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CRS — EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulations for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions

June 16, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulations for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Taking action to address climate change by reducing U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is among President Obama’s major goals. At an international conference in Copenhagen in 2009, he committed the United States to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases 17% by 2020, as compared to 2005 levels. At the time, 85 other nations also committed to reductions.

Since U.S. GHG emissions peaked in 2007, a variety of factors—some economic, some the effect of government policies at all levels—have brought the United States more than halfway to reaching the 2020 goal. Getting the rest of the way would likely depend, to some degree, on continued GHG emission reductions from electric power plants, which are the largest source of U.S. emissions.

In June 2013, the President released a Climate Action Plan that addressed this and other climate issues. At the same time, he directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose standards for “carbon pollution” (i.e., carbon dioxide, the principal GHG) from existing power plants by June of this year and to finalize them in June 2015. Under the President’s timetable, by June 2016, states would be required to submit to EPA plans to implement the standards.

On June 2, 2014, EPA responded to the first of these directives by releasing the proposed standards.

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FDA and EPA issue draft updated advice for fish consumption

June 10, 2014 Comments off

FDA and EPA issue draft updated advice for fish consumption
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued draft updated advice on fish consumption. The two agencies have concluded pregnant and breastfeeding women, those who might become pregnant, and young children should eat more fish that is lower in mercury in order to gain important developmental and health benefits. The draft updated advice is consistent with recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Previously, the FDA and the EPA recommended maximum amounts of fish that these population groups should consume, but did not promote a minimum amount. Over the past decade, however, emerging science has underscored the importance of appropriate amounts of fish in the diets of pregnant and breastfeeding women, and young children.

“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”

An FDA analysis of seafood consumption data from over 1,000 pregnant women in the United States found that 21 percent of them ate no fish in the previous month, and those who ate fish ate far less than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends—with 50 percent eating fewer than 2 ounces a week, and 75 percent eating fewer than 4 ounces a week. The draft updated advice recommends pregnant women eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week of a variety of fish that are lower in mercury to support fetal growth and development.

EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants/Clean Power Plan is flexible proposal to ensure a healthier environment, spur innovation and strengthen the economy

June 3, 2014 Comments off

EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants/Clean Power Plan is flexible proposal to ensure a healthier environment, spur innovation and strengthen the economy
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

At the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is today releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

With the Clean Power Plan, EPA is proposing guidelines that build on trends already underway in states and the power sector to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting. This proposal follows through on the common-sense steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

EPA OIG — EPA Compliance With Retention Incentive Regulations and Policies

May 30, 2014 Comments off

EPA Compliance With Retention Incentive Regulations and Policies (PDF)
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA did not comply with Office of Personnel Management regulations or agency policies on retention incentive pay. From 2006 through 2013, retention incentives were paid to 13 EPA employees totaling $667,376. Eleven employees received retention incentive pay totaling $481,819. For 10 of the employees, no documentation of the required annual recertification was available. One employee received retention incentive pay for 4 years beyond the date of a promotion.

EPA employees received unauthorized retention pay due to:
Agency and management confusion over the requirement for annual recertification of retention incentive pay.
The agency’s human resource system lacking internal controls to track, notify and automatically discontinue retention incentive pay if not properly authorized. Lack of follow-up by the EPA’s Office of Human Resources regarding coding errors for terminated retention incentives.
Lack of follow-up by EPA managers and employees regarding the status of outstanding actions being processed by the EPA’s Office of Human Resources.

The Office of Inspector General’s Cases of Employee Misconduct at the Environmental Protection Agency

May 12, 2014 Comments off

The Office of Inspector General’s Cases of Employee Misconduct at the Environmental Protection Agency (PDF)
Source: Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General (via Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives)

Good morning, Chairman Issa, Ranking Member Cummings and members of the committee. I am Allan Williams, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss our investigations of employee misconduct involving time-and-attendance fraud.

See: EPA Employee Spent 2-6 Hours per Day at Work Watching Porn (Fedblog)

EPA OIG — Improvements to EPA Policies and Guidance Could Enhance Protection of Human Study Subjects

April 3, 2014 Comments off

Improvements to EPA Policies and Guidance Could Enhance Protection of Human Study Subjects (PDF)
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General

The EPA obtained approval to conduct the five human research studies, including approval from a biomedical Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the EPA Human Studies Research Review Official (H SRRO). However, t he EPA’s policies and guidance do not address when HSRRO approv al is needed for significant study modifications. Developing guidance for when HSRRO must approve significant modifications would ensure their independent review.

