Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Chemical Safety, EMD Millipore Fine, GOP Tries to Slow Executive
The House this morning approved the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, 232-183, largely along party lines, hours before the chamber was due to adjourn for recess. The bill requires both chambers of Congress to sign off on any federal rules costing more than $100 million a year, the Hill reports.
President Obama yesterday ordered federal agencies to review safety rules for chemical facilities across the country, and called for federal, state and local agencies to better coordinate their regulation, USA Today reports. The order comes three and a half months after a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, that killed 15 people.
The House yesterday approved HR 1582, the Energy Consumers Relief Act, by a vote 232 to 181. The legislation requires that before EPA finalizes any new energy-related rules estimated to cost more than $1 billion, the agency must submit a report to Congress detailing certain cost, benefit, energy price, and job impacts; and the secretary of energy, in consultation with other agencies, must make a determination regarding the rule’s impacts.
The House also approved an amendment to prevent the EPA from factoring the social cost of carbon into its regulations, unless a federal law is enacted that specifically allows that cost to be considered. Congressmen voted 234-178 for the rule, with fifteen Democrats voting for and just three Republicans against, the Hill reports.
Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline leak, which spilled about 5,000 barrels of crude in Mayflower, Arkansas in March, appears to have been caused by a decades-old manufacturing defect, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said yesterday. The regulator said the pipeline will stay shut until it can be safely restarted, Reuters reported.
France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, overturned a government ban on growing Monsanto’s MON810 genetically modified corn. This was the second time in two years that the council revoked the French government’s ban on the crop, and was expected following a preliminary hearing earlier this month, Reuters reports.
EMD Millipore, a division of Merck, has agreed to pay $2,681,500 in civil penalties to settle EPA allegations that it violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) on numerous occasions since 2008 by producing, importing, distributing and selling pesticidal devices in violation of federal requirements. The devices were used in laboratories for research, development and manufacturing purposes, the agency says. It is the second-largest civil penalty ever paid in an EPA enforcement case under FIFRA.
Chevron has agreed to pay a $384,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, including Prevention of Significant Deterioration permitting requirements, at its Salt Lake City refinery. Chevron will install pollution controls on three engines at the refinery and will spend $100,000 to help buy four compressed natural gas buses for a local school district. The EPA and the state of Utah found that Chevron made changes to its fluid catalytic cracker unit resulting in excess emissions of nitrogen oxides.
Ventura Foods of Ontario, Calif., has agreed to pay $157,900 for violations of federal regulations including failing to notify the proper officials immediately following the release of anhydrous ammonia, failure to submit a required Risk Management Plan, and inadequate chemical accident prevention, the EPA said. Agency investigators found that the facility had had over 24 ammonia releases since December 2007, with most of the releases caused by flaws in the design and operation of systems.
President Obama is likely to sign two hydropower permitting bills that hit his desk yesterday. HR 267/S 545, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, would extend a federal licensing extension to projects of up to 10,000 kW, from a 5,000 kW ceiling now, among other measures. HR 678/S 306 would allow small hydropower projects at waterways owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Hill reports.
The House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday approved HR 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, with a 23-15 vote. Backers say the bill would prohibit the Interior Department from enforcing federal hydraulic fracturing regulations in any state that already has regulations, and recognizes states’ authority to regulate this type of activity.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved three nominations for the EPA by voice vote: Kenneth Kopocis for assistant administrator for the Office of Water; James Jones for assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention; and Avi Garbow for general counsel. Seven Senators asked to be recorded as “no” votes for Kopocis’s nomination. The nominations now go to the full Senate.
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