Air

Tracking the latest agency and congressional debates over rules to cut emissions of traditional pollutants, and a broad range of novel EPA policies including the agency's shift to a "multipollutant" regulatory approach for individual sectors.

Topic Subtitle
Tracking the latest agency and congressional debates over rules to cut emissions of traditional pollutants, and a broad range of novel EPA policies including the agency's shift to a "multipollutant" regulatory approach for individual sectors.

CIRCUIT RULING MAY BROADEN EPA'S NAAQS DEADLINE AUTHORITY

A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit provides EPA broad discretion in giving a California area more time to meet a statutory clean air deadline, potentially granting the agency much more leeway in allowing additional time -- without penalty -- for other areas to meet national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), environmentalists say. The court agreed with EPA in Association of Irritated Residents v. EPA et al., that the agency has authority to extend...

WARMING RULING COULD HAVE BROAD IMPACT ON ENVIRONMENTAL TORT SUITS

A federal judge's decision last week to dismiss a landmark climate change lawsuit because it represented a "political question" could undermine a host of toxic tort claims that courts consider to be political issues, including pending cases dealing with contamination of the fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), environmentalists and some legal experts say. Because of this concern, the plaintiffs in State of Connecticut, et al. v. American Electric Power, et al. are planning an appeal to the U.S...

CALLS FOR CHANGES MAY COMPLICATE UPCOMING NORTHEAST CLIMATE PLAN

Northeast states are facing competing pressures from industry and consumer and environmental groups to make changes to what would be the nation's first mandatory plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as states work to finalize the program by the end of this month. Observers say the outside criticism may not necessarily delay the plan, but it could foreshadow complications when individual states develop implementing rules and legislation. At least one industry source predicts that states will face "the big...

INHOFE EYES HEARING TO DEBUNK CLIMATE CHANGE-HURRICANE INTENSITY LINK

Senate environment committee chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), a long-time skeptic of scientific claims that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change, will likely use already planned hearings to debunk recent claims by environmentalists that the effects of climate change increases the intensity of storms, like Hurricane Katrina. Supporters of Inhofe's effort say such a hearing could be aimed at preempting hearings by Senate proponents of climate controls, such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who may seek to bolster such a...

USDA FACES SUIT OVER RULE REQUIRING METHYL BROMIDE USE IN PACKAGING

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being sued by four states and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) over a rule that requires international shippers to kill pests by fumigating raw wood packaging using either heat treatment or the ozone-depleting substance methyl bromide. The plaintiffs say the rule could increase the use of the pesticide, which is at odds with the United States' participation in an international treaty to phase it out. The suit, filed Sept. 15 in federal...

UTAH, EPA DEAL SEEN AS ALTERNATIVE TO NATIONAL FARM EMISSIONS PLAN

The state of Utah and EPA Region VIII have signed an agreement to monitor air emissions as an alternative to a controversial nationwide settlement agreement that provides participants a temporary enforcement exemption from federal requirements. However, environmentalists who were left out of the Utah negotiations are questioning the deal. The state agreement, signed last month, does not provide the same legal protection as the national deal, but Utah farmers like it better because it also does not require them to...

ACTIVISTS CHALLENGE STATE, TRIBAL AUTHORITY TO ALLOW CROP BURNING

Environmentalists are mounting new challenges against EPA's approval of agricultural burning in the West, in pending litigation seeking to end the controversial practice that can lead to short-term spikes in fine particle (PM2.5) and air toxics emissions. One of the lawsuits challenges EPA for granting a state discretion to allow a practice that does not violate ambient air quality standards, but may lead to severe health impacts. And a second case could set a precedent in how much discretion the...

EPA FINE PARTICLE PROPOSAL INCLUDES CONTROVERSIAL EXEMPTIONS

EPA's long-awaited rule to implement new limits on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) appears likely to meet challenges from environmentalists, since it is less prescriptive than activists had urged and it relaxes some key requirements. Specifically, the rule does not require strict deadlines and pollution control requirements that activists have been seeking; it relaxes new source review (NSR) requirements in some areas compared to an earlier standard for large particles; and it eliminates another pollution control mandate, known as reasonably available...

EPA TO ADDRESS PM2.5 'HOT SPOTS' IN TRANSPORTATION CONFORMITY RULES

EPA will amend its transportation conformity plans for the agency's fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standards after acknowledging in a legal settlement with activists that the plans fail to address localized concentrations of PM2.5 known as "hot spots." EPA is taking comment on its proposal to issue regulatory amendments by March 31, 2006, as part of a Sept. 8 proposed settlement agreement in the case Environmental Defense et al. v. EPA , filed in the United States Court of Appeals for...

STATES EYE LIMITED TRADING IN MODEL FOR EXCEEDING EPA MERCURY RULE

State and local air officials may endorse limited emissions trading in an upcoming model rule for helping states adopt regulations more stringent than EPA's mercury regulation for electric utilities, acknowledging states that have developed or that may want to consider such flexibility for the industry. The possible option comes as part of a model rule likely to offer a number of options for exceeding EPA's requirements, with state and local air officials holding longstanding reservations over EPA's rule allowing comprehensive...