The EPA obtained informed consent from the 81 human study subjects before exposing them to pollutants. While the consent forms met the requirements of 40 CFR Part 26, we found that exposure risks were not always consistently represented. Further, the EPA did not in clude information on long-term cancer risks in its diesel exhaust studies’ co nsent forms. An EPA manager considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures. We believe presenting consistent information about risks further ensures that study subjects can make the most informed choice about participating in a study.

The EPA addressed six adverse events during its studies, reported them to the IRB, and provided clinical follow-up after t he events. While the clinical follow-up appeared to be reasonable, the EPA’s polic ies, guidance and cons ent forms do not establish the EPA’s clinical follow-up re sponsibilities. Acco rding to EPA managers, the agency uses the latest University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) IRB’s adverse event definitions and reporting ti meframes to respond to adverse events. However, the agency’s guidance provides different definitions and reporting timeframes and does not state that t he EPA has adopted the UNC-IRB definitions and timeframes. Using EPA’s guidance, the EPA reported two of the six adverse events later than required and did not report two other events to IRB.

CRS — EPA’s Vessel General Permit: Background and Issues

March 11, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Vessel General Permit: Background and Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas)

In November 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed two Clean Water Act (CWA) permits to regulate certain types of vessel discharges into U.S. waters. The proposed permits would replace a single Vessel General Permit (VGP) issued in 2008 that was due to expire in December 2013. As proposed, the permits would apply to approximately 71,000 large domestic and foreign vessels and perhaps as many as 138,000 small vessels. This universe of regulated entities is diverse as well as large, consisting of tankers, freighters, barges, cruise ships and other passenger vessels, and commercial fishing vessels. Their discharges are similarly diverse, including among other pollutants aquatic nuisance species (ANS), nutrients, pathogens, oil and grease, metals, and toxic chemical compounds that can have a broad array of effects on aquatic species and human health, many of which can be harmful.

EPA proposed two permits, one (draft VGP) for large vessels to replace the 2008 VGP, and one for smaller vessels covered by a congressionally enacted temporary moratorium (draft sVGP). Both were proposed well in advance of the VGP’s expiration to provide ample time for the regulated community to prepare for new requirements. On March 28, 2013, EPA issued a final version of the VGP for large vessels. It took effect December 19, 2013. The permit for smaller vessels is still under review.

Water Security Toolkit User Manual: Version 1.1

February 26, 2014 Comments off

Water Security Toolkit User Manual: Version 1.1
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Water Security Toolkit (WST) assists in the evaluation of multiple response actions in order to select the most beneficial consequence management strategy. It includes hydraulic and water quality modeling software and optimization methodologies to identify: (1) sensor locations to detect contamination, (2) locations in the network in which the contamination was introduced, (3) hydrants to remove contaminated water from the distribution system, (4) locations in the network to inject decontamination agents to inactivate, remove, or destroy contaminants, (5) locations in the network to take grab samples to confirm contamination or cleanup, and (6) valves to close in order to isolate contaminated areas of the network. This user manual describes the different components of WST and how to use the software.

EPA Revises Permitting Guidance for Using Diesel Fuel in Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing

February 14, 2014 Comments off

EPA Revises Permitting Guidance for Using Diesel Fuel in Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released revised underground injection control (UIC) program permitting guidance for wells that use diesel fuels during hydraulic fracturing activities. EPA developed the guidance to clarify how companies can comply with a law passed by Congress in 2005, which exempted hydraulic fracturing operations from the requirement to obtain a UIC permit, except in cases where diesel fuel is used as a fracturing fluid.

EPA is issuing the guidance alongside an interpretive memorandum, which clarifies that class II UIC requirements apply to hydraulic fracturing activities using diesel fuels, and defines the statutory term diesel fuel by reference to five chemical abstract services registry numbers. The guidance outlines for EPA permit writers, where EPA is the permitting authority, existing class II requirements for diesel fuels used for hydraulic fracturing wells, and technical recommendations for permitting those wells consistently with these requirements. Decisions about permitting hydraulic fracturing operations that use diesel fuels will be made on a case-by-case basis, considering the facts and circumstances of the specific injection activity and applicable statutes, regulations and case law, and will not cite this guidance as a basis for decision.

CRS — Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced?

January 28, 2014 Comments off

Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

As a result of enforcement actions and settlements for noncompliance with federal pollution control requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that, during FY2012, regulated entities committed to invest an estimated $9.0 billion for judicially mandated pollution controls and cleanup, and for implementing mutually agreed upon (supplemental) environmentally beneficial projects. EPA estimated that these efforts achieved commitments to reduce, treat, or eliminate 2.2 billion pounds of pollutants in the environment, primarily from air and water. EPA also assessed more than $208.0 million in civil penalties (administrative and judicial) and $44.0 million in criminal fines and restitution during FY2012. Noncompliance with federal pollution control laws remains a continuing concern. The overall effectiveness of the enforcement organizational framework, the balance between state autonomy and federal oversight, and the adequacy of funding are long-standing congressional concerns.

