What prevents industrial companies from polluting the air we all breathe and the water we all drink? Government regulations.
In this section we report on issues related to environmental protections provided by the federal government.
Related IssuesVehicle Emissions
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Biden to regulate previously ignored "forever" toxins
|2021-Oct-18  (Updated: 2021-Oct-20)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Biden administration is preparing to regulate PFAS - a class of chemicals that poison millions of Americans and do not break down in the environment.
PFAS are ubiquitous. They are used to make everything from food packaging to clothing to solar panels to chemicals used for fracking.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified more than 120,000 locations across the United States that handle PFAS. Scientists say that most of the soil, air, and water in the U.S. already is tainted.
What's been done?
At the federal level - basically nothing. Previous administrations mostly ignored the problem.
Some states, such as New Jersey, New York, California, Vermont, and Michigan are adopting enforceable regulations to limit PFAS in their water supplies.
EPA and other agencies plan enforceable regulation
Under the new plan, several federal agencies will study and enact rules to "help prevent PFAS from being released into the air, drinking systems, and food supply." They also will work to clean up and remediate existing damage.
The EPA will enact mandatory standards to limit PFAS in drinking water. It will create a national testing plan to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under the 1980 law that created the Superfund program.
The Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will look at cleaning up PFAS contamination at hundreds of military locations, including the use of PFAS in firefighting foams and protective equipment.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will expand testing of PFAS in food supplies and food containers.
CA to ban gas-powered lawn equipment
|2021-Oct-10  (Updated: 2021-Oct-22)||By: Barry Shatzman|
If you live in California, your neighborhood is about to get quieter. And less smelly.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that phases out gas-powered lawn equipment. Starting as early as 2024, the engines used for equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers will need to be zero-emission.
In 2018, Californians burned almost half a billion gallons of gasoline just doing landscaping.
Engines are dirtier than car engines
Gas-powered landscaping equipment uses a two-stroke engine which runs significantly dirtier than automobile engines.
Just one hour of using a gas-powered leaf blower emits the same amount of pollution as driving a car more than a thousand miles.
Health effects can be severe
The emissions from gas-powered landscaping equipment can cause health problems such as heart and respiratory disease, strokes, cancer, and neurological conditions.
Repeated use of gas-powered landscaping equipment can cause hearing loss.
While the risk is most acute to the person using the equipment, anyone nearby can be affected.
Law could take many years to be fully effective
California's new law gives the state the option of delaying its implementation for various logistical reasons. And before it can take effect, California must receive a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Even after the law takes effect, people still will be able to use equipment they already own, and stores will be allowed to sell their existing stocks.
Though California is the first state to enact such an extensive ban, other states including Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. are moving toward eliminating some types of gas-powered equipment.
Obama EPA ignored fracking chemical risks
|2021-Jul-12||By: Barry Shatzman|
The dangers of PFAS - toxic substances that never break down - were covered up by the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations.
Newly revealed records show that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Barack Obama simply ignored their risks.
EPA may not have performed tests recommended by scientists
In 2011 the EPA approved three chemicals used for fracking - despite evidence that they can break down into PFAS. The chemicals are pumped into the ground to help extract oil.
EPA scientists recommended testing, but there is no indication that testing took place.
The chemicals have been used in more than 1,000 wells in at least six states, according to the New York Times. They can affect people living and working around or downstream from the drilling sites.
Documents heavily redacted
The documents were requested by Physicians for Social Responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
They are heavily redacted because the EPA allows companies to claim protection for trade secrets. Information in the records, however, points to Chemours (previously DuPont) as the company that requested the approvals, according to the New York Times.
For more, read the New York Times article.Jump to top of page
Biden suspends ANWR oil drilling
|2021-Jun-01||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Biden administration has suspended leases to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The leases had been offered by the Trump administration in November 2020 - soon after Trump lost the presidential election to Biden.
Only three bids were made for leases. Two were by small companies. The other was from an economic development corporation owned by the state of Alaska.
The suspension delays any drilling, but does not cancel the leases. Decisions to allow or refuse drilling will be made after the administration reviews them.
California could be allowed tougher emissions standards
|2021-Apr-28  (Updated: 2021-Jun-06)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Biden administration is proposing to reauthorize California's ability to set higher fuel economy standards than the federal government.
