Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Toxics Release Inventory, Climate Hubs, WV Chemical Spill, Keystone XL Pipeline
Total releases of toxic chemicals decreased 12 percent from 2011-2012, according to the EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report. The decrease includes an eight percent decline in total toxic air releases, primarily due to reductions in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions. The 2012 data show that 3.63 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were either disposed or otherwise released into the environment through air, water, and land. There was also a decline in releases of HAPs such as hydrochloric acid and mercury, which continues a long-term trend.
The Obama administration will announce the formation of seven “climate hubs” to help farmers and rural communities adapt to extreme weather conditions and other effects of climate change, a White House official told Reuters. The hubs will act as information centers and aim to help farmers and ranchers handle risks, including fires, pests, floods and droughts, that are exacerbated by global warming. The hubs will be located in Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico, with “sub hubs” in Puerto Rico, California and Michigan.
West Virginians demanded information about the safety of their drinking water in the wake of a chemical spill in January that left 300,000 of them without safe tap water for more than a week. West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant asked lawmakers at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to support a 10-year study into the effects of the January 9 spill into the Elk River near Charleston, the state capital, according to Reuters. Residents around Charleston were left without drinking water for more than a week after a Freedom Industries tank leaked coal-processing chemicals into the river.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said Keystone XL advocates in the Senate have nearly enough votes to push through legislation that would set a hard 60-day deadline for President Obama to make a decision on the project, according to The Hill. Lawmakers are ready to pursue multiple options to push a decision on the pipeline after the State Department’s approval. Hoeven said he has 55 out of the required 60 votes to set a deadline, at a press conference on Keystone with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer and union leaders.
The EPA has given the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality authority over greenhouse gas permitting, ending a long battle between the federal agency and the state. Texas, the country’s leading producer of greenhouse gases, was the only state in 2010 that refused to meet new federal emission rules, placing some of the nation’s largest refineries in limbo. There will be a 30-day public comment period, the New York Times reports.
The US District Court in Omaha, Neb., has ordered Stabl Inc. to pay a $2,285,874 civil penalty for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Nebraska Environmental Protection Act at its Lexington, Neb., rendering facility. The Court supported findings by the EPA and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) that Stabl had a long history of serious violations and that Stabl’s efforts to comply with environmental regulations were minimal.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he plans to introduce a bill that would allow states to opt-out of EPA regulations on power plants. Inhofe said his Electricity Reliability and Affordability Act would allow states to determine which old power plants should be shut down rather than the federal government. Inhofe warned that if this cold weather persists and some power plants are shutdown, there might not be enough energy to meet demand during winter months, The Hill reports.
Global installed wind power capacity increased by 12.4 percent to more than 318 gigawatts in 2013 led by China and Canada, according to Reuters. Capacity rose from around 283 GW at the end of 2012, data from the Global Wind Energy Council showed. However, installations slowed in 2013 to about 35.5 GW, almost 10 GW less than a year earlier mostly on a drop in the United States.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a policy paper, “Prosperity at Home and Strengthened Allies Abroad — A Global Perspective on Natural Gas Exports,” detailing the economic and geopolitical benefits of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and outlining the actions necessary to realize them. The committee concludes that LNG exports offer the opportunity for the US to improve the domestic economy while providing allies and trading partners an affordable and secure energy source.
The House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water and Power will hold a hearing today on HR 3981, Accelerated Revenue, Repayment, and Surface Water Storage Enhancement Act, and HR 3980, Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act. The purpose is to amend the Secure Water Act of 2009 and to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to implement a surface water storage enhancement program.
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