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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy


The Clean Water Act prescribes performance levels to be attained by municipal sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the discharge of harmful wastes into surface waters. The act also provides financial assistance so that cities can construct treatment facilities in compliance with the law. The availability of funding for this purpose continues to be a major concern of cities and states. This report provides background on municipal wastewater treatment issues, federal treatment requirements and funding, and recent legislative activity. Meeting the nation's wastewater infrastructure needs efficiently and effectively is likely to remain an issue of considerable interest.


Date of Report: June 17, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: 98-323
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Rural Water Supply and Sewer Systems: Background Information

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

The Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act impose requirements regarding drinking water quality and wastewater treatment in rural areas. Approximately 27% of the U.S. population lives in areas defined by the Census Bureau as rural. Many rural communities need to complete water and waste disposal projects to improve the public health and environmental conditions of their citizens. Funding needs are high (more than $80 billion, according to EPA surveys). Several federal programs assist rural communities in meeting these requirements. In dollar terms, the largest are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, but they do not focus solely on rural areas. The Department of Agriculture's grant and loan programs support significant financial activity and are directed solely at rural areas. Meeting infrastructure funding needs of rural areas efficiently and effectively is likely to remain an issue of considerable congressional interest.


Date of Report: June 17, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: 98-64
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Environmental Considerations in Federal Procurement: An Overview of the Legal Authorities and Their Implementation


Kate M. Manuel
Legislative Attorney

L. Elaine Halchin
Specialist in American National Government

Coupled with increasing concerns about the environment, the magnitude of federal spending on contracts has prompted numerous questions from Members of Congress and the public about the role of environmental considerations in federal procurement. These include to what extent do agencies consider environmental factors when procuring goods or services? What legal authorities presently require or allow agencies to take environmental factors into account when acquiring goods or services? How are existing provisions authorizing agencies to consider environmental factors implemented? This report provides an overview, answering these and related questions.

The federal procurement system is designed "to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to the customer, while maintaining the public's trust and fulfilling public policy objectives." Environmental objectives can generally be among the public policy objectives that factor into federal procurement. However, they are not necessarily the most significant objectives overall or in any specific procurement. There are numerous other objectives (e.g., obtaining high quality goods and services at low prices, promoting American manufacturing, protecting small businesses, fostering affirmative action) that can also factor into procurement decisions. The relationship and prioritization among these different objectives is presently unclear.

Various legal authorities currently require or allow contracting officers to take environmental considerations into account when procuring goods or, less commonly, services. These authorities can be broadly divided into three categories: (1) "attribute-focused" authorities, generally requiring agencies to avoid or acquire products based on their environmental attributes (e.g., ozone-depleting substances, recovered content); (2) general contracting authorities, allowing agencies to purchase goods with certain environmental attributes when they have bona fide requirements for such goods; and (3) responsibility-related authorities, which require agencies to avoid certain dealings with contractors that have been debarred for violations of the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts. "Attribute-focused" authorities arguably do not deprive vendors of ineligible products of due process or equal protection in violation of the U.S. Constitution. However, certain preferences for products with desired environmental attributes, or vendors of such products, could violate procurement integrity regulations and the Competition in Contracting Act if not based in statute. Use of evaluation factors based on environmental considerations is possible in negotiated procurements, but subject to certain conditions, and the reportedly lower lifecycle costs of "green" products do not, per se, mean their acquisition is justified on a "best value" basis.

Agencies generally implement existing authorities by relying on third-party designations of products with specific environmental attributes and by using standard purchasing methods, including bilateral contracts, the Federal Supply Schedules, and government-wide commercial purchase cards.

The 111th Congress has held hearings on the environmental and related effects of federal procurement practices, and Members have introduced legislation that could expand the preferences given to "sustainable" products in certain federal procurements (H.R. 5136, § 833; H.R. 5280) and assist the "green" procurement efforts of state and local governments (H.R. 1766, S. 1830). President Obama has also issued an executive order (E.O. 13514) calling for the federal government to "leverage agency acquisitions to foster markets for sustainable technologies and environmentally preferable materials," among other things.


Date of Report: June 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41297
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Climate Investment Funds (CIFs): An Overview


Richard K. Lattanzio
Analyst in Environmental Policy


For political, social, economic, and environmental reasons, the United States helps finance programs in developing countries to address global climate change and other environmental issues. Several factors are important in structuring the U.S. agenda, including, among others, the choice of recipient countries, financial mechanism, level of funding, and type of program or technology, as well as the choice between bilateral or multilateral assistance. Congress is responsible for several activities in regard to global environmental finance, including (1) authorizing periodic appropriations for U.S. financial contributions and enacting those appropriations, and (2) overseeing U.S. interests in the programs. This report provides an overview of two of the larger and more recently instituted mechanisms—the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs)—and analyzes their structure, funding, and objectives in light of the many challenges within the contemporary landscape of global environmental finance.

The CIFs are investment programs administered by the World Bank Group that aim to help finance developing countries' transitions toward low-carbon and climate-resilient development. Formally approved by the World Bank's Board of Directors on July 1, 2008, the CIFs are composed of two trust funds—the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF)—each with a specific scope, objective, and governance structure. The CTF provides financing for demonstrating, deploying, and diffusing low-carbon technologies that have the potential for long-term avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions. The SCF—a suite of three separate funds, including the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), the Forest Investment Program (FIP), and the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program in Low Income Countries (SREP)—supports the least developed countries in their efforts to achieve low-carbon, climateresilient development. Overall, donor countries have pledged $6.1 billion to the funds since September 2008. The U.S. pledge is $2 billion. For FY2010, the U.S. government approved $375 million for the CIFs (H.R. 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, signed into law December 16, 2009, as P.L. 111-117), and for FY2011, the Administration has requested an additional $635 million for the program.

As the CIFs are just one set of financial mechanisms in a larger network of international programs designed to address the global environment, their effectiveness depends on how the trust funds address programmatic issues, build upon national investment plans, react to recent developments in the financial landscape, and respond to emerging opportunities. Proponents of the CIFs point to several factors in support of the funds, including an innovative programmatic design, a countryled investment process, and a balanced governance structure with enhanced stakeholder engagement. Proponents of the multilateral development banks' (MDBs') role in environmental assistance emphasize several advantages to financing climate programs through the World Bank Group, including its commitment to private sector development, its capacity to leverage large cofinancing arrangements, its responsiveness to donor countries, and its possession of fiduciary standards and institutional expertise. However, critics highlight several factors of concern, including a lack of transparency, coordination, and "polluter pay" responsibilities; a potential for new conditionalities, additionalities, and increased debt burdens on developing countries; and a prior economic development policy at the World Bank that serves as a conflict of interest.



Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41302
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Pesticide Registration and Tolerance Fees: An Overview


Robert Esworthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for regulating the sale, use, and distribution of pesticides under the authority of two statutes. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (7 U.S.C.136-136y), a licensing statute, requires EPA to review and register the use of pesticide products. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) (21 U.S.C. 346a) requires the establishment of maximum limits (tolerances) for pesticide residues on food in interstate commerce. EPA was also required to reevaluate older, registered pesticides (i.e., "reregistration" for pesticides registered prior to 1984, and more recently, registration review) and to reassess existing tolerances (i.e., tolerance reassessment) to ensure they meet current safety standards. Although U.S. Treasury revenues cover most costs for administering these acts, fees paid by pesticide manufacturers and other registrants have supplemented EPA appropriations for many years as a means of increasing the pace of the agency's activities under FIFRA and FFDCA.

The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA 1), included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-199, Title V of Division G), enacted on January 23, 2004, amended FIFRA and modified the framework for collecting fees to enhance and accelerate the agency's pesticide licensing (registration) activities. The amendments included reauthorization of maintenance fees primarily to support activities related to existing registrations, and established registration service fees to be submitted with applications for new registrations. The Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal Act, or PRIA 2 (P.L. 110-94), enacted October 9, 2007, reauthorized and revised these fee provisions, which would have expired at the end of FY2008. In February 2010, EPA reported the completion of 1,570 registration and reregistration decisions subject to PRIA during FY2009, for a total of 7,530 since the enactment of PRIA 1 in 2004. For FY2009, EPA reported expending $18.5 million of the $25.5 million received in the form of new registration fees collected in FY2009 ($16.1 million in net receipts) and carried forward from FY2008 ($9.4 million).

Authority for collecting pesticide fees dates back to the 1954 FFDCA amendments (P.L. 518; July 22, 1954), which, as passed, required the collection of fees "sufficient to provide adequate service" for establishing maximum residue levels (tolerances) for pesticides on food. Authority to collect fees was expanded with the 1988 FIFRA amendments (P.L. 100-532). The 1996 amendments to FIFRA and FFDCA, or the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) (P.L. 104-170), extended EPA's authority to collect certain fees through FY2001. Congress extended this authority annually through appropriations legislation prior to the enactment of PRIA in 2004.

The FY1998-FY2004 President's budget requests included proposals to modify existing fee structures to further increase revenues for pesticide activities. These proposals were not adopted in legislation and in some cases specifically prohibited by Congress. In each fiscal year budget request since PRIA was enacted in 2004, EPA has included proposals to further increase pesticide fees beyond those authorized. These proposals were not adopted by Congress in each year through FY2010. The FY2011 President's budget request included similar proposals to provide for the collection of additional pesticide fees.


Date of Report: June 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: RL32218
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs): Fact Sheet on Three International Agreements


Linda-Jo Schierow
Specialist in Environmental Policy


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemicals that do not break down easily in the environment, tend to accumulate as they move up the food chain, and may be harmful to people and wildlife. Between 1998 and 2001, the United States signed two international treaties and one executive agreement to reduce the production and use of POPs and to regulate the trade and disposal of them. President Bush signed and submitted the two treaties to the Senate for advice and consent. If the Senate consents by a two-thirds majority, and if Congress passes legislation that would be needed to implement the treaties and the executive agreement in the United States, then the treaties could be ratified and the agreements would become binding U.S. law. Two U.S. statutes are inconsistent with the agreements: the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs production and use of chemicals in U.S. commerce, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates the sale and use of pesticides within the United States. Proposals to amend these statutes were considered but not enacted in the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses. In the 111th Congress, S. 519 would amend pesticide law to permit implementation of the agreement, while S. 3209 would amend TSCA. A House draft bill that is posted on the website of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act, also would amend TSCA. Both TSCA bills would comprehensively revise current law, well beyond what might be necessary to allow treaty implementation.


Date of Report: June 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 4
Order Number: RS22379
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Clean Air Issues in the 111th Congress


James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

EPA regulatory actions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using existing Clean Air Act authority have been the main focus of congressional interest in clean air issues in recent months. Although the agency and the Obama Administration have consistently said that they would prefer that Congress pass legislation to address climate change, EPA has begun to develop regulations using its existing authority. On December 15, 2009, the agency finalized an "endangerment finding" under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act, which permits it (in fact, requires it) to regulate pollutants for their effect as greenhouse gases for the first time. Relying on this finding, EPA finalized GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks, April 1. The implementation of these standards will, in turn, trigger permitting requirements and the imposition of Best Available Control Technology for new major stationary sources of GHGs in January 2011.

It is the triggering of standards for stationary sources (power plants, manufacturing facilities, and others) that has raised the most concern in Congress: legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate aimed at preventing EPA from implementing these requirements. The legislation has taken several forms, including the introduction of resolutions of disapproval for the endangerment finding itself under the Congressional Review Act, and stand-alone legislation that would forestall specific EPA regulatory actions. Meanwhile, EPA has itself proposed regulations and guidance that will limit the applicability of Clean Air Act GHG requirements, delaying the applicability of requirements for all stationary sources until 2011 through guidance published April 2, 2010, and focusing its regulatory efforts on the largest emitters while granting smaller sources at least a six-year reprieve through what it calls the Greenhouse Gas "Tailoring Rule."

The endangerment finding and EPA's other actions, which were triggered by a 2007 Supreme Court decision, come as Congress continues to struggle with climate change legislation. On June 26, 2009, the House narrowly passed H.R. 2454, a 1,428-page bill addressing a number of interrelated energy and climate change issues. The bill would establish a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, beginning in 2012. In the Senate, both the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have reported bills (S. 1733 and S. 1462), but action subsequently bogged down, while a trio of Senators began negotiating a climate bill from scratch. As the clock winds down on the current Congress, it becomes less likely that climate legislation will be enacted, and more likely that EPA's actions will be the principal U.S. response to climate issues for now.

Besides addressing climate change, EPA has taken action on a number of conventional air pollutants, generally in response to the courts. Several Bush Administration regulatory decisions were vacated or remanded to the agency: among them, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)—a rule designed to control the long-range transport of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants, by establishing a cap-and-trade program—and the Clean Air Mercury Rule, which would have established a cap-and-trade program for power plant mercury emissions. EPA will address these court decisions through new regulations—the agency expects to propose a replacement for CAIR in June. Congress could address these issues through legislation, an approach that might reduce the likelihood of further court challenges. The agency is also in the midst of reviewing ambient air quality standards for the six most widespread air pollutants. These standards serve as EPA's definition of clean air, and drive a wide range of regulatory controls.


Date of Report: June 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: R40145
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Water Quality Issues in the 111th Congress: Oversight and Implementation


Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Although much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established more than 35 years ago in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or "nonpoint" sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions are needed and whether new legislation is required to address the nation's remaining water pollution problems. For some time, efforts to comprehensively amend the CWA have stalled as interests have debated whether and exactly how to change the law. Congress has instead focused legislative attention on enacting narrow bills to extend or modify selected CWA programs, but not any comprehensive proposals.

