view on what is happening to us. I come from a state of 32 million people. ... We've lost 15,000 homes and 4,000 businesses to forest fires this year alone, the worst fire year in history, so we are really beginning to see the impacts of global warming," she said. "I want to concentrate much more on what the science is saying and what is happening out there with the glaciers melting."

A draft of her plan released last week, which Feinstein has since said was done in error, would focus on using a carbon tax to reduce climate-warming emissions.

But what about the Green New Deal?: Feinstein said she plans to vote "present" when the Green New Deal resolution comes up for a Senate vote before the August recess.

Asked if her vote would divide the Democratic Party over the Green New Deal, Feinstein said no, adding that the resolution sponsored by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenators grill safety regulator over self-driving cars Hillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill MORE (D-Mass.) and championed in the House by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezPoll: Biden and Sanders tied nationally, followed by Warren More than 100 Democrats sign letter calling for Stephen Miller to resign Steyer, Biden clash over climate credentials MORE (D-N.Y.) was "too much" and too "political."

"It does other things. It's free college, It's free medical care. That's not global warming," she said of the resolution that aims to get the country to 100 percent renewable energy use by 2030 and jump-start green job creation.

"I took a look at it and I said, that's too much."

She added: "I thought it was political ... Global warming should not be political, it should be factual based on what's happening. The science based on the time in which it's happening."

More on Feinstein's remarks here.

 

Speaking of the Green New Deal….

 

SCHUMER CALLS MCCONNELL PLAN TO BRING VOTE ON DEAL A 'DIVERSION': Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump signs short-term spending bill to avert shutdown Senators urge Trump to suspend Huawei license approvals Tensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' MORE (N.Y.) knocked his Republican counterpart on Wednesday, saying Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Deal on defense bill proves elusive | Hill, Holmes offer damaging testimony | Trump vows to block Navy from ousting officer from SEALs Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Congressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach MORE's (R-Ky.) plan to force a vote on the "Green New Deal" is a "diversion" from having a debate on climate change.

"The games they are playing here will have no meaning. This is not a debate. It's a diversion. It's a sham," Schumer said from the Senate floor.

Democrats are introducing a climate change resolution, which will be supported by the entire caucus, as part of their strategy to kick the spotlight in the climate change fight back to Republicans.

Schumer, previewing that strategy, added that there is an "enormous" silence among Republicans on how to confront climate change.

"We're going to keep asking him, and every Republican in this chamber what they would do about climate change, about global warming," he added.

Republicans have seized on the Green New Deal, a blueprint to battle climate change, as they hunt for fodder heading into the 2020 presidential race, with several Democratic senators battling for their party's nomination.

McConnell said on Tuesday that he would force a vote on the resolution before the Senate leaves for the August recess. He added on Wednesday that Democrats will get to "go on record" on whether they "really support this fantasy novel masquerading as public policy."

Read more here.

 

LAWMAKERS WEIGH CLIMATE'S IMPACT ON OCEAN: Lawmakers on Wednesday held a hearing on the impact of climate change on oceans and coasts, addressing issues including rising sea levels, changes in water chemistry and habitat damage, reports The Hill's Cady Stanton.

The House Science Subcommittee on the Environment, chaired by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), heard from experts on the climate effects on health and safety hazards and the economy, and the need for data-driven research.

Dr. Radley Horton, a professor at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, testified that rising sea levels and flooding will harm the economy and public health.

"This is also obviously a public health and safety issue," said Horton. "It means less time for people to evacuate around low-lying coastal areas, and for those unable to evacuate, it means greater risk of death.

"The economic impacts are going to make their way further inland as well. U.S. taxpayers bear the brunt of the bill for these coastal flooding damages, and our coasts are economic hubs for all activities," he added.

Dr. Thomas K. Frazer, director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida, emphasized the importance of collecting data to learn more about the impact of climate change on oceans.

Frazer highlighted "the need for consistent investment in science."

Republicans, though, in particular Reps. Brian Babin (R-Texas) and Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Bipartisan bill to secure election tech advances to House floor Our commitment to veterans can help us lead for all Americans MORE (R-Ohio), used the hearing to press the experts on the New Green Deal.

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Most witnesses declined to share their thoughts on the controversial proposed deal.

Dr. Sarah Cooley, ocean acidification director at the Ocean Conservancy, said the debate around the plan has brought attention to climate change.

"The Green New Deal has started a conversation about details that we haven't had before," Cooley said. "We're having discussions across the aisle about the future that we want and the specific ways we can get there. And that is incredibly inspiring."

 

ON TAP THURSDAY:

Former energy lobbyist Andrew Wheeler faces a decisive vote on the Senate floor over his confirmation to be EPA's newest administrator Thursday. While it's expected that Wheeler will be confirmed on a largely party-line vote, Sen. Susan Collins (I-Maine) announced Wednesday that she will be voting against the acting administrator. Collins previously voted to confirm Wheeler as EPA's assistant administrator last year.

Also Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-Etsy crafts a plan for carbon-neutral online shopping, Wired reports

-Starbucks and McDonald's test next gen cup competition designs, Fast Company reports

-Rain shatters records in Sacramento, The Sacramento Bee reports

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Wednesday...

-Ohio city votes to give Lake Erie same legal rights as a person

-Collins to vote against Trump's EPA pick

-Annual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018

-Schumer: McConnell plan to force 'Green New Deal' vote a 'diversion'

-Feinstein: 'Anybody with a cell phone in their hand can get you on international news'

-Senate Dems seek to turn tables on GOP in climate change fight

-Republicans force House subcommittee to adjourn during hearing on climate change