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Overnight 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 moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan
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AN UNDERFUNDED SUPERFUND? A proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would absolve the nation's manufacturers of cancer-linked "forever chemicals" from broad financial responsibility for cleaning up their product as it leaches into the water supply across the country. 

The class of chemicals known as PFAS, which are noted for their persistence in both the environment and the human body, are used in a variety of nonstick products.

As PFAS contamination spreads into city water supplies in every state but Hawaii, there has been growing pressure from lawmakers to have manufacturers help fund cleanup efforts.

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A notice of the EPA's proposed rule posted to the Federal Register Friday would exclude manufacturers of PFAS from providing financial assurances under the Superfund law, which directs the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Companies would not be required to prove they have the financial backing to clean up any contamination.

The move comes as data shows the Trump administration has the highest number of unfunded construction projects at Superfund sites of the last 15 years.

 

Why does it matter?

Melanie Benesh, an attorney with the Environmental Working Group, which tracks PFAS contamination, said the move is part of an unfortunate trend in which the government seeks funds only after there is a problem.

"If you don't require these companies that are the most likely to be contributing to Superfund contamination, if you're not asking them to provide financial assurances, EPA may not be able to recover money to clean up that site, and there may not be enough in appropriated funds to clean up that site," she said. 

"This is a relatively small burden on companies. They're not asking them to pay anything at this point; they're asking them to show they have the money -- that if you dump a bunch of chemicals in people's air or drinking water that you at least have the money to clean it up, which seems like the bare minimum that we should be expecting."

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EPA argues that current management practices at PFAS facilities do not pose a financial risk to taxpayers, who would otherwise foot the bill for a cleanup.

"The degree and duration of risk associated with the modern production, transportation, treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous substances by the chemical manufacturing industry does not present a level of risk of taxpayer funded response actions that warrant imposition of financial responsibility requirements for this sector," the EPA wrote.

If finalized, the EPA would still retain the power to impose Superfund responsibilities at individual contaminated sites. 

Read more about the proposal here

 

TGIF! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Besitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

 

WELL THEY DIDN'T WASTE A MINUTE: The state of California sued the White House late Thursday after President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE ordered the state to reconfigure its water plan, funneling more water from the north to a thirsty agriculture industry and growing population further south.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHispanic leaders coalesce in support of Lujan Grisham as HHS secretary Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Biden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security MORE (D) argued the administration violated the law by failing to consider a number of environmental impacts or giving an opportunity for the public to comment. 

"As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet's biodiversity, not destroy it," Becerra said in a statement. "California won't silently spectate as the Trump Administration adopts scientifically-challenged biological opinions that push species to extinction and harm our natural resources and waterways." 

The suit was filed a little more than 24 hours after Trump signed the order in front of a crowd in Bakersfield, Calif., flanked by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress inches closer to virus relief deal McCarthy woos Freedom Caucus with eye on Speakership House GOP uses procedural tool to protest proxy voting MORE (R-Calif.) and Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE (R-Calif.).

The move was made possible after Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to redo biological assessments that for decades had blocked water diversion, finding that lower flows would hurt various types of fish.

Critics fear the new plan, which would allow large quantities of water to be diverted from the San Francisco Bay Delta to the Central Valley in order to irrigate farmland, would ultimately harm chinook salmon and the delta smelt, a finger-sized fish that for three decades has stood in the way of the diversion.

On Wednesday, Trump said the changes to the "outdated scientific research and biological opinions" would now help direct "as much water as possible, which will be a magnificent amount, a massive amount of water for the use of California farmers and ranchers."

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"A major obstacle to providing water for the region's farmers has now been totally eliminated by the federal government," he said.

Becerra listed off a host of reasons the new biological opinions from Interior don't meet legal requirements, including that they ignore "the requirement that a biological opinion must consider not only the continued survival of listed species, but also their recovery."

Read more on the suit here.

 

A MAN WITH AN EXPANDED PLAN: Democratic presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJuan Williams: Clyburn is my choice as politician of the year 'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' MORE on Friday released new climate proposals as part of his environmental agenda.

The former South Bend, Ind., mayor wants to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030, double clean electricity generation by 2025 and make the U.S. more resilient to the effects of climate change. 

"America's public lands power local economies, preserve sensitive habitats and cultural heritage, and protect our clean air and water," Buttigieg said in a statement. 

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"My administration will protect our public lands for posterity while ensuring that they are a key part of the solution to tackling the climate crisis," he added.

Recent rankings of Buttigieg's plans by environmentalists have placed him among the middle of the pack.

Buttigieg this week was given a 4 out of 10 on the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund's scorecard, placing him third out of the six candidates it evaluated.

He has been given a B-plus by Greenpeace, coming fourth out of 10 candidates, including the eight Democrats running for the White House as well as President Trump and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldRalph Gants, chief justice of Massachusetts supreme court, dies at 65 The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden visits Kenosha | Trump's double-voting suggestion draws fire | Facebook clamps down on election ads Biden picks up endorsements from nearly 100 Republicans MORE

The White House hopeful's new proposal calls for building a zero-emission clean electricity system by 2035 and achieving net-zero emissions from public lands by 2030.

He also targets environmental rollbacks eyed by the Trump administration, saying he would "restore the integrity" of bedrock conservation laws such the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

 

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If any of this sounds familiar...

Buttigieg's aim to conserve 30 percent of lands and oceans follows a similar proposal from former presidential candidate Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarris taps women of color for key senior staff positions The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases MORE (D-Colo.). 

Bennet and Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham Progressives urge Haaland for Interior as short list grows MORE (D-N.M.) have introduced a resolution that would require such conservation.

Read more on the Buttigieg plan here

 

SAGE GROUSE IN THE HOUSE: The Trump administration on Friday released draft supplemental environmental impact statements on its attempts to weaken protections for the sage grouse bird after a judge ruled last year that its past statements likely did not meet legal requirements. 

The new documents do not change the conclusions of past statements, but do highlight steps taken during the planning process.

The draft released Friday was criticized by environmental groups as an attempt to "paper over deficiencies" in the administration's past documents following a court order that temporarily prevented the rule change. 

Read more on the environmental impact statements here.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear a case challenging the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will review the Forest Service budget. 

The White House Council on Environmental Quality will hold a hearing on its proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act.

Also on Tuesday evening, Democrats will hold their third (!!!) debate this month.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on one portion of the Republican climate plan, a bill that would commit the U.S. to the UN's One Trillion Trees Initiative. 

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on innovative wood products and promoting healthy forests. 

The House Committee on Education and Labor will review mismanagement of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. 

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee will review the Forest Service budget and the Department of Energy budget, with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette testifying

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerHillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler EPA chief quarantining after exposure to someone who later tested positive for COVID-19 MORE will sit down with the House Energy and Commerce Committee as they review his budget.

And the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on sexual harassment at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

3M to pay $55M in Michigan PFAS settlement, Michigan Live reports.

Hawaii bill would mandate testing kids for lead poisoning, Honolulu Civil Beat reports.

Washington lawmakers want to fund solutions for healthier soil -- and less gassy cows, Crosscut reports. 

 

ICYMI: Stories from Friday...

California delivers swift suit after Trump orders water diversion

Buttigieg expands on climate plan with new proposals

EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers under cleanup law

Trump administration releases supplemental information on sage grouse rollback