Policy & Enforcement Briefing: SCOTUS Refuses Coal Appeal, Phillips 66 Fined, Anadarko Wins
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Mingo Logan, a subsidiary of Arch Coal, which had challenged the EPA’s decision to veto the Spruce No. 1 mine, the Hill reports. EPA blocked the mine in 2011, four years after the project won its mineral-dumping permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Meanwhile, in response to what they see as the EPA “grossly overstepping” its boundaries, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014. The bill would prohibit the EPA from preemptively or retroactively vetoing permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
Air pollution is the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, killing about 7 million people in 2012, the World Health Organization said. This toll is double previous estimates, and it equals one in eight of all global deaths that year, Reuters reports.
Traffic has started to resume through the Houston Ship Channel following last weekend’s spill, the Coast Guard said. But crews are continuing to remove oil from the scene, according to the New York Times.
Phillips 66 Company has agreed to retire over 21 billion sulfur credits that could have been used in the production of gasoline, and will pay a $500,000 penalty for violations of the Clean Air Act, the EPA said. In an administrative settlement agreement, the EPA alleged that the company generated invalid sulfur credits between 2006 and 2012. The EPA also alleged that the company failed to comply with recordkeeping, reporting, sampling, and testing requirements at a number of refineries and terminals.
The House has passed HR 2824, Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America, in a vote of 229-192. The bill would require the Obama administration to use a Bush-era rule that regulators had dropped and replaced with new coal mining regulations, the Hill reports. Meanwhile, House Natural Resources Committee chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) issued a subpoena to Department of the Interior deputy inspector general Mary Kendall for an unredacted copy of the Office of Inspector General report on the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement’s efforts to rewrite the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding an oversight hearing today on the EPA’s fiscal year 2015 budget. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy is scheduled to testify.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) subpoenaed EPA administrator Gina McCarthy for documents related to the agency’s rejection of a permit for the Pebble mining project near Bristol Bay, Alaska, the Hill reports.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier found that Anadarko Petroleum was not culpable in the well-drilling operations that led to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Ohio-based coal company Murray Energy filed suit against the EPA in the US District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, arguing that the agency had failed to consider how many people in the coal industry would lose their jobs due to regulatory and enforcement actions under the Clean Air Act, the Times Leader reports.
Eleven EU nations broke air pollution limits in 2012, up from 10 in 2011, the European Environment Agency said. Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Spain exceeded nitrogen oxide limits. Denmark and Finland broke ammonia limits. Luxembourg was the only country to break the volatile organic compound limit, Reuters reports.
The House Natural Resources Committee is holding an oversight hearing today titled, “Collision Course: Oversight of the Obama Administration’s Enforcement Approach for America’s Wildlife Laws and Its Impact on Domestic Energy.” US Fish and Wildlife Service director Daniel Ashe is due to testify.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee urging a “no” vote on the nomination of Rhea Suh to be assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at the Department of Interior. Vitter says Suh has a record of opposition to natural gas and other energy production projects.
Five companies in Washington have agreed to correct errors in reporting hazardous chemicals as required by federal laws designed to protect communities during chemical emergencies, the EPA says. The companies failed to report the storage of hazardous chemicals in violation of the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act, according to settlements with the agency. Thermo Fluids will pay a $155,400 fine, TruGreen L.P. will pay $53,300, CLP Enchanted Village will pay $16,347, Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company will pay $15,600, and Targa Sound Terminal will pay $13,435.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking more information from Global Partners, which plans to expand Hudson River facilities routing rail shipments of crude oil from North Dakota and western Canada to refineries. The agency is also extending a public comment period by one month to June 2, the New York Times reports. At the same time, the department is asking the EPA to update an oil spill contingency plan, due to the rapid increase of oil-by-rail shipments along this corridor, the AP reports.
Jim Bacchus, the former chairman of the World Trade Organization’s appeals panel, told a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel that the current federal review process for liquefied natural gas exports could violate international law because it gives special treatment to some countries, The Hill reports.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, led the committee’s GOP senators in a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, asking the agency to justify a proposal to cut a fund for state drinking water investments by 24 percent. “It appears that EPA is counting on Congress’s support for the program to sustain its funding levels, in order to create the illusion of fiscal responsibility,” the senators said.
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