Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Dems subpoena Perry in impeachment inquiry | EPA to overhaul rules on lead contamination tests | Commerce staff wrote statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump

Greg Nash

PERRY IN HOT WATER WITH DEMS: House Democrats on Thursday subpoenaed Energy Secretary Rick Perry for documentation of his involvement with President Trump’s efforts to push the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Perry is the latest Trump administration official to be issued a subpoena as part of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, which is examining the president’s efforts to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender.

{mosads}”Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President,” the chairmen of the three committees leading the House inquiry wrote to Perry.

Leaders of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees are demanding that the Energy secretary hand over the requested documents by Oct. 18. The subpoena comes after the White House on Tuesday told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the three Democratic committee leaders in a letter that it would not cooperate with the ongoing impeachment probe.

What Dems want: The subpoena issued Thursday demands that Perry hand over all documents and communications related to any Energy Department preparations for Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Biden.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) are also seeking information about Perry’s attendance as part of the U.S. presidential delegation to Zelensky’s inauguration in May.

The three House panels are further demanding documentation of Perry’s reported efforts to urge the Ukrainian president to replace members of the board of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company. The Associated Press reported that one of the preferred candidates offered by Perry, a former Texas governor, was a former political donor.

In addition, the subpoena includes a request for evidence of “all meetings or discussions” with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who played a key role in urging Ukrainian officials to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter.

Read the subpoena request here.

And click here for the full story.


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TAKING THE LEAD: The Environmental Protection Agency proposed an overhaul of a decades-old rule on testing for lead contamination in drinking water.

The agency is touting the new guidelines as a significant step to reduce the presence of lead in the nation’s drinking water supply and as evidence of the Trump administration’s commitment to ensuring clean water across the U.S. But critics say the changes will actually slow down the process of removing lead from cities’ water systems.

Wheeler unveils rule: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler rolled out the proposed rule, which the agency says is the first “major” overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule since 1991, during an event in Green Bay, Wis., on Thursday afternoon.

“Today, the Trump Administration is delivering on its commitment to ensure all Americans have access to clean drinking water by proposing the first major overhaul of the Lead and Copper Rule in over two decades,” Wheeler said in a statement.

“By improving protocols for identifying lead, expanding sampling, and strengthening treatment requirements, our proposal would ensure that more water systems proactively take actions to prevent lead exposure, especially in schools, child care facilities, and the most at-risk communities.”

Pushback: Critics, though, are questioning the agency’s claims, arguing that the changes may actually slow progress on removing lead from water.

The rule does not lower the lead action level as many public health experts had hoped. Those experts say the current level, 15 parts per billion (ppb), is too high to meaningfully reduce the blood lead levels of children who are exposed.

And the rule establishes a new two-tier system for addressing lead contamination.

When a city’s water hits a new 10 ppb “trigger” level, cities would be required to reevaluate their water treatment processes and possibly add corrosion-control chemicals to city water.

Only at 15 ppb must cities begin to replace the full length of all of the lead service lines in their system. Under the new proposal, though, cities would be required to replace 3 percent of lead service lines each year — lower than the current requirement of 7 percent.

Critics worry easing regulations on how quickly cities must replace their pipes will ensure lead stays in the system even longer.

More on the controversial proposed rule here.


COMMERCE DID IT: Commerce Department officials were responsible for drafting a statement that rebuked National Weather Service staff after they sent a tweet countering President Trump’s statements on Hurricane Dorian, according to a letter sent by the House Science committee Thursday.

The letter sent by House Science, Space and Technology Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote that interviews that took place with administration staff this week revealed it was Commerce Department officials, not NOAA staff, who were responsible for sending the controversial letter.

In the interview with Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator at NOAA, the committee found that an unsigned Sept. 6 statement that disavowed NWS staff in Alabama was orchestrated by Ross’s chief of staff and three other top deputies.

The statement read, “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

It responded to a tweet by National Weather Service’s Birmingham office that wrote “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.” 

Trump had previously tweeted that the hurricane could potential hit the state.

The interview with Science committee staff also confirmed reporting that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was directly involved in “high-level” conversations surrounding the statement, according to the letter.

Read more on the letter here.


DON’T POLITICIZE ME: Nearly 600 former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials are asking House leadership to investigate the agency for appearing to place undue focus on California’s pollution enforcement, an act they argue is politicized.

In a Thursday letter sent to both the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, the former EPA employees ask Democratic leadership to investigate whether warnings issued by agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to California in September, regarding the state’s homeless population and pollution concerns, were done as retaliation for ongoing pushback to President Trump’s air enforcement agenda.

“EPA’s credibility depends on its commitment to use its authority to protect public health and our environment in an objective, even-handed manner, rather than as a blunt instrument of political power. While that principle has served the public well under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, it is in serious trouble today,” read the letter, signed by former Obama EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and others.

In late September. Wheeler sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) criticizing the state for “failing to meet its obligations” on sewage and water pollution, blaming homelessness for the contamination. It was the latest move in the political battle between Trump and the nation’s largest state, and one experts have said carries no scientific merit.

The EPA pushed back in a statement, saying California’s failures on air and water create “public health risks” for its population.

“Highlighting that California has the worst air quality in the nation along with other serious environmental problems is not a political issue. The Trump Administration, unlike the previous administration, will act to protect public health and the environment for all Americans,” EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said.

The letter from the former employees comes as the Environmental Integrity Project unveiled an investigatory deep dive that found via the EPA’s enforcement database that many states, not just California, were out of compliance with EPA regulations when it comes to wastewater discharge violations.

According to the internal EPA data, Ohio, New York and Iowa were the biggest offenders. 

The Kicker?: Wheeler is from Ohio.

Read the full story here.



Newsom says PG&E power blackouts are frustrating but necessary to prevent fires, the Los Angeles Times reports.

New York state to take IJC to court over Lake Ontario flooding damage, The Buffalo News reports.

Ninth Circuit orders thaw of Obama-era energy efficiency standards, The Courthouse News Service reports


ICYMI: Stories from Thursday…

-Commerce staff drafted statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump’s hurricane predictions

-Hundreds of former EPA officials call for House probe, say agency’s focus on California is politicized

-House Democrats subpoena Rick Perry in impeachment inquiry

-California bans small plastic bottles in hotels

-EPA to overhaul rule on testing for lead contamination

-Sierra Club sues EPA over claim that climate change ‘is 50 to 75 years out’

-Climate change activists seek to halt flights at London City Airport

-Coal demand projected to hit new lows through 2020

-Hundreds of birds face extinction due to climate change: study

-Trump struggles to win back Iowa farmers with new ethanol plan

Tags Adam Schiff Andrew Wheeler Copper Donald Trump Dorian Eddie Bernice Johnson Elijah Cummings Eliot Engel Gavin Newsom Gina McCarthy Joe Biden Lead Mick Mulvaney Nancy Pelosi Rick Perry Rudy Giuliani San Francisco water quality Wilbur Ross
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