Overnight Regulation: Groups fear FDA isn't serious about cutting nicotine | DHS waives environmental rules to begin border wall | States sue EPA over ozone rule

Overnight Regulation: Groups fear FDA isn't serious about cutting nicotine | DHS waives environmental rules to begin border wall | States sue EPA over ozone rule
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Welcome to Overnight Regulations, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill and the courts. It's Tuesday evening here in Washington where a Senate panel is planning to hold a bipartisan hearing on healthcare. Here's the latest on that.  




The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is raising eyebrows with talk of cracking down on nicotine levels in cigarettes and flavored tobacco products, including menthol.

The agency on Friday said it's planning to look at reducing nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, a policy change that would likely have huge repercussions for the tobacco industry.

The FDA said it would issue a regulatory notice "to seek input on the potential public health benefits and any possible adverse effects of lowering nicotine in cigarettes."

Health advocates who want tougher action against cigarettes aren't celebrating the announcement; they say the process mapped out by the FDA could take years and express doubts the agency will ultimately follow through. 

"We're concerned about how long a product standard on reducing the addictiveness of cigarettes is going to take based on the process outlined on Friday," said Erika Sward, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association.

The FDA said it plans to file an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the nicotine levels, which is the first step in a time-consuming regulatory process that must cross several hurdles, including White House approvals and public comment periods that can last for months. 

The notice isn't the FDA's first foray into research on nicotine reduction or the effects of flavored tobacco products.


The FDA's Center for Tobacco Products teamed up with the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2012 and has been funding research ever since to "better inform FDA's regulatory authorities," according to the NIH website. 

That year, FDA and NIH awarded a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Minnesota $2.6 million in grant funding, according to NIH records, to evaluate new nicotine standards for cigarettes. 

Dorothy Hatsukami, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota and a member of the team, said the clinical trial's results released in 2015 showed that a dose of 2.4 milligrams of nicotine per gram of tobacco leads people to smoke less compared to those who smoked cigarettes with normal nicotine contents of 15.8 milligrams of nicotine per gram of tobacco. 

The trials further showed there were more attempts to quit smoking among the people who smoked cigarettes with only .4 milligrams of nicotine per gram of tobacco.  

Hatsukami said the team is now looking at the what approach should be taken if nicotine levels are reduced -- a gradual approach or more of an immediate change where all cigarettes sold by a particular date would have to meet the new standard. 

"The idea that FDA wants to have a public dialogue on existing science I think is a good one," she said. "We should want to take a look at what the science shows in terms of public health benefits, but we also need to look at the potential adverse effects."  

Still, Hatsukami said there are concerns that regulating nicotine could lead to a black market for traditional cigarettes. 

But frustrations are growing among health groups. 

Sward said the FDA has had the science and research to justify regulating menthol since 2011, but has failed to do so. 

Read the full story here



The House is out for August recess. Here's what the Senate has planned:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a business meeting to vote on a host of nominations, including Patrick Pizzella to be Deputy Secretary of Labor, and Heather MacDougall and James J. Sullivan Jr. to be members of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet to discuss what's next for the FBI headquarters' consolidation project. 



Environment: The Trump administration is waiving numerous major environmental laws to build a wall and fencing along the border with Mexico.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the waiver Tuesday, citing its authority under a 2006 law to set aside environmental laws and rules when necessary for border infrastructure.

The decision, signed by then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last week, applies to a 15-mile border segment in the area of San Diego, where DHS plans to upgrade fencing and build border wall prototypes, among other projects.

Kelly was named White House chief of staff last week after signing the decision, which will appear Wednesday in the Federal Register.


The notice exempts the border infrastructure projects from complying with major laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, among dozens of others.

Timothy Cama has the full story here


Environment: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Tuesday it would sign off on a Michigan state plan forgive $20.7 million in federal drinking water fund debts owed by Flint, Mich.

The step comes as the EPA and the federal government make amends for the city's drinking water crisis. The government approved $100 million in emergency funding for the city in March, and a government spending bill signed by President Trump in May directed the EPA to forgive Flint's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) debts.

Devin Henry has the details here



Environment: Sixteen attorneys general are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to delay implementation of an ozone pollution rule.

"By illegally blocking these vital clean air protections, Administrator [Scott] Pruitt is endangering the health and safety of millions," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D).

"But attorneys general have made clear: we won't hesitate to fight back to protect our residents and our states."

EPA Administrator Pruitt announced in June that the agency would delay the start date for the agency's 2015 ozone standards until October 2018.

The EPA has also said it is considering repealing the tougher ozone pollution standards released by the Obama administration in 2015. 

Devin Henry explains here.


Finance: Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika said Monday his agency wouldn't formally seek the repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's forced arbitration rule, citing a lack of time to analyze its impact.

Noreika, temporary head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said the OCC won't challenge the arbitration rule before the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), an interagency financial regulatory group established by Dodd-Frank. The acting comptroller said the OCC wouldn't have enough time to complete "a thorough analysis" of the CFPB before the deadline to challenge it before FSOC.

The new CFPB rule forces companies to write arbitration clauses in ways that wouldn't prevent consumers from joining class-action lawsuits.

Republicans quickly denounced the arbitration rule, and the House voted last week along party lines to repeal it. It's unclear if the Senate will follow suit.

Sylvan Lane has the story here


Tech: The nation's second most powerful court ruled Tuesday that a health insurance company's customers can sue the provider for a 2014 cyberattack in which their personal information was stolen.

A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's decision dismissing the class action suit that seven customers brought against CareFirst, which serves 1 million customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Read about that here


Wildlife: A federal appeals court has ruled against the Interior Department's 2011 decision to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulators failed in their analysis of the act when they decide to remove protections for the gray wolf in nine states.

Interior "failed to reasonably analyze or consider two significant aspects of the rule -- the impacts of partial delisting and of historical range loss on the already-listed species," the court ruled on Tuesday. Judges vacated the decision, restoring protections for the wolves.

Devin Henry comes through again with the story here


Justice: Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions Senate outlook slides for GOP Supreme Court blocks order that relaxed voting restrictions in Alabama Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report MORE on Tuesday announced that Army Maj. Gen. Mark Inch will serve as the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

"General Mark Inch has served this country at home and abroad for 35 years," Sessions said in a statement.

"As a military policeman for nearly a quarter of a century and as the head of Army Corrections for the last two years, General Inch is uniquely qualified to lead our federal prison system."

Rebecca Savransky has the story here


Environment: A top Environmental Protection Agency official resigned Tuesday in protest of the direction the EPA has taken under President Trump.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Southerland ended her 30-year run at the agency with a scathing exit letter in which she claimed that "the environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth." She last worked as the director of science and technology in the Office of Water.

"The truth is there is NO war on coal, there is NO economic crisis caused by environmental protection, and climate change IS caused by man's activities," Southerland wrote, directly rejecting many of Trump's claims.

Southerland said that since EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took over the agency, dozens of regulations designed to protect the environment had been repealed, and Trump's proposed budget cuts to the agency would devastate its ability to enforce existing protections and create new ones.

The Hill's Jacqueline Thomsen has more here.



Booker introduces bill to legalize marijuana 

Federal judges order new North Carolina district lines 

Top Financial Services Dems call for hearing on growing Wells Fargo scandal

Online sex trafficking bill prompts opposition from Silicon Valley

Pennsylvania school district to let transgender students use bathrooms of choice – Reuters 

Wisconsin workers embedded with microchips – USA Today 


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