Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Former EPA chiefs say Trump has abandoned agency’s mission | Trump in Iowa touts ethanol and knocks Biden | Greens sue Trump over drilling safety rollbacks | FDA downplays worries over ‘forever chemicals’


EPA ADMINISTRATORS UNITE: Four former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, criticizing the agency’s direction under the Trump administration and imploring Congress to return it to its mission.

“I’m here for one reason and one reason only. And it’s not to weep about all my precious rules being rolled back. Though I admit that the constant roll-back is beginning to tick me off a bit,” said Gina McCarthy, in her first appearance before Congress since heading the EPA under former President Obama.

“I’m here to remind the political leadership at the EPA that what they do matters, and it’s time for them to step up and do their jobs. Just do your jobs. Right now, this administration is trying to systemically undo health protections by running roughshod over the law.”{mosads}

McCarthy joined Republican counterparts spanning the Reagan to George W. Bush administrations. Their appearance comes after they sent a letter to various members of Congress offering the help of former EPA staff, who, concerned about the direction of the agency, formed an association — The Environmental Protection Network.

The four former cabinet secretaries say the agency is reversing course and endangering human health along the way.

“Today, as never before, the mission of EPA is being seriously undermined by the very people who have been entrusted with carrying that mission out,” Christine Todd Whitman, who headed the agency under former President George W. Bush, said in her opening remarks. She pointed to a retreat from science, the influence of regulated industries, a disinterest in addressing climate change and a lack of a focus on public health as areas for concern.

“This unprecedented attack on science-based regulations designed to protect the environment and public health represents the gravest threat to the effectiveness of the EPA — and to the federal government’s overall ability to do the same — in the nation’s history,” she said.

The EPA has faced a number of controversies under the Trump administration, ranging from ethical issues tied to former Administrator Scott Pruitt, to ignoring scientists both inside and outside the agency, to accusations it is rolling back regulations to favor industry.

That has spurred a growing response from a number of current and former employees of the agency, including the ex-administrators.

“I’ve never had a situation where four former EPA administrations, three Republicans and one Democrat…would come in and sounds the alarm the way they did today,” Rep. Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.) said of her tenure on the committee.

Read more about the hearing here.


What a Tuesday! And welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

Please send tips and comments to Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com and Rebecca Beitsch, rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @mirandacgreen, @rebeccabeitsch and @thehill.

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TRUMP TOUTS ETHANOL: President Trump gave rallygoers in Iowa Tuesday a sign of what might come in 2020, speaking to them about ethanol while taking hard jabs at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Speaking in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to celebrate his administration’s decision to allow 15 percent of ethanol to be mixed into gasoline in the hot summer months, Trump in one breath called the move an American success story while also blasting Biden for failing to embrace the fuel under President Obama.

“America must never be held hostage to foreign suppliers of energy as we have under ‘Sleepy Joe,'” Trump told the crowd gathered at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, using his preferred nickname for Biden.

“Under the previous administration our leaders rejected American energy and they rejected ethanol. They imposed radical restrictions on our farmers, refused to allow talk of E-15 during the busiest driving time of the year,” Trump said, nodding to both Biden and Obama. “How ridiculous was that?”

More on Trump’s remarks here.


Trump and Biden are holding dueling events today in Iowa. Check back at TheHill.com tonight for more coverage.


GREENS SUE OVER OFFSHORE REGS: A coalition of environmental groups is suing the Trump administration for rolling back drilling protections put in place after the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 left millions of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Northern District of California, targets changes the White House made to offshore drilling regulations that required increased monitoring of safety equipment, including the caps designed to fit over well heads and stop leaking oil.

“The Trump administration is now rolling back these regulations allegedly to reduce the burden on industry,” said Chris Eaton, an attorney with Earthjustice who helped file the suit. The problem, he said, is the federal government is “basically just rolling the dice when it comes to worker safety and oil spills.”

The Obama-era regulations were put in place in 2011 in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and a new agency — the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), part of the Department of the Interior — was tasked with enforcing them.

Under the new policy, third-party inspectors, rather than the BSEE itself, would inspect wells’ safety systems, something critics say opens the door to less rigorous scrutiny and leaves companies forwarding performance logs to the outside inspectors for what Eaton described as a “paperwork review.”

“It puts responsibility for ensuring adequate inspection in the hands of the industry that failed to do that in the case of the BP blowout,” he said. “We cannot let this industry police itself.”

Read more about the suit here.


FDA SAYS PFAS CHEMICALS ‘NOT A CONCERN’: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to allay concerns after an agency study found harmful “forever chemicals” in some food, saying they did not “have any indication that these substances are a human health concern.”

The Tuesday statement follows the leak of the FDA study to U.S. media, which was presented at a conference in Finland.

The class of chemicals, known as PFAS, are linked with cancer and other health issues.

PFAS is widely used in common household products, and the chemical has also been found in water supplies across the country after breaking down.

But FDA research found the substance in food, including produce, milk, meat and store-made chocolate cakes.

FDA’s latest statement tried to put consumers at ease, noting that most of the food tested did not contain PFAS.

“The FDA does not have any indication that these substances are a human health concern… at the levels found in this limited sampling,” the agency said in the statement. “These data give our scientists a benchmark to use as we continue our critical work studying this emerging area of science.”

PFAS is often referred to as a “forever chemical” given its persistence in the environment and even human bodies. A study estimates the chemical is found in the blood of 98 percent of humans.

The study presented in Finland found PFAS in 14 of the 91 samples tested, but the samples of meat and store-bought chocolate cake had particularly high levels of PFAS.

Read more on the controversy here.



On Wednesday, acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor will appear before the House Homeland Security Committee, while the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy will hold a hearing with members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on natural disasters in the wake of climate change.

In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the Waters of the U.S. rule.



BP review finds global carbon emissions surged in 2018, we report.

Oregon lawmakers send plastic bag ban to governor’s desk, we report.

Coal companies tied to W.Va. Gov. Justice agree to pay delinquent Kentucky taxes, the Lexington Herald Leader reports.



Stories from Tuesday…

Former Obama EPA head tells Trump’s EPA: ‘Just do your jobs

Green groups sue Trump over offshore drilling rollbacks

Green groups ‘stunned’ by fed decision not to hold hearing on energy efficiency rule

Bipartisan former EPA chiefs say Trump administration has abandoned agency’s mission

BP review finds global carbon emissions surged in 2018

House Intel chair requests details on suppressed climate change testimony

Climate change poses ‘high risk’ to federal spending: GAO

Study: Oceans will lose one-sixth of marine life from current greenhouse gas emissions

Biden backs calls for 2020 debate focused on climate

FDA says ‘forever chemicals’ in some foods not a human health concern

Tags Department of the Interior Donald Trump EPA FDA Gina McCarthy Joe Biden Scott Pruitt

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