EPA falls short in drinking water security mission, IG finds

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EPA falls short in drinking water security mission, IG finds

The Environmental Protection Agency is still unable to assess whether it is helping protect local water systems from terrorism and disasters, having failed to address shortcomings in its drinking water security program, the agency’s internal watchdog has found.

In a report issued Thursday, EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. said EPA can do more to promote drinking water security, which became a priority, along with other critical public infrastructure safety, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress passes 3-month highway, transit aid patch

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent President Barack Obama a three-month bill to keep highway and transit money flowing to states on Thursday, one day before the deadline for a cutoff of funds.

Earlier in the day, the Senate passed a sweeping, long-term transportation bill, setting up discussions with the House this fall on what the future course of transportation policy should be and how to pay for programs.

Congress heading on vacation, putting off messy decisions

WASHINGTON (AP) — As lawmakers head out of the Capitol for a five-week summer recess, they leave behind a pile of unfinished business that all but guarantees a painful fall.

Not long after they return in September, lawmakers face a vote on President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, a brutally divisive issue that many lawmakers expect will dominate voter town halls during their annual August break.

White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama launched a blistering denunciation of opposition to his Iran deal Wednesday, arguing that none of the criticism stands up to scrutiny and warning that if Congress blocks the accord it will put the U.S. on the path to another Middle East war.

“The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war,” Obama said in an address at American University. “Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.”

Extended slump in oil taking toll on industry, economy

NEW YORK (AP) — As drivers, shippers and airlines continue to enjoy lower fuel prices, the oil industry is responding to much lower profits with sharp cuts in spending and employment that are hurting economic growth.

Low oil and gas prices are good for the overall economy because they reduce costs for consumers and business. U.S. economic growth was higher in the second quarter, and economists say that was partly fueled by consumers spending some of their savings on gasoline at stores and restaurants.

EPA falls short in drinking water security mission, IG finds

The Environmental Protection Agency is still unable to assess whether it is helping protect local water systems from terrorism and disasters, having failed to address shortcomings in its drinking water security program, the agency’s internal watchdog has found.

In a report issued Thursday, EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. said EPA can do more to promote drinking water security, which became a priority, along with other critical public infrastructure safety, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Environmental Protection Agency is still unable to assess whether it is helping protect local water systems from terrorism and disasters, having failed to address shortcomings in its drinking water security program, the agency’s internal watchdog has found.

In a report issued Thursday, EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. said EPA can do more to promote drinking water security, which became a priority, along with other critical public infrastructure safety, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Interior: Keystone XL could disturb national parks, wildlife

The Interior Department has raised fresh environmental concerns about TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, suggesting the project could harm national parks and wildlife by increasing man-made light and noise pollution.

The department outlined the concerns in written comments by the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, filed on April 29 to the State Department, on its draft supplemental environmental impact statement. The comments were made public late last week.

Keystone XL opponents want Kerry to overhaul analysis

Environmental groups on Thursday called on the State Department to reverse what it said were “flawed assumptions” in its recent environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline that asserted the project is not the key driver of Canadian oil sands crude production.

The 12 groups said in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the department’s supplemental environmental impact statement should be corrected to link the development of oil sands directly to the $5.4 billion line — and that the project should in turn be rejected because it would contribute directly to climate change.

Last-ditch lobbying on carbon rule: The White House hears from all sides

White House officials met with groups ranging from the coal industry to health groups, from utilities to environmentalists in the past month as they all made their final push to influence the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant carbon rules, White House records show.

The final Clean Power Plan could be issued as early as Monday, and the Office of Management and Budget on Friday published records detailing dozens of meetings with stakeholders since late June, after the agency’s proposed rule for existing power plants was submitted for final review.

McConnell: Keystone XL up first in GOP Senate

Senate Republicans have given Keystone XL pipeline the highly symbolic place as first in line for a vote under their new majority, Sen. Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday, as GOP lawmakers push to make good on a key jobs-related campaign promise.

McConnell, R-Ky., the incoming Senate majority leader, called the measure by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a “job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support.”

Murkowski, Inhofe plan active roles as chairs

As the incoming chairs of the Senate’s energy and environment committees prepare to take over in January, both are already thinking about their agendas under the new Republican majority — and have plans to get moving quickly.

“Why wouldn’t we get to work right away?” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who was named Monday by the Republican caucus to head the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pending final ratification by colleagues and the Senate at the start of the 114th Congress.

Murkowski triumphant: Energy reform, crude exports headed to Senate floor

The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee has sent the full Senate a major bipartisan energy policy reform bill for the first time in eight years, a bill that focuses on updating infrastructure, improving energy efficiency and reforming federal energy and conservation programs, and avoids divisive issues such as the crude oil export ban and offshore drilling.

Under the strategy adopted by committee chairman Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., those hot-button issues were packaged in a separate bill that also won approval—but on a party-line vote.

The Energy Policy Modernization Act, hammered out in a three-day mark-up session, got bipartisan, but not unanimous, support. One Democrat, two Republicans and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., voted against reporting it to the Senate.

Newsmaker: Whitehouse says carbon fee bill will force Senate to take sides

The carbon fee bill introduced by Senate Democrats will force their colleagues to declare whether they will address climate change or defend the current system that leaves emission reductions in the hands of regulators, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., tells EnergyGuardian.

Whitehouse has emerged as one of the Senate’s leading voices in support of climate change action this year. He recently formed the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to pressure Congress to acknowledge the need to cut carbon emissions in the face of costly natural disasters.

Senate leaves McCarthy, efficiency and chemical safety for June

Lawmakers left Washington for a Memorial Day recess that delays until June Senate action on energy efficiency and chemical safety legislation, along with the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

A vote on Gina McCarthy’s nomination was not expected by the end of this week, though a meeting with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., signaled new interest by the White House in resolving roadblocks that have slowed her confirmation.

Top 10 items found during 2012 coastal cleanup

The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington DC-based environmental organization, released its 2012 list of trash collected during its International Coastal Cleanup. More than 10 million pounds of debris was collected, with nearly 1.5 million pounds in California alone. The top items found during the cleanup:

Greens preview legal defense ahead of carbon rule release

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s final regulations to slash power plant carbon emissions imminent and states and industry preparing to take legal action against EPA, environmental groups are readying their defense of the landmark climate rule.

The Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council on Thursday offered an optimistic view of the Clean Power Plan — which could be finalized as early as Monday — and its chances for surviving legal challenges.

BLM spending on wild horses doubles over four years

The government is watching money stampede away, with little idea what to do about it.

The cost of an Interior Department program to care for America’s wild horses has doubled in the past four years: from $40 million in 2009 to $80 million in 2013. And until a long-term solution can be found, the spending is only going to increase.

Arctic-bound ship leaves Portland after oil drilling protest

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Authorities used boats, personal watercraft, poles and their bare hands to remove protesters in kayaks and hanging from bridges who had tried to block a Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker bound for an Arctic drilling operation.

The Fennica left dry dock Thursday afternoon and made its way down the Willamette River toward the Pacific Ocean soon after authorities forced the demonstrators from the river and the St. Johns Bridge.

4 Democrats get behind Obama’s Iran nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four Democrats, including one who represents an American hostage in Iran, said Thursday they would support the Iran nuclear deal in a major boost for President Barack Obama.

“It’s very clear to me that the agreement is the best path forward,” two-term Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee, who counts hostage Amir Hekmati as a constituent, told The Associated Press in an interview. “This agreement allows us to prevent (Iran) from gaining a nuclear weapon, and if they cheat, we will know it. If we don’t have the agreement, we don’t have that certainty.”

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