Compliance Delay: Toxic Water Rule (Coal Ash) for Power Plants
Comment period ended July 6, 2017
EPA established federal water quality limits on levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants. On an annual basis, the rule is projected to reduce the amount of toxic metals, nutrients, and other pollutants that steam electric power plants are allowed to discharge by 1.4 billion pounds and reduce water withdrawal by 57 billion gallons.
In response to industry petitions for reconsideration, the Trump EPA on June 6 proposed to postpone certain compliance dates in these effluent limitations guidelines and standards for power plants.
Background information from Clean Water Action:
Rollback of Air Pollution Standards for Methane and VOCs — Oil and Gas Sector
Comment period ended August 9, 2017
The Trump Administration wants to delay and weaken emission controls that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and asthma-inducing smog. The public comment period is ongoing; comments must be received on or before 11:59 pm August 9.
EPA has proposed to delay key elements of methane air quality emissions standards for the oil and gas sector. These air quality standards would protect public health while reducing greenhouse gas emission. Methane is a “super-pollutant” with a global warming potential more than 25 times that of carbon dioxide.1
Methane also contributes to ozone in our breathing zone (ground-level ozone, or “smog”). Exposure to ozone is linked to a wide range of health effects, including severe asthma attacks, increased emergency room visits and hospital admissions, and premature death.
The oil and gas sector is the country’s largest emitter of methane. Many kinds of equipment used in the oil and gas sector leak methane. The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a group of chemicals that also contribute to ground-level ozone (smog). In addition to forming smog, many VOCs are also toxic to humans.
EPA finalized air quality standards to control methane and VOC emissions from the oil and gas sector in May 2016. The Trump Administration wants to stop EPA and the States from implementing these methane pollution controls while it rolls back the air quality standards for methane emissions.
For information on the rule, the rollback proposal, and talking points, see Defending Air Pollution Standards for the Oil & Gas Sector (Methane and VOCs)
1 Los Angeles Times, “Opinion: Methane is a ‘super pollutant’ that the federal government must help keep out of our air,” March 2, 2017.
Rollback of Control on Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) on Federal and Indian Lands — Oil and Gas Sector
Comment period ended September 25, 2017
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed to rescind a 2015 rule that would have imposed federal requirements to protect our water supplies from fracking on federal and Indian lands. This rule would also provide information to the public on what harmful chemicals are being used in these operations. The rule is currently the subject of litigation and has not yet gone into effect.
The 2015 rule was issued in response to growing public concerns about the impacts of fracking on groundwater drinking water supplies. The Trump Administration now argues that the rule would be too costly, and that the rule is unnecessary because states are already regulating the oil and gas industry, and that many companies are disclosing the chemicals used voluntarily or under state law.
For information on the rule, the rollback proposal, and talking points, see BLM Fracking.
Rollback of Climate Pollution and Fuel Economy Standards for Cars, SUVs and Light Trucks
The Trump Administration has opened the door to weakening the climate pollution and fuel economy standards for cars, SUVs, and light trucks for model years 2021-2025.Â These standards are a main pillar of U.S. efforts to combat climate change.Â Cars, SUVs, and light trucks are responsible for nearly 20% of climate pollution in the U.S.1
In recent years EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have conducted parallel rulemakings to set greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution standards and fuel economy standards for 2012 and later model year cars and light trucks.Â Lowering emissions of carbon dioxide, the most pervasive GHG pollutant, and improving fuel economy are closely linked.
The Trump Administration is reconsidering what the GHG pollution standards and fuel economy standards should be for model year 2021-2025 cars, SUVs and light trucks.Â There are two separate actions: a joint EPA/NHTSA request for comment on re-evaluating the vehicle GHG pollution standards, and a preliminary NHTSA notice of intent on corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.
Action 1: Comment Period Closed
The public comment period recently closed on the preliminary NHTSA notice on fuel economy standards. Â The notice is a preparatory step for a rule establishing binding fuel economy standards for 2022-2025, and notes that NHTSA also may re-evaluate the existing 2021 fuel economy standards.
For more information on fuel economy standards, see Defending Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards for Cars & Light Trucks.
Action 2: Comment Period Closed
A separate August 2017 joint EPA/NHTSA notice invited comment on whether the GHG pollution standards for model year 2022-2025 cars and light-trucks are appropriate, and also on whether 2021 standards remain appropriate. EPA completed an exhaustive re-evaluation of the 2022-2025 standards during the prior Administration, and determined that that the standards remain technically feasible at reasonable cost. Those standards are a critical component of U.S. efforts to limit climate pollution.
For more information on the standards and the re-evaluation, see Defending Climate Pollution Standards for Cars, SUVs and Light Trucks.
1 EPA, Fast Facts on Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions, p. 1 (2015).
Weakening of Proposed Groundwater Contamination Limits for Uranium Mining
Comment period ended October 16
The Trump Administration is considering standards the Obama Administration proposed in January to prevent, monitor and remedy groundwater contamination from uranium extraction operations — standards weaker than originally proposed in 2015. Radionuclide contamination of drinking water aquifers has been documented at a number of uranium mines in recent years.
For information on the two proposals – including suggested talking points — see Defending Limits on Uranium Mining Contaminants in Groundwater.
Withdrawal of Clean Water Act Protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska (Pebble Mine)
Comment period ended October 17
The Trump Administration wants to withdraw proposed restrictions on discharge of mining wastes in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, the largest sockeye salmon spawning area in the world.
For information on the proposed restrictions and the proposed rollback — including suggested talking points — see Defending Bristol Bay.
Opposing Subsidies for Coal & Nuclear Power Plants:
DOE Proposed Rule for FERC Final Action on Wholesale Electricity Prices
(Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule)
Comment period ended October 23, 2017
The Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finalize a rule that would subsidize generation of electricity by coal and nuclear power plants by paying them for the costs of all the electricity they generate regardless of whether the electricity is needed. This would disadvantage electricity from natural gas and renewable resources. DOE advocates this on grounds that the subsidy is needed for grid reliability, a claim that cannot be supported. The proposal would have an adverse effect on consumer electricity prices, the economy, and the environment. Yet no analysis of these impacts is offered by DOE.
For information on the proposal — including suggested talking points — see Opposing Subsidies for Coal and Nuclear Power Plants.
Suspension of the BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule
Comment period ended on November 6, 2017
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a rule in November 2016 to reduce waste of natural gas from flaring, venting and leaks from oil and gas production on public and tribal lands. The requirements are designed to limit waste of federal natural gas resources and avoid loss of royalty payments to federal, state and tribal governments for the sale of their resources. The rule has the additional benefit of reducing air pollutant emissions that drive smog and climate change. The rule replaces old and ineffective regulations that had not been updated in 35 years.
The BLM is proposing to delay implementation of almost every substantive provision of the Waste Prevention Rule for 18 months, until January 17, 2019. During this period, the Trump Administration will consider how it will modify or pull back the rule.
For more information and suggested talking points go to Defending the BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule.