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Trump EPA Withdraws Clean Air Policy Opposed By Fossil Fuel Companies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing the "once-in always-in" policy for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

As Reuters pointed out, the move on Thursday is "part of President Donald Trump's effort to roll back federal regulations and was sought by utilities, the petroleum industry and others."

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The 2,400-acre ExxonMobil petrochemical complex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Kristen Lombardi / Center for Public Integrity

Exxon Settles Air Pollution Lawsuit, Will Pay $2.5 Million in Fines, $300 Million for Technology Upgrades

Exxon will pay millions to upgrade eight Gulf-area plants in a major settlement announced Tuesday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The oil giant's agreement to pay $300 million to outfit oil and gas plants in Texas and Louisiana with pollution-control technology follows allegations that the company violated the Clean Air Act by releasing harmful pollutants at those plants. Exxon will also pay $2.5 million in fines.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Photo by Tami Heilemann, Interior

Pruitt, Zinke and Perry Target Clean Air and Water Rules to Curb 'Burdens' on Energy Sector

At a speech in North Dakota last month, President Trump boasted that his administration is refocusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to its "core mission: clean air and clean water."

"That's what I want—clean air," he continued. "Think of it. We talk about the—I want beautiful clean air, and I want crystal-clean water, right? That's what we want."

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Judge to Exxon: Pay $20 Million for Violating Clean Air Act More Than 16,000 Times

ExxonMobil must pay $20 million for violating the Clean Air Act more than 16,000 times at a Texas plant, a district judge ruled this week.

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New Bill Would Block EPA From Regulating Greenhouse Gases

Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill to curtail the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to address climate change.

The "Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017" (HR637) would amend the Clean Air Act so that:

"The term 'air pollutant' does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride."

The bill was introduced by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) and has already racked up 114 Republican co-sponsors. Palmer is a climate denier who once said that temperature data used to measure global climate change have been "falsified" and manipulated.

Palmer's latest proposal would nullify the EPA's regulation of carbon pollution, stating that "no federal agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under current law" and "no attempt to regulate greenhouse gases should be undertaken without further Congressional action."

Liz Perera, climate policy director at the Sierra Club, told Huffington Post that the resolution would make it nearly impossible for the federal government to fight climate change.

"This is the legislative equivalent of trying to ban fire trucks while your house is burning," she said, adding its sponsors "should be embarrassed for so blatantly ignoring reality and ashamed of themselves for so recklessly endangering our communities."

Furthermore, the measure contains a frightening provision saying that jobs should be prioritized over public and environmental health:

(a) In General—Before proposing or finalizing any regulation, rule, or policy, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall provide an analysis of the regulation, rule, or policy and describe the direct and indirect net and gross impact of the regulation, rule, or policy on employment in the United States.

(b) Limitation—No regulation, rule, or policy described in subsection (a) shall take effect if the regulation, rule, or policy has a negative impact on employment in the United States unless the regulation, rule, or policy is approved by Congress and signed by the President.

Congressman Palmer introduced a similar version of the bill in 2015 which also tried to "clarify" the definition of an air pollutant.

"The EPA has repeatedly claimed fighting climate change as justification for crafting onerous regulations that limit carbon dioxide, water vapor, and other compounds that are both essentially harmless and in fact required for life to flourish," Palmer said in 2015 statement. "This is done using statutes Congress never contemplated could be read to regulate such common and essential substances. This bill reasserts Congress's authority by prohibiting the EPA from unilaterally continuing to cause severe economic damage by regulating greenhouse gases."

Fortunately, the bill does not seem to have any legs. David Doniger, a senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program told The Guardian that HR637 does not have much of a chance breaking through a Senate filibuster as Democrats would have near-universal opposition to it and even some moderate Republican Senators would vote against it as well.

Still, many Republican lawmakers have been galvanized by Donald Trump's presidential win. Trump notoriously campaigned on slashing Obama-era environmental regulations and rolling back the EPA.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also recently proposed a measure to completely shutter the EPA. The house bill, introduced on Feb. 3., would terminate the agency by the end of 2018.

