(File Document - 03-13-2011)
(File Document - 02-10-2011)
(The Inside Story - 02-07-2011)
House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has released a slew of industry letters that argue EPA regulations -- more than any other agency -- are hindering job growth, though his staff says the project was not meant to target any particular agency and is in concert with efforts by President Obama to remove regulatory barriers to more jobs.
In December, Issa asked industry and other groups for input on new and upcoming federal regulations from EPA and other agencies that have “negatively impacted job growth” and requested suggestions for needed reforms. According to a survey of 100 letters by the Wall Street Journal, EPA rules were cited by business more than any other agency, particularly EPA plans to cut back on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
A spokesman says Issa posted the letters on the Committee for Oversight and Government Reform’s website Feb. 7, though many of the letters had previously been obtained by Inside EPA. Committee Republicans will release an analysis response on Feb. 8 or Feb. 9, the spokesman says.
Groups like the American Chemistry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, American Forest & Paper Association, Heritage Foundation and others responded to Issa’s request, with many highlighting EPA air, pesticide and water rules as priority topics for review. But the spokesman says “the project was not about making judgments, valuing or calling for repeal” of particular regulations, but rather to inform lawmakers and the public about burdensome regulations. This was “not about targeting one particular government agency” or specific regulations, the spokesman says.
Issa has slated an oversight hearing on the identified regulations for Feb. 10, part of a slew of regulation-focused hearings being held this week by House Republicans.
In a Feb. 3 statement, Issa said the upcoming hearing “will be the first step in what must be a sustained effort to advance a dialogue that compliments President Obama’s call to examine regulatory barriers that are impeding job creation.” He continued, “As Congress and the Administration begin the process of examining regulations, the voices of job creators and their experiences must be part of the broader discussion.”
The moves comes as Obama addressed the Chamber of Commerce Feb. 7 to push for greater investment by business, during which he touted a recently announced government-wide review of existing rules and his push for increased flexibility for small businesses. “Already we’re dramatically cutting down on the paperwork that saddles businesses with huge administrative costs. . . . And the EPA, based on the need for further scientific analysis, delayed the greenhouse-gas permitting rules for biomass,” Obama said in his speech.
But the president also made the case for necessary safeguards. “Not every regulation is bad,” Obama said. “Not every regulation is burdensome on business. A lot of the regulations that are out there are things that all of us welcome in our lives. Few of us would want to live in a society without rules that keep our air and water clean, that give consumers the confidence to do everything from investing in financial markets to buying groceries.”
(Text Document - 02-07-2011)
(File Document - 02-02-2011)
(The Inside Story - 01-31-2011)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) Jan. 31 reintroduced his bill to delay for two years EPA climate regulations for power plants and industrial facilities but the bill does not address concerns raised by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who says the bill needs to be amended to account for issues that have arisen since EPA’s rules took effect Jan. 2.
Murkowski (R-AK) had been negotiating with Rockefeller over changes she said were needed in his bill since EPA’s stationary source GHG rules went into effect Jan. 2, but Rockefeller apparently did not incorporate her concerns. The bill is identical to the measure he introduced last year, which never came to a vote in the Senate.
Nor does Rockefeller’s bill address concerns raised by Democrats who have not previously sponsored the bill. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), for example, said recently that a two-year delay is too long, but suggested he would be open to supporting a one-year delay.
Rockefeller has said Congress should quickly pass his bill to head off more extreme efforts backed by Republicans to strip EPA authorities.
Rockefeller’s reintroduction of his bill comes the same day as Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a sweeping measure to prevent greenhouse gases (GHGs) from being regulated under an array of environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
Murkowski has not signed on as a co-sponsor to either Rockefeller’s or Barrasso’s bill. A Murkowski aide says she remains committed to reining in EPA’s climate regulations but is waiting to see what legislation passes the House and whether additional measures are introduced in the Senate before committing to a particular approach.
Rockefeller’s bill directs EPA to take no regulatory action for two years to limit carbon dioxide or methane emissions at stationary-source facilities, nor enforce any permit requirements or new source performance standards for those emissions. The bill leaves in place EPA’s GHG rules for mobile sources.
Several Democrats co-sponsored Rockefeller’s bill: Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Kent Conrad (D-ND). All were co-sponsors of the bill last year except for Manchin, a freshman. Of the co-sponsors only Nelson last year supported Murkowski’s Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn EPA’s GHG endangerment finding.
