Overnight Energy: Experts criticize changes to EPA lead, copper rule | House panel looks into plan to limit powers of EPA science advisers | Senate bill aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

Overnight Energy: Experts criticize changes to EPA lead, copper rule | House panel looks into plan to limit powers of EPA science advisers | Senate bill aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
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LEAD, COPPER RULES UNDER SCRUTINY: Experts and advocates on Tuesday criticized the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed rule to combat lead in the water supply, calling for the agency to require that service lines containing lead be replaced.

Pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, who helped publicize the Flint, Mich., water crisis, said a plan based solely on health protection would eliminate lead from service lines and maximize corrosion control so children are not exposed to it. 

"We're never supposed to expose a child to lead," Hanna-Attisha added during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. 


One witness, however, argued that requiring service lines to be replaced would be a costly burden that would take resources away from other programs.

Angela Licata, the deputy commissioner of New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, said she "appreciates that EPA's proposal avoids setting unattainable mandates such as a deadline for the replacement of all lead service lines nationwide," according to her prepared remarks. 

"Compliance with such a mandate would take decades, cost billions of dollars, and would prevent water systems from allocating their limited budgets to other projects and initiatives that may deliver greater public health benefits," she added. 

The EPA's proposed overhaul to the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule, unveiled last year, established a 10 parts per billion (ppb) "trigger" level at which cities would be required to reevaluate their water treatment processes and possibly add corrosion-control chemicals to city water.

At 15 ppb, cities would be required to replace the full length of all of the lead service lines in their system. They would only be required to replace 3 percent of lead service lines each year, less than the current requirement of 7 percent.

Proponents of the change say that the trigger level will allow for more proactive action. However, opponents have said that looser rules on how soon cities should replace their pipes will result in lead remaining in systems for more time. They also say the 15 ppb action level should be lower. 

"It needs to be lower. It needs to go as low as possible. Five [ppb] would be way better. Zero [ppb] would be great," Mae Wu, the Natural Resources Defense Council's senior director of health and food, said on Tuesday. 


Read more on the hearing here


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SCIENCE COMMITTEE GOES TO BAT FOR SCIENCE BOARD: An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to limit what information is provided to its independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) is raising alarm bells with lawmakers, spurring a large information request from the House Science Committee.

A December memo from EPA staff to the board, first reported by E&E News that month, proposes centralizing power in the board's chair, cutting SAB's other roughly 40 members from weighing in on what EPA policies the board should review. 

Science Chairwoman 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) says it now appears that measure may have been retaliatory, as shortly thereafter the SAB released draft reports questioning the scientific underpinnings of four major deregulatory efforts from the agency. 

"I am particularly troubled by the timing of this draft memorandum as it appears to be a retaliatory reaction to recent draft SAB reports that are critical of several proposed rulemakings being promulgated by the Agency," Johnson wrote in the letter. 

"I have serious questions not just about what practical effects the draft memorandum would have on the SAB's utility to EPA and the general public, but also about its legality."

The SAB, traditionally a team of the nation's top scientists, is asked to weigh in on the EPA's largest proposals.

It has also been a repeated target of changes under the Trump administration, first under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruiit, who barred people from sitting on the board if they received any EPA grant funding, calling it a conflict of interest. The move blocked a number of academics from sitting on board, skewing its composition to include more industry-affiliated scientists. 

Johnson said EPA's efforts to limit decisions over what the SAB reviews to the chair are not legal.

The law requires EPA to give needed decision-making documents "to 'the board' rather than any individual designated by EPA, and authorizes 'the board' rather than any single member to review them," Johnson wrote in her letter.

In a January interview, SAB Chairman Michael Honeycutt told The Hill the changes from EPA put him in a difficult position. He went back to EPA and pushed back against leaving decisions about what to review to just the chairman.

"No one person has all the expertise necessary to make that decision because EPA just deals in so many areas of science. No one person can know all that information," Honeycutt said.

Read more on the letter here


TRUMP BAILS OUT REAGAN'S BOYHOOD HOME: The website for Ronald Reagan's boyhood home proudly says it does not receive any federal funding, but President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE is seeking to change that with his latest budget proposal.

The president's budget request sets aside $300,000 for the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site in Dixon, Ill.

Reagan long espoused views of limited government intervention, the spirit of which carried on through the foundation that ran the museum now staged in his childhood home.


The foundation turned down efforts in the past to sell the home to the National Park Service (NPS), arguing doing so would have been against Reagan's principles.

"He didn't think that government needed to be so big, he didn't think government needed to be involved in our daily lives, and people really took that to heart here," a former director of Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Preservation Foundation told former Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnCongress must protect federal watchdogs Tom Coburn's annual gift to taxpayers Joe Biden still doesn't have a campaign theme MORE (R-Okla.) for his 2013 report that questioned Congress's "misplaced priorities" in running NPS.

But the foundation has since hit hard financial times, Politico Magazine reported in November, and for the first time sought the federal funding that former Speaker Dennis HastertJohn (Dennis) Dennis HastertFeehery: The fight worth having with teachers' unions Feehery: How Trump can better handle COVID-19 and win reelection Feehery: It's about the Trump voter MORE (R-Ill.) had offered in 2002.

"It's not gonna close, if I have to stay here and run it myself," Patrick Gorman, the director of the foundation told Politico. "It would be a loss to this community, the status, the tourism. Those 5,000 people that come to see us [every year], they eat in restaurants, spend money here."

