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Friday, March 23, 2012

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. In the first session of this Congress, the House 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.

EPA has taken action on a number of other air pollutant regulations, too, 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 (“MACT”) standards for boilers and cement kilns. EPA is addressing the court remands through new regulations, four of which have already been promulgated, but many in Congress view the new regulations as overly stringent. 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, and H.R. 1633 would prevent EPA from setting standards for ambient concentrations of rural dust.



Date of Report: March 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R41563
Price: $29.95

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International Climate Change Financing: The Climate Investment Funds (CIF)


Richard K. Lattanzio
Analyst in Environmental Policy

The United States contributes funding to various international financial institutions to assist developing countries to address global climate change and other environmental concerns. Congress is responsible for several activities in this regard, including (1) authorizing periodic appropriations for U.S. financial contributions to the institutions, and (2) overseeing U.S. involvement in the programs. Issues of congressional interest include the overall development assistance strategy of the United States, U.S. leadership in global environmental and economic affairs, and U.S. commercial interests in trade and investment. This report provides an overview of two of the larger and more recently instituted international financial institutions for the environment—the Climate Investment Funds (CIF)—and analyzes their structure, funding, and objectives in light of the many challenges within the contemporary landscape of global environmental finance.

The CIF 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 CIF 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 longterm 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, climate-resilient development. Overall, donor countries have pledged $6.5 billion to the funds since September 2008 in support of programs in 45 developing countries. The U.S. pledge totals $2 billion. For FY2010, Congress approved $375 million for the CIF (the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, H.R. 3288; P.L. 111-117); for FY2011, Congress approved $234.5 million (the Department of Defense and Full- Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, H.R. 1473; P.L. 112-10); and for FY2012, Congress approved $234.5 million (the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, H.R. 2055; P.L. 112-74). For FY2013, the Administration has requested $235 million for the fund.

The CIF are just one set of financial mechanisms in a larger network of international programs designed to address the global environment. Accordingly, 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 CIF point to several factors in support of the funds, including an innovative programmatic design, a country-led 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, and its possession of fiduciary standards and institutional expertise. However, critics highlight several factors of concern with the CIF and their Trustee, 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 is considered a conflict of interest for environmental protection.



Date of Report: March
1, 2012
Number of Pages:
21
Order Number:
R41302
Price: $29.95

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International Environmental Financing: The Global Environment Facility (GEF)


Richard K. Lattanzio
Analyst in Environmental Policy

The United States contributes funding to various international financial institutions to assist developing countries to address global climate change and other environmental concerns. Congress is responsible for several activities in this regard, including (1) authorizing periodic appropriations for U.S. financial contributions to the institutions, and (2) overseeing U.S. involvement in the programs. Issues of congressional interest include the overall development assistance strategy of the United States, U.S. leadership in global environmental and economic affairs, and U.S. commercial interests in trade and investment. This report provides an overview of one of the oldest international financial institutions for the environment—the Global Environment Facility (GEF)—and analyzes its structure, funding, and objectives in light of the many challenges within the contemporary landscape of global environmental finance.

GEF is an independent and international financial organization that provides grants, promotes cooperation, and fosters actions in developing countries to protect the global environment. Established in 1991, it unites 180 member governments and partners with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to assist developing countries with environmental projects related to six areas: biodiversity, climate change, international waters, the ozone layer, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants. GEF receives funding from multiple donor countries—including the United States—and provides grants to cover the additional or “incremental” costs associated with transforming a project with national benefits into one with global environmental benefits. In this way, GEF funding is structured to “supplement” base project funding and provide for the environmental components in national development agendas. GEF partners with several international agencies, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), among others, and is the primary fund administrator for four Rio (Earth Summit) Conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). GEF also establishes operational guidance for international waters and ozone activities, the latter consistent with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and its amendments. Since its inception, GEF has allocated $10 billion—supplemented by more than $47 billion in cofinancing— for more than 2,800 projects in 168 countries.

GEF is one mechanism in a larger network of international programs designed to address the global environment. Accordingly, its effectiveness depends on how the fund addresses programmatic issues, builds upon national investment plans, reacts to recent developments in the financial landscape, and responds to emerging opportunities. Critics contend that the existing system has had limited impact in addressing major environmental concerns—specifically climate change and tropical deforestation—and has been unsuccessful in delivering global transformational change. A desire to achieve more immediate impacts has led to a restructuring of the Multilateral Development Banks’ (MDBs’) role in environmental finance and the introduction of many new bilateral and multilateral funding initiatives. The future of GEF remains in the hands of the donor countries, including the United States, that can choose to broaden the mandate and/or strengthen its institutional arrangements or reduce and replace it by other bilateral or multilateral funding mechanisms.



Date of Report: March
1, 2012
Number of Pages:
29
Order Number:
R41165
Price: $29.95

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Oil Spill Legislation in the 112th Congress


Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Congressional interest in oil spill legislation has historically waxed and waned. In the wake of recent oil spills, some Members have expressed an increased level of interest in oil spill legislation. At other times, when petroleum prices are high and oil spills are a more distant memory, oil spill issues have typically generated minimal interest among policymakers.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to generate some interest in a variety of oil spill-related issues. In addition, two recent pipeline spills—Kalamazoo River (2010) and Yellowstone River (2011)—have spurred related interest.

This report identifies legislation that addresses oil spill-related issues. For the purposes of this report, oil spill-related issues include 

·         oil spill prevention, 
·         oil spill preparedness, 
·         oil spill response, 
·         oil spill liability and compensation, and 
·         Gulf Coast restoration. 
|For the most part, the underlying statutes for these provisions are found in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA; 33 U.S.C. §§2701 et seq.), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and its amendments (33 U.S.C. §§1251 et seq.), or the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and its amendments (43 U.S.C. §§1331 et seq.).

On January 3, 2012, the President signed as P.L. 112-90 one bill with oil spill-related provisions—H.R. 2845 (the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011). Among other provisions, this act increases civil penalties for violating safety requirements and requires automatic and remote-controlled shutoff valves on newly constructed transmission pipelines. It also directs the Department of Transportation to analyze leak detection systems, and after a review by Congress, issue requirements based on this analysis.

The House passed H.R. 3408 (the PIONEERS Act) on February 15, 2012, which, among other provisions, would create a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund in the U.S. Treasury, financed by 80% of any Deepwater Horizon-related penalties, settlements, and fines under CWA Section 311. The Trust Fund could be used to support Gulf Coast restoration—both natural resources and the regional economy. Unlike similar legislative proposals, monies in the Trust Fund would not be immediately available, but would require further congressional action to appropriate the funds.

In the Senate, the Committee on Environment and Public Works reported S. 1400 (the RESTORE Act) on December 11, 2011 (S.Rept. 112-100). This legislation would distribute potential CWA penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to support various objectives, including restoration projects and economic development in the Gulf states.

Although not within the scope of this report, some Members have offered proposals that seek to spur offshore oil exploration and development. One bill with such provisions was enacted and several other such bills passed the House.



Date of Report: February 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41684
Price: $29.95

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