Mitch McConnell Slams EPA During Speech To Coal Group

• In a speech before a coal industry group in Kentucky on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate's top Republican accused the Environmental Protection Agency of declaring war on the coal industry and blamed the Obama administration and Democrats for pushing regulations that he claimed kill jobs and increase energy costs.

"Of course, the EPA's real goal here is not to see the Kentucky coal industry comply with its boatload of regulations and red tape," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his speech to the Kentucky Coal Association. "It is to see the Kentucky coal industry driven out of business altogether."

McConnell is the top recipient in Congress of campaign contributions from the coal-mining industry, having collected $485,000 during his time in office -- almost twice as much as the number-two recipient.

Saying that "it's time for Congress to rein the EPA in," McConnell criticized the agency for its interpretation for regulations, which he claimed made it more difficult for new mines to open. He said that the EPA's proposals to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants were tantamount to a "backdoor" energy tax.

McConnell expanded his critique, slamming Democrats for pushing a "train wreck" of rules and regulations that he claimed are raising prices and stalling much-needed economic growth in the wake of the recession.

• The lobbying blitz over the implementation of financial regulatory reform continues to swamp Washington. About 488 companies, trade associations, unions and other groups reported lobbying on financial reforms in just the first quarter of 2011, compared to 501 groups that lobbied the reforms throughout all of 2009, according to a Center for Responsive Politics study. Among the most heavily lobbied agencies were the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which all saw "more lobbying activity during the first quarter of 2011 by groups interested in the Dodd-Frank regulations than in any other quarter since Obama took office."

• Despite mounting evidence of the potential dangers of BPA (the chemical bisphenol-A found in many consumer products), plastics manufacturers have embarked on a public relations and lobbying blitz aimed at "obscuring or confusing the results of research," say the authors of a new white paper by the Center for Progressive Reform.

"There's a lot scientists don't know about BPA," says CPR Member Scholar and white paper co-author Thomas McGarity, a law professor at the University of Texas. "But what they know for sure gives ample reason to limit the use of BPA. Simply put, the chemical is ubiquitous in commerce and in Americans' bodies as a result. Rather than seeking to confuse and mislead Americans about BPA, the plastics industry should acknowledge the danger and eliminate it."

Among the findings in the report: industry advocates promote the myth of a scientific consensus on the safety of BPA. "In fact, scientists say that BPA is a known endocrine disruptor and that it therefore presents many risks."

• The Obama administration ceded leadership and management responsibilities in the wake of last year's devastating oil spill to BP, according to a new House Oversight Committee report. In addition, many Gulf residents and local leaders believe that the oil giant is not living up to its obligations.

President Obama had to choose between federalizing the response to the oil spill under the Stafford Act or allowing BP to lead the effort under federal oversight under the authorities of the Oil Spill Act. While BP would have been financially responsible for clean-up costs under either scenario, President Obama chose the option of letting BP lead and make critical decisions on recovery efforts under the authority of the Oil Spill Act.

Many Gulf Residents and Local Leaders Believe BP is not Meeting its Obligations
Failure to fund removal of clean-up equipment debris, uncertainty surrounding mental health services, and frustration associated with the compensation process are among the concerns of affected Gulf Coast residents. Many believe BP is not meeting its obligations and the federal government has abdicated its responsibility to intervene.

• Talk about awkward. A man considered an "enemy of the state" found himself face to face last week with the nation's top law enforcement official, Attorney General Eric Holder, at the Apple Store in Baltimore.

The case of Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency whistleblower charged with unauthorized possession of classified documents, has aroused concern among former government security officials and free-speech advocates and was detailed in a recent New Yorker story.

Drake says he was working his shift at the store when he noticed Holder walk in with his FBI detail and approached him.

"I'm Thomas Drake, the former National Security Agency official who's been in the news," Mr. Drake told Mr. Holder.

"Do you know why they have come after me?" he asked the attorney general.

Mr. Holder replied: "Yes, I do."

To which, Mr. Drake responded: "But do you know the rest of the story?"

Without a word, Mr. Holder turned and walked out of the store.

Asked for comment, the Justice Department would only say that Holder is a "fan of Apple products."

• House Republicans are fighting a series of public health proposals, including nutritional standards for school lunches and tobacco regulation, reports the Washington Post.

The Republicans have used an agriculture appropriations bill to send several messages: They don't want the government to require school meals that are more nutritional but also more expensive, they don't want the government to prod food companies to restrain marketing to children, and they don't want the Food and Drug Administration to regulate any substance based on anything but "hard science."

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) wants to block the FDA from issuing rules or guidance unless its decisions are based on "hard science" rather than "cost and consumer behavior."