For several years, the most prominent legislative water quality issue has concerned financial assistance for municipal wastewater treatment projects. House and Senate committees have approved bills on several occasions, but, for various reasons, no legislation has been enacted. At issue is how the federal government will assist states and cities in meeting needs to rebuild, repair, and upgrade wastewater treatment plants, especially in light of capital costs that are projected to be as much as $390 billion. In the 111th Congress, interest in increased investment in public works infrastructure—including wastewater—in order to stimulate the faltering U.S. economy has brought greater attention to water infrastructure issues. Acting quickly, in early February, Congress passed and the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). Among its provisions, the legislation appropriates $4.0 billion in additional CWA assistance for wastewater projects. In addition, in March 2009, the House passed legislation to reauthorize the CWA's State Revolving Fund (SRF) program to finance wastewater infrastructure and several related provisions of the act (H.R. 1262). A companion bill was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in May 2009 (S. 1005).

Also of interest are programs that regulate activities in wetlands, especially CWA Section 404, which has been criticized by landowners for intruding on private land-use decisions and imposing excessive economic burdens. Environmentalists view this regulatory program as essential for maintaining the health of wetland ecosystems, and they are concerned about court rulings that narrowed regulatory protection of wetlands and about related administrative actions. Many stakeholders desire clarification of the act's regulatory jurisdiction, but they differ on what solutions are appropriate. In the 110th Congress, committees held hearings on legislation intended to provide that clarification, but no further action occurred. In the 111th Congress, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a bill that seeks to clarify but not expand the CWA's geographic scope (the Clean Water Restoration Act, S. 787). A companion bill has been introduced in the House (America's Commitment to Clean Water Act, H.R. 5088).

Other topics discussed in this report that also could be of interest in the 111th Congress include efforts to restore the impaired waters of Chesapeake Bay, and several issues related to the applicability of CWA permit requirements to a number of varied activities.


Date of Report: June 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R40098
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Environmental Cleanup and Waste Management


Jonathan L. Ramseur, Coordinator
Specialist in Environmental Policy


Although environmental cleanup and waste management policies have a common goal— to reduce risk to human health and the environment—they raise distinct policy questions that are generally addressed with different policy approaches. For instance, environmental cleanup issues generally require reactive public policies that seek to address an existing problem: environmental contamination. Waste management issues, on the other hand, typically deal with current waste materials, and thus involve proactive policies, initiated to prevent environmental damages.

Environmental cleanup issues continue to generate interest among policymakers. For much of the 20th Century, the standard method of waste disposal was to bury the waste or dump it in a nearby waterway. This resulted in thousands of contaminated properties owned by private parties and the federal government, some of which posed dangerous threats to human health. This problem is nationwide. To address this problem of waste from past activities, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA, commonly referred to as Superfund). CERCLA authorizes the federal government to clean up contaminated sites in the United States and to make the "potentially responsible parties" connected to those sites financially liable for the cleanup costs. CERCLA created the Superfund program to carry out these authorities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for administering the program.

The cleanup of contaminated sites under the Superfund program has generated continuing debate of various issues within Congress over the past several years, with particular focus on two funding questions: (1) how the program is funded, and (2) whether the program is receiving an adequate level of funding. Dedicated taxes on petroleum, chemical feedstocks, and corporate income initially financed most of the Superfund program, but the taxes expired at the end of 1995. As revenues from these taxes were expended, Congress increased the share of contributing revenues from the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury to maintain program funding levels. The Superfund program now is funded primarily with these general Treasury revenues.

In recent years, some Members have introduced legislation to reinstate the original Superfund tax, arguing that under the "polluter pays" principle, industry, not the general public, should bear the cleanup costs associated with industry-caused pollution. On the other hand, opponents of the Superfund tax have observed that not all of the taxed companies necessarily caused contamination, and that the tax therefore could be viewed as unfair in certain instances in that it may capture some parties who are not polluters. Opponents of the tax have emphasized that EPA has continued to take enforcement actions against the responsible parties to require them to pay for the cleanup of contamination that they caused or to which they contributed. In this sense, opponents of the tax note that polluters have continued to pay for the cleanup of contamination for which they are responsible, and that the "polluter pays principle" has remained in effect.

In addition to the source of funding, the availability of annual funding to meet cleanup needs has been an ongoing issue. While EPA may take enforcement actions to require the responsible parties to pay for the costs of cleanup, not all of the parties may be financially viable, or some of them simply may not be found, creating "orphan shares" of the cleanup costs which are borne by the Superfund program. There has been much debate about the level of funding that is necessary to pay these orphan shares to perform cleanup at an adequate pace and to a degree that is protective of human health and the environment. Although annual appropriations for the Superfund program have remained nominally steady over the past decade, some have drawn attention to the decline in real resources as a result of inflation over time.

The adequacy of funding for the cleanup of federal facilities has also been an issue. While EPA oversees the cleanup of federal facilities under the Superfund program, the relevant federal agencies are responsible for funding the cleanup with separate appropriations by Congress. These agencies act as the responsible parties on behalf of the federal government at its own contaminated facilities. Although much of contamination at federal facilities is similar in nature to industrial facilities, many federal facilities present special health, environmental, and safety risks resulting from their unique missions.

The vast majority of contaminated federal facilities became contaminated as a result of national security activities, such as military installations administered by the Department of Defense (DOD). The cleanup of DOD sites may involve not only health and environmental risks from chemical contaminants, but also safety risks from unexploded ordnance on decommissioned training ranges and munitions disposal sites. Former nuclear weapons production sites administered by the Department of Energy (DOE) also present unique challenges involving the disposal of substantial quantities of nuclear wastes and the cleanup of radioactive contamination. How to speed the pace of cleanup at these facilities to address potential risks in a timely manner, and the substantial costs of these tasks, have received long-standing attention within Congress.

CERCLA also authorizes federal assistance to states and communities for the cleanup of lower risk sites, referred to as "brownfields," which are not addressed under the Superfund program. These properties typically are abandoned, idled, or underutilized. Known or suspected contamination may deter redevelopment by prospective purchasers, who may be concerned about cleanup liability upon acquiring ownership. EPA administers federal assistance for the cleanup of these properties under its Brownfields grant program. Local governments, in particular, have been urging Congress to increase annual appropriations for these grants. A special tax incentive, which expired on December 31, 2009, provided another form of financial assistance, allowing parties to deduct brownfield cleanup expenses. This tax incentive has expired and been reinstated on multiple occasions. Thus, its continuation and whether to make it permanent, has been an ongoing issue.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) is the primary federal environmental law that addresses releases of petroleum, such as oil spills (Congress generally excluded releases of petroleum from CERCLA). In contrast to hazardous substance releases and related policy debates, major oil spills have been infrequent (at least over a time frame) and interest in oil spill legislation generally tends to wax and wane. However, the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has generated considerable interest and debate over a range of oil spill prevention and response policy issues, including governance of exploration and development in U.S. waters. Other issues that were raised before the Gulf spill (and are now receiving increased attention) in the 111th Congress include (1) funding for research and development for oil spill response, which has decreased in recent years; and (2) whether or not to require increased oil spill protection (akin to double-hulls) on cargo vessels. This latter issue is likely related to the 2007 cargo vessel (or container ship) oil spill in San Francisco Bay.

