Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Monday, January 30, 2012

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


James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy


In the three years since Barack Obama was sworn in as President, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed and promulgated numerous regulations implementing the pollution control statutes enacted by Congress. Critics have reacted strongly. Many, both within Congress and outside of it, have accused the agency of reaching beyond the authority given it by Congress and ignoring or underestimating the costs and economic impacts of proposed and promulgated rules. The House has conducted vigorous oversight of the agency in the 112th Congress, and has approved several bills that would overturn specific regulations or limit the agency’s authority. Particular attention is being paid to the Clean Air Act, under which EPA has moved forward with the first federal controls on emissions of greenhouse gases and addressed conventional pollutants from a number of industries.

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

This report provides background information on recent EPA rulemaking to help address these issues. It examines 39 major or controversial regulatory actions taken by or under development at EPA since January 2009, providing details on the regulatory action itself, presenting an estimated timeline for completion of the rule (including identification of related court or statutory deadlines), and, in general, providing EPA’s estimates of costs and benefits, where available.

The report also discusses factors that affect the timeframe in which regulations take effect, including statutory and judicial deadlines, public comment periods, judicial review, and permitting procedures, the net results of which are that existing facilities are likely to have several years before being required to comply with most of the regulatory actions under discussion. Unable to account for such factors, which will vary from case to case, timelines that show dates for proposal and promulgation of EPA standards effectively underestimate the complexities of the regulatory process and overstate the near-term impact of many of the regulatory actions.



Date of Report: January 19, 2012
Number of Pages: 38
Order Number: R41561
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.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oil Spills in U.S. Coastal Waters: Background and Governance


Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

The impacts of an oil spill depend on the size of the spill, the rate of the spill, the type of oil spilled, and the location of the spill. Depending on timing and location, even a relatively minor spill can cause significant harm to individual organisms and entire populations. Oil spills can cause impacts over a range of time scales, from days to years, or even decades for certain spills.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred at the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in 11 fatalities. The incident led to a significant release of oil: according to the federal government’s estimate, the well released approximately 206 million gallons of oil before it was contained on July 15. The 2010 Gulf oil spill generated considerable interest in oil spill governance issues.

This report provides background information regarding oil spills in U.S. coastal waters and identifies the legal authorities governing oil spill prevention, response, and cleanup. Based on data between 1973 and 2009, the annual number and volume of oil spills have shown declines— in some cases, dramatic declines.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaskan waters played a large role in stimulating actions that contributed to this trend, particularly the decrease in the annual spill volumes. The Exxon Valdez spill highlighted the need for stronger legislation, inflamed public sentiment, and spurred Congress to enact comprehensive oil spill legislation, resulting in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-380). This law expanded and clarified the authority of the federal government and created new oil spill prevention and preparedness requirements. Moreover, the 1990 legislation strengthened existing liability provisions, providing a greater deterrent against spills.

The governing framework for oil spills in the United States remains a combination of federal, state, and international authorities. Within this framework, several federal agencies have the authority to implement oil spill regulations. Agency responsibilities can be divided into two categories: (1) oil spill response and cleanup and (2) oil spill prevention/preparedness.

Oil spill response authority is determined by the location of the spill: the U.S. Coast Guard has response authority in the U.S. coastal zone, and the Environmental Protection Agency covers the inland zone. Jurisdiction over oil spill prevention and preparedness duties is determined by the potential sources (e.g., vessels, facilities, pipelines) of oil spills.



Date of Report: January 1
1, 2012
Number of Pages:
28
Order Number: R
L33705
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
.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mountaintop Mining: Background on Current Controversies


Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Mountaintop removal mining involves removing the top of a mountain in order to recover the coal seams contained there. This practice occurs in six Appalachian states (Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Ohio). It creates an immense quantity of excess spoil (dirt and rock that previously composed the mountaintop), which is typically placed in valley fills on the sides of the former mountains, burying streams that flow through the valleys. Critics say that, as a result of valley fills, stream water quality and the aquatic and wildlife habitat that streams support are destroyed by tons of rocks and dirt. The mining industry argues that mountaintop mining is essential to conducting surface coal mining in the Appalachian region and that surface coal mining would not be economically feasible there if producers were restricted from using valleys for the disposal of mining overburden.

Mountaintop mining is regulated under several laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

In June 2009, officials of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), and the Department of the Interior signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining a series of administrative actions under these laws to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of mountaintop mining and surface coal mining in Appalachia. The plan includes a series of near-term and longer-term actions that emphasize specific steps, improved coordination, and greater transparency of decisions. The actions are being implemented through regulatory proposals, guidance documents, and review of pending applications for permits to authorize surface coal mining operations in Appalachia. Viewed broadly, the Administration’s combined actions on mountaintop mining displease both industry and environmental advocates. The additional scrutiny of permits and more stringent requirements have angered the coal industry and many of its supporters. At the same time, while environmental groups support EPA’s steps to restrict the practice, many favor tougher requirements or even total rejection of mountaintop mining in Appalachia. This report provides background on regulatory requirements, controversies and legal challenges to mountaintop mining, and recent actions and proposals by the Administration.

Congressional interest in these issues also is discussed, including legislation in the 111th Congress seeking to restrict the practice of mountaintop mining and other legislation intended to block the Administration’s regulatory actions. Controversy has been generated by EPA’s January 2011 veto of a CWA permit that had been issued by the Corps for a surface coal mining project in West Virginia, and attention to the veto and other EPA actions has increased in the 112th Congress. Several bills have been introduced to clarify or restrict EPA’s authority to veto CWA permits issued by the Corps (H.R. 457/S. 272; H.R. 517; H.R. 960/S. 468; and H.R. 2018, which the House passed in July 2011).



