Thought Piece by Stephen Heins

obama-regulations

[White House and many Federal Agencies are likely to start acting like synchronize swimmers in Wash DC. Below, the problematic and probably misguided goals of the EPA. After all, all of the information provided below came from a recent EPA PR document announcing their goals. Within its last six months, the White House wants its 3300 regulatory actions to become definitive and/or legally tested.

Some of us wish that they had just adequately administered to its historical responsibility of 2009 without spending lavishly on political studies and well-funded environment groups and other global warming scholars and universities.

In particular, I am bothered by several of the EPA PR efforts–Clean Water Act, Asthma Ad Campaign, Clean Power Plan, MATS (Mercury and Air Toxic Standards), Harvard Health Study,  EPA’s close relationship with Sierra Club, NRDC, EDF, Union of Concerned Citizens and other environmental activist groups, the treasure trove of emails and texts that the EPA refuses to release,  Colorado Toxic Spill, Pebble Mine, Flint, etc..

Below, I have identified the separate agencies and environment acts that have now been transformed into a single White House environmental agenda without a single political mandate or any legal review.  In fact 28 to 17 states don’t even favor the Clean Power Plan. Without mandates or a majority of state approvals, this EPA agenda is downright undemocratic.

 White House Actionable Issues

“The agenda shows federal agencies have completed 36 rules projected to have economic effects of at least $100 million annually, with another 123 actions in the pre-rule, proposed or final stage.”

  1. “The Department of Homeland Security is set to begin an update of its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program in September, a delay from July.”

  2. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission continues to weigh a proposed rule to ban additional phthalates, plasticizers linked to health problems, in children’s products and child care articles.”

  3. “EPA is continuing to seek restrictions on two chemicals under a rarely used provision of the Toxic Substances Control Act. A plan to use Section 6 of the law — the same used in a failed attempt to ban asbestos in 1991 — is still ongoing.”

  4. “According to the Department of Transportation docket, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration plans to finish the rule in January.”

  5. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to release rules that address everything from marine mammal harassment to seafood imports.”

  6. “One proposal would implement the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, which passed as part of a massive water resources package. A proposed rule is scheduled for October of this year, and a final rule is set for 2017.”

  7. “Another Department of Interior agency, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, has plans to finish several proposed rules before January. In June, ONRR expects to publish a final rule overhauling coal valuation.”

  8. Another Interior agency, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, has plans to finish several proposed rules before January. In June, ONRR expects to publish a final rule overhauling coal valuation particularly in-situ recovery.

  9. “Within the Department of Labor, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is set to notify stakeholders of two proposed rulemakings by year’s end.”

  10. BLM is also waiting until 2017 to take final action on a rule altering coal management rules, including increasing lease modification size, extending mine life spans and clarifying the royalty rate on continuous high wall mining operations.”

  11. “The National Park Service is set to release a final rule governing the development of privately owned minerals within its borders by September.”

  12. “The draft rule issued in September 2014 would also set rental and bonding requirements to ensure a fair rate of return to taxpayers. The draft drew major pushback from solar industry officials.”

  13. Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by year’s end plans to finalize updates to its 36-year-old regulations governing air emissions from offshore oil and gas activity. A draft rule released in March sought to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.”

  14. “BOEM and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement by next month plan to release a final rule governing oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters.”

  15. “Not included in the spring regulatory agenda: EPA’s plans for its Clean Energy Incentive Program and model carbon trading rules, both of which are tied to the Clean Power Plan.”

  16. “On the technology front, the Department of Energy is planning a new rule to “employ innovative technologies” in its loan guarantee program.”

  17. “In July, the agency aims to release another final rule to limit methane emissions, this time from municipal solid waste landfills. In 2014, landfills were the third largest source of methane in the country, EPA said, but the agency has not updated performance standards for landfills in two decades.”

  18. “That rule, which EPA is developing with the Department of Transportation, represents a second phase of greenhouse gas reductions for heavy-duty vehicles.”

  19. Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by year’s end plans to finalize updates to its 36-year-old regulations governing air emissions from offshore oil and gas activity.”

  20. “The Fish and Wildlife Service by summer’s end expects to finalize a draft rule to significantly increase oversight of thousands of oil and gas operations in national wildlife refuges.”

  21. “Within the Department of Labor, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is set to notify stakeholders of two proposed rulemakings by year’s end.”

  22. “The agency has said it is working on an update to the 25-year-old Lead and Copper Rule, which regulates the management of lead service lines but doesn’t require the removal of the pipes. The Lead and Copper Rule changes were not included in the administration’s new Unified Agenda.”