California has been granted waivers to the Clean Air Act since it was enacted in 1970. The Trump administration revoked the waiver in 2019 - meaning that even in California cars would only need to be manufactured to laxer standards
The change also affected several other states that had adopted the California standard. A public comment period will be available through July 6.
For more, read the MSN article.
Click here for more information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For a deeper understanding of the effects of vehicle emissions regulations, read our discussion of this issue.
Biden reverses Trump environmental rules
|2021-Jan-20||By: Barry Shatzman|
In his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order for federal agencies to review all environmental regulations issued by the Donald Trump administration that affect public health and the environment.
Listing goals such as ensuring access to clean air and water, limiting exposure to dangerous chemicals, and holding polluters accountable, he ordered agencies to suspend and rewrite regulations that conflict with them.
New regulations also should include "the creation of well-paying union jobs necessary necessary to deliver on these goals," the order states.
The order mentioned specific regulations, such as those for methane emissions and fuel economy standards.
It would determine whether to restore the status of national monuments, including Bears Ears National Monument.
It also would place a hold on drilling and mining in Alaska that had been approved under the Trump administration - including drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that were initiated after Trump lost the 2020 election to Biden.
Click here to read the executive order.Jump to top of page
Trump removes protections for endangered owl
|2021-Jan-13||By: Barry Shatzman|
In its final weeks, the Trump administration has removed protections for more than a third of the old-growth forest inhabited by Northern Spotted Owls.
The land - in the Pacific Northwest - is considered valuable for timber.
The owls also provide a benefit. They are an indicator species, meaning that their well-being is a measure of the forest's health.
The owls are classified as threatened on the Endangered Species List. They recently were being considered for reclassification to endangered due to their steadily decreasing population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rejected the change - despite saying it is warranted.
The new policy won't take effect for 60 days. By that time, Joe Biden will have replaced Donald Trump as president.
For more, read the Oregon Public Broadcasting story.
Click here to read the Department of Interior description of the new rule.
For more about Northern Spotted Owls, read the National Wildlife Federation information sheet.
Regulation would require banks to lend to ANWR drillers
|2020-Nov-20  (Updated: 2021-Feb-05)||By: Barry Shatzman|
Update 2021-Jan-28: The Biden administration paused publication of this rule. It now will be re-evaluated before it potentially is enacted.
The Trump administration is proposing a rule that would require banks to fund drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Soon after losing the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump opened the refuge for drilling - calling for oil companies to pick where they want to drill.
However, after the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act authorized the drilling, Trump is calling for, several banks announced they would not fund projects there.
In June, Alaska Rep. Don Young and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan wrote to the Treasury Department, urging the Trump administration to:
"... see whether action can and should be taken to either provide the public with information on how these banks' refusal to lend in these areas is negatively impacting indigenous communities in our state, and whether these actions violate any duty or obligation under federal laws that are relevant to your agencies' mandate from Congress such as the Community Reinvestment Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, or other similar laws."
The proposed Fair Access to Financial Services rule states:
"If a covered bank offers cash management services or commercial lending and specifically provides such services to a large retailer, the bank would be required to offer such services to any other lawful business (e.g., an electric utility or a family planning organization) on proportionally equal terms."
The public comment period on the bill runs through Jan. 4, 2021.
Update 2021-Jan-14: The rule was finalized
For more, read the Anchorage Daily News story.
Click here to read the letter from Alaska's Congressional delegation.
Click here to read the Treasury Department summary.
Click here to read the proposed rule. (If the link doesn't work, use this link instead)
Trump orders ANWR drilling leases
|2020-Nov-16  (Updated: 2020-Nov-24)||By: Barry Shatzman|
President Donald Trump is looking to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling.
The region has been protected from drilling since 1960. The tax bill passed in 2017, however, authorized drilling.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a request for oil companies to choose the areas they want to lease by Dec. 17.
It is unclear how soon after that the BLM could hold an auction.
Trump can remain in office only until Jan. 20, and it also is unclear what incoming President Joe Biden would be able to do to stop the process. Biden has opposed ANWR drilling.
Trump administration relaxes Obama fuel economy standards
|2020-Mar-31  (Updated: 2020-Apr-04)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enacted a rule that will increase fuel efficiency standards for cars, though much less than the standards imposed by the Obama administration.