Waste management policies seek to reduce environmental contamination and related cleanup problems by proactively addressing current waste materials. Waste management encompasses a broad range of activities, including recycling, land disposal, and incineration. The type of waste involved—from solid waste (e.g., household trash and construction debris) to hazardous waste— influences waste management policy. These issues are often highlighted during responses to national disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina) when vast quantities of debris wastes may be generated quickly or when certain waste-related issues draw national attention (e.g., spent
compact fluorescent light bulbs). Although the implementation of federal waste management authorities primarily is delegated to the states, the management of certain waste streams has drawn attention from some Members of Congress. For example, a perennial issue has been whether to allow states to restrict importation of waste from other states or countries.

In recent years, recycling issues have generated congressional interest. Although there are few federal requirements applicable to recycling, states continue to develop their own requirements. For example, many states and interest groups have raised concern regarding the landfill disposal or incineration of lead and mercury-containing electronic wastes (e-wastes). To address this concern, several states now require electronics manufacturers to either take back used products for reuse or recycling, or provide funding so the electronics can be recycled elsewhere. Manufacturers argue that a patchwork of state requirements would prove more costly than a national e-waste management program. Thus, there is some interest in enacting national e-waste legislation. Members have also proposed legislation that would provide an incentive to recycle certain materials. Among other approaches, the proposals include tax incentives for businesses to purchase certain types of recycling equipment or grants to states to establish recycling programs for specific types of products. As efforts to increase recycling domestically have been implemented, the negative impacts of exporting e-waste to developing nations has become apparent—drawing attention from various national media outlets. Congressional attention to issues associated with e-waste exports has similarly increased.

The management of coal combustion waste (CCW) has also received recent attention. CCW represents the second largest waste stream in the United States, but its disposal is unregulated at the federal level. After a 1.1 billion gallon CCW release in Kingston, Tennessee, EPA stated its intent to promulgate consistent requirements for CCW management. The upcoming rulemaking has drawn attention from a wide range of stakeholders including environmental groups, concerned that the waste will not be managed strictly enough to protect human health or the environment, and industry groups, concerned that strict regulations would increase disposal costs and possibly limit its potential for recycling. Concerns among some Members have covered a range of issues, including the role that coal mining plays in our economy, the role that coal-fired utilities play as a major source of domestic energy, the federal role in the regulation of CCW, as well as the potential risks posed to their constituents if CCW is managed improperly.



Date of Report: June 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 5
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Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Selected Issues for Congress


Curry L. Hagerty, Coordinator
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

Jonathan L. Ramseur, Coordinator
Specialist in Environmental Policy

On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire occurred on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This resulted in 11 worker fatalities, a massive oil release, and a national response effort in the Gulf of Mexico region by the federal and state governments as well as BP. Based on estimates from the Flow Rate Technical Group, which is led by the U.S. Geological Survey, the 2010 Gulf spill has become the largest oil spill in U.S. waters, eclipsing the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill several times over. The oil spill has damaged natural resources and has had regional economic impacts. In addition, questions have been raised as to whether the regulations and regulators of offshore oil exploration have kept pace with the increasingly complex technologies needed to explore and develop deeper waters.

Crude oil has been washing into marshes and estuaries and onto beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Oil has killed wildlife, and efforts are underway to save oil-coated birds. The most immediate economic impact of the oil spill has been on the Gulf fishing industry: commercial and recreational fishing have faced extensive prohibitions within the federal waters of the Gulf exclusive economic zone. The fishing industry, including seafood processing and related wholesale and retail businesses, supports over 200,000 jobs with related economic activity of $5.5 billion. Other immediate economic impacts include a decline in tourism. On the other hand, jobs related to cleanup activities could mitigate some of the losses in the fishing and tourism industry.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the U.S. Coast Guard are the primary regulators of drilling activity. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has multiple responsibilities, with a representative serving as the vice-chair of the National Response Team and Regional Response Teams. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has responsibilities with respect to the economic impacts of the spill; its role so far has been primarily that of an observer, but that may change once the scope of impacts can be better understood.

MMS is also the lead regulatory authority for offshore oil and gas leasing, including collection of royalty payments. MMS regulations generally require that a company with leasing obligations demonstrate that proposed oil and gas activity conforms to federal laws and regulations, is safe, prevents waste, does not unreasonably interfere with other uses of the OCS, and does not cause impermissible harm or damage to the human, marine, or coastal environments. On May 13, 2010, the Department of the Interior announced that Secretary Ken Salazar had initiated the process of reorganizing the MMS administratively to separate the financial and regulatory missions of the agency. The Coast Guard generally overseas the safety of systems at the platform level of a mobile offshore drilling unit.

Several issues for Congress have emerged as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. What lessons should be drawn from the incident? What technological and regulatory changes may be needed to meet risks peculiar to drilling in deeper water? How should Congress distribute costs associated with a catastrophic oil spill? What interventions may be necessary to ensure recovery of Gulf resources and amenities? What does the Deepwater Horizon incident imply for national energy policy, and the trade-offs between energy needs, risks of deepwater drilling, and protection of natural resources and amenities?

This report provides an overview of selected issues related to the Deepwater Horizon incident and is not intended to be comprehensive. It will be updated to reflect emerging issues.


Date of Report: June 18, 2010
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: R41262
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases: Congressional Responses and Options

James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Larry Parker
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy


The Environmental Protection Agency's promulgation of an "endangerment finding" for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in December 2009, and its subsequent promulgation of GHG emission standards for new motor vehicles on April 1, 2010, have raised concerns among some in Congress that the agency will now proceed to control GHG emissions from stationary sources, including power plants, manufacturing facilities, and others. Stationary sources account for 69% of U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. If the United States is to reduce its total GHG emissions, as President Obama has committed to do, it will be necessary to address these sources. 

EPA's regulations limiting GHG emissions from new cars and light trucks will trigger at least two other Clean Air Act (CAA) provisions affecting stationary sources of air pollution. First, effective January 2, 2011, new or modified major stationary sources will have to undergo New Source Review (NSR) with respect to their GHGs in addition to any other pollutants subject to regulation under the CAA that are emitted by the source. This review will require affected sources to install Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to address their GHG emissions. Second, all major sources of GHGs (existing and new) will have to obtain permits under Title V of the CAA (or have existing permits modified to include their GHG requirements). Beyond these permitting requirements, because stationary sources, particularly coal-fired power plants, are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, EPA is likely to find itself compelled to issue endangerment findings under other parts of the act, resulting in New Source Performance Standards for stationary sources or emission standards under other sections of the act. 

EPA shares congressional concerns about the potentially broad scope of these regulations, primarily because a literal reading of the act might require as many as 6 million stationary sources to obtain permits. Thus, on May 13, 2010, the agency finalized a "Tailoring Rule" so that it can focus its resources on the largest emitters while deciding over a six-year period what to do about smaller sources. The agency is still in the process of developing recommendations on what the BACT requirements will be and expects to issue guidance on that in the fall of 2010. 

