Overnight Energy & Environment — Activists pan EPA chemical testing move

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Activists pan EPA chemical testing move

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Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here:

Today we’re looking at a challenge for the EPA regarding PFAS testing, high temperatures in an Alaskan city and the political ramifications of projected gas prices.

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: and Follow us on Twitter: katanaRachelFrazin and katanaBudrykZack.

Let’s jump in.


Advocates unhappy about EPA testing rules

Overnight Energy & Environment — Activists pan EPA chemical testing move 4

© AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Biden administration will require new testing on some “forever chemicals,” but advocates are disappointed in what they characterized as insufficient requirements.  

In response to a petition from North Carolina environmental groups asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study 54 chemicals further, the agency said it would require companies to conduct tests on seven of the chemicals the groups identified.

It also said that these chemicals are similar to 14 others from the petition and that it will test for four chemicals that are not part of the groups’ request, but that are similar to nine of the chemicals. 

The EPA argued that in doing this, it’s covering 30 of the 54 chemicals from the petition. 

The big picture: The move is one of the Biden administration’s first concrete indications of the approach it will take to a class of chemicals called PFAS after it announced a plan in October to tackle them.

Certain types of PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have been linked to health issues including kidney and testicular cancer.

The Trump administration initially denied the petition.

The complaint: Lawyer Bob Sussman, who represents the environmental groups, said the requirements are not enough, noting that only seven of the chemicals will actually be studied.

“EPA says they’re granting the petition. I think if they denied the petition we would basically be getting the same thing … 90-plus percent of what we asked for we’re not getting,” said Sussman, who was a high-ranking EPA official during the Obama and Clinton administrations.

The tests outlined in the petition will include animal studies, but Sussman said he’d specifically like to see epidemiological studies on people who live in Eastern North Carolina. 

But the EPA calls it an important step. “By taking action on this petition, EPA will have a better understanding of the risks from PFAS pollution so we can do more to protect people. This data will also help us identify the sources of pollution so we can hold those accountable for endangering the public,” said a statement from EPA administrator Michael Regan. “EPA is fully committed to addressing this longstanding pollution challenge, and today we take another critical step forward to protect the water, air, and land we all depend on.” 

Read more about the agency’s action here.


Alaskan city sees record-high temperatures

Alaskan landscape in Fairbanks.

© Getty photos

In recent days, temperatures in Kodiak, Alaska, have set record highs, and prompted concerns about the changing climate. 

Over the weekend, temperatures as high as 67 degrees Fahrenheit were recorded, and on Monday and Tuesday, the city also set daily temperature records. 

While tying a single weather event to climate change can be complex, heatwaves in general have been linked to the planet’s warming.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in August that as the world heats up,global warming causes increased and more frequent hot extremes like heat waves. 

Meanwhile, the Alaska temperatures caught the concern of some activists. 

“Alaska has smashed its old December temperature record by 11 degrees. It would also have set a new record for November, January, February or March,” tweeted environmentalist Bill McKibben. “It is insane, and it is dangerous.”



Yesterday, we looked at projections showing that gasoline prices could rise. Today we’re looking at what this could mean for the midterms. 

Higher prices for gas expected in 2022 could pose an additional hurdle for Democrats who are already considered likely to lose seats in the midterm elections

A new forecast from fuel price app GasBuddy released on Wednesday said fuel prices this June could climb to anywhere between $3.43 and $4.13 per gallon.

Prices at the higher end in particular would be an unwelcome development for Democrats in a midterm election year, as the party currently retains slim majorities in the House and Senate. 

“This is a 70 cent range, which I think makes a big difference,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon, referring to the forecast's range of prices for June. “If it’s on the high side, that’s a problem for Democrats. If it’s on the low side, not so much.”

But, prices are expected to fall later in the year, with the GasBuddy analysis pegging them at about $3.16 per gallon in October. 

Bannon, who has contributed opinion articles to The Hill, called the expected decrease between June and November “good news for Democrats.”

“Americans have short memories,” he said. “Everything is relative. If gas prices are, say $4 in June and they’re down to $3.50 or lower in the fall, I think that helps Democrats a lot because it’s all relative.”

On the other hand, Ahmad Ali, press secretary for progressive pollster, Data for Progress, raised concerns that even if the prices fall later on, Democrats will have to contend with people being “riled and energized because of them increasing in the first place.”

But, he said, the party should combat this by focusing on economic issues themselves.

“So long as the message becomes clear that the presidency and the Democrats are all about making the burden at peoples’ pocketbooks easier, I’m sure that they can keep their support,” he said.

And the GOP? Republicans are expected to go on the attack against Biden and Democrats if prices rise, as they already have been doing.

Asked how the price news impacts its 2022 strategy, a National Republican Campaign Committee spokesperson argued that Democrats should get blame.

“Democrats have absolutely no credibility left on the issue of rising prices after they spent months claiming inflation was transitory,” said Mike Berg, a spokesman for the Republicans’ house campaign organization, wrote in an email.



  • Chile Rewrites Its Constitution, Confronting Climate Change Head On, The New York Times reports
  • Hidden drains and secret pumps: How a Seattle company evaded the EPA to dump toxic water into Puget Sound for years, MarketWatch reports
  • Fed survey: oil firms predict rising output, but warn of higher costs, Reuters reports

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: We don’t blame them for needing a nap.


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Thursday.

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