The rule requires new cars to average at least 40 miles per gallon by 2025. The Obama-era rule had set that fuel economy standard to more than 50 miles per gallon.
In 2018, the administration proposed even bigger reductions.
Cars made under the new rule will use 80 billion gallons of gasoline more than they would have under the Obama regulations. They will emit a billion tons more of carbon dioxide.
The new standards also are significantly laxer than those in Europe and Asia.
The EPA's Science Advisory Board cited "significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis" of the new rule - including using "implausible assumptions" in a way that "substantially overstates" benefits.
The report also states that the effects from preventing California from adopting stricter standards needs to be analyzed more closely.
The board has found inaccuracies in other policies as well.
For more, read the NPR story.
Click here to read the EPA rule on emissions standards.
Click here to read the EPA's Science Advisory Board's critique of the administration's arguments for lower standards.
Click here to read our discussion of this issue.
Revoking California fuel standards could cost billions
|2019-Sep-20  (Updated: 2019-Sep-23)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Trump administration has revoked California's permission to set higher gas mileage requirements than the federal government.
It is part of the administration's plan not to require fuel efficiency increases for 2021 through 2026 vehicles.
Technically, it always has been a violation of the 1970 Clean Air Act for states to require tougher emissions standards. But California was given a waiver because it had implemented its standards prior to the law.
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last year it may loosen emissions standards from those enacted by the Obama administration, the administration said it was considering revoking California's waiver.
Costs to drivers would be hundreds of billions
Several states have copied California's standards, and they account for a third of the market. If those states are forced to abandon their stricter standards, the cost to Americans could be more than $250 billion, according to a study by Energy Innovation.
California, along with 22 other states and several major cities, has filed a lawsuit to preserve the ability to require tougher emissions standards.
Trump administration proposing relaxed restrictions on coal plants
|2018-Dec-06  (Updated: 2018-Dec-18)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Trump administration is looking to relax an Obama administration limit on how much carbon dioxide coal-fired power plants can emit.
The proposed rule is one of several coordinated actions by the Trump administration, including...
The announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came days after the administration released a report explaining the devastating environmental and economic effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day public comment period.
For more, read the NPR story..Jump to top of page
Flushing contact lenses impacts environment
|2018-Aug-19||By: (External links)|
Using more resources than the planet can regenerate
|2018-Aug-01||By: (External links)|
Administration proposes weakening Endangered Species Act
|2018-Jul-19  (Updated: 2018-Aug-03)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Trump administration is proposing to weaken provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
The changes would make it more difficult for a species to be listed on the Endangered Species List or to remain on the list.
They also remove automatic protections for species listed as threatened.
A 1982 amendment of the law requires that the determination of whether to include a species on the list must be based "solely" on scientific data - not on commercial interests.
The proposal would remove the phrase, "without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination" from the current regulation.
It states "there may be circumstances where referencing economic, or other impacts may be informative to the public."
There are 3 proposed regulations - each dealing with a different aspect of the Endangered Species Act...
What can you do?
Because these are regulations rather than legislation, Congress cannot stop them from taking place.
However, by clicking on each of these regulations you'll be able to view comments submitted by the members of the public. You also will be able to submit your comments there. The public comment period runs through Sept. 24.
EPA proposes repeal of Clean Power Plan
|2018-Jul-05||By: Barry Shatzman|
EPA allowing new uses for banned asbestos
|2018-Jun-11||By: (External links)|
Administration hides study showing dangers in drinking water
|2018-May-14  (Updated: 2018-Jun-14)||By: Barry Shatzman|
A government study shows that contaminants known as PFAS in drinking water are far more dangerous than previously reported.
So dangerous that the Trump administration is doing what it can to make sure you don't find out.
The study from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) showed that these chemicals endanger humans at much lower levels than previously believed.
The chemicals contaminate the tap water of 16 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico. Service members at more than 35 U.S military bases - as well their families in off-base communities - drink water contaminated with unsafe levels of PFAS.
The cost of reducing PFAS in water supplies to lower safety levels could be extreme, not only to chemical manufacturing plants and military bases, but also to communities that would need to treat their water.
The study, which was written in January, has not been published due to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House.
So how is all this known?