Many in Congress have suggested that EPA should delay taking action on these sources or should be prevented from doing so. Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to achieve such results: four resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (S.J.Res. 26, H.J.Res. 66, H.J.Res. 76, H.J.Res. 77) are aimed at EPA's determination under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act that GHGs cause or contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare; five other bills would either require EPA to reevaluate its endangerment finding (H.Res. 974), amend the Clean Air Act to provide that greenhouse gases are not subject to the act (H.R. 4396), limit EPA's GHG authority to motor vehicle emissions (S. 1622), or suspend EPA actions regulating stationary source emissions of GHGs for two years (S. 3072, H.R. 4753). 

This report discusses elements of this controversy, providing background on stationary sources of greenhouse gas pollution and identifying options Congress has at its disposal should it decide to address the issue. The report discusses four sets of options: (1) resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act; (2) freestanding legislation delaying or prohibiting EPA action; (3) the use of appropriations bills as a vehicle to restrain EPA activity; and (4) amendments to the Clean Air Act, including legislation such as H.R. 2454 or S. 1733, which would establish a new GHG control regime. 
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Date of Report: June 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41212
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): Selected Regulatory and Legislative Issues


Mary Tiemann
Specialist in Environmental Policy


Much progress has been made in assuring the quality of public water supplies since the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was first enacted in 1974. Public water systems must meet extensive regulations, and water utility management has become a much more complex and professional endeavor. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulated some 91 drinking water contaminants, and more regulations are pending. In 2007, the number of community water systems reporting no violations of drinking water standards was 89.5%. Despite nationwide progress in providing safe drinking water, an array of issues and challenges remain.

Recent issues have involved infrastructure funding needs, regulatory compliance issues, and concerns caused by detections of unregulated contaminants in drinking water, such as perchlorate and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Another issue involves the adequacy of existing regulations (such as trichloroethylene (TCE)) and EPA's pace in reviewing and potentially revising older standards. Congress last reauthorized SDWA in 1996. Although funding authority for most SDWA programs expired in FY2003, Congress continues to appropriate funds annually for these programs. No broad reauthorization bills have been proposed, as EPA, states, and water systems continue efforts to implement current statutory programs and regulatory requirements. A long-standing and overarching SDWA issue concerns the cumulative cost and complexity of drinking water standards and the ability of water systems, especially small systems, to comply with standards. The issue of the affordability of drinking water regulations, such as those for arsenic, radium, and disinfection by-products, has merged with the larger debate over what is the appropriate federal role in assisting communities with financing drinking water projects needed for SDWA compliance, and for water infrastructure improvement generally.

Water infrastructure financing legislation has been offered repeatedly in recent Congresses to authorize higher funding levels for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, and also to provide grants and other compliance assistance to small communities. In the 111th Congress, this issue found early focus in the economic stimulus debate, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) included $2 billion for the DWSRF program. The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, provided $829 million for this program, and the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-88), included an additional $1.387 billion. Two bills to revise and reauthorize the DWSRF have been approved by committee: S. 1005 (which also would revise the clean water SRF) and H.R. 5320. In contrast, H.R. 3202 would establish a water infrastructure trust fund supported by specified product and corporate taxes rather than appropriations.

A newer SDWA issue concerns proposals and research regarding the underground injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) for long-term storage as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. EPA has proposed regulations under SDWA to provide a national permitting framework for managing the underground injection of CO2 for commercial-scale sequestration projects. In August 2009, EPA published a notice of data availability and requested additional comment on the proposed rule. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140) included carbon sequestration research and development provisions, and specified that geologic sequestration activities shall be subject to SDWA provisions related to protecting underground drinking water sources. Another underground injection issue concerns the increasing use of hydraulic fracturing to produce natural gas from unconventional geologic formations. Two bills (H.R. 2766 and S. 1215), referred to as the FRAC Act, have been introduced to explicitly authorize regulation of this practice under the SDWA underground injection control program.



Date of Report: June 10, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL34201
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Appropriations for FY2011

Robert Esworthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

David M. Bearden
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Jane A. Leggett
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Mary Tiemann
Specialist in Environmental Policy


The President's FY2011 budget request, submitted to Congress on February 1, 2010, included $10.02 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The requested amount is a decrease below the funding level of $10.29 billion provided in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2010 (P.L. 111-88). Compared to FY2009, the President's FY2011 request for EPA is an increase above the enacted appropriation of $7.64 billion provided in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for FY2009 (P.L. 111-8). However, when including the $7.22 billion in supplemental appropriations for EPA provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; P.L. 111-5), the total appropriation for the agency in FY2009 was $14.86 billion, exceeding both the FY2010 enacted appropriations and the President's FY2011 request. 

Although the President has proposed an overall decrease for EPA relative to the appropriations enacted for FY2010, the FY2011 budget request includes a variety of decreases and increases in funding for many of the individual programs and activities funded within the eight appropriations accounts that fund the agency. Since FY2006, Congress has funded these accounts within the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, noted above with respect to FY2010 enacted appropriations. In FY2005 and prior fiscal years, Congress appropriated funding for EPA's accounts within the former Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies appropriations bill. 

For FY2011, the President has requested the largest decrease in funding for EPA within the State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) account, from $4.97 billion in FY2010 to $4.79 billion in FY2011. This account contains the largest portion of the agency's funding among the eight accounts. The majority of this requested decrease for FY2011 is attributed to a combined $200 million reduction in funding for grants that provide financial assistance to states to help capitalize Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs). Respectively, these funds finance local wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects in local areas. 

The President's FY2011 request includes $2.0 billion for Clean Water SRF capitalization grants and $1.29 billion for Drinking Water SRF capitalization grants. These amounts are slightly below the enacted FY2010 appropriations, but are larger than amounts provided in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for FY2009. However, when including the supplemental funds provided in ARRA, both the FY2010 enacted appropriations and the President's FY2011 request for the SRF grants are less than the total funding made available for the SRF grants in FY2009. ARRA provided $4.0 billion in supplemental funds for Clean Water SRF capitalization grants and $2.0 billion in supplemental funds for Drinking Water SRF capitalization grants. 

In addition to the adequacy of federal financial assistance for water infrastructure, other prominent issues that have received attention within the context of EPA appropriations include the adequacy of funding for climate change research and related activities, cleanup of hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program, cleanup of less hazardous sites referred to as brownfields, and grants to assist states in implementing air pollution control requirements. Funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative established in the FY2010 appropriations, and funding for the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and other geographic water programs, also have received attention. There have been varying levels of interest in funding for numerous other EPA programs and activities.



Date of Report: May 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 35
Order Number: R41149
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA):Liability of Responsible Parties


James E. Nichols
Law Clerk


The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) establishes a framework that addresses the liability of responsible parties in connection with the discharge of oil into the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive economic zone. Among other provisions, OPA limits certain liabilities of a responsible party in connection with discharges of oil into such areas. The liability limitations established by OPA are currently the subject of significant congressional interest in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A responsible party is strictly liable for removal costs plus damages resulting from an oil spill incident under OPA. A responsible party's liability under OPA is confined to specific categories of damages. Pursuant to OPA, the total liability for damages in connection with an oil spill is limited based on the type of vessel or facility involved, and the amount of oil discharged. OPA provides limited defenses which, if applicable, allow a responsible party to discharge its liability to persons injured by a discharge of oil into the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or the exclusive economic zone.

