Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Clean Air Issues in the 112th Congress


James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Air quality has improved substantially in the United States in the 40 years of EPA’s Clean Air Act regulation, but more needs to be done, according to the agency’s science advisers, to protect public health and the environment from the effects of air pollution. Thus, the agency continues to promulgate regulations addressing air pollution using authority given it by Congress more than 20 years ago. In the 112th Congress, Members from both parties have raised questions about the costeffectiveness of some of these regulations and/or whether the agency has exceeded its regulatory authority in promulgating them. Others in Congress have supported EPA, noting that the Clean Air Act, often affirmed in court decisions, has authorized or required the agency’s actions.

EPA’s regulatory actions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been one focus of congressional interest. Although the Obama Administration has consistently said that it would prefer that Congress pass new legislation to address climate change, such legislation now appears unlikely. Instead, over the last two years, EPA has developed GHG regulations using its existing Clean Air Act authority. On December 15, 2009, the agency promulgated an “endangerment finding” for GHGs under Section 202 of the act. Relying on this finding, EPA finalized GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks on April 1, 2010, and for larger trucks, August 9, 2011. The implementation of these standards, in turn, triggered permitting and Best Available Control Technology requirements for new major stationary sources of GHGs.

It is the triggering of standards for stationary sources (power plants, manufacturing facilities, etc.) that has raised the most concern in Congress: legislation has been considered in both the House and Senate aimed at preventing EPA from implementing these requirements. Since February, the House has passed H.R. 1, which contained provisions prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to implement various EPA GHG regulatory activities, and H.R. 910, a bill that would repeal EPA’s endangerment finding, redefine “air pollutants” to exclude greenhouse gases, and prohibit EPA from promulgating any regulation to address climate change. In the Senate, H.R. 1 was defeated, and an amendment identical to H.R. 910 (S.Amdt. 183) failed on a vote of 50-50. In July, the House considered provisions similar to those in H.R. 1 again in H.R. 2584, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012; action on the bill was suspended July 28, with more than 150 amendments still pending.

Besides addressing climate change, EPA has taken action on a number of other air pollutant regulations, generally in response to court actions remanding previous rules. Remanded rules have included the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the Clean Air Mercury Rule—rules designed to control the long-range transport of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from power plants through cap-and-trade programs. Other remanded rules included hazardous air pollutant standards for boilers and cement kilns (standards referred to as “MACT” standards). EPA is addressing the court remands through new regulations, three of which have already been promulgated, but many in Congress view the new regulations as overly stringent. Since the August recess, the House has passed three bills (H.R. 2250, H.R. 2401, and H.R. 2681) to delay or revoke the new standards and change the statutory requirements for their replacements.

In addition to the power plant and MACT rules, EPA is also reviewing ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone, particulates, and other widespread air pollutants. These standards serve as EPA’s definition of clean air, and drive a range of regulatory controls. The revised NAAQS also face opposition in Congress. As passed by the House, H.R. 2401 would amend the Clean Air Act to require EPA to consider feasibility and cost in setting NAAQS.



Date of Report: November 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R41563
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Federal Agency Actions Following the Supreme Court’s Climate Change Decision in Massachusetts v. EPA: A Chronology


Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney

On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court rendered one of its most important environmental decisions. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court held 5-4 that greenhouse gases (GHGs), widely viewed as contributing to climate change, constitute “air pollutants” as that phrase is used in the Clean Air Act (CAA). As a result, said the Court, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had improperly denied a petition seeking CAA regulation of GHG emissions from new motor vehicles by saying the agency lacked authority over such emissions.

This report offers a chronology of major federal agency actions, mainly by EPA, that involve GHGs or climate change and that occurred in the wake of Massachusetts v. EPA. Most of the listed actions trace directly or indirectly back to the decision. Examples include EPA’s “endangerment finding” for GHG emissions from new motor vehicles; the agency’s standards for GHG emissions from new motor vehicles; its interpretation of “pollutants subject to regulation,” the CAA trigger for requiring best available control technology (BACT) for such pollutants in “prevention of significant deterioration” areas; its guidance for determining BACT for GHG emissions; the “tailoring rule” (limiting the stationary sources that initially will have to install BACT and obtain CAA Title V permits based on their GHG emissions); and settlements of litigation seeking to compel new source performance standards (NSPSs) for GHG emissions from electric power plants and petroleum refineries. A few agency actions were included solely because of their relevance to climate change and their post-Massachusetts occurrence—for example, EPA’s responses to California’s request for a waiver of CAA preemption allowing that state to set its own limits for GHG emissions from new motor vehicles, and EPA’s monitoring rule for GHG emissions.

More analytical treatment of the government actions in this report may be found in CRS Report RL32764, Climate Change Litigation: A Survey, by Robert Meltz; CRS Report R40984, Legal Consequences of EPA’s Endangerment Finding for New Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, by Robert Meltz; CRS Report RS22665, The Supreme Court’s Climate Change Decision: Massachusetts v. EPA, by Robert Meltz; CRS Report R40585, Climate Change: Potential Regulation of Stationary Greenhouse Gas Sources Under the Clean Air Act, by Larry Parker and James E. McCarthy; CRS Report R40506, Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources, by James E. McCarthy and Brent D. Yacobucci; and CRS Report R40166, Automobile and Light Truck Fuel Economy: The CAFE Standards, by Brent D. Yacobucci.