  23. NOAA also plans to propose a slew of rules, including ones to expand the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, authorize marine mammal harassment from Gulf of Mexico seismic surveys and designate critical habitat for the Atlantic sturgeon.”

  24. “The agency expects to finalize a proposed rule to modernize its Risk Management Program for industrial facilities by December. It proposed the rule earlier this year (E&ENews PM, March 11).”

  25. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission continues to weigh a proposed rule to ban additional phthalates, plasticizers linked to health problems, in children’s products and child care articles.”

  26. “The Department of Homeland Security is set to begin an update of its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program in September, a delay from July.”

######

During this hyperactive time of avalanching executive orders and regulatory actions, I am also bothered by the fact that 14,0000 EPA bureaucrats from the public sector (who don’t have the proper skill sets and experience) are responsible for the implementation of a hundred  initiatives, let alone 3300 of them.   Steve]

 

SPOTLIGHT REGULATIONS: White House outlines agenda for Obama’s final months

Hannah Hess, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Obama administration’s latest compilation of pending regulatory actions shows more than 3,300 of them flowing through the pipeline, including a controversial stream protection rule and action to curb venting and flaring of natural gas from drilling projects on public lands.

Federal agencies aim to roll out energy efficiency standards, updates to resource management plans, coal ash rules and further actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Released yesterday, the spring regulatory agenda is the White House’s second-to-last biannual roundup before a new president takes over in 2017.

While U.S. EPA has issued many of President Obama’s top climate priorities already, the agency has more than 50 rulemakings either planned or underway that would affect the regulation of lead, ozone and other air pollutants apart from greenhouse gases.

On the technology front, the Department of Energy is planning a new rule to “employ innovative technologies” in its loan guarantee program.

The rule, scheduled to be proposed this month and finalized in November, will target “loan guarantees for projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to commercial technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued,” the agenda said.

Otherwise, DOE is planning to finalize more than a dozen energy efficiency rules on buildings and appliances this year. That includes several major actions necessary for the administration to reach its target goal of cutting 3 billion tons of CO2 emissions — a key plank in the president’s climate action plan.

According to the agenda, the administration is delaying a major rule on lightbulbs from October to December. The proposal would essentially phase out incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs that can’t meet the efficiency standard.

There are some sharp differences between environmentalists and the lighting industry about the requirements (Greenwire, May 17). Congress set a December deadline for a revised lightbulb rule as part of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

A rule for central air conditioners and heat pumps is also being delayed from May to August. Advocates are watching it closely, in part because of its potential energy savings.

Efficiency advocates and industry leaders reached agreement earlier this year on core elements of a standard. .

Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said the August timeline “makes sense” since negotiators didn’t reach consensus until January. “Seven or eight months to turn that agreement into a rule is about what prior rules have taken,” he said.

Meanwhile, a final rule for residential gas furnaces is scheduled for August. It was previously supposed to be out in January, but sharp differences remain between industry and efficiency advocates on a standard.

Major energy bills moving through the House and Senate also address the rule, with the Senate version calling for a final standard to be contingent on a new advisory group convened by the secretary of Energy.

The agenda also set new timelines for other appliances. A battery charger rule, for example, is expected to be finalized in May rather than December.

The timeline for a final determination on whether DOE will write proposed efficiency standards for computers and battery backup systems moved to July. Previously, DOE planned a final decision in December.

EPA’s shrinking climate to-do list

EPA’s air office is still aiming to complete several rulemakings to limit greenhouse gas emissions. EPA ticked a key item off its to-do list last week with the release of final regulations to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas operations. It also began moving on regulations covering existing sources in the sector.

In July, the agency aims to release another final rule to limit methane emissions, this time from municipal solid waste landfills. In 2014, landfills were the third largest source of methane in the country, EPA said, but the agency has not updated performance standards for landfills in two decades.

EPA is also aiming to release a final finding in July that greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes endanger public health and welfare.

That finding is the first step toward regulating emissions from the aviation sector under the Clean Air Act, but EPA has already stated that it would not issue actual regulations until after President Obama leaves office (Greenwire, May 11).

EPA’s final greenhouse gas rule for semi-trucks and large pickup trucks and vans is scheduled for release in August. That rule, which EPA is developing with the Department of Transportation, represents a second phase of greenhouse gas reductions for heavy-duty vehicles.

EPA plans to release a proposed rule, also in August, to set a threshold for greenhouse gases that trigger permitting requirements for emissions sources. The proposal responds to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that threw out part of EPA’s permitting program for heat-trapping gases (Greenwire, March 31).