This report provides an overview of the statutory framework, key players, infrastructure, resources, tools, and operations associated with enforcement and compliance of the major pollution control laws and regulations administered by EPA. It also outlines the roles of federal (including regional offices) and state regulators, as well as the regulated community. Understanding the many facets of how all federal pollution control laws are enforced, and the responsible parties involved, can be challenging. Enforcement of the considerable body of these laws involves a complex framework and organizational setting.

CRS — Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency

January 28, 2014 Comments off

Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

With congressional approval, the Nixon Administration established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970 under an executive branch reorganization plan, which consolidated numerous federal pollution control responsibilities that had been divided among several federal agencies. EPA’s responsibilities grew over time as Congress enacted an increasing number of environmental statutes and major amendments to these statutes. EPA’s primary responsibilities have evolved to include the regulation of air quality, water quality, and chemicals in commerce; the development of regulatory criteria for the management and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes; and the cleanup of environmental contamination. The implementation and enforcement of many of these federal authorities is delegated to the states. EPA also provides financial assistance to states and local governments to aid them in administering pollution control programs and in complying with certain federal environmental requirements. Several federal statutes provide the legal authority for EPA’s programs and activities. The major provisions of each of the following statutes are summarized in this report, as laid out in existing law as of this writing.

CRS — EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track?

January 28, 2014 Comments off

EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Since Barack Obama was sworn in as President in 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed and promulgated numerous regulations implementing the pollution control statutes enacted by Congress. Critics have reacted strongly. Many, both within Congress and outside of it, have accused the agency of reaching beyond the authority given it by Congress and ignoring or underestimating the costs and economic impacts of proposed and promulgated rules. The House has conducted vigorous oversight of the agency in the 112th and 113th Congresses, and has approved several bills that would overturn specific regulations or limit the agency’s authority. Particular attention has been paid to the Clean Air Act; congressional scrutiny has focused as well on other environmental statutes and regulations implemented by EPA.

Environmental groups and other supporters of the agency disagree that EPA has overreached. Many of them believe that the agency is, in fact, moving in the right direction, including taking action on significant issues that had been long delayed or ignored in the past. In several cases, environmental advocates would like the regulatory actions to be stronger

EPA states that critics’ focus on the cost of controls obscures the benefits of new regulations, which, it estimates, far exceed the costs. It maintains that pollution control is an important source of economic activity, exports, and American jobs, as well. Further, the agency and its supporters say that EPA is carrying out the mandates detailed by Congress in the federal environmental statutes.

This report provides background information on EPA regulatory activity during the Obama Administration to help address these issues. It examines major or controversial regulatory actions taken by or under development at EPA since January 2009, providing details on the regulatory action itself, presenting an estimated timeline for completion of the rule (including identification of related court or statutory deadlines), and, in general, providing EPA’s estimates of costs and benefits, where available. The report includes tables that show which rules remain under development, and an appendix that describes major or controversial rules that are now final.

EPA Does Not Adequately Follow National Security Information Classification Standards

November 20, 2013 Comments off

EPA Does Not Adequately Follow National Security Information Classification Standards (PDF)
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General

Our review of both originally and derivatively classified documents generated by three offices found that the EPA does not sufficiently follow national security information classification standards.

Of the two originally classified documents we reviewed, portions of one needed different classification levels and the other contained numerical data that was incorrectly transferred from another document. The National Homeland Security Research Center in the Office of Research and Development agreed to correct the documents. We also noted that the approved classification guide and the three guides under review had narrow scopes, which limits their usefulness. The three proposed guides have been in the approval process for 12 months when it must take no more than 30 days. Additionally, the declassification process needs clarity since the one pending declassification request has also been in the approval process for almost a year when it should take no more than 60 days.

None of the 19 derivatively classified documents we reviewed completely met the requirements of Executive Order 13526 and the implementing regulations. The derivative classifiers did not include some required information and did not correctly transfer information from the source documents. As a result, those who later access the information may not know how to protect it or be able to properly identify or use it as a source for their own derivative decision. A lack of training for derivative classifiers and incorrect information in the annual refresher training given to all clearance holders contributed to the classification problems noted. The EPA had not promptly updated guidance. Not all cleared employees who needed an element relating to designation and management of classified information as part of their performance evaluation had such an element.