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Obama's Climate Change Agenda Faces Supreme Court Hearing

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

By Vickie Patton

Today, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in a case challenging EPA’s interpretation that the Clean Air Act permit program requiring new and rebuilt industrial sources to deploy leading pollution control technology for each pollutant subject to regulation under the Act applies to greenhouse gases, just as these requirements have limited other airborne contaminants for over three decades.

This case is remarkable for what is not at stake, as well as for what is.

While the Supreme Court is considering only a single legal question of the numerous issues that were raised, this case has important implications.

Exempting climate pollution from these specific provisions of the Clean Air Act would harm innovation, because they were carefully designed by Congress to spur the development of new pollution prevention and control techniques for industrial sources. Putting a stop to these legislatively-crafted incentives to innovation in precisely the area where we so urgently need innovation—in addressing climate-destabilizing pollution—would be a damaging loss and risks “locking in” new high emitting and long lived industrial infrastructure. Such an exemption for climate pollution is patently contrary to Congress’s specific command, in the statutory provisions at issue here, that these innovation-spurring requirements apply to “each pollutant subject to regulation under the Act”.

Climate obstructionists will undoubtedly twist the meaning of the case to suggest broader implications, despite the court's decision to review only one narrow question. While the Administration is judiciously carrying out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to address climate pollution—in accordance with the authority that was twice affirmed by the United States Supreme Court—climate obstructionists will use this case to sow havoc and attack the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Indeed, these forces have already attacked EPA by unsuccessfully litigating virtually every aspect of EPA’s first generation climate protections in court over a span of many years. Unfortunately, they will continue to attack EPA in the public square invoking the polarizing rhetoric that most Americans associate with divisive Beltway politics—not real world solutions.

What is not at stake in this case is the EPA’s determination that six greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride—endanger the health and welfare of current and future generations. This is the bedrock for EPA’s manifest authority to adopt climate protections for cleaner cars and cleaner freight trucks, for reducing the potent methane leaked and vented from oil and gas development activities in the same way that Colorado has adopted methane emissions standards, and for cutting the massive carbon pollution from power plants—the nation’s single largest source of carbon pollution and one of the largest in the world.

The history behind the case

For the past four years, big polluters and litigants such as the Attorney General of Texas have been suing the EPA over all aspects of its climate protections for America—including the science-based endangerment finding, and the historic Clean Cars Standards that are saving Americans money at the gas pump while strengthening our nation’s energy security and reducing pollution. By contrast, the U.S. Automakers have consistently supported the clean car standards.

These dozens of lawsuits were considered together by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—which upheld EPA’s climate protections and rejected the legal challenges. In 2012, a three Judge panel of that court held that EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct.” Then-Chief Judge David Sentelle, appointed to the Court by President Ronald Regan, was a member of the three Judge panel that unanimously affirmed EPA’s action.

Opponents filed numerous petitions seeking review by the Supreme Court, which refused to entertain most of their challenges.

Instead, the Court granted review of a single question – whether, under the terms of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s regulation of climate pollution from cars triggered the requirement for pre-construction permits limiting the climate pollution discharged by large, new and rebuilt industrial sources of that pollution in the same way these requirements have applied to other air pollutants from these sources for over 35 years.

Bottom line

We need all available safeguards under the Clean Air Act to address the urgent challenge of climate change—including the advanced pollution control measures required as an essential protection in construction permits for large industrial sources. These measures are vital if we hope to minimize industrial climate pollution.

Further, one of the principal legal theories being advanced by petitioners would have adverse consequences for EPA’s long-standing interpretation of the law – spanning the Presidencies of Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush—that has expansively applied the protections of the Clean Air Act’s pre-construction review permit program to all regulated air pollutants. This line of attack, designed to narrow the air pollutants subject to these limits, would call into question the application of the program to pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide, fluorides and sulfuric acid mist.

Finally, we need to tell the truth to the public, to policymakers and to the highest Court in the land that EPA is judiciously carrying out its responsibilities under the nation’s clean air laws to protect human health and the environment from climate pollution. We must take a stand against the sharply polarizing rhetorical excess leveled at EPA. For the real world solutions that have won far-reaching support, look no further than the cleaner cars on the road today that are strengthening our energy security, saving families hard earned money at the gas pump, and cutting carbon pollution.

