Energy & Environment

Hurricanes Stir Up Toxic Legacy of Coal-Fired Power Plants
Trump administration has worked to roll back federal coal ash regulations

A coal ash pond at Buck Steam Station in Salisbury, N.C. (Courtesy Les Stone/Greenpeace)

After Hurricane Florence deposited its last drop of rain on the Carolinas, the worst of the flooding was still to come as water made its way down mountainsides, through gullies and into creeks and accumulated in the Cape Fear River.

Spilling over the river’s banks, the water reached and breached a cooling lake used by Charlotte-based Duke Energy’s L.V. Sutton power plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. From there it flowed over one of the three surrounding coal ash disposal sites, prompting fears that the cancer-causing byproduct of bygone coal operations could be flowing through a major groundwater system.

Rep. Mimi Walters’ Lead Within Error Margin in New GOP Poll
Walters represents a district won by Hillary Clinton in 2016

Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., at the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A new internal poll shows California Rep. Mimi Walters with a 50 percent share of the vote, leading Democratic challenger Katie Porter by 4 points. 

The incumbent’s 50-46 lead is within the poll’s +/-4.9% margin of error.

EPA Aims to Triple Pace of Deregulation in Coming Year
Agency hopes to revoke waiver allowing tougher standards in California and other states

A worker inserts a probe into the tailpipe of a car while performing an emissions test in San Francisco. The Trump administration plans to freeze fuel economy and tailpipe emissions standards, as part of a larger deregulatory push. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

The Environmental Protection Agency released a plan for eliminating regulations next year that would likely dwarf its current rule-cutting pace.

The agency expects to finalize approximately 30 deregulatory actions and fewer than 10 regulatory actions in fiscal 2019, according to the Trump administration’s Unified Agenda, released Tuesday.

Failures of Congress Keep Nuclear Waste Scattered Across the US
Government’s liability is $34 billion and growing as communities wait and wait some more

A sign warns away trespassers near the shuttered Zion Nuclear Power Station along the shore of Lake Michigan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

In Zion, Illinois, 257 acres of prime lakefront property about 40 miles northwest of Chicago should be at the center of a redevelopment plan to revive a struggling community caught in the aftermath of a closed nuclear plant, says its mayor, Al Hill.

But after decades of federal inaction on a comprehensive strategy to move the nation’s high-level radioactive waste from some 121 sites across the country, Zion and its local officials are coming to the same stark realization as many other communities with shuttered or aging plants: The federal government’s foot-dragging on nuclear waste policy may seem as long as the radioactive materials’ 10,000-year half-life.

Blumenauer Sends Blunt Marijuana Blueprint to Democratic Leadership
Goal is to have Congress pass legislation by the end of 2019

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., wants Democrats to legalize marijuana if they take back the House majority. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, one of Congress’s most vocal marijuana proponents, sent Democratic leadership a memo Wednesday outlining steps Congress should take to legalize the Schedule I drug.

“Congress is out of step with the American people and the states on cannabis,” Blumenauer wrote in the memo, citing polling showing that 69 percent of registered voters support legalizing marijuana. “We have an opportunity to correct course if Democrats win big in November.”

Trump Already Facing 2020 Foes on Campaign Trail
Democrats will be making their own Western campaign swings in the week ahead

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who visited Culinary Worker’s Union Local 226 in Las Vegas to launch early voting in 2016, will be back this Saturday in Vegas. Also pictured, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump is getting ready for a swing through the Mountain West for campaign rallies, but he won’t be alone. Many of his potential 2020 rivals are hitting the trail themselves, serving as surrogates for Democratic candidates in 2018.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will find himself in Nevada on the same day as one of the president’s “Make America Great Again” spectacles Saturday, though they might as well be on different planets.

Their Districts Are at Risk. But They Still Vote ‘No’ on Climate Action
High waters and toxic blooms haven’t scared these lawmakers

Storm surge and waves from Hurricane Michael batter homes in the Florida Panhandle community of Shell Point Beach on Oct. 10. (Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

He lives just half a mile away from the beach in Sarasota, Florida, but Len Seligman, a local musician, has barely enjoyed the sun and sand by the waterside recently, discouraged by the stench of dead fish and other marine animals washed ashore, poisoned by toxic algal blooms.

“In the last few months, there have only been a few days that it’s been tolerable,” the 63-year-old retired computer researcher said. “You just can’t breathe when the red tide is bad.”

You’d Think Samuel Beckett Was In Charge of Our Health Care
Finding a path forward for the Affordable Care Act has been like waiting for Godot

Estragon and Vladimir — above as portrayed in a 1978 French production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” — were stuck in limbo. After waiting on Congress to act on health care, we all know how they feel, Hoagland writes. (Fernand Michaud/Gallica Digital Library)

OPINION — Finding bipartisan agreement in Congress on a path forward for the Affordable Care Act has been like waiting for Godot. Polls tracking Americans’ views have consistently shown an evenly divided public. No single public policy issue captures the country’s polarization better than the debate that has surrounded this law.