Rockefeller says the bill is necessary to allow Congress to pass a new energy policy and to provide time for improvements in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. “We must give Congress enough time to consider a comprehensive energy bill to develop the clean coal technologies we need and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, protect West Virginia and improve our environment,” Rockefeller said in a news release. “We can address emissions and secure a future for the U.S. coal industry, but we need the time to get it right and to move clean coal technology forward.”
(The Inside Story - 01-31-2011)
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) Jan. 31 introduced a bill to impose sweeping limits on EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), including ending its authority to issue vehicle GHG limits and setting a higher bar for proving health risks justifying other climate regulations.
The bill would also prevent common law tort claims seeking damages from GHG emitters for their contribution to climate change. Some environmentalists are pursuing a strategy, in the absence of climate legislation, of filing tort suits against utility companies to try to force them to cut GHG emissions.
Barrasso's bill is one of several early efforts in Congress to block climate regulations, including a bill introduced Jan. 25 by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that would prohibit EPA from regulating GHGs until India, China, and Russia take comparable steps to cut GHGs. Republican House lawmakers have floated several bills that aim to block or delay EPA climate regulations.
Barrasso's bill is the broadest legislation offered to date because it would prohibit not only some GHG rules under the Clean Air Act but also regulation of GHG emissions under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.
Under the bill EPA would be stripped of its joint authority with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop GHG rules for passenger cars and other mobile sources, with the authority given solely to DOT. That would end the agency's oversight of its existing vehicle rules for model years 2012-2016 and also its pending GHG vehicle rules for 2017-2025 model years.
EPA, DOT and California recently announced that they would propose GHG rules for model year 2017-25 vehicles this September.
The bill preempts GHG rules based on the emissions' contribution to climate change --- the key underpinning of EPA's December 2009 finding that GHGs endanger public health and welfare. But, according to a Barrasso press release, GHGs that are “a direct threat to human health because of direct exposure to that gas could still be regulated, just not solely based on climate change.”
In its endangerment finding, EPA acknowledges that health effects of increased GHG emissions are not a result of direct exposure, but argues that its authority is broad enough to account for climate change impacts such as increased mortality because of higher temperatures. Barrasso's bill essentially raises the bar for such endangerment findings with respect to GHGs.
The Barrasso bill builds on draft legislation floated last year by now-retired Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), but does not include the Voinovich bill's bar on state and local GHG rules. “This bill isn't intended to infringe upon states rights,” a Barrasso aide says. “It's important to note that the bill also allows states to get out from under mandated EPA caps on emissions if they were forced to implement them.”
Several GOP senators are co-sponsors of Barrasso's bill -- Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Vitter, and James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member on the Environment & Public Works Committee.
Inhofe last week pledged to work with House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and energy and power panel Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) on a bill to preempt EPA GHG rules. A Senate GOP aide said at the time that Inhofe would wait to see what passes the House before stepping up efforts to push companion legislation through the Senate.
The prospects for Barrasso's bill appear dim in the still-Democratic Senate, although Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) says he will reintroduce his more limited measure seeking a two-year delay in EPA's rules, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has been negotiating ways to modify Rockefeller's bill in the wake of EPA's stationary source rules taking effect Jan. 2.
Environmentalists were quick to condemn Barrasso and others' attempts to undo the climate rules. “What Sen. Barrasso and other cronies of big polluters in Congress -- including Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. James Inhofe, Rep. Fred Upton, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, and others -- are doing is attempting to give major corporate polluters a free pass to continue fouling the air at the cost of our health,” Stephanie Maddin, of Earthjustice, said in a news release.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Environment & Public Works committee, said, “The Republican effort now to turn their back on the health of the American people will be resisted by those of us who believe it is our responsibility to make life better for the people we serve.”
(The Inside Story - 01-31-2011)
The Senate environment committee is slated to hold the first hearing in the 112th Congress on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), even as future action on the issue remains in doubt in the House.
The Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee's superfund and toxics panel is scheduled to hold a Feb. 3 hearing “to examine the effectiveness of” TSCA, according to a Jan. 28 announcement from subcommittee Chairman Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Last year, Lautenberg introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, a bill that would have reformed TSCA by shifting the burden of proof to industry to show chemicals are safe, rather than EPA proving that they pose a risk.
