Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT 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

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IN THE INTERIM: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to continue to allow uses of a pesticide that’s been linked to brain damage in children. 

In a proposed interim decision dated Thursday, the EPA continued to allow uses of the chemical chlorpyrifos, which agricultural workers can be exposed to through their jobs and the general public can be exposed to through food. 

However, the public has 60 days to comment on the proposal, meaning that it will likely be up to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to make the final decision on whether to approve the continued useage because his inauguration is just 47 days away. 

Studies have linked chlorpyrifos exposure to issues such as lower IQ, impaired working memory and prolonged nerve and muscle stimulation. 

However, a recent risk assessment by the agency argued that the “science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved.”

Opponents have argued that using the pesticide should be prohibited in light of the studies linking it to neurodevelopmental issues. 

“Trump’s EPA continues to fail to protect our children from this brain-damaging poison,” Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. 

“Chlorpyrifos needs to be banned. … This is a disgraceful parting gift to the pesticide industry from [Administrator Andrew] Wheeler and his cronies in the EPA,” Donley added. 

In 2015, the Obama administration proposed banning its use on food and crops. However, in 2017, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course, saying that further study was warranted. 

“We are returning to using sound science in decisionmaking — rather than predetermined results,” he said at the time.

The new proposal from EPA would place new restrictions on how chlorpyrifos can be applied and add requirements for personal protective equipment use.

Donley argued that these measures are “wholly inadequate.”

Read more about the proposal here


NEW MEXICO, THE EPICENTER OF THE INTERIOR BATTLE: Interior observers were surprised to learn the Interior secretary position had been offered to and rejected by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D).

Those familiar with the department said they had never heard she was under consideration for the job.

“It’s an interesting name that heretofore has not gotten a lot of visibility,” said one former high ranking Interior official who expressed surprise to see her name in connection with the job.

Instead, the discussion has revolved around other New Mexico lawmakers that are close associates of Lujan Grisham’s: Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who would make history as the first Native American to serve as Interior Secretary, as well as Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Michael Connor, a former deputy Interior secretary from New Mexico, is also being considered for the job.

Lujan Grisham, like other lawmakers from New Mexico, has experience working in a state that has balanced oil and gas development with other conservation values. 

But she has primarily been viewed as a more natural fit to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, given that she served as New Mexico’s health secretary from 2004-2007.

“Qualifications are all relative of course. Is Michelle Lujan Grisham as passionate about public lands issues as Deb Haaland or Tom Udall or Mike Connor? Maybe not. But is she more qualified than Ryan Zinke? Of course,” said one conservation source in close contact with congressional offices, referencing the Trump administration’s first Interior Secretary who resigned amid a number of ethics investigations.

Some officials feel that offering the Interior post to Lujan Grisham shows the Biden administration may not take the department seriously.

“It sort of makes me feel disappointed in the transition, and I think the sentiment I was hearing was Interior is such a big sprawling agency that’s really important obviously and is the kind of place where you need someone that knows what they’re doing and has experience with the department,” said one congressional source.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were irritated by the leaks coming out of the Biden transition team, with one source close to the caucus telling The Hill they did “a disservice not only to the caucus but to the governor.”

Read more on the discussion here


I’LL BE BACK…ING MARY NICHOLS: Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) heaped praise on Mary Nichols, a California air regulator being considered by President-elect Joe Biden’s team to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

“She’s a big, big star,” Schwarzenegger told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt at a Thursday event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the EPA.

Hewitt was asking Schwarzenegger what it was like to work with Nichols, with the radio host positing she must have been “demanding.”

“Well I hired her,” the action star said, adding that he “really hired the No. 1 expert, and Mary Nichols is fantastic.”

Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, has been an active voice in pushing back against the Trump administration as the state has repeatedly sued over a number of environmental rollbacks.

She also struck a deal with five automakers to meet mileage and emissions standards much closer to those set under the Obama administration after the Trump administration drastically weakened the standards. 

“I hope that she gets to be the head of the EPA, because she has fought with the oil companies and she has fought with the car companies. And let me tell you, what I was so impressed about with her is that she is sensitive. She’s a very sensitive woman,” Schwarzenegger said.

The former governor credited Nichols with being a stellar negotiator, working with companies to clinch deals that push the industry forward while recognizing technological limitations.

“She listened to the automakers she listened to everybody, and we made the adjustments and really brought it back,” he said, referencing the recent deal that pushed automakers beyond the Trump standards.

Read more on the former governor’s comments here



On Wednesday:

  • The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing titled “Pipelines Over People: How FERC Tramples Landowner Rights in Natural Gas Projects”
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will examine the nomination of Charles Cook to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority



EPA hastens end-of-administration NEPA overhaul, E&E reports

Denmark becomes first major oil-producing nation to set deadline to end extraction, The Washington Post reports

Russia to Germany gas pipeline targeted in U.S. defense bill, Reuters reports

The rancher trying to solve the West’s water crisis, Politico reports


ICYMI: Stories from Friday…

Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham

House approves bill banning big cat ownership after Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’

As coronavirus stifles demand, two more coal companies file for bankruptcy

Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA

EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children

Tags Adam Kinzinger Biden transition Climate change Deb Haaland energy efficiency EPA Jeff Fortenberry Joe Biden Martin Heinrich Michelle Lujan Grisham Pesticides Ryan Zinke Sally Jewell Scott Pruitt Tom Udall
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