Date of Report: November 1
7, 2011
Number of Pages:
12
Order Number: R4
1103
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

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 air emissions from animal feeding operations (AFOs), enterprises where animals are raised in confinement. 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. Legislation has been introduced in the 112th Congress to exclude “manure” from the definition of hazardous substance under CERCLA and to remove reporting liability under CERCLA and EPCRA (H.R. 2997 and S. 1729). Agriculture’s role as both a source of and a “sink” for greenhouse gases also has been of interest in connection with addressing the global challenge of climate change.

Enforcement of 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 state of the science and approaches for estimating AFO air emissions to guide future management and regulatory efforts. 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.

The 112th Congress has shown considerable interest in many of the issues discussed in this report and, more broadly, in the impact of federal regulation on the agriculture sector.



Date of Report: November 15, 2011
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RL32948
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Animal Waste and Hazardous Substances: Current Laws and Legislative Issues


Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

The animal sector of agriculture has undergone major changes in the last several decades: organizational changes within the industry to enhance economic efficiency have resulted in larger confined production facilities that often are geographically concentrated. These changes, in turn, have given rise to concerns over the management of animal wastes and potential impacts on

Federal environmental law does not regulate all agricultural activities, but certain large animal feeding operations (AFOs) where animals are housed and raised in confinement are subject to regulation. The issue of applicability of these laws to livestock and poultry operations— especially the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, the Superfund law) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)—has been controversial and has drawn congressional attention.

Both Superfund and EPCRA have reporting requirements that are triggered when specified quantities of certain substances are released to the environment. In addition, Superfund authorizes federal cleanup of releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants and imposes strict liability for cleanup and injuries to natural resources from releases of hazardous substances.

Superfund and EPCRA include citizen suit provisions that have been used to sue poultry producers and swine operations for violations of those laws. In two cases, environmental advocates claimed that AFO operators had failed to report ammonia emissions, in violation of Superfund and EPCRA. In both cases, federal courts supported broad interpretation of key terms defining applicability of the laws’ reporting requirements. Three other cases not dealing with reporting violations also have attracted attention, in part because of questions of whether animal wastes contain hazardous substances that can create cleanup and natural resource damage liability under Superfund. Two of these cases were settled; the third, brought by the Oklahoma Attorney General against poultry operations in Arkansas, is pending.

In December 2008, EPA issued a rule to exempt animal waste emissions to the air from most CERCLA and EPCRA reporting requirements. Legal challenges to the rule followed. In October 2010, a federal court approved the government’s request to remand the rule to EPA for reconsideration and possible modification. EPA anticipates that it will propose a new or revised rule in 2012.

The lawsuits testing the applicability of CERCLA and EPCRA to poultry and livestock operations and potential changes by EPA to the 2008 exemption rule have led to congressional interest in these issues. In the 112th Congress, legislation has been introduced that would amend CERCLA to clarify that manure is not a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant under that act and that the notification requirements of both laws would not apply to releases of manure (H.R. 2997 and S. 1729). Proponents argue that Congress did not intend that either of these laws apply to agriculture and that enforcement and regulatory mechanisms under other laws are adequate to address environmental releases from animal agriculture. Opponents respond that enacting an exemption would severely hamper the ability of government and citizens to know about and respond to releases of hazardous substances caused by an animal agriculture operation.



Date of Report: November 8, 2011
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RL33691
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Water Quality Issues in the 112th Congress: Oversight and Implementation


Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

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. However, 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 has been the role of the federal government in assisting 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, the House passed H.R. 1262 to reauthorize the CWA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) program to finance wastewater infrastructure and several related provisions of the act. A companion bill, S. 1005, was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. No legislation was enacted.

Programs that regulate activities in wetlands also have been of interest, 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 have 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 111th Congress, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill that sought to clarify but not expand the CWA’s geographic scope (the Clean Water Restoration Act, S. 787). A companion bill was introduced in the House (H.R. 5088). Because some stakeholders believe that the bills would expand federal jurisdiction—not simply clarify it—the bills were controversial, and no legislation was enacted.

These issues are likely to be of interest in the 112th Congress, as well. In addition, a number of other CWA issues have drawn interest recently and been the subject of congressional oversight and legislation, with some legislators highly critical of recent regulatory initiatives and others more supportive of EPA’s actions. Among the topics of interest are environmental and economic impacts of Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, federal promulgation of water quality standards in Florida, regulation of surface coal mining activities in Appalachia, and other CWA regulatory actions. Congressional interest in several of these issues is reflected in policy provisions of H.R. 2584, providing FY2012 appropriations for EPA.



Date of Report: November 7, 2011
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R41594
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.