The Environmental Defense Fund is a party to the case before the Supreme Court and participated in the presentation of oral arguments when the case was before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Patton is the organization’s general counsel and manages the organization's national and regional clean air programs.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

Science on Trial: Big Oil Funds Attacks on EPA Air Pollution Standards

By Farron Cousins 

Both the science behind climate change and the efficacy of life-saving safety standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had a trying week in Washington, D.C., as industry-backed lawsuits and politicians attempted to undermine the entire scientific community.

Last week, the EPA's health standards on industry air pollution are under attack from two seperate fossil fuel backed lawsuits.

The EPA is currently battling two major legal obstacles in the courts over the agency's authority to enact and enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act. This is a power that the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled was not only within the agency’s jurisdiction, but a duty that it had to perform for the American public.

One of the legal battles took place at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where the EPA defended its work to limit the amount of mercury and arsenic that energy companies are allowed to release into the air. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, these health standards that are under attack from the dirty energy industry have the potential to save as many as 45,000 lives a year.

Based on the D.C. Circuit’s previous rulings regarding the Clean Air Act, it is likely that the EPA will be the victor in this case. 

In 2008, the D.C. Circuit castigated the EPA for failing to develop mercury emission standards, as required by the Clean Air Act. So the industry's attempt to challenge the agency for actually following the Court’s orders seems unlikely to go in the industry’s favor. The Circuit Court had also admonished the former Bush administration for their lack of efforts to protect the public health with their cross-state pollution rules. 

And it is the same issue of cross-state air pollution that sets the stage for the EPA’s other judicial fight. Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from a team of lawyers representing the dirty energy industry and the EPA on whether or not the agency has the authority, and the ability, to monitor cross-state air pollution. The question at hand is whether or not the pollution can be traced back to its original source—without a confirmed source, there can be no liability.

The Washington Post explains the issue in the case:

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule affects mostly the eastern two-thirds of the country and requires power plants in more than two dozen states to clean up nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution that contribute to soot and smog elsewhere.

According to the EPA, eliminating the pollution would prevent 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths and 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks as well as decrease emergency room visits and the number of respiratory disease episodes.

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recused himself from this case, leaving the Court split four to four on ideological lines. The case is predicted to go in favor of the EPA, largely due to Alito’s absence taking away a certain vote in favor of the industry.

Both of these cases are backed by science showing that air pollution can be deadly, and that reducing this pollution is a no-brainer when it comes to the health and safety of the American public. But inconvenient science has never stood in the way of the industry’s agenda, and that has opened up an opportunity for them to take their case all the way to Congress.

On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing in which subcommittee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) invited a climate change denier to cast doubt on the science of climate change.

During the hearing, members of Congress were fed denial whoppers that included a claim by University of Alabama professor John Christy that only 52 percent of scientists believe in man-made climate change. According to Raw Story, there was only one witness called during the hearing who appeared to believe that anthropogenic climate change not only existed (he pointed out that more than 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific research on the subject confirmed it), but that it was a threat.

Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith has taken in more than $550,000 from the oil and gas industries, his second largest industry campaign contributor.

It's unlikely that anything will come from Rep. Smith’s circus of a hearing, but it will solidify his position as a worthy recipient of dirty energy industry cash. It also shows that science, in all forms, is facing some very serious attacks in America, and the attackers all have one thing in common—significant funding from Big Oil.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

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61 Reasons This Is the Most Anti-Environment House of Representatives in History

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Scott Slesinger

What’s worse than a do-nothing Congress? It’s a do-something-bad Congress. That’s what we see today from the House GOP majority.

While much media attention has focused this year on congressional gridlock—how Congress hasn’t been able to pass a Farm Bill, immigration reform or budget measures—the problem, in fact, is the Republican-controlled House. The Senate has passed bipartisan bills on a number of major issues.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have pushed forward more than 60 anti-government, anti-health and anti-environment initiatives, as noted below.

They’re picking up where they left off in the 112th Congress when they earned the title of the most anti-environment House in history.

During this August recess, when members of Congress are back in their states meeting with the public, we hope you’ll take a look at the tally below and consider asking them: What are your goals? Whose side are you on? What will you accomplish?

Just look at what they do.

