Overnight Regulation: Greens sue Trump over fracking waste in Gulf | Treasury plans to repeal 300 tax regs | EPA numbers hint at eased enforcement under Trump | Michaels to pay $1.5M over shattering vases
Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It’s Tuesday evening and our campaigns reporter, Lisa Hagen, has compiled a list of the 36 Democrats who could challenge Trump in 2020.
THE BIG STORY
Three environmental groups teamed up to sue the Trump administration on Tuesday for allowing oil companies to dump leftover waste from drilling and fracking into the Gulf of Mexico.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Gulf Restoration Network and Louisiana Bucket Brigade, argues officials neglected to determine the potential dangers to water quality, marine life and the environment before allowing the dumping.
Specifically, the groups are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act permit that allows companies to dump the waste into the Gulf. The permit was granted in September.
The groups claim officials failed to conduct a comprehensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act in compliance with the Clean Water Act.
“The Trump administration is letting oil companies dump toxic fracking chemicals into the Gulf with no regard for the risks or the law,” Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the CBD, said in a statement. “That’s just unacceptable. The EPA is supposed to protect water quality, not give oil companies free rein to use our oceans as their garbage disposal.”
ON TAP FOR WEDNESDAY
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney testifies before the House Budget Committee on the president’s fiscal 2019 budget.
A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds an oversight hearing for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A House Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on data security and breach notification regulations.
A House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee looks at new uses for blockchain, the technology underpinning digital currencies.
A House Financial Services subcommittee looks at a number of bills on derivatives regulations.
The House Natural Resources Committee marks up land bills, including one to create a national monument honoring slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee looks at the challenges for manufacturing and infrastructure from the EPA’s air permit process.
The House Transportation Committee marks up a number of bills including one to improve safety data collected by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing for four Trump nominees for the Federal Trade Commission.
Environment: The reported decline in enforcement actions at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is likely a harbinger of what’s to come from the Trump administration, experts say.
The EPA on Thursday reported that it had recommended that 115 cases of illegal pollution be prosecuted in the last fiscal year, down from 152 the year before and a peak of nearly 400 cases in 2009.
The findings seemed to confirm speculation that the EPA under President Trump has shifted its focus away from regulating pollution and prosecuting polluters, and experts and former EPA officials predict the enforcement numbers will continue to drop.
The tally of enforcement actions for fiscal 2017 included the final four months of the Obama administration. If the tally had only included actions taken under current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, many suspect that the total would have been significantly lower.
Finance: The Treasury Department on Tuesday proposed repealing almost 300 tax regulations, as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce regulatory burdens.
“We continue our work to ensure that our tax regulatory system promotes economic growth,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “These 298 regulations serve no useful purpose to taxpayers and we have proposed eliminating them.”
President Trump signed an executive order last April asking Treasury to review tax regulations and Treasury’s announcement stems from the order.
The department said that the rules it’s proposing to repeal fit into three categories: Rules interpreting tax-code sections that have been repealed, rules interpreting tax-code sections that have been significantly changed and rules that no longer apply.
Immigration: A second federal judge has issued an injunction barring the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while litigation plays out in courts.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, wrote in a court order Tuesday in New York City that the administration could not rescind the Obama-era program “pending a decision on the merits of these cases.”
The New York ruling is similar to one issued last month by San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who ordered the administration to continue processing DACA applications.
Shortly after that order, the Trump administration formally asked the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision. The justices have yet to decide whether to hear the case.
President Trump announced in September that he would rescind the program, which temporarily shields immigrants brought to the country as children illegally — known as “Dreamers” — from deportation.
Max Greenwood and John Bowden have the details.
Court battles: The Texas-based craft store Michaels is agreeing to pay a $1.5 million fine to settle allegations it failed to make a timely report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that large glass vases it sold were shattering in customers’ hands.
The Department of Justice announced the settlement on Tuesday.
DOJ and the CPSC filed a joint lawsuit against Michaels Stores Inc. and its subsidiary Michaels Store Procurement Co. Inc. in 2015, which it later amended in 2017.
Technology: House Democrats are pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for answers over how it reviewed the docket of 24 million public comments submitted in response to the agency’s repeal of its net neutrality rules.
