Overnight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging

Overnight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging
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SILENCING SCIENCE ADVISERS: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly rescheduled and delayed a meeting of an advisory board slated to review a controversial proposal that would block the agency from considering studies that don't make their underlying data public. 

The rule in question is titled "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science," but it is known as the secret science rule.

Former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Saluting FOIA on its birthday Watchdog found EPA employees kept on payroll by Trump appointees after they were fired: report MORE and other Republicans have railed against "secret science" that they say is used to support regulations even when the data underlying the science is not released. Critics of the rule say scientists sometimes do not have the legal right to make their data public, and that the new rule could endanger public safety by putting up barriers to the use of valid scientific evidence.


Repeated delays: The EPA has sought to schedule a three-day teleconference of its Science Advisory Board (SAB) between September and November, according to emails obtained by The Hill. The board was most recently scheduled to meet in early November before the meeting was canceled at the behest of EPA head Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerEPA bans sale of COVID-19 disinfectant authorized under Trump OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland reportedly recommends full restoration of monuments Trump altered | EPA to reinstate air pollution panel disbanded under Trump | State appeals court upholds approval of Minnesota pipeline EPA to reinstate air pollution panel disbanded under Trump MORE, with no new scheduled date.

"The SAB teleconference call tentatively scheduled for November 4‐6, 2019 will be delayed," Tom Brennan, director of the EPA's SAB staff office, wrote to the committee members in an Oct. 23 email. "The Administrator has asked us to delay the meeting until all new SAB members have been formally onboarded. That process is under way now."

Questions: Critics suspect the delays are a stall tactic allowing the agency to finalize the rule without the public hearing criticism leveled by its own internal board.

Former SAB staff director Chris Zarba said the excuse in the Oct. 23 email shouldn't have been enough to not have the meeting.

"That's no excuse. There's always new people coming on board and there's always people leaving," he said. "There's 44 members on the SAB. There's no reason not to go forward and no reason to hold up a review for three members." 

Zarba predicted that if SAB were to meet, it would likely find the secret science rule would diminish EPA's ability to rely on sound science -- the conclusion of groups that submitted negative comments on the proposal.

"This has got no support," Zarba said. "Every independent science organization that commented on it was strongly opposed to it. This is going to be a major storm when it breaks.


"They know the answer they're going to get [from the SAB] so they don't want to wait. They want to implement it first," he added. 

Read more about the delays here.


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QUITE THE CLEAN UP: The Keystone pipeline spill has affected nearly 10 times more land in eastern North Dakota than first thought, The Associated Press reported Monday.

North Dakota environmental scientist Bill Suess told the AP state regulators estimate the leak reached 209,100 square feet of land, compared to the earlier report of 22,500 square feet.

The cause of the spill, which began Oct. 29 and sent about 383,000 gallons of oil into the land, is still unknown. A third-party laboratory is investigating a part of the pipe affected, according to the news wire. 

Suess told the AP that TC Energy, the company responsible for the pipeline, did not have an estimate on the land affected, but said that it included some wetlands and not any sources of drinking water. The company said late Sunday it had retrieved 337,550 gallons of oil. 

Last week, TC Energy announced the pipeline returned to service after the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration approved the repair and restart plan.

As part of the cleanup that continued Monday, TC Energy is moving contaminated soil that reached up to 6 feet deep to a landfill in Sawyer, N.D.

"We really don't have any risk of anything spreading at this point," Suess told the AP.

The $5.2 billion pipeline first pumped oil in 2011 and goes through Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada and then North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

Read more here.


A QUID PRO QUO BETWEEN THE TREES?: Democrats are pushing for an investigation of a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) grant after reports that funds were funneled to a logging industry group as it lobbied to open up access to Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

Democrats say a grant from USFS to Alaska to help it prepare a draft environmental analysis of the proposed logging was improper given that the $2 million was designed to help communities prevent and suppress wildfires. The draft environmental analysis was released in October.

"The Tongass is our largest National Forest and is essential to addressing the climate crisis. It is critical that we ensure this taxpayer funded grant was properly awarded and used," Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowHere's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken Schumer: Democrats considering option to pay for all of infrastructure agenda Democrats closing in on deal to unlock massive infrastructure bill MORE (D-Mich.) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General.

A September report from KTOO found that more than $200,000 of the grant was given to the Alaska Forest Association, a timber industry group.


Lawmakers argue that not only were the funds improperly used, but the state appears to have excluded groups that opposed opening up the forest to logging.

Critics told KTOO the way the grant was used was odd.

"The state has said, 'Change the rule.' And the federal government, which wrote the rule ... turns around and says, 'Here's $2 million to help you convince us to change the rule.' And that's just weird," Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, a watchdog group, told the station.

Read more here.



On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on PFAS, also 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 Rick PerryRick PerryFormer Texas Supreme Court justice jumps into state's AG Republican primary race Texas governor signs 'fetal heartbeat' abortion bill Tomorrow's special election in Texas is the Democrats' best House hope in 2021 MORE as Energy secretary, 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. 



Police arrest 18 more wind-farm protesters in Kalaeloa, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports

Climate crisis 'may have triggered faster wind speeds', The Guardian reports

Nebraska National Forest fire blackens just under 604 acres, the Journal Star reports


ICYMI. Stories from Monday and over the weekend...

-Democrats ask for investigation of Forest Service grant related to logging in Tongass National Forest

-Keystone pipeline spill affecting nearly 10 times more land than first thought: report

-EPA delays advisers' review of 'secret science' rules

-Arctic sea ice coverage shrinks to record low: NOAA

-Congressional watchdog warns a majority of Superfund sites are vulnerable to climate change: report

-Dunkin' swapping foam cups for paper, ending the 'double cup'

-EPA chief arrives in Israel for water management conference