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Environmental Policy & Regulatory Briefing: May 12, 2011

EPA is finalizing approval of revisions to the California Air Resources Board portion of the California State Implementation Plan (SIP). These revisions were proposed in the Federal Register on November 16, 2010 and concern volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from consumer products. We are approving a State rule that regulates these emission sources under the Clean Air Act as amended in 1990 (CAA or the Act). DATES: Effective Date: This rule is effective on June 13, 2011.

EPA is taking direct final action to approve a State Implementation Plan (SIP) revision submitted by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). This SIP revision includes amendments to Maryland’s regulation for Volatile Organic Compounds from Specific Processes and meets the requirement to adopt Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) for sources covered by EPA’s Control Techniques Guidelines (CTG) standards for large appliance coatings. These amendments will reduce emissions of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from large appliance coating facilities. This action is being taken under the Clean Air Act (CAA). DATES: This rule is effective on July 11, 2011 without further notice, unless EPA receives adverse written comment by June 13, 2011. If EPA receives such comments, it will publish a timely withdrawal of the direct final rule in the Federal Register and inform the public that the rule will not take effect.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce its decision to withdraw the proposed listing of the mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) as a threatened species under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After a thorough review of all available scientific and commercial information, it has determined that the species is not endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. It makes this determination because threats to the species as identified in the proposed rule are not as significant as earlier believed and currently available data do not indicate that the threats to the species and its habitat, as analyzed under the five listing factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, are likely to endanger the species in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. DATES: The December 5, 2002 (67 FR 72396), proposal to list the mountain plover as a threatened species is withdrawn as of May 12, 2011.

The EPA is inviting small businesses, governments and not-for-profit organizations to participate as Small Entity Representatives (SERs) for a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel to review risk and technology standards for secondary aluminum production facilities. The panel for the Secondary Aluminum Production Risk and Technology Review will focus on developing amendments to air toxic emissions standards for secondary aluminum production facilities. Secondary aluminum plants recover aluminum from scrap such as beverage cans and process aluminum combined with other materials to produce alloys that are made into new products. There are many small businesses included in this industry and this process gives these entities a voice early in the regulatory process. EPA seeks self-nominations directly from small entities that may be subject to the rules’ requirements. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs. Self-nominations may be submitted through the links below and must be received by May 20, 2011. EPA is under court order to propose standards for these sources in November 2011 and finalize them in August 2012. Nominate yourself here.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today notified the State of Illinois that water quality standards for portions of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers must be upgraded to protect the health and safety of people who recreate in these waterways. The changes are necessary because an increasing number of people are coming into direct contact with the water through kayaking, canoeing, boating, jet and water skiing and other forms of recreation. To attain the new water quality standards, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago will likely be required to disinfect sewage discharged into the waterway system from its North Side and Calumet treatment plants. MWRDGC ceased disinfection at these facilities in the mid-1980s. Today’s action directs the Illinois Pollution Control Board to promptly adopt new or revised water quality standards for the North and South Branches of the Chicago River, the North Shore Channel, the Cal-Sag Channel and the Little Calumet River. If the board does not act, the Clean Water Act authorizes U.S. EPA to do so. Since 2007, U.S. EPA has repeatedly recommended that Illinois upgrade water quality standards for the waterway system. For information on the determination and to view a map showing the affected segments of the Chicago Area Waterway System, go here.

Partners and stakeholders of the U.S.–Mexico Border 2012 National Coordinators announced the initiation of a $13.9 million project, including $4 million from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), for the joint development of a Regional Framework for Sustainable Use of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande and to address environmental issues. In recognition of the 1,800 mile long transboundary river, officials from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Mexico Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) announced the initiation the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande project to address environmental issues and develop a binational plan. The project includes development of a protocol assessment, a transboundary diagnostic analysis (TDA) and a plan for preventive measures. The four year binational project aims to improve the understanding of the natural resources, societal waters needs and associated response strategies. The partners are now coordinating efforts for the Border 2020 initiative which will encompass Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Durango of Mexico and Colorado, New Mexico and Texas of the U.S. For more information on the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande Project, go here.

U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck traveled to New York’s Great Swamp in Brewster, N.Y. to discuss the importance of clean water and a draft guidance developed by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify which waters are subject to protection under the Clean Water Act. On April 27, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released “Draft Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act” for a 60-day public comment period. This draft guidance clarifies how EPA and the Corps will identify “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. It implements the Supreme Court’s decisions in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States. Headwater streams comprise 20 percent of the 3,800 miles of streams in the New York City watershed. Roughly 15 percent of the watershed’s nearly 25,000 acres of wetlands and ponds are linked to downstream reservoirs by streams that flow only part of the year and, as such, are potentially unprotected based on current Clean Water Act guidance. EPA anticipates that the new guidance will enhance protection of these wetlands and headwater streams in most watersheds. To read the draft guidance and for information on how to submit a comment, go here.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1229, the Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act, with a vote of 263 to 163. The legislation was introduced by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to form a partnership of federal agencies to address America’s growing water resources challenges.

To meet this demand for information, the Collaborative Science, Services and Tools to Support Integrated and Adaptive Water Resources Management MOU signed today will facilitate addressing water information needs including the creation of high-resolution forecasts of water resources showing where water for drinking, industry and ecosystems will be available. In addition, integrated water information will provide one-stop shopping through a database portal to support stakeholders in managing water resources.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, has announced her selection of Jerry Melillo as chair, and Terese Richmond and Gary Yohe as vice chairs of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee. Ten others representing industry, academia and government were named to an executive board. The committee’s members include individuals from academia, the private sector, local and state government, and the non-profit sector from 22 states. A full list of members and participants is available here. All meetings are open to the public and opportunities for public input will be provided. Meetings and other information can be found online.

The third U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) meeting was held May 9–10 in Washington, D.C. An outcome of the S&ED relates to their cooperation on observing greenhouse gases and a renewed dialogue on bilateral fisheries and ocean management. The countries agreed to establish regular bilateral fisheries consultations that will focus on conserving and managing marine living resources, expanding current efforts in high-seas fisheries enforcement and combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The United States and China also agreed to build upon existing agreements reached at the 18th SOA-NOAA Joint Working Group Meeting on Cooperation on Marine and Fishery Science and Technology to formulate the U.S.-China 2011–2015 Framework Plan for Ocean and Fishery Science and Technology Cooperation. This framework would guide the future cooperation between China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) and NOAA and promote further development of a U.S.-China large-scale multidisciplinary joint program for the Indian and Southern Oceans in the near future. This joint program will be focused on increasing our understanding of the role of the oceans in climate variability and change and support management needs. The two countries further agreed to enhanced cooperation on greenhouse gas observing in China. This will strengthen joint research between the Chinese Meteorological Administration (CMA) and NOAA to develop accurate and reliable capabilities for observing and understanding the behavior of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

US EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld took actions yesterday proposing to determine that the Sacramento Federal One-hour Ozone Nonattainment Area achieved attainment and to defer sanctions. The actions will be published in the Federal Register within two weeks, beginning a 30-day comment period. If no comments are received, EPA can make the action final. The deferral of sanctions would be effective upon their publication. The sanctions, which will now be stayed, would have included increased permitting requirements and withholding of federal highway funds. A key hurdle for the Air District was the granting of an “Exceptional Event Request” for high ozone days during the June and July wildfires of 2008. Large amounts of smoke in the Sacramento Region pushed ozone over Federal One-hour limits. The District, along with the California Air Resources Board, effectively made the case that in the absence of that smoke, the Region would have met the standard. This marks the first time the US EPA has granted such a request.

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