Claims for removal costs and certain damages must, with limited exception, be presented directly to the responsible party. In the event that a claim for removal costs or certain damages is not paid by the responsible party within 90 days, a claimant may present such a claim directly to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund or file suit in court. OPA and its regulations establish procedures for recovering removal costs and damages against the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

This report addresses liability under OPA for removal costs and damages, and the basic procedure for recovering removal costs and damages from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund in the event that the responsible party fails to settle such claims.



Date of Report: June 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41266
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Constitutional Issues Raised by Pending Bills to Increase Retroactively a Liability Limit in the Oil Pollution Act


Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney

This memorandum looks at the constitutional issues implicated by two recently introduced bills -- S. 3305, titled the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2010," and H.R. 5214, titled the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act of 2010." The constitutional issues are raised by the retroactive increase each of these bills would effect in the oil spill liability limit now in section 1004(a)(3) of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA).1 That limit applies to each responsible party, per oil spill incident, at an offshore facility and covers damages (not including "removal costs") resulting from the incident. Section 1004(a)(3) currently sets this limit at $75 million,2 though the limit is lifted (liability is unlimited) if any of several exceptions apply.3 The bills, in identical language, would simply strike the $75 million figure and replace it with $10 billion, thus preserving the exceptions.

S. 3305 and H.R. 5214, introduced May 4 and May 5, 2010 respectively, state that they take effect on April 15, 2010. Thus, they are plainly retroactive; even if, under the bills, a responsible party's payments over the current $75 million cap all go toward damages incurred after the bill is enacted, those damages stem from a pre-enactment incident and thus satisfy a common definition of retroactivity. The intent of making the increased liability limit retroactive to April 15, 2010 is presumably to displace the existing $75 million liability limit on damages that would otherwise apply to any responsible party in connection with the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. Even in the absence of this pre-enactment effective date, however, the bills could be said to be retroactive if they apply to oil and gas leases entered into pre-enactment, notwithstanding that an oil spill at one of those lease locations occurs after enactment.

This memorandum surveys the constitutional issues raised by this proposed retroactive increase in the $75 million liability cap, where no exceptions operate to eliminate the cap, and does not speak to the breach of contract arguments related to British Petroleum's offshore lease. The retroactive nature of the cap increase invites examination of five constitutional provisions. The memorandum concludes that claims based on three of these – the Takings Clause, Substantive Due Process, and Bill of Attainder Clause – appear to have at best a modest chance of success, while claims under two others – the Impairment of Contracts Clause and Ex Post Facto Clause -- seem to have almost no chance of success. It must be immediately stressed, however, that how the legislative history of an enacted law characterizes the predecessor bill – especially whether a broad and legitimate public purpose for the bill is convincingly set forth – may affect the analysis, especially with regard to the Bill of Attainder Clause (see discussion below). That legislative history, of course, does not yet exist. The reader is further cautioned that prediction of how courts will rule when applying the broadly worded tests of constitutional law is always attended by some uncertainty, particularly where, as here, the analysis must proceed without full knowledge of the relevant facts.


Date of Report: May 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 10
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Monday, June 14, 2010

The 2010 Oil Spill: Minerals Management Service (MMS) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)


Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney


On April 20, 2010, an exploratory oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people and causing an oil spill that a group of federal experts has said is the worst in American history. The oil well was on a tract leased by British Petroleum (BP), having obtained a lease and the relevant permits from the federal government. Under relevant federal law, federal actions that may have adverse environmental effects are required to be reviewed for potential environmental harm under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This report will review those environmental procedures. While there are additional environmental obligations imposed on Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) drilling by other acts, this report will not review those requirements.

Multiple environmental reviews were conducted by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) at each stage of OCS development. For the particular well in question, MMS addressed the environmental impacts on four occasions, including two full environmental impact statements, an environmental assessment, and a categorical exclusion. The fact that MMS categorically excluded the exploration plan from a NEPA analysis is controversial, since that is the first step in which drilling would be conducted. It appears MMS followed its internal procedure for NEPA reviews in the western and central areas of the Gulf of Mexico by employing a categorical exclusion for an exploration plan. However, that procedure has never been reviewed by a court to see if it is consistent with the law or whether an exception to the categorical exclusion may apply in this case. Had this project occurred in a different geographical area, including the eastern area of the Gulf of Mexico, it would have undergone a higher level of environmental scrutiny.



Date of Report: June 4, 2010
Number of Pages:28
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wetlands: An Overview of Issues


Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Recent Congresses have considered numerous policy topics that involve wetlands. Many reflect issues of long-standing interest, such as applying federal regulations on private lands, wetland loss rates, and restoration and creation accomplishments.

In the 110th Congress, a few of the topics were new, such as wetlands provisions in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246). The 110th Congress also considered wetland topics at the program level, responding to legal decisions and administrative actions affecting the jurisdictional boundary limits of the federal wetland permit program in the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Perhaps the issue receiving the greatest attention has been determining which wetlands should be included and excluded from permit requirements under the CWA's regulatory program, as a result of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 (in the SWANCC case) that narrowed federal regulatory jurisdiction over certain isolated wetlands, and in June 2006 (in the Rapanos-Carabell decision) that left the jurisdictional reach of the permit program to be determined on a case-by-case basis. In response, legislation intended to reverse the Court's rulings in these cases has been introduced regularly since the 107th Congress. In the 111th Congress, for the first time, one such bill has advanced from a congressional committee (S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act). The Obama Administration has not endorsed any specific legislation, but has identified general principles for legislation that would clarify waters protected by the CWA.

Wetland protection efforts continue to engender intense controversy over issues of science and policy. Controversial topics include the rate and pattern of loss, whether all wetlands should be protected in a single fashion, the effectiveness of the current suite of laws in protecting them, and the fact that 75% of remaining U.S. wetlands are located on private lands.

Many recent public and private efforts have sought to mitigate damage to wetlands and to protect them through acquisition, restoration, and enhancement, particularly coastal wetlands. The 3.4 million acres of marsh, swamp, forests, and barrier islands in coastal Louisiana constitute the largest wetland complex in the lower 48 states and are important spawning ground for fish and shellfish and habitat for migratory birds. The state's wetlands have been weakened by flood control and other engineering projects that have altered water flow and led to erosion of land. These areas were damaged by hurricanes in 2005 and now are threatened by oil from an April 2010 oil rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

One reason for controversies about wetlands is that they occur in a wide variety of physical forms, and the numerous values they provide, such as wildlife habitat, also vary widely. In addition, the total wetland acreage in the lower 48 states is estimated to have declined from more than 220 million acres three centuries ago to 107.7 million acres in 2004. The national policy goal of no net loss, endorsed by administrations for the past two decades, has been reached, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, as the rate of loss has been more than offset by net gains through expanded restoration efforts authorized in multiple laws. Many protection advocates say that net gains do not necessarily account for the changes in quality of the remaining wetlands, and many also view federal protection efforts as inadequate or uncoordinated. Others, who advocate the rights of property owners and development interests, characterize them as too intrusive. Numerous state and local wetland programs add to the complexity of the protection effort.


