Overnight Energy: Measure would force EPA to regulate ‘forever chemicals’ in water | Emails show Trump official consulted climate deniers | Democrats urge Puerto Rico to reject debt deal for power company
FIRST TAKE ON PFAS: Congress would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a drinking water standard for harmful “forever chemicals” under an amendment introduced late Thursday to the defense policy bill.
Known as PFAS, the chemicals are linked with cancer and other health impacts and have contaminated water in at least 43 states. There’s been mounting pressure on government officials to address the problem. The persistence in the environment and the human body has earned it the nickname of “forever chemicals.”
The EPA has said it will decide by the end of the year whether it will set drinking water standards for PFAS.
The amendment puts pressure on the agency to speed up that timeline, adopting a drinking water standard within two years for two specific types of PFAS.
The amendment provides an early glimpse at how Congress may address the chemicals this year.
The EPA currently recommends water have no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS. But many states, tired of waiting for standards from the federal government, have passed their own more stringent drinking water standards beyond what the EPA currently recommends.
Forcing the EPA to set a standard could prove controversial.
At a recent House hearing on PFAS, several Republicans said they were wary of getting ahead of agency scientists and recommending a specific response to the substance.
But Democrats argue the agency has been delaying action while the problem spreads.
“EPA has given us little reason for confidence that they will act with the urgency that impacted communities know is needed,” Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y), said at a May hearing.
The Senate amendment would also force EPA to consider barring new uses of PFAS and require PFAS manufacturers to share data on their production.
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TRUMP AND CLIMATE DENIERS: A Trump administration official consulted with advisers to a think tank skeptical of climate change to help challenge widely accepted scientific findings about global warming, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.
William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, made the request to policy advisers with the Heartland Institute this March.
Happer and Heartland Institute adviser Hal Doiron discussed Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down climate change as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership” in a March 3 email exchange.
Happer also said he had discussed the work with another Heartland Institute adviser, Thomas Wysmuller, according to the emails obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by the Environmental Defense Fund.
The National Security Council declined to comment on the emails.
Pushback: Jim Lakely, interim president of Heartland Institute, told The Hill that the government’s stances on climate change are not above question.
“As for Wysmuller and Doiron, they are unpaid policy advisors and friends of The Heartland Institute and have known Dr. Happer for many years,” he said.
“It would be hard to find a group of men with more qualifications or experience to criticize NASA’s alarmist public statements on the climate than Happer, Doiron, and Wysmuller.”
The Trump administration is reportedly considering creating a new panel headed by Happer to the question the broad scientific consensus that climate change is driven by human activity and is potentially dangerous.
DEMS DON’T LIKE PUERTO RICO DEAL: Democrats are pushing the Puerto Rican government to reject a debt resettlement deal with the island’s power company, arguing that it will increase Puerto Ricans’ electric bills and stymie development of renewable energy.
A May deal would address the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) $8 billion in debt, pushing the utility to charge customers more to pay off its creditors.
A letter signed by 36 Democrats late Thursday encourages Puerto Rico’s legislative leaders to oppose the deal, which would reduce the utility’s debt by about one-third but raise prices for its customers.
Puerto Ricans already pay almost double the national average for electricity — 22 cents per kilowatt hour compared to 12 cents nationally — and the new deal is expected to raise electric prices by about 20 percent.
“Higher electricity rates are detrimental to the local economy, causing businesses to operate with reduced profit margins, leaving them less able to expand and hire new employees. The new [deal] will accelerate the outmigration of businesses and residents, depleting what is left of Puerto Rico’s economic foundation,” the letter said.
Background: PREPA filed for bankruptcy in July of 2017, but the arrival of Hurricane Maria just months later compounded problems for the struggling utility. More than 1 million Puerto Ricans lost power during and after the storm, many remaining without electricity for months.
Beyond damage to the economy, lawmakers argue the deal backtracks on a pledge to generate more of Puerto Rico’s electricity through renewable sources.
Read more about the PREPA deal here.
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
Alaska governor calls special session for oil dividend checks, the Associated Press reports.
Texas governor signs disaster relief and preparedness bills in Houston, The Texas Tribune reports.
Pope Francis warns oil and gas execs on climate change, we report.
Target aims for 100 percent renewables by 2030, Utility Dive reports.
Arkansas strikes deal to remove hog farm near river, Arkansas Times reports.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK:
Next week, the House will hold a number of hearings looking into energy consumption. Two hearings Wednesday will look into methods to make the country’s natural gas pipelines safer and methods to jump start clean energy use through fossil energy research.
Thursday, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce will look into an EPA rule proposal to roll back emissions standards for cars. Witnesses testifying at the hearing will include California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, a source confirms to The Hill. Nichols has been an instrumental figure in California’s pushback to Trump’s proposed emissions rule. Expect some fireworks.
The Senate will hold two land related hearings next week.
The first hearing in the Energy and Natural Resources committee will look at the recurring deferred maintenance needs on federally managed lands under the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
The second at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will examine the opportunities and challenges to obtaining advanced geothermal energy development in the country.
Stories from Friday…
Pope Francis warns oil and gas execs on climate change
Emails show Trump official consulting with climate change deniers to challenge scientific findings: report
Democrats urge Puerto Rican government to reject debt deal for island’s lone utility
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