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) obtained emails from the EPA and White House through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
James Herz - who manages environmental issues for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) - wrote in a Jan. 30 email that ATSDR was about to publish a study showing "some very, very low 'Minimal Risk Level' numbers."
He wrote of the "huge" expected reaction by the public, media, and Congress.
"The impact to EPA and DoD is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be."
Nancy Beck - a former chemical industry lobbyist and current deputy assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) - replied that the George W. Bush administration also worked to filter reports, whereas the Obama administration "let each agency do their own thing".
The Union of Concerned Scientists also reported on a Jan. 31 meeting - the day after the administration began its effort to quash the report - between an administration official and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The EPA has since removed the meeting calendar from its website.
In another email chain, administration officials cite flaws with the ATSDR study, claiming their recommendations are too restrictive. Normally, studies such as this are published so independent scientists can critique them.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it currently has no plans to publish the study.
EPA could cut car emissions standards
|2018-Apr-02  (Updated: 2018-Apr-09)||By: Barry Shatzman|
Cars made four years from now may not have the fuel economy mandated by the Barack Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set by the Obama administration would require new cars to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.
The EPA announcement doesn't say what fuel standards should be for cars that will be made between 2022 and 2025. It just says they will re-evaluate them. And that they shouldn't be that high.
Notice claims current standards based on "outdated information"
According to the announcement, reasons for the re-evaluation include...
Fuel economy standards actually save Americans money
Facts, however, contradict those arguments.
Since the CAFE standards were introduced in 1975, Americans have saved $4 trillion in fuel costs, while keeping the cost of lower-model cars relatively constant.
The biggest beneficiaries have been low- and middle-class households. Repealing the standards could cost them $1,000 per year.
Did anyone mention the environment?
The request to lower the standards came a month into the Trump administration with a letter from a manufacturers' lobbying group.
Neither the letter nor the EPA announcement pay much attention to environmental concerns - which the CAFE standards are meant to address. Since 1975, the standards have resulted in 1.5 trillion gallons of gasoline not being burned.
Manufacturers still might build cars to higher standards
The standards proposed by the Obama administration actually were copied from California. Because California had implemented standards prior to the 1970 Clean Air Act, the law allows it to adopt its own standards. Though it is the only state with such a waiver, other states may choose to adhere to the California standard. More than 10 states - which make up a third of U.S. auto market - abide by the California standard.
Car makers could decide it's better for them to make all their cars conform to the California standard - rather than build separate models for different states.
The Trump administration says it is looking into repealing California's waiver.
Click here to read our discussion of this issue.
For more, read the New York Times story.
For more on the economic benefits to Americans of the fuel savings, see this report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Click here to read the EPA's evaluation explaining the agency's reasons for wanting to reconsider the Obama-era proposals.
Click here for the EPA's full coverage of this issue starting with the Obama administration (including a link to the above evaluation).
Trump loosens restrictions on elephant hunting
|2018-Mar-05  (Updated: 2018-Mar-14)||By: Barry Shatzman|
If you're a big-game hunter and you want to bring African elephant tusks and lion heads into the country, it's now easier.
The Trump administration announced in a memo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that it is reversing a 2016 Obama administration restriction on importing certain animal trophies. African Elephants (as well as Asian Elephants) are on the Endangered Species List.
The Obama administration's policy limited the number of sport-hunted trophies a person could bring into the country to two per year.
A 2017 lawsuit by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Safari Club International put the restrictions on hold, when a federal appeals court ruled that the Obama administration failed to correctly adhere to the required rule-making process.
Anyone wanting to bring trophies into the country from animals they killed still must apply for permission from the FWS - which says it will decide on a case-by-case basis. The new policy loosens restrictions on other animals also - such as lions.
Hunting... The good, the bad, and the ugly
Hunters claim that hunting the elephants actually helps the species survive. The fees they pay, which run in the tens of thousands of dollars according to National Geographic, are used for conservation efforts. African communities also can benefit - they get part of the fees and all the meat from the killed animals. The hunter takes home the tusks.
National Geographic also points out that the results vary by country. Where governments are unstable or corrupt, they simply keep the money. The Obama administration considered it a national security concern, as that money gets funneled to terrorist organizations.
