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Overnight Energy: Top EPA political staffer leaves for coal lobby | House committee gears up for vote to subpoena Interior | EPA re-approves key Roundup chemical

Overnight Energy: Top EPA political staffer leaves for coal lobby | House committee gears up for vote to subpoena Interior | EPA re-approves key Roundup chemical
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EXIT STRATEGY: One of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) highest ranking political appointees is leaving the agency to work for the nation's top coal mining advocate.

Ryan Jackson, chief of staff to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerBiden 'freeze' of Trump rules could halt environmental rollbacks 15 states sue EPA over decision not to tighten pollution standard for smog 13 states sue EPA over rule allowing some polluters to follow weaker emissions standards MORE, will be a lobbyist for the National Mining Association, according to reporting from Bloomberg and other outlets.

The move drew criticism from environmental groups that have long argued that President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE's EPA has been a revolving door as high-level employees go back and forth between the agency and the industries it regulates.

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"Same job, higher paycheck," the Sierra Club tweeted of the move Friday morning.

"Considering that he already works for a top coal lobbyist -- EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, who's gone from lobbying in the private sector to helping President Trump roll back clean-air regulations -- the on-boarding process at his new employer should be a breeze," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. 

"But long-term job growth opportunities might be grim working for an industry in a death spiral," Cook added. 

The EPA did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

The Trump administration has issued several rules that benefit the coal mining industry, chief of which is the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which lifts restrictions on coal-fired power plants.

Jackson was under investigation by the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) for his suspected involvement in the destruction of important documents related to a number of issues that should have been retained. Another investigation centered around whether Jackson interfered with testimony another EPA employee was set to give Congress. 

The investigation concluded in December, with OIG concluding that EPA's ethics training "does not address interfering with or intimidating individuals who communicate with or testify before Congress." 

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Jackson had refused to answer some questions or sit down for an additional interview with investigators. 

Read more about Jackson and his exit here

 

TGIF!  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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A ROUNDUP ROUND-UP: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has re-approved a chemical used in Bayer's Roundup weed killer despite concerns over its health risks.

The agency is doubling down on its claims that the chemical, glyphosate, doesn't pose a danger to humans despite thousands of lawsuits that attribute cancer to Roundup.

"The EPA found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that glyphosate plays a role in any human diseases," said an agency interim registration review decision. 

The agency did find that glyphosate presented "low or limited potential risks" in birds and mammals. 

The EPA's results differ from other research such as a 2015 World Health Organization analysis which found that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic" to humans. 

The agency received some pushback over the renewed approval. 

"The Trump EPA's assertion that glyphosate poses no risks to human health disregards independent science findings in favor of confidential industry research and industry profits," Lori Ann Burd, the Center for Biological Diversity's director of environmental health, said in a statement. 

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"This administration's troubling allegiance to Bayer/Monsanto and the pesticide industry doesn't change the trove of peer-reviewed research, by leading scientists, that's found troubling links between glyphosate and cancer," Burd added. 

Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide among farmers and is the key ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto's Roundup weed killer. The company faces a myriad of lawsuits regarding the substance. 

Bayer touted the EPA's determination in a statement on Friday. 

"EPA's latest decision on glyphosate-based herbicides adds to the long-term evaluation of leading international health authorities that these products can be used safely, and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic," said a statement from Bayer AG's Board of Management member Liam Condon. 

Read the full story here

 

SUBPOENA TIME? A House Natural Resources Committee vote to subpoena the Department of Interior could come as early as next week after months of consideration.

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The vote, expected during markups, would give Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) the authority to force Interior to hand over records after a long list of acrimonious exchanges between lawmakers and department leaders.

Committee Democrats have sought a number of records from Interior throughout the Trump administration but have been frustrated after frequently receiving either no response or heavily redacted records.

The bipartisan nature of those grievances was on display in September, when the committee held a hearing to discuss the lack of response to their requests.  

"There are many of us on the other side of the aisle that may not share the Democrats' policy positions, but do recognize the role of oversight, and are frustrated when legitimate requests, bipartisan requests are made and not answered," Rep. Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockAn attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation Coalition of 7 conservative House Republicans says they won't challenge election results Five Republicans vote for bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (R-Calif.) said at the hearing.

The vote would dictate the scope of Grijalva's subpoena powers and kick off a discussion about what records the committee would seek.

Grijalva in September said he was weighing a subpoena to force Interior to turn over documents tied to the controversial relocation of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

"The hearing validated some things we had been considering and also justifies us going further in the consideration of a subpoena to get those reorganization papers. I think that's the next step," he said following a hearing with BLM acting Director William Pendley. 

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During the hearing, Pendley was unable to answer some questions about the move, including how many employees they expected to lose during the relocation. 

Interior disputed that it has not been clear about the employment figures underlying the move or that it has not cooperated with the committee.

"Chairman Grijalva's long-desired intention to issue unwarranted subpoenas is nothing more than political grandstanding and a lowly partisan attack against the Trump Administration. The Department has been more cooperative with the Committee than any in history – turning over an unprecedented number of documents and even extending multiple invitations for personal visits with the Secretary, none of which have been accepted. It's clear the Chairman would rather make headlines than learn the facts," an Interior spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. 

Read it here

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

On Wednesday:

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on "overcoming the health risks of the climate crisis."

The House Natural Resources Committee will hear about a bill aiming to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will examine management and spending challenges within the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Presidential candidates including Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden signs order to require masks on planes and public transportation Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden hits the ground running on COVID MORE will participate in a New Hampshire Youth Climate and Clean Energy Town Hall

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will conduct an oversight hearing of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On Thursday:

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled "A Threat to America's Children: The Trump Administration's Proposal to Undermine Protections from Mercury Air Toxics Standards."

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

Wisconsin lawmakers announce sweeping plan to regulate PFAS contamination in water, The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports

Massachusetts Senate approves 'net-zero' environmental bills, the Associated Press reports.

Environmental contamination shuts down Pennsylvania schools, the Associated press reports.

 

ICYMI: Stories from Friday...

Natural Resources Committee gears up for vote to subpoena Interior

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Super Bowl swaps single-use plastic for aluminum cups at concession stands

Top EPA political staffer leaves agency for coal lobby

EPA re-approves key Roundup chemical