Overnight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts

Overnight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts
© Greg Nash

SURPRISE! NO MORE SURPRISE INSPECTIONS: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is getting rid of a policy that let pollution enforcement officials drop in at power and chemical plants for unannounced inspections.

A July 11 memo shared with EPA regional administrators outlined a new enforcement policy that would do away with the tactic in order to enhance cooperation between the agency, states and regulated industry.

"A 'no surprises' principle is the foundation of joint work planning and will minimize the misunderstandings that can be caused by the lack of regular, bilateral communication," wrote Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assistance.

ADVERTISEMENT

"With increased EPA cooperation and transparency, the EPA expects the states to respond in kind."

EPA posed the new policy as a way to increase communication and partnerships between the agency and the businesses it regulates.

"The overall goal of joint planning is the sharing of enforcement responsibilities with a clear agreement on EPA and state roles in individual inspections and formal enforcement actions. Such agreements cannot be reached if the EPA or a state is unaware of the actions of the other," the memo read.

Greens not happy: Environmentalists are criticizing the policy change for limiting the tools EPA enforcement officials can use to make sure power plants, chemical facilities and other emitters are not illegally polluting.

"Taking the element of surprise away from inspections decreases their effectiveness, for obvious reasons," Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and a former EPA enforcement attorney, said in a statement. 

"I fear that EPA's 'no surprises' posture masks a 'see no evil' approach to corporate polluters." 

What EPA says: An employee within EPA's enforcement office suggested that while the policy is new, EPA for some time has shifted away from surprise visits to coordinated inspections.

"We have done surprise inspectors over the years ... but over the years we've also given people a heads up. We might have preserved the ability, but for the most part, we don't surprise people unless we get a tip that people are going to destroy evidence," the source said.

Read the full story here.

 

HAPPY THURSDAY! 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.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

PESTICIDE GETS THE GREEN LIGHT: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not halt a pesticide linked with brain damage from being sprayed on crops, the agency said Thursday in response to a lawsuit.

Chlorpyrifos, known on the market as Lorsban, is used on a wide variety of crops, including corn and cranberries, and farmers often call it a last line of defense against certain insects. 

A federal appeals court in April gave the EPA 90 days to decide how to deal with the pesticide.

Environmental groups have long contended it dangerous and have spent years suing the EPA to end its agricultural use. Studies have linked chlorpyrifos to learning and memory issues and prolonged nerve and muscle stimulation. 

In a statement to The Hill, the EPA said the groups challenging chlorpyrifos's use did not have enough data to demonstrate the product is not safe. The EPA said it would continue to review the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2022.

Chlorpyrifos has already been banned for household use and seemed on track to be phased out more broadly, but that shifted under the Trump administration. 

A month after former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump officials suspend oil, gas production on Utah plots after lawsuit | California bucks Trump on lightbulb rollback | Scientists join Dems in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies MORE began leading the department, the agency rejected an Obama-era recommendation from agency scientists to ban the widely used pesticide.

In the absence of EPA action, some states have moved to regulate chlorpyrifos on their own. Hawaii in 2018 banned the use of the pesticide across the state. California and New York are considering a similar move.

California, the nation's top agricultural state, said it was obligated to take action due to research showing chlorpyrifos hinders brain development in children.

What environmentalists are saying: Farmers and other groups have urged the EPA to keep chlorpyrifos available.

By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump's EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children's brains," said Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice. "It is a tragedy that this administration sides with corporations instead of children's health."

Read more on it here.

 

WIND POWER BABY: New York City is throwing its weight behind renewable energy, committing Thursday to the largest procurement of offshore wind energy of any state in U.S. history.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an agreement for two offshore wind projects that when completed will provide nearly 1,700 megawatts to the city, the nation's largest offshore wind agreement ever.

The New York government estimates that the project will create enough energy to power over 1 million homes and result in 1,600 new jobs and $3.2 billion in economic activity.  

"The environment and climate change are the most critically important policy priorities we face," Cuomo said at an event. "With this agreement, New York will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation."

The big picture: The agreement Thursday came as Cuomo signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the country's most ambitious climate target that has been described as the New York version of the Green New Deal.

The law sets a target of 70 percent of the state's electricity to be powered by renewables by 2030 and to be 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040.  Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions are to be cut 85 percent by 2050.

"Today we are true to the New York legacy - to lead the way forward, to govern with vision and intelligence, to set a new standard, and to match our words with action," Cuomo said.

Former Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Krystal Ball hits media over questions on Sanders's electability MORE joined for the signing. They both took jabs at President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE during their respective speeches.

Read the story here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Lead paint suppliers settle California lawsuit for $305M, the Associated Press reports.

Washington drivers might be charged by the mile to make up for lagging gas-tax revenue, The News-Tribune reports.

As heat wave hits Kansas, some roads are actually buckling, The Wichita Eagle reports.

 

FROM THE HILL's OPINION SECTION:

William Shughart, research director of the Independent Institute, argues Europe can reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

Richard Richels, former director of climate change research at the Electric Power Research Institute, Henry Jacoby, a professor at M.I.T., and Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation professor of economics and environmental studies, give advice to the 2020 presidential candidates on climate policy.

 

ICYMI

Stories from Thursday...

-New York awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts

-EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants

-EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage

-Democrats grill USDA official on relocation plans that gut research staff