Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process| EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities | Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy

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Today we're looking at the GOP asking for documents related to special climate envoy John Kerry's security clearance, an EPA move to step up environmental enforcement in overburdened communities and our profile of one of the Flint water crisis prosecutors. 


CLEARANCE ITEM: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are requesting documents from the White House regarding Special Climate Envoy John Kerry's security clearance after Iran's foreign minister reportedly said Kerry informed him of Israeli attacks on Iranian interests in Syria.

"We are conducting oversight of Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry's reported decision to provide potentially classified intelligence to Iran," they said in a Tuesday letter to White House counsel Dana Remus. The letter was signed by all but three of the Republicans on the panel.

In the letter the lawmakers raised concerns about "Kerry's fitness to serve in his current role with the National Security Council (NSC) and whether these allegations should affect Secretary Kerry's ability to maintain a security clearance."

A refresher: The New York Times and other outlets reported last week that in leaked audio recorded in March, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Kerry told him Israel had attacked Iran's interests in Syria at least 200 times.

Zarif reportedly expressed astonishment at the revelation and did not say when Kerry, who served as secretary of State between 2013 and 2017, made the admission. 

The official response: Kerry denied the allegations in a tweet last week, saying, "This never happened - either when I was Secretary of State or since."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price didn't comment on the contents of the reportedly leaked audio last week but appeared to dismiss that the Iranian foreign minister's astonishment was genuine.

"I would just make the broad point that if you go back and look at press reporting from the time, this certainly was not secret, and governments that were involved were speaking to this publicly, on the record," he said. 

Read more about Tuesday's request here.


MAY THE ENFORCE BE WITH YOU: EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) compliance chief instructed staff to step up enforcement in communities disproportionately affected by pollution.

In a Friday memo, acting assistant administrator Lawrence Starfield instructed the EPA's offices to "strengthen enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes" in such communities.

In the memo, Starfield states that to put this goal into practice, the agency will review what types of inspections are best suited to addressing those threats and the extent to which inspections have already occurred.

Starfield acknowledges the logistical issues of resuming widespread in-person inspections in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and writes that the agency will designate inspections as mission-critical in cases where failure to act could be a threat to public health.

Starfield also asks EPA staff to "think creatively" about developing settlement agreements related to pollution-related noncompliance. 

Read more about the memo here.


ON THE CASE: Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy

Kym Worthy never thought in law school that she would wind up a prosecutor. Now she's behind one of the most prominent criminal cases against public officials in the country.

Worthy, the top prosecutor in Wayne County, Mich., co-leads the Flint water crisis case with Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud.

In January, they rolled out a slate of charges against nine people, including accusing former Gov. Rick Snyder (R) of willful neglect of duty and charging with involuntary manslaughter both Nicolas Lyon, the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Eden Wells, former Michigan chief medical executive.

Read more from The Hill's profile of Worthy here.



  • The House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the Energy Department budget request. Secretary Jennifer Granholm is slated to appear. 
  • The House Natural Resources Committee will have a member day hearing which will feature testimony from lawmakers both on and off the committee on various issues



Republicans ask why White House removed climate scientist, The Associated Press reports

Climate activists urge BlackRock, Vanguard to vote against Exxon directors, Reuters reports

Environmental protests being criminalized around world, say experts, The Guardian reports


ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday (and Monday night)...

New NOAA climate 'normals' warmer than ever

EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in communities hit hard by pollution

Prosecuting the Flint water case

Haaland: Government 'ready to solve' crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans

Experts warn emissions may quickly return to pre-pandemic levels

Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process

Padilla introduces bill to expand California public lands

Grassley asks Blinken to provide potential conflicts involving John Kerry

Senate Democrats announce $73B clean bus plan


OFF-BEAT AND OFFBEAT:  A woman in Georgia may be giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "high heels."