Before the current recess, they pulled off the floor a major transportation bill aiming to fix our decaying infrastructure. Instead, they voted on a bill that would keep any new health or environmental standards from going into effect, and another one doubling down to ensure that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules addressing the oil and coal industries would die before the first bill killed them.

In many other ways, House Republicans have tried to repeal, roll back or throw up roadblocks to fundamental protections. Their plans would leave our health jeopardized, our rivers and streams polluted, our air dirty, our wildlife depleted and our lands developed with a Wild West mentality.

The House rank-and-file Republican membership is so zealous that their own leaders haven’t been able to get them to go along with some of their own proposals.

These House GOP ideologues don’t vote for “less regulation.” They vote literally for no safeguards at all. They like to characterize their proposals as simply adhering to mainstream conservative ideals. But they actually are far more radical than that. Just some examples:

  • Republican measures to “reform” regulation are not some middle-ground effort to limit the burden on companies. Instead, they would literally tear apart the system that has protected Americans since the early twentieth century, making it next to impossible to put in place any new protection for air, water, food and land—while giving competitive benefit to recalcitrant companies. (See REINS and RAA below.)
  • The Republican efforts to promote offshore drilling don’t just make it easier to get permits for drilling. Instead, they require that half the available territory for drilling be put out to lease each and every year, until every last piece is leased, regardless of any concerns about that pace or where it may be dangerous to local recreation and fishing industries or the number of inspectors available to act as a deterrent from unsafe practices.
  • The Republicans have not just tried to “slow down” EPA or make it look more closely at regulations, as they sometimes claim. Instead, they have pushed to permanently block EPA from protecting waters, from basing air pollution limits on health concerns, and from doing anything at all to address climate change, including reining in carbon pollution from older power plants, which kick out 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution and today face no limits.
  • They have not just tried to “trim” the federal budget or limit new federal spending. Instead, they have taken a cleaver to agencies that provide basic protections—a one-third cut in EPA in one year, and an even greater cut on all research to move us forward on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Significantly, House Republicans are using their majority to muscle these initiatives through, ignoring the public support for basic safeguards. With a handful of exceptions—such as an anti-climate amendment, a bill clipping EPA’s regulatory power, a pro-offshore drilling measure and harsh spending cuts in an energy and water bill, which each drew between eight and 16 Democratic votes on the floor—most measures have garnered scant or no Democratic support.

In the 112th Congress, House Republicans were just as reckless. They held about one anti-environment vote for every day the House was gaveled into session, according to Democratic staffers on the Energy and Environment Committee. The total, 317 votes, can be seen here.

That was why Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-CA), a member of the Environment Committee, and then-Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, called it the most anti-environment House in history.

This House GOP crusade has yielded nothing for the American people. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate and the White House have stood up to their industry giveaways, favors and backroom deals.

Have they gotten the message? No.

While accumulating a skimpy record of 22 bills signed into law—on such issues as precious-metal blanks and naming a bridge for Stan Musial—House Republicans have spent most of their time trying to ride roughshod over our air, land, water, wildlife and public health in the first months of the 113th Congress.

Following is a partial list of their efforts contained in pending legislation, or measures approved by committee or passed by the full House.

Individually, these measures represent caving to industry lobbyists or blind adherence to rigid ideological positions. But like a painting made of many brush strokes, together they reveal an unrelenting House Republican agenda that is anti-health, anti-community rights, anti-environment and, in total, against the broad interests of the American public.

Hobbling Federal Agencies That Protect the Public and Fight Pollution

1. The Interior and Environment appropriations bill would cut the EPA’s budget by 34 percent, down to levels not seen since 1990 (and, adjusted for inflation, to the level in 1976); making it next to impossible for the agency to enforce the environmental laws Congress has passed to protect our health, our lands, our air and our water. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

2. Included in the EPA spending bill is a provision to slash funding for rehabilitating and repairing the nation’s aging sewage systems to just $250 million from $1.44 billion previously. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

3. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 435) would permanently block EPA from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. This would deny Clean Water Act protection for countless streams and wetlands, many of which are sources of drinking water and help with flood control. Identical language appears in the Energy and Water appropriation. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

4. The Energy Consumers Relief Act would subject any significant rule affecting an energy industry issued by EPA to a veto by the Energy Department, an agency with a wholly different mission from EPA’s, which is to protect public health, fight pollution and mitigate climate change. This would allow vital health and environmental safeguards to be nullified. Passed by the House.

5. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 436) would block the Department of Interior (DOI) from enforcing safeguards designed to protect streams from pollution from surface coal mining. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

6. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 437) would require a 90-day review by Congress before EPA could strengthen limitations on pollution from urban stormwater systems. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

7. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 439) would prevent implementation of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), a landmark policy designed to safeguard our oceans and coasts. That rider also requires a report on all FY 2011, FY 2012 and FY 2013 spending on the NOP and requires the President's budget proposal for FY 2015 to identify all proposed funding for NOP. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

8. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 443) would block the EPA from enforcing rules to limit exposure to lead paint. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

9. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 444) would repeal for the length of the appropriation EPA’s ability to require any industries with high probability of polluting to carry insurance to cover environmental damages they cause. This amendment would allow these risky industries to pass off the damages they cause to the public. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

10. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 448) would permanently block the EPA from setting standards to require the recycling of water used by power plants for cooling. Many older power plants use enormous amounts of coolant water, killing millions of fish in the process and then discharging the hot water. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

11. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 450) would prevent EPA from publicly disclosing “personally identifiable” information about livestock facilities, including the location of factory farms. A similar provision is in the Farm Bill. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

12. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 452) would permanently block the EPA from limiting pollution from stormwater runoff from a wide variety of  logging operations. The Farm Bill (Sec. 11323) has a similar provision. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

13. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 455) would prevent the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from protecting waters from pollution when utilized for hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands and from managing water resources in order to benefit fish and wildlife populations. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

14. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 456) would prevent EPA from updating the definition of “fill material” allowing the mining industry to continue dumping toxic waste from mountaintop removal activities into mountain streams. A similar provision is in the Energy and Water appropriations bill. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

15. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 457) would block EPA from enforcing particulate matter standards from applying to metal casting facilities which use furnaces to reprocess industrial sand. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

16. The REINS Act (Regulations From the Executive In Need of Scrutiny), a broad-based attack on regulation, would allow a single house of Congress to block any major agency-proposed regulation affecting health, safety, the environment or the economy. Passed by the House.

17. The Regulatory Accountability Act would slow or block the adoption of new health and environmental safeguards by imposing on the EPA and other agencies an ornate and overly complex process for rulemaking and giving regulated industries many more ways to tie up new rules in court. Passed by full committee.

18. The RAPID Act (Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development)—designed to ram through construction of major projects, such as oil refineries, power plants, nuclear waste dumps, big flood control projects and the like—would place arbitrary, and short, time limits on environmental reviews, severely limiting consideration of less harmful alternatives and reducing all-important public participation. Passed by full committee.

19. The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act would give the executive branch opportunities to ignore Congressional deadlines by allowing polluters to disrupt court proceedings that try to enforce the law. Passed by full committee.

20. The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would have the effect of bogging down new and existing regulations with cumbersome and superfluous reviews. Passed by full committee.

21. The 2013 Farm Bill would prevent the EPA from restricting pesticide use near certain fisheries until there is a new study by the National Research Council (NRC) of the underlying science that informs the limitation. Passed by the House.

22. The Farm Bill contains a provision that would prohibit EPA from modifying, canceling or suspending a pesticide registration on the basis of a biological opinion issued by NOAA Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until the completion of an independent study on the opinions. Passed by the House.

23. In the Farm Bill is a provision that would bar states from enacting or enforcing their own food and farm laws, which could invalidate more than 150 state laws that currently protect health, animal welfare and food safety. Passed by the House.

24. The Offshore Energy and Jobs act would prevent the Interior Department from conducting thorough environmental and safety reviews of offshore oil leases, including oil spill response capacity, as called for under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Passed by the House.

25.  The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act aims to undermine meaningful public participation and environmental review under NEPA by setting an arbitrary deadline for reviews of the “siting, construction, expansion, or operation of any natural gas pipeline projects.” If deadlines are not met, the permit or license “shall go into effect.” Passed by full committee.