On Tuesday, all 24 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the FCC raising concerns about how reports of widespread fake comments in the docket affected the agency’s review of the public input.
The FCC was flooded with a record number of submissions ahead of its vote in December to repeal the net neutrality rules, which require internet service providers to give equal footing to all web traffic.
Throughout the process, Democrats raised concerns about reports that the record was rife with comments filed under fake names and automated submissions, including ones that appear to have originated in Russia.
More tech: The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing a rule that requires broadcasters to air children-friendly content each week.
FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said on Tuesday that Chairman Ajit Pai had asked him to lead a review of the regulation — dubbed the Kid Vid rules.
“My goal in reviewing the Kid Vid rules is to understand whether the rules the Commission imposed on broadcasters to carry out the Children’s Television Act — in many cases more than two decades ago — still make sense in today’s media marketplace,” O’Rielly said in a statement.
Context: The FCC currently mandates that broadcasters air at least three hours a week of educational children’s content.
Read Ali Breland’s piece here.
Court battles: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has dropped a lawsuit against a lender that was allegedly charging interest rates up to 950 percent, NPR reported.
The case against Golden Valley Lending had taken CFPB staffers years to establish, but new agency Director Mick Mulvaney instructed staffers to drop the lawsuit, according to NPR.
“People are devastated and angry — just imagine how you would feel if years of your life had been dedicated to pursuing justice and you lose everything,” Christopher Peterson, a former attorney at the bureau who had worked on the case, told the news outlet.
Jacqueline Thomsen has more here.
Environment: ExxonMobil is going after individuals and groups who are suing the oil giant, slapping them with lawsuits and legal threats of its own.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Exxon has put at least 30 people and groups in its crosshairs as it seeks to push back against what it says is an effort by lawyers, state officials and environmental groups to smear the company.
Exxon alleges that the public relations and legal campaign against it was developed six years ago in La Jolla, Calif. The company has dubbed the alleged crusade against it the “La Jolla playbook,” according to Bloomberg.
Context: Exxon and other oil and gas companies have been the target of lawsuits by New York City and eight cities and counties in California alleging that the companies tried to cover up evidence of climate change.
Energy: A government watchdog has found that a Texas energy company likely charged the Department of Energy $2.5 million in extraneous expenditures ranging from spa services to lobbying costs.
The Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General identified more than $2.5 million in expenses Summitt Texas Clean Energy charged to a project that they considered potentially unallowable, according to an inspector general report released Feb. 8.
Summit was awarded a contract with the Energy Department in 2010 for a $1.7 billion cooperative agreement to work on the department’s Clean Coal Power Initiative, described by the report as “a partnership with industry to demonstrate advanced coal-based technologies.”
Environment: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said he sometimes flies first class on airplanes due to decisions by his security detail.
Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday that he’s had some “incidents” while traveling previously, so his security team sometimes has him fly first class, including the day he spoke to the newspaper.
“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” he said. We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the [security] detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”
The Washington Post reported Sunday that Pruitt has flown first class or on military jets on the taxpayers’ dime on numerous occasions.
Guns: San Francisco is set to consider a bill that would make it illegal to carry a concealed weapon at events with more than 50 people.
Supervisor Catherine Stefani told the San Francisco Examiner that she will introduce a measure banning concealed weapons within a 500-foot radius of large events. Open carry is not allowed in California, but residents can apply for concealed-carry permits.
Stefani said that she was motivated to introduce the bill after concerns about violence breaking out at events were raised over a planned far-right rally in San Francisco last year.
Jacqueline Thomsen has the story.
IN OTHER NEWS
Trump administration proposes fees for futures industry — The Wall Street Journal
Nevada regulator, inundated with reports about Steve Wynn, starts website to field tips — The Wall Street Journal
Self-driving car safety legislation stalls in the Senate — The Wall Street Journal
UK crypto companies link up for self-regulation — Financial Times
Senators voice concern over Chinese access to US intellectual property — Reuters
Fight over ethanol escalates as bankruptcy refuels debate — Bloomberg
Opinion: How California guards its power on fuel standards — Bloomberg View
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