Elvina Nawaguna

EPA proposes eased regulations on coal-ash pollution
Changes would save industry $175 million in compliance costs for Obama-era rule triggered by catastrophic spills.

The EPA on Monday proposed to make it easier for power companies to dispose of the toxic residues from burning coal, building on other steps the agency has already taken to rewrite Obama-era rules for coal ash pollution.

The EPA’s actions would unwind some of the requirements for treating toxic wastewater and ash that coal power plants discharge that were set in that 2015 rule, which implemented the first federal limits on the levels of toxic metals that can be discharged in wastewater from power plants, and required companies to use updated technology to prevent such pollution.

Coal-burning utility boosts lobbying, may get eased regulations
New rules proposed by Trump administration would eliminate some Obama-era environmental protections for coal ash

On Oct. 2, 19-year-old Mabette Colon traveled from her hometown in Puerto Rico to Arlington, Virginia, to try to persuade the EPA to abandon its efforts to ease regulations for the disposal of toxic residues from burning coal.

Colon said she grew up less than a mile from what activists describe as a nine-story-tall pile of coal ash owned by Arlington-based AES Corp. in the town of Guayama. She worries that under the Trump administration revisions proposed Monday, which have not yet been publicly released, the company could pollute with impunity and further expose her community to the toxic pollutants that have sickened her neighbors.

Greta Thunberg goes to Washington, an epicenter of climate inaction
Teen climate activist testifies Wednesday at joint House hearing

The Swedish teenager who has become a symbol for a young generation worried about climate change is in Washington this week to help change minds — a hard thing to do in a capital locked in partisan combat.

Greta Thunberg, who famously traveled to the U.S. last month in a sailboat so as to avert the carbon emissions of an airliner, is making the political rounds in Washington, appearing at a student protests outside the White House last week, and a news conference with Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday.

Swedish teen Greta Thunberg joins senators, advocates seeking climate action
Appearance is first of several on Capitol Hill to promote global strike effort

Ahead of a global strike for climate action, Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg joined fellow young advocates and Senate Democrats to draw attention to the peril of global warming.

Although she did not speak at a Tuesday news conference organized by Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey and other Democrats, a representative for Thunberg said the 16-year-old was there to lend her support. She has, however, planned a blitz of activity around the Capitol this week that will culminate in the global climate strike.

Trump administration expected to roll back clean water rule
New rule would reduce the number of waterways the federal government can protect from pollution

The Trump administration is expected to complete on Thursday a new rule that rolls back parts of the 2015 clean water rule that expanded federal authority over the nation’s streams, rivers and wetlands.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler scheduled a “major water policy announcement” at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that has lobbied hard for the repeal of the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS.

House takes aim at Trump’s drilling plan with three bills
Bills would block offshore exploration in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Pacific and Atlantic coasts

Lawmakers from both parties evoked the memory of the 2010 BP oil spill Tuesday to drum up support for a trio of House bills that would hamper offshore drilling and President Donald Trump's energy agenda. 

The House is expected to vote Wednesday and Thursday on three bipartisan bills that would block exploration in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

Senate biofuel advocates want a piece of transportation bill
The bill would set aside $1 billion to build charging and fueling stations for electric-, hydrogen- and natural gas-powered vehicles

A provision in the Senate’s surface transportation bill that would help pay for charging and refilling stations for zero- or low-emissions vehicles should also support more stations for biofuels like ethanol, say two Midwestern senators.

The bill would authorize spending on highways and bridge projects for five years. Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Rounds of South Dakota say incentives in the bill would only benefit wealthy people in coastal states who can afford electric-, hydrogen- and natural gas-powered vehicles, while leaving out rural America.

Highway bill upping spending by a quarter gets OK from Senate committee
The current five-year law funding surface transportation programs expires Sept. 30, 2020.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 21-0 Tuesday to advance a $287 billion bill that would fund the repair and maintenance of  roads and bridges over five years, expedite permitting processes for major infrastructure projects and make transportation systems more resilient to climate change effects.

The bill, which would increase spending by 27 percent over the current authorization, has the support of President Donald Trump, although he has walked away from broader infrastructure talks.

Road bill would hike spending by 25 percent, speed permits and add climate title
The bill would reauthorize funding for surface transportation programs, starting when current law lapses at end of September 2020

A bill that aims to increase funding by more than 25 percent for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and expedite federal approvals of large infrastructure projects was released Monday by the Senate public works panel, which set a Tuesday markup for the legislation.

The still unnumbered bill by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee would reauthorize funding for surface transportation programs for five years, starting when the current law lapses at the end of September 2020.

Democrats appear stymied on a top priority: climate legislation
Outside of passing Paris accord bill, new House majority has little to show

It’s been more than six months since Democrats assumed control of the House promising to take bold action on climate change. And what do they have to show for it?