Senate EPW ranking member James Inhofe (R-OK) vowed last fall to work with Lautenberg and Senate Democrats on TSCA reforms “to the extent they are needed and according to what the best available science is telling us.” He added, “assessing the environmental impact on children deserves additional, specialized interest,” also stressing the importance of “sound science, risk-based decision making and prioritization of review.”
While the Senate is gearing up to weigh TSCA reform, efforts to address the issue face a long haul in the lower chamber. The House Energy & Commerce Committee earlier this month cautioned that it would need to hold extensive oversight hearings before determining whether it is necessary to amend the law. “Several public and private interests seek changes to TSCA,” the committee said in a background document detailing its oversight agenda, “but they vigorously disagree on what the problems and solutions are.” The document says, “Robust oversight to understand existing authorities should precede major legislation.”
The Senate subcommittee will hear testimony from EPA toxics chief Steve Owens, followed by a panel of key stakeholders: Kelly Semrau of SC Johnson; Steve Goldberg of chemical company BASF; Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Cal Dooley, president of trade group American Chemistry Council; and Lynn Goldman, dean of George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services.
(Text Document - 01-27-2011)
(Daily News - 01-25-2011)
House oversight panel chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) is rejecting calls from committee Democrats to immediately release a host of industry suggestions for scrutinizing EPA and other agencies' regulations, saying instead that he will unveil them -- along with a host of other groups' suggestions -- next month.
(Text Document - 01-25-2011)
(The Inside Story - 01-25-2011)
House Republicans are pushing forward with their bill -- known as the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act -- to require Congress to approve major rulemakings from agencies like EPA, arguing that President Obama's recent executive order on regulatory review will not address the jobs-impacts of major EPA rules.
At a Jan. 24 oversight hearing on the bill before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law, Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), the subcommittee chairman, publicly committed to hold a legislative hearing on the proposal before the bill moves to the floor, though a House source later said plans are still being formulated.
The bill, H.R. 10, would require Congress to pass a yes-or-no resolution for “economically significant” rules costing more than $100 million annually. The measure is a priority of the House GOP leadership and was highlighted in the “Pledge to America” campaign document last fall but its prospects of passing the Senate and being signed into law by the president are questionable. The recently reintroduced version of the bill addressed questions about judicial review of the rules approved under the proposal.
At the Jan. 24 hearing, Republicans argued that the broad congressional review envisioned by the bill was needed because Obama's recent executive order did not go far enough in addressing their concerns about the impact of EPA and other agencies' rules on jobs.
The bill is necessary, committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said, because the new executive order “sounded encouraging but added little to the rules” for developing regulations. For example, while “distributive impacts” and “equity” were identified as considerations in the order, it did not mention job creation and would not stop EPA's “drive to exercise authority it was never granted,” he said.
The order is “all style and no substance,” he said. “Unless the Executive Order produces real results, it is just a string of empty words. We must watch what the Administration does, not what it says.”
The order, issued Jan. 18, reiterated current regulatory review requirements while requiring EPA and other agencies to craft plans for retroactively reviewing existing rules to determine “whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed so as to make the agency's regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives.”
But House Democrats and some activist groups reject the argument. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the committee's ranking member, argued at the hearing that the bill is unnecessary because the executive order anticipates the issues of job growth and regulations.
Conyers warned that the REINS Act would raise the bar on necessary regulation by requiring affirmative approval by Congress of the agency rules – a change from the Congressional Review Act (CRA) which already gives lawmakers an opportunity to disapprove a regulation.
But former Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN), who once chaired a House regulatory review panel, argued at the hearing that the bill is necessary to amend the CRA. McIntosh said the “default position” of the CRA is “pro-regulatory” since rules are “presumptively authorized,” and said the REINS Act would “give the existing approval process some teeth” by allowing for lawsuits if an agency implements a significant rule without going through the congressional approval process.
(The Inside Story - 01-24-2011)
A government watchdog group is questioning whether EPA is committed to aggressively developing and implementing a White House directive on ensuring scientific integrity and is raising concerns that the agency may proceed without developing additional guidance on issues like insulating agency scientists from political decisions and how agency scientists can talk to the press.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sent a Jan. 24 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking “what, if any, plans you and your agency” have to develop and implement new policies on scientific integrity called for in a Dec. 17 memo from the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP). PEER is raising the concerns because a Dec. 21 email from Jackson to EPA staff on the OSTP directive “distinctly implied EPA needed to do nothing further” in regard to developing the new policies, Jeff Ruch, PEER's executive director, says in the letter.
