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EPA Grants Florida Utilities Blanket Pollution Waiver After Irma
The waiver, given at the request of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and effective through Sept. 26, allows the utilities "to operate without meeting all pollution controls in order to maintain the supply of electricity to customers and critical facilities across the state as a result of Hurricane Irma," EPA said.
But as the Associated Press noted in a report, the waiver basically means that electric companies can get away with violating clean air and water standards without penalty for the next two weeks.
According to the AP report: "The EPA's assurance letter will allow utilities to operate outside restrictions mandated by their permits, including potentially using dirtier fuels, running for longer hours or electively bypassing pollution control equipment. Coal-fired plants can also discharge wastewater laced with levels of toxic-heavy metals at higher concentrations than what would normally be permitted."
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 5.6 million Florida homes and businesses still remain without power, state officials said.
"EPA believes that the exercise of enforcement discretion in these circumstances is in the public interest and will help address the emergency circumstances in Florida," the agency said in a letter.
"Under EPA's no action assurance letter, the facilities must continue to exercise good air and water pollution control practices and comply with all other federal, state and local environmental laws."
But the AP also pointed out that air pollution levels spiked in the Houston area after Texas petrochemical facilities were granted a similar enforcement waiver ahead of Hurricane Harvey.
Diane Carman at Earthjustice writes that "toxic cleanup will be a part of the work ahead" as the country picks up the pieces from the devastating weather events.
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Toxic Waste Will Continue to Grow for Decades Even if All U.S. Drilling and Fracking Halts Today, New Report Says
By Jessica Corbett
For more than three decades, the U.S. government has mismanaged toxic oil and gas waste containing carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials, according to a new Earthworks report — and with the country on track to continue drilling and fracking for fossil fuels, the advocacy group warns of growing threats to the planet and public health.
Newly adopted guidelines set forth by the European Commission Tuesday aim to tackle climate change by way of the financial sector. The move comes to bolster the success of the Sustainable Action Plan published last year to reorient capital flows toward sustainable investment and manage financial risks from climate change, environmental degradation and social issues.