Endangering Wildlife and Public Lands

26. The House Appropriations bill for the Interior Department cuts the Fish and Wildlife Service budget by 27 percent and, for the first time in many years, provides no money for new land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

27. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would block funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), a network of public-private partnerships that provide shared science to ensure the sustainability of America's land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

28. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would prohibit funding to create or expand wildlife refuges. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

29. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would prohibit researching endangered species on private property. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

30. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 114) severely limits the public’s right to address decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management that favor industry, leading to decisions that will further harm essential federal ecological resources and wildlife. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

31. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 118) would block funding to implement the “Wild Lands” initiative of Interior Secretary Salazar in 2010. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

32. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 119) would exempt the trailing of livestock across public lands and the implementation of trailing practices by the Bureau of Land Management from environmental review under NEPA. It also precludes trailing decisions from be being protested by stakeholders. (Trailing is the practice of deliberately moving herds of sheep or cows across miles of federal lands where they could interact with, and possibly infect, endangered wild species). Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

33. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 120) would prohibit the listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

34. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 407) would allow the Secretary of Agriculture to rely on outdated forest plans, ignoring the reality that national forests are quickly changing in the face of climate change. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

35. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 409) would prohibit funds from being used for the taking of land by eminent domain without congressional approval, with the exception of federal assistance to Florida for Everglades restoration. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

36. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 411) would exempt grazing permits from environmental reviews indefinitely. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

37. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 410) sets a minimum size of Alaskan timber sales in Region 10, an area that includes the Tongass and Chugach national forests. These timber sales can include exports of red and yellow cedar. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

38. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 432) would limit Forest Service review and appeals processes. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

39. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 434) would increase the maximum authorized term of grazing permits issued for domestic livestock on public lands  from 10 to 20 years. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

40. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 438) would block any limits on the use or access to federal land for hunting, fishing or recreational shooting if those activities were allowed as of Jan. 1, 2013. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

41. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 453) would exempt from environmental review grazing allotments assigned to permittees and lessees to replace ones made unusable by drought or wildfire. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

42. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 454) would enable wholly unrestricted off-road vehicle use on National Forest System land. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

43. The Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act would block the federal government from regulating the controversial oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on most federal lands, and instead relinquish control to the states, no matter how weak their oversight. Passed by full committee.

44. Under the guise of mitigating future fire risks, the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act would undermine the protections of NEPA, which call for public comment and thorough review, by fast-tracking the opening of federal lands to grazing and logging for 10 and 20 year terms respectively. Introduced in committee.

45. The Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act seeks to throw open public lands to widespread oil and gas drilling by, among other means, cutting short public input and charging a $5,000 “documentation fee” to citizens who exercise their rights under law to challenge the environmental soundness of a lease. Passed by full committee.

46. The National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act aims to rush through oil drilling approval in the Alaskan reserve by setting impossibly short deadlines on the Interior Department review mandated under NEPA. Passed by full committee.

47. The  National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act would give agencies the discretion simply to declare that a mineral exploration or mining permit would not constitute “a major federal action” and thus prevent the application (and protection) of  NEPA. Passed by full committee.

Blocking Efforts to Combat Climate Change

48. The Energy and Water appropriations bill cuts nearly a billion dollars, a 50 percent reduction, from renewable energy projects and research at the Department of Energy. This includes slashing funds for the popular ARPA-E research agency by 81 percent and reducing funds by $220 million for the Office of Science, which supports much of the critical basic research that drives our innovation economy. Passed by the House.

49. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 445) would block EPA from limiting carbon pollution from power plants. Passed by subcommittee, pending in committee.

50. An amendment to the Energy Consumers Relief Act bars EPA from attributing any benefits to reductions in carbon emissions. This would prevent EPA from implementing any energy efficiency rules and essentially denies that climate change is having any adverse impact on public safety, health, agriculture or the economy through sea-level rise, drought, super-storms, heat waves and other extreme weather. Passed by the House. 

51. A provision in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 419) would require the President to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on “all Federal agency funding, domestic and international, for climate change programs, projects and activities in fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013.” Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

52. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 420) would prevent the EPA from limiting pollution from livestock production under the Clean Air Act. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

53. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 421) would prevent the EPA from requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

54. The 2013 Farm Bill would cut all funding for rural renewable energy and efficiency development, including solar and wind, which help decrease reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Passed by the House.