Date of Report: January 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: RS21421
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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Controlling Air Emissions from Outer Continental Shelf Sources: A Comparison of Two Programs—EPA and DOI


Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Air emissions from outer continental shelf (OCS) operations are subject to different regulatory programs, depending on the location of the operation. The Department of the Interior (DOI) has jurisdiction over OCS sources in federal waters in the western Gulf of Mexico and most of the central Gulf. In addition, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74), transferred air emission authority in the OCS off Alaska’s north coast from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to DOI. EPA has jurisdiction over sources in all other federal waters.

The primary difference between the EPA and DOI programs is rooted in the different statutory authorities: the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) and the 1978 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The primary objectives of these statutes are different—air quality versus offshore energy development. The two regulatory programs reflect these underlying differences. For much of the past 30 years, these differences received little attention, primarily because most of the federal oil and gas resources in EPA’s jurisdiction have been subject to moratoria. In 2008, moratoria provisions expired, potentially opening many of the areas in EPA’s jurisdiction to oil and gas leasing activity. If more OCS areas in EPA’s jurisdiction are open for oil and gas leasing, policymakers interest in these differences will likely increase.

For OCS sources in EPA’s jurisdiction, requirements depend on whether the source is located within 25 miles of a state’s seaward boundary (“inner OCS sources”) or beyond (“outer OCS sources”). Inner OCS sources are subject to the same requirements as comparable onshore emission sources, which vary by state and depend on the area’s air quality status; outer sources are subject to various CAA provisions, including the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program. In contrast, OCS sources in DOI’s jurisdiction are subject to air emission requirements only if emissions would “significantly affect” onshore air quality.

A key difference between the EPA and DOI programs is the federal emission threshold that would subject a source to substantive requirements. For sources in EPA’s jurisdiction, this is the PSD threshold of 250 tons per year (tpy) of regulated emissions. Sources that exceed this level would likely be subject to Best Achievable Control Technology (BACT) and other provisions. States’ analogous thresholds that apply to inner OCS sources may be more stringent. By comparison, a DOI OCS source applies an exemption formula, based on distance from shore (e.g., a source 30 miles from shore would have an emission threshold of 990 tpy). If a source remains subject after this step, it must conduct air modeling to assess whether its emissions would have a significant affect on onshore air quality. In effect, this two-step process constitutes a much less stringent threshold than EPA’s 250 tpy threshold.

Another substantial difference is the time frame allotted to the agencies for reviewing a potential source’s permit (EPA) or activity-specific plan (DOI). In addition, the EPA permit process allows greater opportunity for input from the public. In particular, EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board offers parties a powerful tool to compel agency review.

Therefore, two identical operations, located in separate jurisdictions, could face considerably different requirements and procedural time frames. Some stakeholders would likely argue that the additional opportunities for public involvement in EPA’s permit process help create a balance between resource development and environmental concerns. Others would likely contend these steps present unnecessary burdens and timing uncertainty in the process.



Date of Report: January
9, 2012
Number of Pages:
33
Order Number: R4
2123
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.

Biological Opinions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: A Case Law Summary


Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

For decades biologists, water users, and lawmakers (both federal and state) have attempted to craft a system that meets the needs of California water users while ensuring sufficient usable water for fish. Under California’s hybrid system of appropriative water rights, users are issued permits for water diverted from rivers and streams regardless of the users’ proximity to the source of water. The state of California has issued permits to the Bureau of Reclamation (the Bureau) to store, divert, and deliver water from the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), which consists of facilities on the Sacramento, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Rivers, including the Shasta, New Melones, and Friant Dams. The Bureau diverts CVP and State Water Project (SWP) water from the southern portion of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern part of California. Although the amount of water available from the CVP/SWP is relatively constant, notwithstanding periods of drought and periods of excessive rain (e.g., El NiƱo years), the amount of water diverted from major rivers and their tributaries has increased over time, and fish populations have declined.

In the CVP/SWP watershed, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) protects multiple species or populations of fish, including the endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, the threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, the threatened Central Valley steelhead, the threatened Southern population of North American green sturgeon, and the threatened delta smelt. The ESA requires the Bureau to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (together, the Services) to see whether planned actions are likely to jeopardize a listed species or damage critical habitat. (FWS is consulted for impacts related to the Delta smelt. NMFS is consulted on potential impacts to salmon.) The consultation process concludes with the Service issuing a biological opinion (BiOp) along with an incidental take statement, allowing the federal action to proceed without prosecution for incidental harm to listed species. If the Service finds the action is likely to jeopardize a listed species, a jeopardy BiOp is issued, which will include reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) to the planned action to avoid extinction of a species. Otherwise a no-jeopardy BiOp is issued.

In 2004, the Long-Term Central Valley Project and State Water Project Operations Criteria and Plan (OCAP) was issued by California and the Bureau to meet the system’s water needs. Pursuant to OCAP, the Services issued both jeopardy and no-jeopardy opinions. Lawsuits challenged both types of BiOp. If jeopardy was found, water users argued that the BiOp failed to consider impacts on junior water users sufficiently. If no jeopardy was found, environmentalists and fishermen argued that the BiOp did not fully consider the extent of the harm to the species. Judge Oliver W. Wanger of the federal court for the Eastern District of California has found the BiOps or the RPAs to be inadequate for various reasons, including failing to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). (He retired from the bench at the end of September 2011.) Some of those decisions have since been appealed to the Ninth Circuit. This report summarizes the proceedings on the BiOps issued since 2004.



Date of Report: January
5, 2012
Number of Pages:
11
Order Number: R4
1876
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.