Overnight Energy: Study finds 'forever chemicals' in more locations | Trump officials approve Keystone XL pipeline right-of-way | Warren asks banks for climate plans

Overnight Energy: Study finds 'forever chemicals' in more locations | Trump officials approve Keystone XL pipeline right-of-way | Warren asks banks for climate plans
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THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE WATER: So-called forever chemicals have been discovered in drinking water at 34 previously unknown locations, according to a report released Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The environmental watchdog group found perfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as PFAS, were found at some of the highest levels in Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia, and indicate both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and previous reports by the EWG have underestimated the levels. PFAS are particularly resistant to breaking down in the environment and have been linked to numerous health problems.

Researchers analyzed tap water samples in 44 locations in 31 states and Washington, D.C., and found only one location -- Meridian, Miss. -- with no detectable PFAS and only two locations -- Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Ala. -- with levels below what is considered hazardous to humans, according to EWG. Utilities that test independently are not required to publicly report the results or make them available to the EPA or state water agencies.

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The top five locations for PFAS levels were Brunswick County, N.C.; Quad Cities, Iowa; Miami; Bergen County, N.J. and Wilmington, N.C.

"Our results are meant to highlight the ubiquity of PFAS and the vulnerability of the nation's drinking water supply to PFAS contamination," EWG said in a statement. "They underscore what an expert at the Water and Environmental Technology Center at Temple University, in Philadelphia, said about PFAS contamination: 'If you sample, you will find it.' "

Only two of the locations, Brunswick County and Quad Cities, had levels above the EPA's limit for specific PFAS substances, referred to as PFOS and PFOA contaminants, the study found. Some states have set stricter limits on these chemicals. 

Read more about the findings

 

HAPPY WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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PIPELINE NEWS: The Trump administration on Wednesday approved a right-of-way grant allowing for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline across 44 miles of land in Montana. 

Company TC Energy will now be permitted to construct the pipeline across the federally managed lands, according to a statement from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

The pipeline is opposed by environmental and indigenous groups who have claimed that the line could infringe on land considered sacred and that it could negatively affect the environment. 

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, however, touted the decision as a "common sense infrastructure improvement in our country" in the statement. 

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Gov. Ron DeSantis more popular in Florida than Trump Sotomayor accuses Supreme Court of bias in favor of Trump administration MORE clearly recognizes the importance of having the infrastructure necessary to meet our energy needs and to fuel our economic progress," he said. 

The pipeline's construction and operation still requires permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is also dependent on decisions by the Energy Department's Western Area Power Administration and the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service, according to the statement.  

The project also currently faces court challenges. 

A federal judge in December rejected a bid by the government to throw out lawsuits against the administration's approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline plan was revived under President Trump after being rejected by former President Obama. 

Read more on the move here

 

BANKING ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen Surging Sanders looks for decisive win in Nevada Bloomberg to do interview with Al Sharpton MORE (D-Mass.) sent a series of letters to the nation's largest banks Wednesday asking them to turn over their plans for how they will prepare for the financial risks of climate change.

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"As climate change continues to affect our economy, it is critical to understand your bank's adaptation and mitigation strategies," Warren wrote.

Warren's letter highlighted a number of financial risks that could stem from climate change, all part of a package of research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Sea level rise and floods could impact the real estate market. Increasingly severe natural disasters could stress financial markets, particularly as displaced people move away from often-hit areas.

Those factors may increase reliance on banks. Cities and states may need capital to invest in new infrastructure more resilient to the effects of climate change, like reinforcing shorelines or raising roads. 

"The climate crisis demands that banks accurately estimate and mitigate risks to social and economic stability; it also presents mutually beneficial investment opportunities, particularly in climate-resilient urban infrastructure," Warren wrote.

The letter was sent to JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Bank of New York Mellon, Morgan Stanley and State Street.

Warren's letter comes as environmentalists' push for Wall Street to take action on climate change is gaining traction.

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Earlier this month investment firm BlackRock announced sustainability -- both environmental and financial -- would feature more prominently in its analysis, a move that leads the company away from investment in fossil fuels.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said they were reviewing the letter. Other banks contacted by The Hill did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Read more about her letters.

 

NOT COAL-ESCING: Attorneys general from five states have raised objections to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rollback of Obama-era regulations that stipulate how coal-fired power plants dispose of waste containing arsenic, lead and mercury.

The lawyers representing Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and Vermont expressed concerns about the proposed changes, which would weaken rules dealing with the residue from burning coal, called coal ash, in a Tuesday comment addressed to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge EPA will regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water MORE.

"When power plants burn coal, the resulting waste--coal combustion residuals, or coal ash--includes a host of toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury," they wrote. "These chemicals pose numerous dangers to human health, including cancer, cardiovascular effects, and neurological effects."

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Their comment acknowledged that states are free to impose stricter regulations than the federal government, but noted that waters within their borders are connected to out-of-state waters and could be tainted by pollution produced in those states. 

"Our states thus rely on federal regulation to ensure a stable nationwide regulatory floor protecting against pollution crossing our borders," the attorneys general wrote. 

An EPA official told The Hill in an email that the agency "will consider all timely filed public comments as part of the rulemaking process." 

The agency has previously defended the proposed changes as supporting "the Trump Administration's commitment to responsible, reasonable regulations by taking a commonsense approach, which also protects public health and the environment."

The full story is here

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

Colorado College says it's the first school in the region to reach carbon neutrality, we report

Fertilizer is a major pollutant. Why doesn't the government regulate it as one? The Center for Public Integrity, Grist and The World ask.

Arizona's largest utility will eliminate carbon emissions by 2050 and close coal plant ahead of schedule, The Arizona Republic reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday

Parts of Australian capital evacuated due to bushfires

'Forever chemicals' found in drinking water at 34 additional locations: survey

Warren asks banks to turn over plans to prepare for climate change

Five states raise alarms about EPA coal-fired power plant waste disposal proposal

Trump administration moves controversial Keystone XL pipeline closer to construction

Gore praises Greta Thunberg after meeting: 'Nobody speaks truth to power as she does'

Colorado College says it's the first school in the region to reach carbon neutrality

Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpManufacturers group kicks off campaign to close the industry's skills gap Fed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Rally crowd chants '46' for Donald Trump Jr. MORE refuses to criticize Greta Thunberg: 'She's elevated awareness'