Groups jockeying to shape EPA water rule

Read the full story in The Hill.

More than 100 advocates representing dozens of industry groups, companies and environmental organizations are flocking to the White House in a last-ditch effort to influence controversial regulations that would redefine the reach of the federal government’s water pollution enforcement.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has in recent days disclosed 16 meetings about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal since early April, when the OMB started its final regulatory review of the plan.

Critics Hear E.P.A.’s Voice in ‘Public Comments’

Read the full story in the New York Times.

When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a major new rule intended to protect the nation’s drinking water last year, regulators solicited opinions from the public. The purpose of the “public comment” period was to objectively gauge Americans’ sentiment before changing a policy that could profoundly affect their lives.

Gina McCarthy, the agency’s administrator, told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received more than one million comments, and nearly 90 percent favored the agency’s proposal. Ms. McCarthy is expected to cite those comments to justify the final rule, which the agency plans to unveil this week.

But critics say there is a reason for the overwhelming result: The E.P.A. had a hand in manufacturing it.

Minnesota ban on fire retardants would be toughest in nation

Read the full story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Minnesota legislators are on the verge of approving the nation’s most restrictive use of flame-retardant chemicals in furniture and an array of household items such as textiles, mattresses and children’s products.

State firefighters have been pushing for legislation that would phase out the use of 10 such chemicals, saying they are ineffective in slowing the spread of fire and contain toxins that are sickening responders. Monday’s compromise, reached among the firefighters, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and chemical companies, would phase out the manufacture and sale of four commonly used flame retardants.

Quest to eliminate chemical flame retardants from Californian homes is far from over, experts say

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A California regulation effectively eliminated the need for chemical flame retardants in furniture in November 2013. Two years later, though, experts say the quest to eliminate the retardants from the home is far from over.

While flame retardant chemicals have been taken out of furniture, many of the same chemicals are still required in building insulation and other products. Some of these compounds – particularly halogenated and organophosphorous flame retardants, which are commonly used in a variety of consumer and industrial products – have raised a host of health concerns. The US Environmental Protection Agency, among others, has linked them to a variety of health conditions, including endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, and cancer.

Hearing on pollinator health comes as EPA, USDA spar

Read the full story from E&E Daily.

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research will hold a hearing on pollinator health this week, the first in more than a year.

Two sources have said the witnesses will be Jim Jones, assistant administrator for U.S. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Control, and Robert Johansson, acting chief economist for the Agriculture Department, although the House Agriculture Committee was unable to confirm the witness list late Friday afternoon. EPA and USDA are the two coordinating agencies for the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, which President Obama launched nearly a year ago (Greenwire, June 20, 2014).

See also USDA, EPA deny bad blood over controversial soybean analysis, which has a report on the hearing itself.

Federal Implementation Plans for Controlling Carbon Emissions from Existing Power Plants: A Primer Exploring the Issues

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Much has been made of late about EPA’s authority to develop federal implementation plans (FIPs) to achieve the state-based GHG emissions reduction targets the agency is preparing establish under Clean Power Plan. Led by Senator Mitch McConnell, objectors have loudly urged states not to submit plans at all. Instead, they have argued, states need not be concerned about EPA imposing FIPs on their states. In turn, EPA has announced that it will release a draft federal implementation plan this summer.

Since 1970, Section 110 the Clean Air Act has required EPA to implement a FIP if a state implementation plan (SIP) fails to include measures that will assure attainment of the national ambient air quality standards. The FIP/SIP dynamic under Section 110 is well-established. The analogous provisions of Section 111 of the Act, by contrast, which give the Administrator “the same authority” as she would have under Section 110 to prescribe a plan where a state “fails to submit a satisfactory plan” to meet standards set under Section 111, are new regulatory terrain.

Because FIPs are not well-known, Daniel Selmi, a Visiting Scholar at the Center and Professor of Law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, has prepared a “primer” that answers basic questions about FIPs. The essay is organized into three parts: (1) the circumstances under which EPA will promulgate a FIP under Section 111; (2) the content and effect of such a FIP; and (3) the enforcement of a FIP. The discussion is written in an accessible, plain language style that will be understandable to both lawyers and non-lawyers.

Forbidden Data

Read the full story in Slate.

Imagine visiting Yellowstone this summer. You wake up before dawn to take a picture of the sunrise over the mists emanating from Yellowstone hot springs. A thunderhead towers above the rising sun, and the picture turns out beautifully. You submit the photo to a contest sponsored by the National Weather Service. Under a statute signed into law by the Wyoming governor this spring, you have just committed a crime and could face up to one year in prison.

Wyoming doesn’t, of course, care about pictures of geysers or photo competitions. But photos are a type of data, and the new law makes it a crime to gather data about the condition of the environment across most of the state if you plan to share that data with the state or federal government.