Just one major bill directly addressing the issue has passed on the floor, a measure that would force the U.S. to honor its commitments in the Paris climate accord. A comprehensive climate change package has yet to emerge, and a bill reintroduced by the chairman of the main committee of jurisdiction over Clean Air Act issues hasn’t had a committee vote.

EPA approves use of bee-killing pesticide
Agency also suspends study of bee populations

Just days after another federal agency suspended its periodical study of honey bee populations, the EPA greenlighted the wider use of a pesticide that environmental activists warn could further decimate the pollinators.

A major conservation group says it will take the agency to court over the decision.

Climate change takes back seat at presidential debate — again
But several candidates said they would prioritize recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate accord

The second night of the Democratic candidates’ debate Thursday dedicated just as little time to climate change as the first, leaving activists once again frustrated and amplifying their calls for a session dedicated to the issue.

“Adding only a single measly minute to the climate discussion compared to the first night was grossly insufficient — voters need to understand where every candidate stands on the most pressing emergency of our time,” Kassie Siegel, climate director at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, said shortly after the debate. “That’s why we need a climate debate.”

Climate change gets 10 minutes in Democrats’ 2-hour debate
Climate change got little debate time, but that didn’t stop some candidates from weaving climate messaging into their answers

Climate change is a priority for Democratic primary voters, but the issue got little debate time Wednesday night. But that did not stop some of the candidates.

Senate Democrat Elizabeth Warren came out of the gate calling out “giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere” while the rest of the country watches “climate change bear down on us.”

Democrats weave climate messages into spending bills
Aggressive action on climate change and halting rollback of environmental regulations

House Democrats are using the budget process to offer a clear contrast ahead of an election year between their embrace of aggressive action on climate change and the rollbacks of environmental regulation championed by Republicans when they controlled the chamber in the 115th Congress.

Many of the provisions they’ve included in the fiscal 2020 spending bills may not survive the GOP-led Senate, but Democrats are aware of national polls showing growing voter concern about the climate crisis.

Trump energy plan faces legal blitz over weaker emissions standards
Democratic state AGs join environmental groups saying they’ll sue the federal government over the rule

Blue states and green groups are gearing up to sue the Trump administration over its new carbon emissions rule finalized Wednesday, which critics say fails to address climate change and the public health risks associated with pollution from the power sector.

The EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy rule rescinds the Obama administration’s ambitious Clean Power Plan and replaces it with less stringent guidelines for states and coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions.

Trump EPA answer to Obama Clean Power Plan ‘does virtually nothing‘ to curb CO2
The new rule combines a Clean Power Plan repeal with new, less stringent emissions reductions guidelines

The EPA finalized a rule Wednesday that would replace the Obama administration’s signature carbon emissions plan and give states more flexibility in emissions reduction, even as environmental advocates worry about the potential for increased pollution and threaten to sue.

The Affordable Clean Energy rule is the Trump EPA’s answer to the 2015 Clean Power Plan, which for the first time set nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants across the country.

Legal pot makes it harder to recruit truck drivers, industry leader says
Companies find applicants withdraw when they learn of hair sample tests for drug use

As the trucking industry struggles with a driver shortage, the president of a major lobby placed part of the blame on wider acceptance by states of marijuana use.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear told lawmakers at a Wednesday hearing that legalization of recreational marijuana by states is making it harder for the industry to find drug-free drivers. Still, low pay and poor working conditions are also hurdles to industry recruitment, according to a union leader.

Military bases unprepared for gathering climate change storm 
Responses to hurricanes, flooding already raising alarm bells in Congress and beyond

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — A mangled red, white and blue patrol plane still lies across what was once a park here where families played and picnicked, nine months after Hurricane Michael stormed out of the Gulf of Mexico with its 155-mile-per-hour winds.

And beyond that wreckage and other detritus, about 300 of this Air Force base’s nearly 500 damaged buildings are slated to be razed. The Air Force wants at least $4.25 billion to rebuild Tyndall at its current location on the Florida panhandle, a process the 325th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Brian Laidlaw, said could take several years.

Trump administration lifts summer restrictions on higher-ethanol gasoline
Lifting the rule delivers a lifeline to soybean farmers hit hard by the president’s tariff war with China and by recent flooding in the Midwest

The Trump administration on Friday finalized at the 11th hour a rule that would allow expanded sales of higher ethanol gasoline, even as the oil industry prepares to challenge the change in court.

The rule opening up year-round sales of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, would deliver a lifeline to soybean farmers hit hard by the president’s tariff war with China and by recent flooding in the Midwest that deluged farms.

Trump to Democrats: OK new NAFTA before public works bill
‘Once Congress has passed USMCA, we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package,’ the president said

On the eve of his second meeting with congressional Democrats about a potential $2 trillion public works bill, President Donald Trump told them such legislation should take a back seat to his trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

“Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Once Congress has passed USMCA, we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package,” the president continued.