No news on CSIA yet.

New Sherriff in Town

After an agonizing four-months-long ridiculous and pointless exercise in political grandstanding and delay, Gina McCarthy was finally confirmed as EPA Administrator by the Senate on July 18th, 2013. One of her first acts as Administrator was to lay out her priorities for the agency. Specifically, she said that the EPA has “a clear responsibility to act now on climate change,” and that this was a “defining time” for the EPA to make real progress on regulating greenhouse gases, even though the House wants to cut the EPA's budget by more than twice what was proposed last year, and several bills have been introduced that will make it hard for the EPA to introduce any new rules without a thorough cost-benefit analysis on potential negative impacts on the economy.

IRIS

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At the end of July, the EPA announced improvements that will be made to IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System) which are intended to strengthen assessments founded on scientific information, increase transparency, and allow greater efficiency (meaning that the EPA will be able to conduct more IRIS assessments in a year than it has before). IRIS focuses on assessments related to human health and evaluates information on potential harm to human health that may come from exposure to environmental contaminants. These improvements are based on recommendations made by the National Research Council, and the EPA intends to hold a public meeting to discuss their methods for prioritizing studies and obtaining the best research. For the sake of transparency, the EPA is improving its documentation process and visibility of information, making changes to its IRIS website (which believe me, it needs!). In this way, the agency will be able to provide the public with accurate timelines regarding the completion of these studies.

STATES’ RIGHTS!!!11!!!ELVENTY!!!1

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Republican Representative Bill Flores (which should surprise no one) from Texas (again, which should surprise no one) has introduced a bill intended to prevent the EPA and other federal agencies from regulating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the states. The Protecting States’ Rights To Promote American Energy Security Act (H.R. 2728) intends to amend the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 to prevent the Department of the Interior from:

  • Enforcing any federal regulation, guidance, or permit requirement regarding hydraulic fracturing or any component of that process relating to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities on or under any land in any state that already has regulation, guidance or permit requirements for that process in place.
  • Force the DOI to recognize and defer to all State regulations, permitting and guidance for all activities related to hydraulic fracturing and related activities listed above on Federal land regardless of whether those rules are duplicative, more or less restrictive, shall have different requirements, or do not meet Federal guidelines.

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The House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill along party lines, with one Democrat (Jim Costa of California) joining the Republicans in approving it. Republican Jon Runyan of New Jersey sided with the rest of the Democrats on this one.

No Exemption For You

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Democratic Representative Matthew Cartwright of Pennsylvania has introduced legislation to eliminate the RCRA exemptions carved out for Oil and Gas Wastes. For the last 30 years, wastes generated from exploration, development, and processing of crude oil, natural gas and geothermal energy have been exempted from coverage under the RCRA rules regarding hazardous waste. The Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations Act, CLEANER (H.R. 2825) (come on, Matthew, really?) has gained 44 co-sponsors and has been endorsed by non-government organizations. If passed, this bill would give the EPA one year to determine whether drilling fluids, produced waters, wastes associated with exploration and development, or production of crude oil, natural gas or geothermal energy should be regulated as hazardous waste. If the EPA determines that these wastes should indeed be regulated as hazardous, they will promulgate specific regulations for said wastes.

Review of Safety Rules at Chemical Facilities

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President Obama has issued an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to review safety rules at chemical facilities, in response to the disastrous fire and explosion at the West Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 back in April of this year (I wrote about that here). Specifically, these agencies are tasked with examining new ways storing, securing and handling ammonium nitrate, which was the cause of the massive explosion. The EO is broad in its scope, and you can read the whole thing here.

Thanks for this information goes to Bergeson & Campbell, for sending out their news bulletins.