USDA agency to staff... Don't say climate change
|2017-Aug-08||By: Barry Shatzman|
It's not climate change. It's weather extremes.
At least, that is, if you work for the agency the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that advises farmers on land conservation.
Administrators of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have instructed staff members on the terms to use when talking about issues related to Global Warming, according to emails obtained by The Guardian.
The emails were dated soon after the start of the Trump administration.
Among other suggested terminology, the emails tell staff members to use weather extremes instead of climate change, and to build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency instead of reduce greenhouse gases.
NRCS Deputy Chief for Programs Jimmy Bramblett wrote in other emails that, "It has become clear one of the previous administration's priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch."
Bramblett also suggested that NRCS projects to reduce greenhouse gases could be discontinued.
For more, including the emails, read The Guardian story.Jump to top of page
Arctic oil exploration could resume in December
|2017-Jul-13||By: Barry Shatzman|
Half a year after former President Barack Obama banned oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, the Trump administration has announced it will allow an Italian energy company to drill four exploration wells this winter.
The wells will be drilled from Spy Island - a man-made gravel island just outside of Prudhoe Bay used to support oil production. They will extend six miles - reaching into federal waters and making them the longest ever drilled in Alaska.
The administration provided only a 21-day public comment period for the exploration plan.
US to withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement
|2017-Jun-02||By: Rob Dennis and Barry Shatzman|
President Donald Trump has announced that the United States will pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which seeks to limit climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The United States is responsible for 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - making it second-largest emitter behind China.
Almost 200 countries are included in the agreement. Only two are not participating - Syria and Nicaragua.
The agreement is non-binding, and each country sets its own targets for reducing emissions. There are no penalties for countries falling short of those targets. The Obama administration pledged to cut U.S. emissions to more than 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. That reduction would comprise 20 percent of the world's reduction by 2030.
How might a withdrawal take place?
Withdrawing is a lengthy process, however. A country can request to withdraw starting in Nov. 2019 - three years after the agreement took force. The withdrawal would be effective in 2020.
A future administration could opt to rejoin.
A shorter path would be for the U.S. to withdraw from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris Climate Agreement was created under this convention, and states that "any party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from this Agreement." Withdrawing from the convention, however, would require Senate approval.
What might the effects be?
A study by the Rhodium Group predicts that greenhouse gas reduction without further environmental policies would be as low as 15-20 percent by 2025 - rather than the more than 25% goal set by the Obama administration.
The effects may be mitigated by states, companies, and other countries continuing to work toward cleaner energy - in spite of Trump administration policies.
A larger effect might be felt by poorer countries. As part of the Paris agreement, the U.S. agreed to contribute $3 billion to the UN Green Climate Fund (GCF) - an international fund that helps the world's poorest countries reduce emissions. The Obama administration already paid $1 billion of the pledge. Trump said his administration will not pay the remainder.
Influenced by money?
Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement might have been influenced by a letter from 22 Republican senators - including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Combined, these senators received more than $10 million from oil, gas, and coal companies the past three election cycles.
For more, read The Guardian story and this New York Times explanation.
For more about the Green Climate Fund, read this NBC News story.
Click here to read the Rhodium Group study on what might happen with greenhouse gas emissions under the Trump administration.
Methane Reduction Rule survives attempt to revoke it
|2017-May-10||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Senate has rejected an attempt to revoke the Obama administration Methane and Waste Reduction Rule.
Now that the rule will be allowed to take effect, it will drastically reduce the amount of methane emitted from oil and natural gas drilling. Methane emitted from such drilling is the country's second-largest industrial contributor to climate change, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The rule will result in a reduction of pollution equivalent to almost 1 million cars per year, and recover enough gas to supply about three-quarters of a million homes per year.
Congress was attempting to repeal the rule using the Congressional Review Act, which allows recently enacted rules to be negated by a simple majority in Congress. Only 49 senators voted for the repeal, however. Had one more senator decided to support the repeal, Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol to break the tie, which would have allowed the rule to be revoked.
The Trump administration has said it will work to repeal the rule using the government's rule-making process.
EPA allows pesticide it previously recommended banning
|2017-Mar-30||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will not ban a widely used insecticide - in spite of a conclusion last year by the agency itself that the chemical damages the brains of children.