55. A provision in the Interior appropriations bill would rescind $1.3 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program and transfer $285.6 million to wildfire suppression operations. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

Undermining Public Health

56. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would limit the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's ability to add new toxic substances to the list of waste materials considered hazardous. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

57. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 451) would permanently prevent EPA from updating standards for cleaning up gasoline and cutting smog-forming pollution from cars and light trucks (Tier 3). Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

58. Section 442 of the Interior and Environment appropriation would create confusion and uncertainty by exempting certain stormwater discharges from coverage in municipalities' Clean Water Act discharge permits. This exemption would lead to endless factual disputes over the source and destination of individual sites' runoff, and it would prohibit permit requirements for those pollution sources, allowing them to continue degrading local water bodies without consequences. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.

59. The Farm Bill would sharply reduce, then end, funding for conservation programs, which help restore wetlands and prairies and reduce fertilizer and pesticide pollution that poison our rivers and drinking water. Passed by the House.

60. The Farm Bill would gut all Clean Water Act restrictions on spraying pesticides into certain bodies of water, reversing a 2009 court decision. Passed by the House.

61. The Farm Bill loosens the oil spill prevention obligations of certain agricultural operations, even though oil spills from a farm are just as harmful as those from industry. Passed by the House.

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY, CLIMATE CHANGE, HEALTH and FARM BILL pages for more related news on this topic.

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Insights

A Preventable Chemical Plant Explosion May Be Closer Than You Think

Phil Radford

Last Thursday, President Obama issued an Executive Order mandating that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the departments of Labor and Homeland Security to develop plans for new safety measure at chemical plants like the one in West, TX, that exploded in April, killing 17 people and injuring hundreds.

That West, TX, tragedy was one of many preventable disasters that have happened in the decade since the EPA first proposed using the Clean Air Act to enforce common sense rules for chemical plants. It's been over 10 years, and we're still waiting.

Even in the time since the West, TX, disaster, there have been at least six other serious, preventable chemical accidents around the country. This is a problem we not only should have, but could have, solved years ago, and now, with President Obama's order, the EPA has a clear mandate to do what a wide coalition of organizations have been urging it to do for years: use its existing authority under the law to require chemical plants to use safer processes and chemicals at thousands of facilities across the country. The safety of millions of people depends on it.

At the same time that the President issued his Executive Order, Greenpeace and more than 100 groups such as United Auto Workers, the Sierra Club, UPROSE, Rebuild the Dream, Environmental Defense Fund, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Peoples' Action, MoveOn, Los Jardines Institute, and Community In-Power and Development Association sent a jointly signed letter to the new EPA chief Gina McCarthy urging her to make chemical disaster prevention a priority in her first 100 days in office. The path forward couldn't be clearer, and the risks of continued inaction couldn't be higher.

Unsecured toxic chemicals needlessly threaten our communities every day. According to the EPA's own data, there are more than 470 chemical facilities that each put 100,000 or more people at risk of injury or death from a sudden poison gas release. In 2004, the Homeland Security Council estimated that an attack on a poison gas facility would result in 17,500 immediate deaths, 10,000 seriously injuries and send an additional 100,000 people to the hospital.

These are astonishing numbers, so much so that it can be hard to understand just how close this problem is to most of us. Greenpeace has set up a quick way for you to find out how near you are to one of these facilities, and by simply entering your zip code here you can find out exactly how this issue affects you. The results might shock you, they certainly shocked me. But luckily, this is a problem with a solution.

Hundreds of chemical facilities, including all Clorox facilities in the U.S., have already taken it upon themselves to adopt safer procedures for their workers and the communities around their plants. As Greenpeace knows well, we can't simply rely on corporations to police themselves. There are still more than one-hundred million people at risk because they live and work inside "vulnerability zones" near the highest risk chemical facilities in major cities across the country.

The EPA needs to act now to ensure the safety of millions of people who who are needlessly endangered by un-secure toxic chemicals. The President has now made clear he is joining our call for action, but it's ultimately up to the EPA to use its existing authority to make our communities safe from toxic chemicals starting today. Safer alternatives and better regulations are the only fool-proof ways we can keep keep tragedies like West, TX, from happening again.

Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.

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