In October, EPA plans to finalize updates to its greenhouse-gas-reporting program. Proposed changes include a requirement that underground coal mines measure methane emissions more frequently. The coal industry is opposed (Greenwire, April 7). Also in October, EPA plans to finalize a proposal to phase out heat-trapping refrigerants (Greenwire, May 2).

Not included in the spring regulatory agenda: EPA’s plans for its Clean Energy Incentive Program and model carbon trading rules, both of which are tied to the Clean Power Plan. EPA did not respond to a question about why those programs were not included, but agency officials have said in recent weeks that they are moving forward on both (ClimateWire, May 6).

EPA has more than 50 rulemakings either planned or underway that would affect regulation of lead, ozone and other air pollutants apart from greenhouse gases.

By this October, for example, the agency is scheduled to wrap up work on proposed revisions to its regional haze regulations geared toward improving visibility in large national parks and wildlife refuges.

EPA unveiled its proposed changes last month (Greenwire, April 26). Following a public hearing this morning at agency headquarters that attracted almost 30 speakers, a second hearing on the draft is set for June 1 in Denver.

In September, EPA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking setting a range of requirements for implementation of its controversial new ambient air quality standard for ozone of 70 parts per billion. Among the areas that will be covered: the timing of state implementation plan submissions and potential revocation of the previous 75 ppb ozone benchmark set in 2008.

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 4775, a bill that would delay implementation of the new standard by eight years (Greenwire, May 18). The bill’s supporters say that states currently face the prospect of having to comply with two standards simultaneously. In the rulemaking planned for September, EPA intends to include “anti-backsliding requirements” if the 2008 standards are revoked.

The agency is also moving ahead with revisions to its “exceptional events” rule, which effectively gives states a pass on air pollution violations deemed outside of their control. EPA officials have touted the rule as one tool for compliance with the new ozone standard. After releasing its proposed changes in November, EPA is scheduled to release the final rule in September.

Around the same time, regulators also plan to put the finishing touches on last year’s proposal to leave unchanged the existing air quality standard for lead of 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter. That benchmark has been in place since 2008.

Interior

The Bureau of Land Management by November plans to release a final rule to curb the venting and flaring of natural gas from drilling projects on public lands.

The draft rule released in January would require operators to use off-the-shelf technologies to reduce flaring, which happens when operators burn off excess gas, and would seek to eliminate venting, which is the direct release of methane into the atmosphere (Greenwire, Jan. 22).

The rule would also update regulations to give BLM more flexibility to raise the existing 12.5 percent royalty rate for onshore oil and gas production, set in 1920. No royalty hike is currently planned.

BLM as early as this month plans to release a draft rule that would require applications for drilling permits be filed electronically, a move that aims to expedite the review-and-approval process for new and modified wells.

By September, BLM plans to issue a final rule updating how it revises its resource management plans, which could have a major impact on how the agency manages activities like energy development, mining, grazing and recreation.

The draft “Planning 2.0” regulation, released in February, has drawn some concern from Western counties over whether it could reduce their influence over BLM’s land-use decisions (E&E Daily, May 9).

BLM’s target date for finalizing a rule establishing a competitive bidding process for solar and wind development rights on government lands has slipped from December 2015 to midsummer.

The draft rule issued in September 2014 would also set rental and bonding requirements to ensure a fair rate of return to taxpayers. The draft drew major pushback from solar industry officials.

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by year’s end plans to finalize updates to its 36-year-old regulations governing air emissions from offshore oil and gas activity. A draft rule released in March sought to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

BOEM and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement by next month plan to release a final rule governing oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters.

The final rule will provide a regulatory road map for future exploration, even as global oil and gas companies have recently pulled out of the U.S. Arctic and the Obama administration has yet to decide whether to offer future lease sales there. The administration pushed back the release from earlier this year.

The Fish and Wildlife Service by summer’s end expects to finalize a draft rule to significantly increase oversight of thousands of oil and gas operations in national wildlife refuges.

The draft rule released last December would require companies that want to modify their wells or drill new ones to obtain permits from FWS and set tough new standards for all operations that cover everything from waste management to unused infrastructure.

The draft rule also would require permits for well plugging, access fees for disturbing refuge lands or waters, and flexible bonding standards (Greenwire, Dec. 10, 2015).

The National Park Service is set to release a final rule governing the development of privately owned minerals within its borders by September.

Coal and mining

Another Interior agency, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, has plans to finish several proposed rules before January. In June, ONRR expects to publish a final rule overhauling coal valuation.

