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

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
© Greg Nash

SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE... SUBPOENAS: The House Science Committee has formally issued two subpoenas to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), demanding answers on various scientific rulemakings that lawmakers argue have been unnecessarily delayed.

The Committee on Science, Space and Technology sent the subpoenas to EPA late Friday afternoon, fulfilling a months' long threat to force the agency's hand in responding to oversight document requests. The move is the latest escalation of a brewing conflict between the agency and the congressional committee, chaired by Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Minority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic Americans must have confidence federal agencies are using the best available science to confront coronavirus MORE (D-Texas), that oversees it.

The issue: The committee has been seeking 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.


The formal demand for documents comes after the science committee sent a letter to EPA in late October giving the agency a "final" chance to respond to outstanding data and interview requests before moving to take action to compel the agency to hand over the documents.

Science committee staff told The Hill last week that the documents EPA provided by the deadline were "largely non-responsive."

EPA not happy: EPA officials called the subpoenas "reckless and unjustified," and have long argued that the agency has gone above and beyond to respond to committee staffer requests.

"EPA has been entirely transparent in producing the specific documents and information to Chairwoman Johnson in response to the issues raised in letters, questions during testimony, and numerous conversations with Committee staff. To accuse the agency of anything less is completely false," EPA said in a statement Friday.

"The action taken today would cause any reasonable person to believe that Chairwoman Johnson does not know how to take 'yes' for an answer. Instead, it appears that the Chairwoman is more interested in pursuing a political attack on the agency and the Trump Administration, rather than actually working in good faith to obtain information from EPA."

Read more about the subpoenas here



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SUIT 33 HAS BEEN SERVED: California and 22 other states sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, challenging President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE's decision to block the state from setting tougher tailpipe emissions standards.

Trump announced in September that he was revoking the waiver California has relied on for decades that require automakers to produce more environmentally friendly cars for the state and the more than dozen others that chose to adopt its tougher regulations.

"The Trump administration is trying to undo the progress we've made as a state and as a nation over the past decades. We can't afford to do that. We cannot afford to backslide in our battle against climate change," California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCampaigns accuse California AG of slanted descriptions of ballot initiatives California sues Trump administration to mandate undocumented immigrants are counted for apportionment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money MORE told reporters shortly after the suit was filed.

"California's Clean Car Standards are achievable. They not only work, many other states around the country have chosen to adopt them. The Trump Administration, on the other hand, has chosen to side with polluters. We believe we're on the right side of history," he added. 

Emissions fight: The suit comes as the Trump administration is looking to roll back Obama-era emissions standards and as California has been in negotiations with some major automakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. 

It also follows a similar challenge against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which helps determine regulations for fuel economy. 

In this case, the attorneys general, joined by the cities of Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York, argue that EPA lacks the authority to revoke the waiver, calling it "unprecedented in the multi-decade history of waiver requests."

In a press conference with reporters in Santa Barbara, Becerra said the state has gotten more than 100 such waivers, including the most recent one granted in 2013 that Trump revoked.

The states argue Congress gave California special powers under the Clean Air Act. 

"Congress intended California to be able 'to continue and expand its pioneering efforts at adopting and enforcing motor vehicle emission standards different from and in large measure more advanced than the corresponding federal program,'" the state wrote in earlier comments to EPA.

The agency's side: The EPA would not comment on the lawsuit but said its pending regulations "will help ensure that there will be one, and only one, set of national fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles."

The administration has previously argued that one such standard will help automakers focus on producer cleaner, safer, cheaper vehicles.

The suit is the 33rd environmental challenge California has brought against the Trump administration.  

Read more about the lawsuit here


IT'S PRIVATE: The Trump administration abruptly disbanded an advisory committee earlier this month whose recent recommendations to greater privatize national parks were met with heavy criticism.

The Interior Department quietly ended meetings of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee on Nov. 1, more than four months before its charter was set to expire on March 13, 2020.


The committee, which was established under former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog MORE in 2017 and commonly known as the "Made in America" committee, was an industry-stacked advisory board. The committee was created with the purpose of advising on "public-private partnerships across all public lands" with an emphasis on improving infrastructure. Zinke described the group as "the private sector's best and brightest​."

All of the seats were filled by representatives of the recreation industry. At least three of the members had been reportedly flagged by Interior's own staff as having potential conflicts of interest. 

A controversial proposal: The disbanding of the group comes after the board submitted recommendations in late September that suggested privatizing campgrounds within national parks, limiting benefits for senior visitors and allowing food trucks as a way to bring more money into the system. Those recommendations were met with heavy skepticism.

Administration officials said no action has been taken on the recommendations. 

"No action has been taken on the committee's recommendations nor will any action be taken in the future unless and until the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service determine the recommendations will improve the visitor experience, protect national park resources, and are determined to be prudent investments," a National Park Service spokesperson told the Hill in a statement.

The agency did not provide a reason for the early termination of the committee.

Read more about the committee here.




On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on PFAS, commonly known as "forever chemicals."

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will review pending nominations, including those of Dan Brouillette, who has been nominated to replace Pick Perry at the Department of Energy, and Katharine MacGregor, who would be the deputy secretary at Interior.

The Environment and Public Works Committee will welcome Govs. Mark Gordon (R-Wyo.) and Kevin Stitt (R-Okla.) to talk about changes to the Clean Water Act, including Section 401, which critics complain is a way for states to block pipelines. 

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee will examine the Department of Energy's role in battling climate change.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will review climate challenges facing front line communities. 

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on creating a climate resilient America. 

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing on "reclaiming U.S. leadership in weather modeling and prediction."



Ohio plan will help farmers combat nutrient runoff, the Toledo Blade reports.

Plan would protect 21 coral hot spots in Gulf of Mexico, the Associated Press reports.

Washington tribe aims to harpoon gray whales again -- 20 years after last successful hunt, KUOW reports.


ICYMI. Stories from Friday...

California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver

House committee hits EPA with subpoenas

Jane Fonda leads DC climate protest for sixth straight Friday

Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks

Harris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires

Italian council flooded for first time moments after officials rejected climate change measures