The insecticide, chlorpyrifos, was banned from most household uses in 2000, but continues to be used on farms for about 50 types of crops including apples, peaches, and almonds.
The EPA under Barack Obama had proposed the ban on agricultural uses in 2015.
Studies have shown that the chemical can have long term effects such as learning and memory problems. Exposure can be through drinking water and other sources. These issues have occurred mostly in farm workers and their children - the only places that chlorpyrifos is legal to use.
It still can reach consumers, however, as the residue can found on foods such as strawberries and broccoli sold in supermarkets.
In December, Dow Chemical Co. - the maker of chlorpyrifos - contributed $1 million to President Trump's inaugural committee, the Center for Public Integrity reported.
Bill would terminate Environmental Protection Agency
|2017-Feb-03  (Updated: 2017-Feb-16)||By: Barry Shatzman|
A bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that is one sentence long...
"The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018."
The bill was introduced the day after the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to be EPA administrator.
At least four of the bill's sponsors, Reps. Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, Barry Loudermilk, and Steven Palazzo have received large contributions from energy companies.
Congress revokes Stream Protection rule
|2017-Feb-03  (Updated: 2017-Feb-16)||By: Rob Dennis and Barry Shatzman|
Congress has prevented a regulation barring coal-mining companies from dumping mining waste in streams from taking effect.
The Stream Protection Rule would have required coal-mining companies to avoid practices that permanently pollute streams, destroy drinking water sources, increase flood risk, and threaten forests.
Companies also would have been required to monitor streams that could be affected by their mining operations - in order to return them to the condition before they began mining.
Though one of the arguments made against the regulation was that it would cost jobs, a study by the Congressional Research Service showed that it likely would create about the same number of jobs.
Congress was able to easily negate this rule because the Congressional Review Act allows recently enacted rules to be negated by a simple majority in Congress. President Trump signed the bill on Feb. 16.
They are seeking, however, the ability to easily revoke any rule issued during the past decade. For more on this, read our report.
For more, read the CNBC story and this Vox.com story.
Click here to read the Congressional Research Service report on the potential effects of the rule.
Click here for more on the resolution revoking the Stream Protection Rule.
Congress proposes revoking protection from explosions
|2017-Feb-01  (Updated: 2017-Feb-10)||By: Rob Dennis|
A resolution introduced in the House of Representatives would overturn a regulation to improve safety at facilities that use and distribute hazardous chemicals.
The regulation requires facilities to...
It also requires facilities to coordinate with local emergency response agencies at least once a year, to provide basic chemical hazard information to the public when requested, and to hold a public meeting within 90 days of an accident.
It came as a result of an executive order issued by President Barack Obama in response incidents such as a 2013 explosion at a Texas fertilizer company that killed 15 people.
The resolution, introduced by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, would use the Congressional Review Act to revoke the regulation - meaning it would not be subject to a Senate filibuster.
Click here for more information on the resolution.
Click here for more on the regulation.
Click here to see what other Obama administration protections Congress is working to revoke using the Congressional Review Act.
Coal states sue to stop Stream Protection Rule
|2017-Jan-19||By: Barry Shatzman|
A group of coal-mining states has sued the federal government to prevent it from enforcing the 2016 Stream Protection Rule.
The rule requires coal-mining companies to avoid practices that could permanently pollute streams - including those supplying drinking water.
For more, read the CourtHouseNews story.Jump to top of page
Obama bans oil drilling off much of Alaska and east coast
|2016-Dec-20||By: Barry Shatzman|
Following up on the Department of the Interior's 5-year ban on oil drilling off the Alaskan and southeast US coasts, President Obama has announced that some of those bans would be permanent.
The administration says that a provision of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) allows the president to act unilaterally . His announcement would ban drilling along much of the Alaska coast as well as the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia north.
President-elect Donald Trump has said that he wants to increase U.S. oil drilling. It is unclear how much of an additional hurdle this would put in his path of doing so.
For more, read the New York Times story.Jump to top of page
Arctic drilling banned through 2022
|2016-Nov-18||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Department of the Interior has released a 5-year plan for energy management in federal waters, and it does not allow for offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
The plan calls for offering 10 leases in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska's Cook Inlet.