The agency also plans to release another rule before Obama leaves office. Due out in September, it would alter fees on permitting and enforcement to ensure companies pay for OSMRE’s regulatory oversight.

OSMRE is also kicking off a rulemaking process in October to address concerns that coal companies are temporarily idling operations to delay reclamation, a practice environmentalists condemned as “zombie” mining. Under the proposed rule, permittees would have to reapply for a permit if operations ceased for more than 180 days.

OSMRE wants to begin nailing down new standards in March 2017 — after the president leaves office — for when coal ash, a residue of burning coal, can be claimed during reclamation to fill in abandoned mines.

The agency has also pushed two controversial regulations beyond the Obama presidency — a proposed rule to regulate blasting at strip coal mines and an update of mine dam safety rules. Rulemaking won’t begin until 2018 at the earliest.

BLM is also waiting until 2017 to take final action on a rule altering coal management rules, including increasing lease modification size, extending mine life spans and clarifying the royalty rate on continuous highwall mining operations.

Off the agenda is a potential rule to regulate methane emissions from coal mines on public land. Companies are adamantly opposed.

Another Interior agency, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, has plans to finish several proposed rules before January. In June, ONRR expects to publish a final rule overhauling coal valuation.

EPA plans to publish two rules updating environmental protections at uranium mines this year. The rule due out in August would, if necessary, revise federal standards for radon emissions from operating uranium mill tailings.

Another rule set for release in November will address potential impacts to groundwater from “significant changes” in uranium mining technology, particularly in-situ recovery.

Within the Department of Labor, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is set to notify stakeholders of two proposed rulemakings by year’s end.

One proposed rule would update 1985 regulations limiting miner exposure to crystalline silica dust. Overexposure can pose serious, and in some cases fatal, health risks to miners (Greenwire, March 25).

Water

The lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., is looming large on the EPA Office of Water’s agenda this year. The office is working on two proposed rules that seek to avoid the conditions that led to the crisis.

One proposal would implement the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, which passed as part of a massive water resources package. A proposed rule is scheduled for October of this year, and a final rule is set for 2017.

Another proposal would seek to ban the use of lead pipes, plumbing fixtures, solder and flux as directed under the 2011 Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act. The rule would redefine the definition of “lead free” plumbing materials from 8 percent or less lead material to 0.25 percent or less.

The Flint calamity, in which untreated water corroded aging lead service lines and contaminated tap water with the powerful neurotoxin, has placed pressure on EPA to create incentives to fix the nation’s aging water infrastructure.

The agency has said it is working on an update to the 25-year-old Lead and Copper Rule, which regulates the management of lead service lines but doesn’t require the removal of the pipes. The Lead and Copper Rule changes were not included in the administration’s new Unified Agenda.

EPA is also working to determine how it will regulate stormwater runoff from forest roads, following a 2003 federal appeals court ruling directing the agency to address the source of water pollution. Under a settlement last year, the agency had until this month to decide whether forest runoff should be regulated (E&ENews PM, Sept. 16, 2015).

EPA formally exempted logging roads from regulation in 2013, but the question of whether other types of forest roads should be regulated — including those for mining or oil and gas drilling — is unresolved.

The agency restated its intention to propose water quality criteria for selenium in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California to protect birds and aquatic life.

Soils in the Bay Delta region naturally have elevated levels of selenium, but agricultural drainage and other processes can concentrate it.

Oceans

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to release rules that address everything from marine mammal harassment to seafood imports.

As soon as June, NOAA could finalize a permit that allows the U.S. Navy to harass marine mammals during its war games in the Gulf of Alaska.

The training exercises are at the center of a debate over whether the live shelling, surface explosions and sonar use hurt fish and marine mammals (Greenwire, June 16, 2015).

NOAA has proposed a five-year permit — lasting until May 2021 — that would allow the Navy to harass marine mammals during its exercises, contingent on various requirements to reduce the impacts.

Also on NOAA’s agenda for June is a final rule to change its “National Standard” guidelines, which instruct regional fishery councils on how to best follow the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The proposal addresses some of the issues that Republicans have brought on in congressional debates over the act’s reauthorization. Conservationists assert that it would weaken “safeguards” that ensure the health of fish stocks (Greenwire, July 30, 2015).

Environmental groups likely will be more pleased with a final rule — due out in August — that would ban the importation of fish caught using gear that kills or injures more mammals than allowed under U.S. standards. The rule comes out of a settlement with several groups (Greenwire, Jan. 6, 2015).

