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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Enacted and Proposed Oil Spill Legislation in the 112th Congress



Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Recent oil spills, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, generated an increased level of interest in oil spill legislation during the 112th Congress. This report identifies enacted and proposed legislation from the 112th Congress that pertains to oil spillrelated issues. For this report, oil spill-related issues include oil spill policy matters that concern prevention, preparedness, response, liability and compensation, and Gulf of Mexico restoration. In the context of this report, oil spill issues do not generally include matters pertaining to offshore leasing and drilling.

The 112
th Congress enacted two statutes that contain oil spill-related provisions. On January 3, 2012, the President signed P.L. 112-90 (the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011), which


  • increases civil penalties for violating safety requirements and requires automatic and remote-controlled shutoff valves on newly constructed transmission pipelines; 
  • directs the Department of Transportation to analyze leak detection systems, and after a review by Congress, issue requirements based on this analysis; and 
  • requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to review whether current regulations are sufficient to regulate pipelines transmitting "diluted bitumen," and analyze whether such oil presents an increased risk of release. 


On July 6, 2012, the President signed P.L. 112-141 (MAP-21), which includes a subtitle referred to as the RESTORE Act. The RESTORE Act establishes the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund in the General Treasury. Eighty percent of any administrative and civil Clean Water Act Section 311 penalties paid by responsible parties in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill will provide the revenues for the fund. Amounts in the fund will be available for expenditure without further appropriation.

The RESTORE Act distributes monies to various entities through multiple processes:


  • 35% divided equally among the five Gulf of Mexico states to be applied toward one or more of 11 designated activities; 
  • 30% provided to a newly created Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to finance ecosystem restoration activities in the Gulf Coast region; 
  • 30% disbursed by the Council to the five Gulf states, based on specific criteria: shoreline impact; oiled shoreline distance from the Deepwater Horizon rig; and coastal population. Each state must submit a plan for approval, documenting how funding will support one or more of the 11 designated activities; and 
  • 5% to support marine research and related purposes.



Date of Report: January 16, 2013
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41684
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Water Quality Management: A Compendium



Dominating this 500+ page Compendium are extensive sections covering implementation of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. A third equally extensive section focuses on water infrastructure.

The two federal laws, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, provide the framework for the nation’s efforts to provide safe and healthy water to its citizens. Although much progress has been made towards the goals established in these laws, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Specific areas of interest include whether additional steps are necessary to achieve the overall goals of these acts; how to meet the costs and technological challenges of providing safe drinking water and cleaning the flow of used water from a community; and what is the appropriate federal role in guiding and paying for safe and healthy water and other activities.

Over the last 35 years, federal, state and local governments, and private utilities have invested more than $100 billion in water infrastructure in order to attain the goals of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet remaining funding needs are projected to be as much as $660 billion over the next two decades. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if there is no increase in investment, there will be about an $11 billion annual gap between current capital expenditures for water infrastructure (which total $23 billion annually) and projected spending needs. Analysts predict that, barring major breakthroughs in technology, investment costs will rise for decades to come as more of the existing water infrastructure deteriorates. Many systems simultaneously face the need to increase security measures and to construct treatment plants to remove newly regulated drinking water contaminants. At issue are how to meet funding needs and what are the appropriate public and private sector roles in doing so. State, municipal, and rural stakeholders have called for greater federal investment in water infrastructure, while others (including privately owned water utilities) have argued for greater self-reliance.

Date of Report: January 8, 2013
Number of Pages:544
Order Number: C12020
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Clean Air Issues in the 113th Congress: An Overview



James E. McCarthy
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Air quality has improved substantially in the United States in the 40 years of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act regulation. According to the agency’s science advisers and others, however, more needs to be done to protect public health and the environment from the effects of air pollution. Thus, the agency continues to promulgate regulations using authority given it by Congress in amendments to the Clean Air Act more than 20 years ago. In the 112th Congress, Members from both parties raised questions about the cost-effectiveness of some of these regulations and/or whether the agency had exceeded its statutory 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. Similar issues are likely to be raised in the 113th Congress.

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 three years, EPA has developed GHG emission standards 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, the agency promulgated GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks on May 7, 2010, and October 15, 2012, and for larger trucks, on September 15, 2011. The implementation of these standards, in turn, triggered permitting and Best Available Control Technology requirements for new major stationary sources of GHGs (power plants, manufacturing facilities, etc.).