Read more on the home here


ANOTHER 'BY 2050' EFFORT: A group of mostly Democratic senators has introduced a bill that would require the U.S. to phase out carbon emissions by 2050, placing their faith almost entirely in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out the process.


The Clean Economy Act, led by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining Lawmakers weigh increased telework as some agencies push federal workers back to the office MORE (D-Del.), would require the EPA to chart the course for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, 2030 and 2040, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

"Today's legislation I'm offering centers our country on [an] aggressive and I think achievable path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than later 2050," Carper said in a call with reporters. "This is the quickest way we can, I think, jump-start governmentwide climate action by encouraging agencies to use the tools that they already have."

Read more on the bill here



Emissions are down... Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. fell 2.9 percent last year, according to a report published Tuesday. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that the U.S. decline was the largest, at 140 million tonnes, out of any country. It also noted that since 2000, U.S. emissions have decreased nearly one gigatonne.

"A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019," the report said. 

Globally, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions flatlined at about 33 gigatonnes following two years of increases.

IEA attributed this to fewer emissions from the power sector in advanced economies because of "the expanding role of renewable sources..., fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and higher nuclear power output."

But oil production is up... U.S. oil production on public lands hit more than 1 billion barrels last year, a nearly 30 percent increase over production at the end of the Obama administration.

The billion barrel figure for fiscal 2019 is the highest the Department of the Interior has seen over the last decade.

Interior, which manages public lands, credited executive orders from President Trump calling for energy independence and greater offshore drilling for creating "a blueprint for the Department" and helping to speed permitting.

"These actions have helped to propel secure and reliable American energy on public lands and waters," Interior wrote in a release.

Oil production on public lands dipped during the middle of the Obama administration but has been steadily increasing since fiscal 2013.

Read more about the decline in carbon emissions here and more about oil production on public lands here


BIRD IS THE WORD: A coalition of former Interior Department officials is asking the department to back away from plans to dramatically reduce protections for birds.

The Trump administration is expected to finalize a proposal in the coming weeks that would punish the oil and gas industry, construction companies and others only if their work intentionally kills birds, ending the practice of punishing companies that "incidentally" kill birds.

"The Department's decision is particularly misguided considering the devastating findings of a new study published in Science, revealing that nearly 3 billion birds have disappeared from North America over the past half-century," the former officials, who spanned Republican and Democratic administrations, wrote in the letter. "This alarming decline is the equivalent of losing more than one in four birds in less than a single lifetime."

If finalized, the administration's actions would limit the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that has been in place since 1918 and that currently protects about 1,000 kinds of birds. 

The former officials credited the law as being "successfully used to reduce gross negligence by companies that simply do not recognize the value of birds to society or the practical means to minimize harm."

Read more about the letter here


PLASTIC PUSHES BACK: "This legislation's efforts to shut down plastics manufacturing would hurt the nearly one million hard-working men and women in our industry and the nation's economy as a whole," the Plastics Industry Association wrote in response to a bill from Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallGOP lawmaker says he will oppose any attempts to delay election Trump raises idea of delaying election Cook Political Report shifts several Senate races toward Democrats MORE (D-N.M.) and Rep. Alan Lowethal (R-Calif.) introduced yesterday

The bill envisions a fundamental shift to the recycling industry, putting the onus to collect recycled goods on the manufacturers themselves rather than municipalities, along with forcing companies to use more post-consumer recycled goods in their packaging.

The group said it's more supportive of other legislation that would set aside funds for improving recycling infrastructure.


ROUND 2: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee once again gave its blessing to Interior deputy secretary nominee Katharine MacGregor.

MacGregor's nomination was held up by opposition from Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPompeo: Trump taking action on Chinese software firms 'in coming days' Bass: 'Lesson learned' on 2016 Castro comments Trump campaign targets Bass amid speculation over Biden VP pick MORE (R-Fla.) over concerns about Interior's position on offshore drilling.

But Rubio withdrew his hold in December, telling reporters that he was assured the department would not interfere with his effort to block oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico through 2027.

"The most important thing we care about is ensuring that we don't have an Interior Department that's out there advocating against our bill that extends the moratorium," Rubio told reporters, according to the Tampa Bay Times

MacGregor's nomination will now proceed to the Senate floor alongside Lanny Erdos, who was nominated to serve as director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.



House Natural Resources Committee will weigh whether to give Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) subpoena power.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on numerous bills dealing with energy storage and grid issues. 



Wyoming governor pledges to protect, promote fossil fuels, the Associated Press reports.

A once-powerful Montana mining town warily awaits final cleanup of its toxic past, The Washington Post reports.

Dominion joins power giants' net-zero carbon emissions push, Axios reports

Opponents crowded a Denver hearing over federal changes that would relax environmental reviews, Colorado Public Radio reports


ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

EPA asked to justify proposal to limit power of its science advisors

Former Interior officials ask department to abandon plans to reduce bird protections

Senate Democrats seek committee action on energy tax proposals

U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions lowered in 2019: report

Oil production on public lands exceeds 1 billion barrels

Experts criticize EPA Lead and Copper Rule revisions

Senate bill requires US to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

Trump budget proposal funds financially struggling museum in Reagan's childhood home

First mountain lion killed under California depredation law