Hat tip: Secrecy News

EPA Proposes 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards / Proposal Seeks Input to Address “E10 Blend Wall,” Reaffirms Commitment to Biofuels

November 19, 2013 Comments off

EPA Proposes 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards / Proposal Seeks Input to Address “E10 Blend Wall,” Reaffirms Commitment to Biofuels
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed for public comment the levels of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel as required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Developed with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the proposal seeks public input on annual volume requirements for renewable fuels in all motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported by the United States in 2014. The proposal seeks to put the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program on a steady path forward – ensuring the continued long-term growth of the renewable fuel industry – while seeking input on different approaches to address the “E10 blend wall.”

Report on the Workshop on Radionuclides in Wastewater Infrastructure Resulting from Emergency Situations

August 21, 2013 Comments off

Report on the Workshop on Radionuclides in Wastewater Infrastructure Resulting from Emergency Situations
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC), hosted an expert workshop December 3-4, 2012, in Alexandria, Virginia, to engage with subject matter experts and wastewater utility stakeholders on radionuclides in wastewater collection and treatment systems. The key objective of this workshop was to provide EPA NHRSC recommendations and technical information in the area of radionuclides in wastewater infrastructure resulting from emergency situations, as well as related needs and concerns of, and potential solutions for, the wastewater industry.

New Pesticide Labels Will Better Protect Bees and Other Pollinators

August 20, 2013 Comments off

New Pesticide Labels Will Better Protect Bees and Other Pollinators
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

In an ongoing effort to protect bees and other pollinators, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed new pesticide labels that prohibit use of some neonicotinoid pesticide products where bees are present.

The new labels will have a bee advisory box and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. Today’s announcement affects products containing the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The EPA will work with pesticide manufacturers to change labels so that they will meet the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) safety standard.

In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health, showing scientific consensus that there are a complex set of stressors associated with honey bee declines, including loss of habitat, parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.

The agency continues to work with beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, pesticide and seed companies, and federal and state agencies to reduce pesticide drift dust and advance best management practices. The EPA recently released new enforcement guidance to federal, state and tribal enforcement officials to enhance investigations of beekill incidents.

New From the GAO

June 10, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Report

Source: Government Accountability Office

Chemical Assessments: An Agencywide Strategy May Help EPA Address Unmet Needs for Integrated Risk Information System Assessments. GAO-13-369, May 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-369
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654490.pdf

EPA OIG — Early Warning Report: Main EPA Headquarters Warehouse in Landover, Maryland, Requires Immediate EPA Attention

June 6, 2013 Comments off

Early Warning Report: Main EPA Headquarters Warehouse in Landover, Maryland, Requires Immediate EPA Attention (PDF)
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General

Our initial research at the EPA’s Landover warehouse raised significant concerns with the lack of agency oversight of personal property and warehouse space at the facility. In particular:

  • The warehouse recordkeeping system was incomplete and inaccurate.
  • The warehouse was filled with considerable valuable amounts of unusable, inoperable and obsolete furniture and other items.
  • The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces that included such items as televisions and exercise equipment.
  • Numerous potential security and safety hazards existed at the warehouse, including unsecured personally identifiable information (such as passports).
  • Deplorable conditions existed at the warehouse; corrosion, vermin feces, mold and other problems were pervasive.

As a result of the conditions noted, EPA property at the warehouse was vulnerable to theft and abuse (including personally identifiable information), EPA property was not properly maintained, the EPA may not have received sufficient value for the funds it pai d for the warehouse’s operation, and warehouse workers were subjected to unsafe conditions for which the EPA could be held liable.

Full Report (PDF),
Report Briefing/Photos (PDF),
Statement from IG (PDF)

Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health

May 3, 2013 Comments off

Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
From press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health. The report states that there are multiple factors playing a role in honey bee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.

“There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long term agricultural productivity,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “The forces impacting honeybee health are complex and USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge.”

“The decline in honey bee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors, and at EPA we are committed to continuing our work with USDA, researchers, beekeepers, growers and the public to address this challenge,” said Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “The report we’ve released today is the product of unprecedented collaboration, and our work in concert must continue. As the report makes clear, we’ve made significant progress, but there is still much work to be done to protect the honey bee population.”

New From the GAO

April 29, 2013 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Toxic Substances: EPA Has Increased Efforts to Assess and Control Chemicals but Could Strengthen Its Approach. GAO-13-249, March 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-249
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653277.pdf

2. State and Local Governments’ Fiscal Outlook: April 2013 Update. GAO-13-546SP, April 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-546SP

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