NOAA also plans to propose a slew of rules, including ones to expand the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, authorize marine mammal harassment from Gulf of Mexico seismic surveys and designate critical habitat for the Atlantic sturgeon.

Pipelines

A pipeline safety rule requiring excess flow valves on new or replaced service lines for multifamily homes and businesses is slated to be finalized early next year.

Congress mandated the rule in its 2011 pipeline safety bill to ensure technology that would shut off the flow of gas during a leak to prevent an explosion. According to the Department of Transportation docket, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration plans to finish the rule in January.

Both chambers of Congress are moving forward with a bill to reauthorize PHMSA that would require federal regulators to prioritize the completion of existing mandates.

PHMSA is slated to finish two rules in October.

The first, proposed in the wake of a 2010 crude oil spill near Marshall, Mich., is related to address the safety of hazardous liquid pipelines. The rule would close regulatory gaps and ensure operators are increasing detection and remediation of unsafe conditions.

A second rule would add a specific time frame for telephone or email notifications of accidents and incidents. It would also amend operator qualification requirements, drug and alcohol testing, and standards for in-line inspection.

Chemicals

EPA’s long-stalled plan to require public and commercial buildings to follow certain lead abatement regulations that currently only apply to homes is on track to begin next year. EPA said it would issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in April 2017

EPA is continuing to seek restrictions on two chemicals under a rarely used provision of the Toxic Substances Control Act. A plan to use Section 6 of the law — the same used in a failed attempt to ban asbestos in 1991 — is still ongoing.

EPA planned to unveil a proposed rule by March to restrict trichloroethylene, or TCE; N-Methylpyrrolidone, or NMP; and methylene chloride.

It now says a proposal won’t come until September for TCE and October for NMP and a related TCE vapor degreasing notice. The actions were previously scheduled for March, and before that January.

EPA may add new chemicals to a list companies are required to disclose under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. EPA plans to issue a proposed rule by August to consider adding nonylphenol ethoxylates to the Toxic Release Inventory.

The agency continued to delay a timeline to finalize a rule on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. EPA said it now plans to publish the rule in July, a delay from May, and before that from November 2015. EPA sent the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review earlier this year (Greenwire, March 31).

EPA still plans to issue a proposed rule to require companies making nanoscale materials to provide more information to the agency. The target for the final rule remained October, though the agency once planned to issue it by next month.

The agency expects to finalize a proposed rule to modernize its Risk Management Program for industrial facilities by December. It proposed the rule earlier this year (E&ENews PM, March 11).

A plan to finalize a rule to prevent hazardous waste disposal of pharmaceuticals has been pushed back to October. It was previously scheduled for September.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission continues to weigh a proposed rule to ban additional phthalates, plasticizers linked to health problems, in children’s products and child care articles.

The agency listed no target date for approving a final rule, which is required under a 2008 law and has faced heavy industry opposition. CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said staff was continuing to prepare a briefing package for commissioners.

The Department of Homeland Security is set to begin an update of its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program in September, a delay from July.

A pending DHS rule to regulate the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate fertilizer appears to have been removed from the regulatory agenda and abandoned. It previously was listed as “undetermined,” with no estimated completion date given.

‘Catalogue of regulatory delay’

Clyde Wayne Crews, an advocate with the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, tallies an increase in larger-scale rules under Obama, compared to his Republican predecessor.

The agenda shows federal agencies have completed 36 rules projected to have economic effects of at least $100 million annually, with another 123 actions in the pre-rule, proposed or final stage.

For completed economically significant rules, Crews notes the average for Obama’s first seven years was 67, while George W. Bush’s average over his eight years was 49.

Crews told Greenwire that Obama has “followed through” on talk of going around Congress with additional “regulatory dark matter” happening off the books in the form of memoranda, guidelines and bulletins.

By contrast, the agenda is more a “catalogue of regulatory delay,” to James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. He said the idea of federal agencies running around lawmakers on Capitol Hill is a “fictional narrative.”

When Obama took office in 2009, there was a buildup of rules that didn’t get done under the Republican administration. The “inaction of Bush,” has come back to reflect poorly on the Obama administration, he said.

Reporters Christa Marshall, Phil Taylor, Amanda Reilly, Tiffany Stecker, Dylan Brown, Sean Reilly, Emily Yehle and Sam Pearson contributed.

Twitter: @ha_nah_nah Email: hhess@eenews.net

By | 2017-04-03T22:54:10+00:00 May 22nd, 2016|Categories: Environment, Thought Piece|Tags: |0 Comments

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