That doesn’t mean we have to settle for “nothing to be done.” Improving health insurance markets is a goal worth pursuing, and Republicans and Democrats at the state level are already showing us the way.

One Way to Fix the Child Care Crisis? Look to the Tax Law
‘Opportunity Zones’ incentive can help close the early childhood gap

A Chicago teacher works with kids as part of an early childhood education program. The “Opportunity Zones” incentive could help expand such programs across the country, Smith and Shaw write. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — America faces a mounting child care crisis. Too many families lack access to safe, affordable and high-quality care for their infants and toddlers. But a small but important provision in last year’s tax law, designed to spur investment in under-resourced communities, could provide an unlikely solution.

That solution comes in the form of a new economic development incentive known as Opportunity Zones. Under the tax law, investors will receive a steep reduction in taxes on their capital gains in exchange for substantial and long-term investment in low-income communities designated as Opportunity Zones. This tax incentive could be combined with others in the economic development toolkit, such as the New Markets Tax Credit and historic building preservation tax credits, to support a wide variety of investments in real estate and businesses.

Democratic Activists Could Tip the Scale in Close Races — But Then What?
Grassroots groups have been organizing on the ground for nearly two years

Protesters wave to cars outside of GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney’s office in Utica. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

UTICA, N.Y. — On this particular Friday, the protesters outside of Rep. Claudia Tenney’s office were having trouble holding onto their signs. 

The wind whipped around them as a dozen activists did what they had done every Friday for the last 18 months: stand on the grass between French Road and the small brick office building and hold signs in opposition to the first-term GOP congresswoman.

‘Monster’ Hurricane Michael Is a ‘Big Tornado,’ Trump Warns
President mulls canceling Wednesday night campaign stop in Pennsylvania

Hurricane Michael, fueled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, is like a “massive tornado,” President Trump warns. (National Weather Service photo)

Hurricane Michael is a “massive tornado” that is about to cause widespread damage in Florida and nearby states as the category four storm makes landfall, President Donald Trump warned Wednesday.

After receiving a briefing on the hurricane from Homeland Security officials, the president said Michael began “innocently” but then “grew into a monster.”

Water Resources Bill Would Speed Hydropower Licensing
Cantwell: Utilities could better plan ahead

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says the 2018 water projects authorization bill would give utilities the flexibility to “better plan ahead.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hydropower facilities would get permits faster if the 2018 water projects authorization bill passes the Senate Wednesday — a rare inclusion of an energy title on the bill known for its transportation and drinking water projects.

After senators voted 96-3 to invoke cloture Tuesday night on the water resources development bill, the Senate will likely clear the bill as early as Wednesday, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.

Tax Break for Electric Vehicles in the Crosshairs
Barrasso: ‘Wealthiest Americans’ benefit at the expense of taxpayers

Tesla vehicles stand outside of a Brooklyn showroom and service center in August. Legislation unveiled Tuesday would end a tax incentive for electric vehicles. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images file photo)

The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unveiled legislation Tuesday to end the $7,500 tax incentive for electric vehicles.

The yet-unnumbered bill comes as a United Nations report on climate change, released over the weekend, outlined dire consequences for the planet in the absence of global action to drastically reduce carbon output over the next decade.

EPA Proposal Would End Summer Ban on Ethanol Motor Fuel — With the Midterms Just a Month Away
Some corn state Republicans facing tough re-election bids

The Environmental Protection Agency will propose an end to the summer ban on motor fuel made with ethanol according to a senior White House official. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The EPA will propose to end the summer ban on the sale of motor fuel made with 15 percent ethanol, according to a senior White House official.

The move is sure to please corn state lawmakers such as Iowa Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Joni Ernst, who have spent the better part of the last year and a half pushing the Trump administration to do more to enforce requirements under the so-called Renewable Fuel Standard — a federal mandate to boost renewable fuels like ethanol in the nation’s gasoline mix.

Republicans Need a Cold Compress With Less Than One Month to Go
Presidential pain still plagues vulnerable incumbents ahead of the midterms

President Donald Trump may turn out Democrats better than any Democrat could. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Weather metaphors are often used (and overused) in election analysis, but there’s a better way to describe the Republicans’ challenge in 2018. The GOP is dealing with many headaches as it tries to preserve the Republican congressional majorities.

From tension to cluster to migraine, they can vary in frequency and severity. And Republicans’ ability to alleviate them will determine control of the House and Senate in the 116th Congress.