Overnight Energy: EPA head accuses media of not reporting agency's achievements | Leaked FDA study finds cancer-linked chemicals in food supply | Wheeler calls Flint water 'safe to drink'

Overnight Energy: EPA head accuses media of not reporting agency's achievements | Leaked FDA study finds cancer-linked chemicals in food supply | Wheeler calls Flint water 'safe to drink'
© Aaron Schwartz

WHEELER BLASTS MEDIA OVER EPA COVERAGE: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications EPA appeals board is unconstitutional without reform MORE accused the media Monday of misleading the public by not highlighting the agency's important environmental achievements.

"The media does a disservice to the American public and sound policy making by not informing the progress we've made," Wheeler said Monday at a luncheon at the National Press Club.

Directing his comments specifically to the reporters present, Wheeler a former energy lobbyist who has overseen various regulatory rollbacks at EPA, said it was the responsibility of the press to change the public perception that energy and environment issues were getting worse, not better, across the country.


"Every year since 2001 Gallup has conducted polling on the same question: Do you think the quality of the environment in the country as a whole is getting better or getting worse? Every year since 2001 more people have said, 'Getting worse than getting better.'" Wheeler said. "We need to fix this perception and we need the help of the press. The public needs to know how far we've come as a nation protecting the environment."

Wheeler touts the agency's work: He spoke of the agency's success, since its establishment nearly half a century ago, in lowering particulate matter in the air and reducing CO2 emissions, listing accomplishments achieved under multiple government administrations. The comments came as he defended his own recent decisions, made under President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE, to lower emissions standards for cars, roll back standards on mercury air pollution, and suggest a standard for perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel, that is 10-50 times higher than scientists suggest.

"Pollution is on the decline," Wheeler said. "We've made tremendous progress since the 1970s, and that needs to be mentioned more often."

Wheeler, who inherited a heavy level of skepticism due to his lobbying ties and the actions of his predecessor, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA employees push 'bill of rights' to protect scientific integrity EPA's independent science board questions underpinnings of numerous agency rollbacks Overnight Energy: Rate of new endangered species listings falls | EPA approves use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock | Watchdog says EPA didn't conduct required analyses MORE, highlighted a list of five things – he said there was only "time" for five – the media routinely gets wrong.

"You may think I ignore our press clippings. But I don't, I read them every day," Wheeler told reporters. "I've noticed five things... that the press consistently gets wrong about this administration and the EPA in particular."

Among them, was criticisms of his lobbying title – he represented more than just the coal industry; comments that a key Obama-era power plant emissions rule was rolled back – "It was never implemented," he said; and the idea that the EPA is at war with its career staff – "We have a long and dedicated history of dedicated career employees," Wheeler said.

Read more on Wheeler's remarks here.


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FDA STUDY FINDS FOOD ITEMS WITH CANCER-CAUSING CHEMICALS: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that cancer-causing chemicals are showing up in milk, meat, produce and even store-made chocolate cakes sold in the U.S., according to an agency study that has not yet been made public.

Aspects of the study, presented last week at a scientific conference in Helsinki, Finland, found the class of chemicals, abbreviated as PFAS, are present in a number of other food products.

The FDA said it plans to publicly release the findings after details of the study were leaked to The Hill and other U.S. media outlets by environmental groups.

"I'm not sure why they released it there and not in the U.S., but I'm just glad it's out," said Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director with the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the groups that released the information.

The FDA confirmed the contents of the leaked report.

The chemicals in question are used in a staggering number of products, like food packaging. Some states have banned packaging that's made with the chemicals, citing research that shows they can transfer to food items.

The FDA's research showed that water contaminated with PFAS likely ends up in the food supply. Fourteen of 91 samples taken by the agency contained the chemicals, while almost half of all meat and seafood samples tested positive.

PFAS has been found in the water supply near military bases, airports that often use firefighting foam and factories that manufacture products with PFAS.

The study outlined examples of the contamination spreading to food.

Produce for sale at a farmer's market 10 miles from a PFAS production plant was found to have the chemical, and testing from a dairy farm near an Air Force base in New Mexico found that water contamination from the base had reached the cows and the milk they produced.

Read more on the leaked study here.


FLINT BACK IN THE NEWS: Authorities have seized former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's (R) phone in their investigation of the Flint water crisis, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The seizure comes after a Flint judge signed off on warrants for data from the state-owned mobile devices of 66 current or former Michigan lawmakers, including Synder, according to documents obtained by the AP through public-records requests.

Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy confirmed to the AP that they executed a series of search warrants related to the criminal investigation of Flint's lead-contaminated water but declined to comment further.

One warrant, seeks content from Snyder's cellphone, iPad and computer hard drive, per AP.

The warrants seek data from several members not charged in the probe, including Snyder, former Environmental Quality director Dan Wyant and various people who worked in Snyder's office, including Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

Under Michigan law, the affidavit that Hammoud submitted to get a judge's signature will not become public for 56 more days. Prosecutors can also seek to suppress it longer. Officials with the offices named in the warrants told the AP that they are complying.

Read more here.


In other Flint news...


WHEELER SAYS FLINT WATER 'SAFE TO DRINK': Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler on Monday said that the water in Flint, Mich., is safe to drink, years after a lead contamination crisis.

"Right now, Flint, Michigan, is attaining the water quality standards," Wheeler said at the National Press Club.

"We test their water on a regular basis and working with the local city as well as the state," he continued. "We're still providing bottled drinking water to people if they need it, but at this point the water in Flint, Michigan, is safe to drink."

The city gained national attention after its source for drinking water was changed in 2014, resulting in contaminated water with dangerous levels of lead and other toxic chemicals.

The contamination continued for years as local and state officials provided inaccurate information about the safety and issues with city water. Residents and advocates also blamed federal officials, who they said were slow to react once the problem was detected.

Criminal and civil cases have accused state and local officials of being responsible for the crisis. Broader suits against other officials and agencies have also been moving through the courts.

More on Wheeler's remarks here.



On Tuesday, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the first round of oral arguments in the landmark lawsuit brought by 21 young people challenging the federal government over climate change.

Also on Tuesday, lawmakers on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hear of the causes of biodiversity loss. The hearing follows a May UN report that found species are facing extinction at higher rates due to climate change.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday will also hold a hearing to discuss opportunities for the expanded deployment of grid-scale energy storage in the United States.

Also Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will examine the nomination of Robert Wallace to be assistant secretary of the Interior for fish and wildlife. Wallace, who spent 17 years as manager of government relations for GE Energy, is facing pushback on his nomination from environmentalists.



Documents show persistent air quality non-compliance at Tesla factory, The Drive reports.

84 environmental rules on the way out under Trump, The New York Times reports.

How a family hike led to the discovery of 'the Nation's T. rex', The Washington Post reports.

How programs to kill wolves created a bigger problem, The Washington Post reports.

New report suggests 'high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end' in 2050, Vice reports.

Industry opposes pending ban on plastic shopping bags, the Associated Press reports.



Stories from Monday and over the weekend...

-Authorities seize ex-Michigan governor's phone in Flint water investigation

-EPA head says water in Flint 'safe to drink'

-EPA head says media 'does a disservice' by not promoting agency's achievements

-Leaked FDA study finds milk, meat, produce with cancer-causing chemicals

-Hickenlooper calls 'Medicare for All', Green New Deal 'massive government expansions'

-Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg to donate book proceeds to charity

-Nature preserve blames guests throwing human food for otter's death

-UK teen mowed giant penis into a field for Trump to see as he landed in London

-Two years after Trump's Paris climate move, frustrated Democrats eye 2020