It is the triggering of standards for stationary sources 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. The House passed several of these bills in the 112
th Congress, but none of them passed the Senate.

Besides addressing climate change, EPA has taken action on a number of other air pollution regulations, generally in response to court actions remanding previous rules. Remanded rules 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 has addressed the court remands through new regulations, but many in Congress view these regulations as overly stringent. In the 112
th Congress, the House passed four bills (H.R. 2250, H.R. 2401, H.R. 2681, and H.R. 3409) to delay or revoke the new standards and change the statutory requirements for their replacements. None of these passed the Senate.

In addition to these 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 and EPA’s review process have also faced opposition in Congress. As passed by the House in the 112
th Congress, H.R. 2401 and H.R. 3409 would have amended the Clean Air Act to require EPA to consider feasibility and cost in setting NAAQS, reversing a unanimous 2001 Supreme Court decision that the law requires standards based on health considerations alone. The Senate did not pass either measure.


Date of Report: January 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R42895
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Water Quality Issues in the 113th Congress: An Overview



Claudia Copeland
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established 40 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 aid for municipal wastewater treatment projects. House and Senate committees have approved bills to reauthorize CWA assistance on several occasions since the 107
th Congress, but, for various reasons, no legislation other than appropriations 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 nearly $300 billion.

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.

A number of other CWA issues have 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. Some issues have drawn policymakers’ attention following court rulings that addressed and in several cases expanded the regulatory scope of water quality protection efforts under the law. 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 has been reflected in specific legislative proposals and debate over policy provisions of legislation to provide appropriations for EPA. In the 112
th Congress, Members from both parties raised questions about the cost-effectiveness of some of EPA’s actions and/or whether the agency has exceeded its authority. Similar attention to these issues is anticipated in the 113th Congress. .


Date of Report: December 18, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R42883
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Federal Regulation of Chemicals in Commerce: An Overview of Issues for the 113th Congress



Linda-Jo Schierow
Specialist in Environmental Policy

The useful properties of chemicals provide many benefits to consumers and bolster the U.S. economy, but these benefits may come with a price, as exposure to certain chemicals can lead to adverse effects on human health or the environment. This report briefly describes selected issues related to regulation of chemicals in commerce by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are of potential interest to the 113th Congress.

Concerns about the complexity, cost, and delays in regulating chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) have prompted proposals (such as S. 847 in the 112
th Congress) to amend the 1976 statute. Some would provide EPA with specific authority and mandates to ensure adequate management of chemical risks. Others would amend particular provisions, leaving most of the law intact. TSCA reform is a high priority for some in the 113th Congress.

Another issue is whether to expand or restrict EPA’s authority to require public disclosure of chemical information under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) or TSCA. Bills in the 112
th Congress (H.R. 1084 and S. 587) would have required oil and gas producers to disclose identities of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Other administrative and legislative initiatives also would have mandated more public disclosure.

The integrity of scientific advice provided to EPA may be another salient issue. Some in the 112
th Congress expressed concern about the composition of EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). H.R. 6564 would have required a rebalancing of “the scientific and technical points of view represented.” EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) has been criticized by some for being out of date and incomplete, while the process of conducting chemical risk assessments is said to be slow. The National Research Council (NRC) made recommendations to improve IRIS reports in 2011, and Congress directed EPA to “incorporate, as appropriate,” NRC recommendations and to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct several reviews of IRIS assessments, including one for inorganic arsenic.

Pesticides issues generally are resolved under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which directs EPA to regulate the sale and use of pesticides through registration of products. The 112
th Congress was interested in apparent overlap between FIFRA and the Clean Water Act (CWA). At issue is whether FIFRA is sufficient alone to ensure protection of water quality or whether certain pesticide applications require a CWA permit. In response to a court order, EPA issued a general permit requiring applicators to minimize pesticide discharges to waters. House-passed H.R. 872 would have exempted aerial pesticide application activities from water permit requirements. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry approved the bill in June 2011.

Another issue of potential interest is whether to amend both TSCA and FIFRA to accommodate certain international agreements intended to reduce production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) globally. S. 847, as reported in the 112
th Congress, would have added a new section to TSCA authorizing actions allowing U.S. implementation of the three international agreements.

Finally, as it considers appropriations, Congress may actively consider what amount of federal grant money should be made available to address lead-based paint hazards in older homes.



Date of Report: January 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: R42879
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