No leases will be offered in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas (the portion of the Arctic Ocean in U.S. territory) through 2022. Oil drilling also will be prohibited in the Atlantic Ocean off Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Because the rule was issued right at the end of President Barack Obama's term, the next Congress could possibly nullify it using the Congressional Review Act. If that happens, it is not clear how soon drilling could begin in the Arctic - but it possibly could be several years.
For more, read the Politico.com story.Jump to top of page
Wisconsin town to tap drinking water from Lake Michigan
|2016-Apr-21  (Updated: 2016-Jun-01)||By: Barry Shatzman|
A Wisconsin city is about to become the first to tap drinking water from the Great Lakes since an agreement was signed 8 years ago to protect the lakes.
Waukesha - a suburb of Milwaukee - was granted approval by the governors of the eight states that border the Great Lakes. A unanimous decision was required.
Waukesha officials say they need the lake's water because their own water exceeds the limit for radium and its aquifers are drying up.
Critics claim there are cheaper ways to meet the city's drinking water needs, and that requesting the additional Lake Michigan water is a gift to developers who want to expand the city.
Critics also have expressed concern that allowing Waukesha to take water from the lake will set a precedent for other cities to do the same. A board member for the environmental group Restore Our Water International reports being told by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that at least 20 other cities are considering applying to use Lake Michigan water of Waukesha's application is approved.
The request also is seen as a short-term bandage for a longer-term problem. Groundwater is being used faster than it can be replaced in many places - a situation likely to occur in many other places as populations grow.
For more about the approval, read the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinal story.
You can read more about the issues leading up to the decision in this Minneapolis Star Tribune story and Manitoulin Expositor story.
Microbeads in soaps and cosmetics banned
|2015-Dec-31||By: Barry Shatzman|
Those tiny beads in liquid soaps and toothpastes used for scrubbing and exfoliating soon will be outlawed.
The Microbead-Free Waters Act, signed by President Obama, will ban the manufacture of most products containing plastic microbeads in mid 2017. They will be off store shelves by mid 2018.
More than 8 trillion microbeads wash into U.S. waters every day, according to a study cited by CNN - threatening creatures who live in the water and people who eat them. The effects on creatures who live in the water and people who eat them still are being studied.
For more, read the CNN story.Jump to top of page
Obama rejects construction of Keystone XL Pipeline
President Obama announced that is rejecting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline - which would have carried petroleum through the United States from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
For more, read the New York Times story.Jump to top of page
EPA to cut emissions from coal-fired powerplants
|2014-Jun-01  (Updated: 2015-Oct-23)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about to announce new regulations to reduce carbon pollution from the country's power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels. The results will need to be achieved by 2030.
The 1970 extension to the Clean Air Act allows the agency to set limits on emissions that are considered harmful.
The Clean Power Plan allows each state to decide how to conform to the overall emissions limits. President Obama has told the EPA to have the new rules in place by June, 2015.
A related regulation would require new coal plants to capture their emissions and bury them underground.
U.S. fisheries recovering as result of 1996 law
U.S. ocean fisheries are recovering as a result of the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Many of the nation's ocean fish populations were declining in the early 1990s as a result of overfishing, the report stated. The law required overfished fisheries to be rebuilt to healthy levels by 2006. 28 of the 44 fisheries studied for the report were deemed to be rebuilt or to have made significant progress toward recovery.
Continued overfishing is a likely culprit for those that are not recovering, according to the report.
Healthy fisheries are important to the economy as well as the environment, the reprt said. The yearly gross commercial revenue from the 28 successfully rebuilt fisheries has almost doubled since the rebuilding began. Recreational fishing has grown by almost 30 percent, creating more than 300,000 jobs and contributing $73 billion to the economy in 2009.
Court invalidates EPA Cross-State Pollution Rule
A federal court has struck down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that limited the amount of pollution from coal plants is allowed to drift from one state to another.
For more, read the Business Week story.Jump to top of page
EPA delays implementation of coal pollution regulation
|2010-Feb-22||By: Barry Shatzman|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said it will only implement regulation of carbon emissions from the biggest sources of greenhouse gases before 2013. Smaller sources will not be regulated until 2016.
Members of Congress from states that depend on coal-generated power had requested that the regulations be put off.
For more, read the New York Times story.
Click here to read the letter from EPA Administer Lisa Jackson to West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller describing how implementation of the regulations would be delayed.