Date of Report: May 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
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Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer


Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

From an environmental quality standpoint, much of the public and policy interest in animal agriculture has focused on impacts on water resources, because animal waste, if not properly managed, can harm water quality through surface runoff, direct discharges, spills, and leaching into soil and groundwater. A more recent issue is the contribution of emissions from animal feeding operations (AFO), enterprises where animals are raised in confinement, to air pollution. This report provides background on the latter issue.

AFOs can affect air quality through emissions of gases such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, and odor. These pollutants and compounds have a number of environmental and human health effects.

Agricultural operations have been treated differently from other businesses under numerous federal and state laws. Some environmental laws specifically exempt agriculture from regulatory provisions, and some are designed so that farms are not subject to most, if not all, of the regulatory impact. The primary regulatory focus on environmental impacts has occurred under the Clean Water Act. In addition, AFOs that emit large quantities of air pollutants may be subject to Clean Air Act regulation. Some livestock operations also may be regulated under the release reporting requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Questions about the applicability of these laws to livestock and poultry operations have been controversial and have drawn congressional attention. Agricultural emissions of greenhouse gases also have been of interest recently in connection with Administration and congressional proposals to address the global challenge of climate change.

Enforcement of federal environmental laws requires accurate measurement of emissions to determine whether regulated pollutants are emitted in quantities that exceed specified thresholds. Two reports by the National Research Council evaluated the current scientific knowledge base and approaches for estimating air emissions from AFOs as a guide for future management and regulatory efforts.

Stakeholders may find little agreement on these issues, with the exception of agreeing on a need for research to estimate, measure, and characterize emissions, and to develop and evaluate technologies to mitigate and control emissions.

In an effort to collect scientifically credible data on air emissions, in January 2005 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan negotiated with segments of the animal agriculture industry. Called the Air Compliance Agreement, it is intended to produce air quality monitoring data on AFO emissions, while at the same time protecting participants through a "safe harbor" from liability under certain provisions of federal environmental laws. Issues related to this agreement, which has been controversial among environmental advocates, state and local air quality officials, and some industry groups, are discussed separately in CRS Report RL32947,
Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: EPA's Air Compliance Agreement.



Date of Report: May 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RL32948
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pesticide Registration and Tolerance Fees: An Overview

Robert Esworthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for regulating the sale, use, and distribution of pesticides under the authority of two statutes. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (7 U.S.C.136-136y), a licensing statute, requires EPA to review and register the use of pesticide products. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) (21 U.S.C. 346a) requires the establishment of maximum limits (tolerances) for pesticide residues on food in interstate commerce. EPA was also required to reevaluate older, registered pesticides (i.e., "reregistration" for pesticides registered prior to 1984, and more recently, registration review) and to reassess existing tolerances (i.e., tolerance reassessment) to ensure they meet current safety standards. Although U.S. Treasury revenues cover most costs for administering these acts, fees paid by pesticide manufacturers and other registrants have supplemented EPA appropriations for many years as a means of increasing the pace of the agency's activities under FIFRA and FFDCA. 

The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA 1), included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-199, Title V of Division G), enacted on January 23, 2004, amended FIFRA and modified the framework for collecting fees to enhance and accelerate the agency's pesticide licensing (registration) activities. The amendments included reauthorization of maintenance fees primarily to support activities related to existing registrations, and established registration service fees to be submitted with applications for new registrations. The Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal Act, or PRIA 2 (P.L. 110-94), enacted October 9, 2007, reauthorized and revised these fee provisions, which would have expired at the end of FY2008. In February 2010, EPA reported the completion of 1,570 registration and reregistration decisions subject to PRIA during FY2009, for a total of 7,530 since the enactment of PRIA 1 in 2004. For FY2009, EPA reported expending $18.5 million of the $25.5 million received in the form of new registration fees collected in FY2009 ($16.1 million in net receipts) and carried forward from FY2008 ($9.4 million). 

Authority for collecting pesticide fees dates back to the 1954 FFDCA amendments (P.L. 518; July 22, 1954), which, as passed, required the collection of fees "sufficient to provide adequate service" for establishing maximum residue levels (tolerances) for pesticides on food. Authority to collect fees was expanded with the 1988 FIFRA amendments (P.L. 100-532). The 1996 amendments to FIFRA and FFDCA, or the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) (P.L. 104-170), extended EPA's authority to collect certain fees through FY2001. Congress extended this authority annually through appropriations legislation prior to the enactment of PRIA in 2004. 

The FY1998-FY2004 President's budget requests included proposals to modify existing fee structures to further increase revenues for pesticide activities. These proposals were not adopted in legislation and in some cases specifically prohibited by Congress. In each fiscal year budget request since PRIA was enacted in 2004, EPA has included proposals to further increase pesticide fees beyond those authorized. These proposals were not adopted by Congress in each year through FY2010. The FY2011 President's budget request included similar proposals to provide for the collection of additional pesticide fees. 
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Date of Report: May 19, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL32218
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Biochar: Examination of an Emerging Concept to Mitigate Climate Change


Kelsi Bracmort
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Biochar is a charcoal produced under high temperatures using crop residues, animal manure, or any type of organic waste material. Depending on the feedstock, biochar may look similar to potting soil or to a charred substance. The combined production and use of biochar is considered a carbon-negative process, meaning that it removes carbon from the atmosphere.

Biochar has multiple potential environmental benefits, foremost the potential to sequester carbon in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years at an estimate. Studies suggest that crop yields can increase as a result of applying biochar as a soil amendment. Some contend that biochar has value as an immediate climate change mitigation strategy. Scientific experiments suggest that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly with biochar application to crop fields.

Obstacles that may stall rapid adoption of biochar production systems include technology costs, system operation and maintenance, feedstock availability, and biochar handling. Biochar research and development is in its infancy. Nevertheless, interest in biochar as a multifaceted solution to agricultural and natural resource issues is growing at a rapid pace both nationally and internationally.

Past Congresses have proposed numerous climate change bills, many of which do not directly address mitigation and adaptation technologies at developmental stages, such as biochar. However, biochar may equip agricultural and forestry producers with numerous revenuegenerating products: carbon offsets, soil amendments, and energy. The American Power Act (discussion draft) contains three provisions relevant to biochar.

This report briefly describes biochar, its potential advantages and disadvantages, legislative support, and research and development activities underway in the United States.


Date of Report: May 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: R40186
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Water Quality Issues in the 111th Congress: Oversight and Implementation


Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Although much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established more than 35 years ago in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or "nonpoint" sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions are needed and whether new legislation is required to address the nation's remaining water pollution problems. For some time, efforts to comprehensively amend the CWA have stalled as interests have debated whether and exactly how to change the law. Congress has instead focused legislative attention on enacting narrow bills to extend or modify selected CWA programs, but not any comprehensive proposals.