STATES, CONSUMER GROUPS SUE DOE OVER APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY UPGRADES

Fifteen states along with environmental and consumer groups filed suit against the Department of Energy (DOE) early this month over the department's failure to conduct mandatory upgrades of efficiency standards for 22 appliances, after they say DOE repeatedly promised to accelerate its appliance efficiency program but never did. The groups have been pressing DOE since 2001 to update the standards, as Congress mandated in the Energy Policy Conservation Act. They have met with former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and current...

MARYLAND UTILITY BILL SUPPORTERS SEEK TO SHAPE ELECTION DEBATE

Supporters of a Maryland power plant bill that would impose limits on carbon dioxide (CO2), mercury and other pollutants are hoping to make the bill a key issue in the upcoming governor's race in an attempt to boost chances for the bill's passage when the state legislature reconvenes in January. The bill could make Maryland one of very few states to regulate greenhouse gases, and it would also impose power plant mercury controls stricter than in EPA's controversial rule. While...

INDUSTRY ARGUES HAZE TRADING RULE FAILS TO COMPLY WITH COURT RULING

Industry officials are taking aim at an EPA proposal allowing Western states to set up an emissions trading program to comply with visibility requirements, at the same time that industry groups and environmentalists are challenging a separate visibility rule in court. The Center for Energy & Economic Development (CEED), a coalition of mining and electricity companies, filed Sept. 16 comments objecting to EPA's Aug. 1 proposal allowing states to set up a cap-and-trade program as an alternative to a command-and-control...

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP SUES EPA OVER FAILURE TO UPDATE NOX STANDARD

An environmental group filed suit against EPA Sept. 12 over the agency's failure to update the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for nitrogen oxides (NOx), which the group says the agency was required to conduct in 2001. The Clean Air Act mandates that EPA review and update NAAQS standards every five years but the agency has not reviewed NOx since 1996, according to the complaint. The case, Center for Biological Diversity v. Stephen L. Johnson, was filed in United...

ENGINE MAKERS, REFINERS FACE OFF ON POSSIBLE EPA DIESEL RULE WAIVER

Petrochemical refiners are urging EPA to relax sulfur limits in diesel fuel in response to hydrogen supply disruptions resulting from Hurricane Katrina. But engine manufacturers are opposing the effort, saying it may damage many engines and increase particulate matter emissions. The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association is talking to EPA about a possible waiver of a nationwide, year-round limit of 500 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur in diesel fuel because of damage to hydrogen supply operations along the Gulf...

Insurers Offer Risk-Reduction Strategy For Katrina Cleanups

Two subsidiaries of one of the nation's largest insurance sellers have outlined steps on handling hazardous wastes for businesses returning to areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina, in an effort to minimize the spread of pollution and limit the future liability of those businesses. The risk-management plan was prepared for companies that do not typically handle hazardous materials, such as building owners and service industries. At the same time, EPA has not issued guidance on handling and disposing of contaminated debris...

States Eye Limited Trading In Model Plan For Exceeding EPA Mercury Rule

State and local air officials may endorse limited emissions trading in an upcoming model rule for helping states adopt standards more stringent than EPA's mercury regulation for electric utilities, in response to states that have developed or that may want to consider such flexibility for the industry. The possible option comes as part of a model rule likely to offer a number of options for exceeding EPA's requirements, with state and local air officials holding longstanding reservations over EPA's rule...

Inhofe Hearing Will Challenge Global Warming-Hurricane Link

Senate environment committee chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), a long-time skeptic of scientific claims that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change, will likely use already planned hearings to debunk recent claims by environmentalists that the effects of climate change increases the intensity of storms, like Hurricane Katrina. Supporters of Inhofe's effort say such a hearing could be aimed at preempting hearings by Senate proponents of climate controls, such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who may seek to bolster such a...

Hydrogen Proponents Cite Katrina In Push For Clean-Fuel's Use

A group formed earlier in the year to promote hydrogen has launched a public relations network in response to energy disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina to encourage greater use and renewable sources of the cleaner-burning fuel. The group, Cleanpeace.org, is trying to build public pressure on U.S. policy leaders to encourage a hydrogen-based economy to reduce U.S. dependence on oil, which the group says threatens the entire economy as evidenced by the hurricane's devastating effects. Cleanpeace.org's new "virtual network," modeled...

EPA WEIGHS OPTIONS FOR ADDRESSING FUTURE VAPOR INTRUSION RISKS

EPA staff is considering strategies for determining potential risks from indoor chemical vapors from soil and groundwater -- known as vapor intrusion -- on polluted properties that may be redeveloped in the future, according to an agency source. Among the options under consideration are incorporating advice for detecting future contamination in a revised vapor intrusion guidance scheduled to be released later this year, or even developing a separate guidance on the issue at a later date. A draft EPA guidance...

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