Overnight Energy: Science committee staff dismiss EPA response after subpoena threat | Iowa pushes EPA to change ethanol plan | Bill Gates talks climate on Capitol Hill

Overnight Energy: Science committee staff dismiss EPA response after subpoena threat | Iowa pushes EPA to change ethanol plan | Bill Gates talks climate on Capitol Hill
© Greg Nash

SCIENCE VS THE EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided "largely non-responsive" documents in response to a final threat by House Democrats, according to House Science committee staff, likely setting the stage for a subpoena.

The EPA had until Tuesday to provide the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee with internal materials related to one of its chemical programs and to make an agency representative available for an interview. While the agency provided the committee with documents by the committee's deadline, staffers on the panel say the materials were not adequate -- keeping open the door to a lingering subpoena fight.

"After staff review we feel that the letter we received last night on our [Integrated Risk Information System] request was largely non-responsive," a committee aide told The Hill Wednesday.

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The committee was looking for documents related to an EPA decision to limit the study of the health effects of formaldehyde and nine other chemicals. Formaldehyde is linked with leukemia and other health problems.

Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonPelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention What has EPA been hiding about formaldehyde? Overnight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks MORE (D-Texas) previously warned EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits Latest EPA guidance weakens air protections in favor of industry, critics say Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows to push for Paris climate goals | Senate confirms Brouillette to succeed Perry at Energy | EPA under attack from all sides over ethanol rule MORE in an Oct. 29 letter that he had one "final" chance to respond to outstanding records requests by the panel before she moved to take action to compel the agency to hand over the documents.

Members of the committee, which has jurisdiction over EPA, have complained of months of feet-dragging by EPA and instances of outright refusal to respond to records and interview requests with agency officials.

"The agency has made claims of privilege on an item of interest and has flooded this committee with thousands of irrelevant documents while positioning itself as fully responsive to my requests," Johnson wrote in her October letter.

"The committee is now prepared to issue subpoenas for the requested materials should the agency fail to meet the deadlines outlined in this letter." 

Yet EPA's response letter, dated Nov. 5, largely pushed back against the insinuation that the administration was not being responsive to congressional oversight requests.

"The nature of the committee's letter and the manner in which you have suggested a compulsory process for certain information is unnecessary and exceeds the bounds of any well-established accommodation process," Joseph Brazauskas, an EPA associate administrator, wrote to the committee. 

Read more about the fight here

 

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LATEST IN ETHANOL BATTLE: Iowa's senators and governor are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon its plans to use a formula that corn farmers argue won't ensure ethanol is blended into the nation's fuel supply.

The arcane process for adding ethanol to America's gasoline allows small refineries to get an exemption if it would be a hardship to blend it in, but in theory, larger refineries are supposed to pick up that slack.

The formula unveiled by the agency last month would require refineries to add ethanol based on projections rather than the actual number of gallons exempted, something farmbelt states argued undercuts the ethanol program.

Many called the latest iteration a bait and switch by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE and the EPA, who previously pledged to increase the number of gallons of ethanol refiners would blend in.

"Now, the way the rule was written and put out for public comment does not deliver on the same understanding I had leaving the Oval Office about what would be in the proposed rule," Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyHouse to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices Trump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Falling impeachment support raises pressure for Democrats on trade MORE (R-Iowa) wrote in public comments to the EPA, adding that the agency does not have a good track record of making sure that the 15 billion gallons required by law are blended in.

The big picture: The oil industry and ethanol producers have been stuck in a tug of war over ethanol rules for months, leaving the White House square in the middle.

Though joined by other Midwest states with large farm communities, Iowa's delegation has been pushing the hardest to change the policy, taking advantage of its status as a crucial election state.

"Plain and simple, if the market for biofuels does not trust EPA to implement the proposal President Trump negotiated, the market will not make investments in biofuels – a dangerous spiral for Iowa farmers and producers which will only lead to more plants closed and jobs lost in the heartland," Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Democratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members MORE (R-Iowa) wrote in response to the proposal.

The EPA did not respond to request for comment.

More on the Iowa pushback here

 

SPOTTED – BILL GATES: Microsoft founder Bill Gates was spotted in the Capitol Thursday, planning to meet with leaders of the newly formed Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities Senators defend bipartisan bill on facial recognition as cities crack down MORE (D-Del.), one of the founders of the caucus, called Gates "one of the most significant innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders of the last 50 years and who is a major player in climate change and global development and poverty issues."

The caucus, announced last month, has already added six new members and had its first meeting with several CEOs on Tuesday to discuss federal climate policy.

Coons said the meeting has no agenda, but he's interested to hear Gates's thoughts on what the country should be investing in and "what he thinks are promising technologies that could contribute to battling climate change." 

Coons on Thursday told CBS This Morning that the caucus would look for "low-hanging fruit" where they can build consensus. The caucus has agreed not to forward issues unless they earn approval from all eight members.

In the same interview, fellow caucus member Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyImpeachment can't wait Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in MORE (R-Utah) said it was important for Republicans to take action on climate change because "we look a bit like Neanderthals." 

Read more on the visit here

 

OFFICIALLY OFFICIAL: The White House on Thursday sent its nomination for outgoing Energy Department Sec. Rick PerryRick PerryNew Energy secretary cancels Paris trip amid mass strikes against Macron proposal Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits MORE's replacement to the Senate.

Nominee Dan Brouillette current serves as the deputy secretary at the Department of Energy.

Perry is expected to leave the department on Dec. 1, exiting under scrutiny for his involvement in dealing with Ukraine.

Read more here

 

OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY: 

A 'green interest rate?' Fed digs into climate change economics, Reuters reports.

Interior to Offer Buyouts to Employees Tapped for Relocation, As Some Already Head for the Exits, Government Executive reports.

Fires Are Ravaging Brazil's Pantanal, the World's Largest Tropical Wetlands, Time reports.

PG&E expects more than $6B in wildfire costs, the Associated Press reports.