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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: EPA Drops Study, Groups Sue Over Smog

EPA testing - Pavillion WyThe EPA yesterday dropped plans to further study the effect of natural gas drilling on a Wyoming aquifer. A draft agency report in late 2011 found that hydraulic fracturing fluid had likely contaminated groundwater, a finding that prompted an industry backlash. Following several delays, the EPA now says it will not finalize the report but will instead let Wyoming take over the investigation, Reuters reports.

The American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club are suing to force the EPA to review its smog standards. The plaintiffs want the court to set a deadline by which the agency would have to review current limits for ozone, set in 2008. The EPA has already missed a deadline of last March for finishing its current review, the Hill reports.

States and environmental groups said they will delay plans to sue the EPA, after reports that President Obama will soon announce actions to address climate change, Power Engineering reports. New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, had announced their intent to sue the EPA over the agency’s failure to finalize carbon standards for new power plants.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of attorneys general from 21 states, including Virginia, Ohio, Florida and Kentucky, warned acting EPA administrator Bob Perciasepe not to let legal threats force the agency into releasing the rules. “Appropriate process should not be subjugated, and effective policymaking cannot be forced to fruition, by threatening litigation,” the attorneys general said in their letter, according to The Hill.

The EPA is inviting small businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations to participate as small entity representatives for a review panel focused on the agency’s proposed New Source Performance Standards for municipal solid waste landfills. Self-nominations may be submitted through this link. 

Legislators in California said they want more information about the oil industry’s use of acid to increase flows in wells, a method used more often than fracking in that state, Reuters said. State senator Fran Pavley is drafting legislation to regulate fracking and is considering broadening the bill to include the use of acid.

Republicans in the House proposed cutting the Energy Department’s renewable energy spending nearly in half next year, to $1 billion, from $1.9 billion this year. The cut is part of an Energy and Water appropriations bill, the Hill says.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it doesn’t plan a broad study on the environmental effects of exporting coal from the western US, quashing hopes of environmentalists and some elected officials, who have called on the federal government to examine rail shipments of coal from Montana and Wyoming to west coast ports. They argue that the shipments are having a negative effect through coal dust pollution, traffic congestion and greenhouse gases from coal burning, the Seattle Times reports.

Texas legislators have suggested creating an online database of businesses storing dangerous chemicals. The plan was sparked by the fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people in the town of West, Texas in April.

G8 leaders have repeated their pledge to cut emissions from international air travel, calling on nations to agree a global deal in September using both market and non-market-based measures, Point Carbon Reports.

Exide Technologies, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and recyclers of lead acid batteries, will be able to reopen a California plant while waiting for the outcome of a court hearing next month, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled. The Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered Exide to suspend operations April 24. It said the plant’s arsenic emissions posed “an unacceptable risk to public health,” and that the facility was leaking hazardous waste.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce advanced four pieces of environmental legislation: H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, which would replace EPA coal ash regulations with a state-based program; H.R. 2226, the Federal and State Partnership for Environmental Protection Act, which aims to increases states’ participation in the Superfund process; H.R. 2279, the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, which removes solid waste deadlines that bill backers describe as impractical and unnecessary; and H.R. 2318, which would require federal facilities to comply with relevant state and local laws during the CERCLA process.

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