PEER says promises of increased oversight from House Republicans could further cast a spotlight on EPA science, making the new policies important. “As scrutiny of EPA increases in coming months, it behooves the agency to do everything it can to ensure that its scientific products are unimpeachable,” the letter says. “Without these fundamental safeguards, EPA risks jeopardizing its credibility at a critical moment when credible scientific work by the agency is urgently needed.”
At issue is a memo from OSTP Director John Holdren which detailed a number of goals aimed at bolstering the integrity of agency science and asks the agencies to develop policies for a host of scientific integrity issues. For example, the directive asks the agency to better respond to media requests about "scientific and technological dimensions of their work," as well as prohibiting public relations officers from asking scientists to alter their findings.
According to the OSTP memo, agencies have until April 17, 2011 to develop plans dealing with a slew of issues, including scientists' ability to publish research, talk to reporters and avoid potential political interference. Upon its release activists largely said the OSTP memo was a “rough but promising blueprint,” but raised concerns that it gave the agencies too much discretion to develop the policies.
But PEER is concerned that Jackson's email to agency staff suggests the agency may not be crafting any new measures to protect scientific integrity. According to the PEER letter, the Jackson email says, “I am proud that we have maintained our commitment to scientific integrity. Our ongoing work to uphold scientific integrity is part of our progress as One EPA and should continue to set the standard for federal government agencies.”
An EPA spokesperson did not return a request for comment by press time. When President Obama initially asked for recommendations from OSTP for ensuring scientific integrity in government in March 2009, Jackson asked a key scientific staff panel to conduct a sweeping review of the agency's guidelines and policies to find areas to improve scientific integrity.
PEER has been highly critical of EPA's approach to scientific integrity and lists a number of recent incidents in the letter that they say were caused by a lack of “clear guidance.”
(File Document - 01-24-2011)
(The Inside Story - 01-21-2011)
House Republicans are seeking to use President Obama's recent executive order on reviewing regulations to force EPA and other agencies to roll back rules seen as excessive by GOP lawmakers, an approach the lawmakers plan to highlight at an upcoming hearing.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, announced that the panel will hear testimony from Cass Sunstein, head of the White House Office of Management & Budget's Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), at a Jan. 26 hearing -- one of the committee's first of the new Congress.
The hearing will focus on the new executive order, announced Jan. 18, which will require agencies like EPA to perform a “lookback” to existing regulations that could be modified or repealed. The executive order reiterates current regulatory review requirements while requiring EPA and other agencies to craft plans for retroactively reviewing “existing, significant” regulations to determine “whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed so as to make the agency's regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives.”
Sources say the hearing could also be used by Republicans to attack EPA regulations like new clean air rules for boilers, which have long been a target of House Republicans and which were recently sent to OIRA for inter-agency review.
Upton and oversight subcommittee chair Cliff Stearns (R-FL) previewed a similar message they plan to deliver at the hearings, saying in a statement that they are “pleased the administration shares our concerns that burdensome regulations are stifling investment and chasing jobs overseas.”
“We need to focus on putting more Americans back to work. We look forward to hearing the administration's proposed solutions for reforming the nation’s excessive regulatory scheme,” the lawmakers said.
In addition to the energy committee hearing, Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee are planning a Jan. 24 hearing on H.R. 10, known as the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act -- a high priority GOP bill that requires Congress to vote on “major” regulations.
A recently introduced version of the bill includes new language intended to preserve private parties' ability to sue over agency rules that lawmakers may eventually approve under the bill's framework. The committee is scheduled to take testimony from former Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN), who chaired a House subcommittee for promoting regulatory review, Jonathan Adler, a law professor, and Sally Katzen, the former Clinton-era OIRA administrator.
(The Inside Story - 01-21-2011)
EPA has sent its long-awaited rule to expand industry reporting on chemical use and manufacturing
to the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) for review – even as some in industry mull raising concerns with Congress about the rule's speedy reporting timeline.
EPA sent the final Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) rule to OMB's Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs on Jan. 20 for inter-agency review, according to OMB's website. EPA officials have long indicated that the rule will update and expand the information industry will have to submit to EPA on chemicals in commerce, as required under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including information on production and volume going back to 2006.