For several years, the most prominent legislative water quality issue has concerned financial assistance for municipal wastewater treatment projects. House and Senate committees have approved bills on several occasions, but, for various reasons, no legislation has been enacted. At issue is how the federal government will assist states and cities in meeting needs to rebuild, repair, and upgrade wastewater treatment plants, especially in light of capital costs that are projected to be as much as $390 billion. In the 111th Congress, interest in increased investment in public works infrastructure—including wastewater—in order to stimulate the faltering U.S. economy has brought greater attention to water infrastructure issues. Acting quickly, in early February, Congress passed and the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). Among its provisions, the legislation appropriates $4.0 billion in additional CWA assistance for wastewater projects. In addition, in March 2009, the House passed legislation to reauthorize the CWA's State Revolving Fund (SRF) program to finance wastewater infrastructure and several related provisions of the act (H.R. 1262). A companion bill was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in May 2009 (S. 1005).

Also of interest are programs that regulate activities in wetlands, especially CWA Section 404, which has been criticized by landowners for intruding on private land-use decisions and imposing excessive economic burdens. Environmentalists view this regulatory program as essential for maintaining the health of wetland ecosystems, and they are concerned about court rulings that narrowed regulatory protection of wetlands and about related administrative actions. Many stakeholders desire clarification of the act's regulatory jurisdiction, but they differ on what solutions are appropriate. In the 110th Congress, committees held hearings on legislation intended to provide that clarification, but no further action occurred. In the 111th Congress, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a bill that seeks to clarify but not expand the CWA's geographic scope (the Clean Water Restoration Act, S. 787). A companion bill has been introduced in the House (America's Commitment to Clean Water Act, H.R. 5088).

Other topics discussed in this report that also could be of interest in the 111th Congress include efforts to restore the impaired waters of Chesapeake Bay, and several issues related to the applicability of CWA permit requirements to a number of varied activities.



Date of Report: May 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R40098
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Selected Issues for Congress

Curry L. Hagerty, Coordinator
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

Jonathan L. Ramseur, Coordinator
Specialist in Environmental Policy

On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire occurred on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This resulted in 11 worker fatalities, a massive oil release, and a national response effort in the Gulf of Mexico region by the federal and state governments as well as BP. The United States Geological Survey has estimated that 17-39 million gallons of oil have been released into the Gulf of Mexico. BP is attempting to stop the flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon drilling site with "top kill." The oil spill has damaged natural resources and has had regional economic impacts. In addition, questions have been raised as to whether the regulations and regulators of offshore oil exploration have kept pace with increasingly complex technologies needed to explore and develop deeper waters. 

Crude oil has been washing into marshes and estuaries and onto beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Wildlife has been killed and efforts are underway to save oil-coated birds. The most immediate economic impact of the oil spill has been on the Gulf fishing industry. As of May 25, 2010, commercial and recreational fishing were prohibited within a 54,096 squaremile area, approximately 22% of federal waters of the Gulf Exclusive Economic Zone. The fishing industry, including seafood processing and related wholesale and retail businesses, supports over 200,000 jobs with related economic activity of $5.5 billion. Other immediate economic impacts include a decline in tourism. On the other hand, jobs related to cleanup activities could mitigate some of the losses in the fishing and tourism industry. 

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are the primary regulators of drilling activity. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has multiple responsibilities as the vice-chair of the National Response Team and Regional Response Teams. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has responsibilities with respect to the economic impacts of the spill; its role so far has been primarily that of an observer, but that may change once the scope of impacts can be better understood. 

MMS is also the lead regulatory authority for offshore oil and gas leasing, including collection of royalty payments. MMS regulations generally require that a company with leasing obligations demonstrate that proposed oil and gas activity conforms to federal laws and regulations, is safe, prevents waste, does not unreasonably interfere with other uses of the OCS, and does not cause impermissible harm or damage to the human, marine, or coastal environments. On May 13, 2010, the Department of the Interior announced that Secretary Ken Salazar had initiated the process of reorganizing the MMS administratively to separate the financial and regulatory missions of the agency. The USCG generally overseas the safety of systems at the platform level of a mobile offshore drilling unit. 

Several issues for Congress have emerged as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. What lessons should be drawn from the incident? What technological and regulatory changes may be needed to meet risks peculiar to drilling in deeper water? How should Congress distribute costs associated with a catastrophic oil spill? What interventions may be necessary to ensure recovery of Gulf resources and amenities? What does the Deepwater Horizon incident imply for national energy policy, and the tradeoffs between energy needs, risks of deepwater drilling, and protection of natural resources and amenities? 

This report provides an overview of selected issues related to the Deepwater Horizon incident and is not intended to be comprehensive.


Date of Report: May 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41262
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Review of Fluoridation and Regulation Issues


Mary Tiemann
Specialist in Environmental Policy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 67% of the 246 million people in the United States who receive their water from a public water system received fluoridated water in 2000. One of the CDC's national health goals is to increase the proportion of the U.S. population served by community water systems with "optimally" fluoridated drinking water to 75% by 2010. The decision to add fluoride to a water supply is made by local or state governments. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) has recommended an optimal fluoridation level in the range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for the prevention of tooth decay.

The fluoridation of drinking water often generates both strong support and opposition within communities. This practice is controversial because fluoride has been found to have beneficial effects at low levels and is intentionally added to many public water supplies; however, at higher concentrations, it is known to have toxic effects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount of fluoride that may be present in public water supplies to protect against fluoride's adverse health effects. Fluoridation opponents have expressed concern regarding potential adverse health effects of fluoride ingestion, and some view the practice as an undemocratic infringement on individual freedom. The medical and public health communities generally have recommended water fluoridation, citing it as a safe, effective, and equitable way to provide dental health protection community-wide.

Because the use of fluoridated dental products and the consumption of food and beverages made with fluoridated water have increased since the PHS recommended optimal levels for fluoridation, many people now may be exposed to more fluoride than had been anticipated. Consequently, questions have emerged as to whether current water fluoridation practices and levels offer the most appropriate ways to provide the expected beneficial effects of fluoride while avoiding adverse effects (most commonly, tooth mottling or pitting—dental fluorosis) that may result from ingestion of too much fluoride when teeth are developing. Also, scientific uncertainty regarding the health effects of exposure to higher levels of fluoride adds controversy to decisions regarding water fluoridation.

Although fluoride is added to water to strengthen teeth, some communities must treat their water to remove excess amounts of fluoride that is present either naturally or from pollution. In 1986, EPA issued a drinking water regulation for fluoride that includes an enforceable standard—a maximum contaminant level (MCL)—and an MCL goal (MCLG) of 4 mg/L to protect against adverse effects on bone structure. EPA acknowledged that the standard did not protect infants and young children against dental fluorosis, which EPA considered a cosmetic effect rather than a health effect. To address this concern, EPA included in the regulation a secondary (advisory) standard of 2 mg/L to protect children against dental fluorosis and adverse health effects. As part of its review of the fluoride regulation, EPA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to review the health risk data for fluoride and to assess the adequacy of EPA's standards. In March 2006, the NRC released its study and concluded that EPA's 4 mg/L MCLG should be lowered. EPA currently is developing a dose-response assessment and updating the relative contribution assessment for fluoride. Once these assessments have been completed and peer reviewed, EPA will be able to determine whether revisions to the drinking water standards would be appropriate.


Date of Report: May 18, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: RL33280
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