Industry has long raised questions about the rule and whether it will be possible to provide the required information in the planned reporting window later this year. Some industry officials are also mulling whether to ask House Republicans to scrutinize the regulation once it is issued.
For example, one industry source recently said the timelines for reporting under the proposed IUR are a "huge concern" for chemical companies and says "EPA has not been particularly receptive" to industry suggestions. The source adds, "It's very late. This issue needs clarity sooner rather than later."
GOP lawmakers this week signaled they will review EPA's existing TSCA authority but stopped short of vowing specific oversight of the IUR, saying instead that they will conduct “robust” oversight of EPA's existing TSCA authority to determine if additional authority is necessary.
But environmentalists and public health groups have long held that the additional information that will be collected under the new IUR rule is much needed for EPA to be able to make decisions under TSCA about chemicals in commerce. Activists say industry's support for the rule is a litmus test for industry's willingness to overhaul TSCA.
(Daily News - 01-20-2011)
House Republicans have revised their high-priority bill requiring Congress to approve major regulations issued by EPA and other agencies, adding language in a just-introduced version that would preserve private parties' ability to sue over agency rules that lawmakers may eventually approve under the bill's framework.
(The Inside Story - 01-20-2011)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has sharply criticized EPA's landmark decision to veto a previously issued water permit for a controversial mountaintop mine in his state, plans to introduce legislation that would strip the agency's authority to veto permits after they have been issued.
The planned legislation is one of several efforts by lawmakers to step up scrutiny in the wake of EPA first-time decision last week to veto a Clean Water Act section 404 permit that was approved in 2007 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which oversees the so-called “dredge and fill” permits. The decision halted expansion of the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, WV, which would have been the largest single mountaintop mine site in the country.
“In the coming weeks, I intend to pursue legislation to clarify, in no uncertain terms, that the EPA does not have authority under the Clean Water Act to reverse prior approvals of the USACE where a permit has been put through a rigorous regulatory process, including time for thorough review by the EPA for possible negative environmental consequences, and awarded by the USACE prior to any official objections by the EPA,” Manchin writes in a Jan. 19 letter to colleagues that was released by his office.
Manchin's approach appears to be a scaled-back effort to avoid retroactive vetos that would be less sweeping than legislation offered last year in the House by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) to completely eliminate EPA's authority to prevent the Corps from issuing permits over concerns about negative impacts to water quality, according to industry sources.
Sources briefed on the proposed legislation say it aims to undo EPA's Spruce veto, in addition to preventing post-issuance vetoes going forward, but they say the legislation has not yet been written and details on how it would apply retroactively are still being worked out.
Manchin's office declined to provide additional details before the legislation is introduced or say whether he had any co-sponsors lined up. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is a potential co-sponsor, as he too has intensely criticized EPA's Spruce veto. A Rockefeller spokeswoman says the senior West Virginia Democrat “has long supported permits for Spruce Mine and is equally supportive of what Senator Manchin is attempting to do with his legislation.”
An array of other industries that rely on 404 permits, such as agriculture, home-building and road construction, are raising concerns that the after-the-fact veto increases regulatory uncertainty because they would be unable to have faith in permits that are issued.
Environmentalists charge that industry's concerns are overblown, because EPA's veto was based on environmental concerns it raised throughout the Spruce permitting process, although the agency during the Bush administration did not decide to veto the permit.
Mingo Logan Coal Company Inc., which operates the Spruce mine, sued EPA last summer in federal court, after the veto was proposed, arguing that the agency overstepped its authority, but the case has been in limbo since July. EPA in a Jan. 20 notice informed the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that it had finalized the veto and has approached the company to “attempt to agree upon a schedule to govern future proceedings in this case. The parties will file a proposed schedule with the Court, or seek the Court's assistance, if necessary, in a timely manner.”
(Daily News - 01-20-2011)
Key Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee are promising sweeping oversight of a host of EPA regulations, from the upcoming greenhouse gas and clean air rules, which are likely to gain heavy attention, to the agency’s Superfund, drinking water and waste management programs.
(Daily News - 01-20-2011)
EPA is stepping up its novel enforcement action against a Texas gas drilling company under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) even as Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee question whether the agency is overstepping its authority and are vowing to scrutinize the enforcement action.