OMB Releases Guidance on Regulatory Reform
The Office of Management and Budget released a detailed memo federal agencies providing guidance on implementing Executive Order 13771, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs. The memo instructs agencies to offset any new regulation by eliminating two existing regulations. The memo outlines what agencies should consider for implementation, including initial guidelines on the evaluation criteria that result in a rule or guidance falling under the EO and how to evaluate costs and benefits. Benefits of existing regulations or other agency actions will have to be considered in any cost accounting under the EO, potentially making it difficult to repeal actions showing a large health or other economic benefit. The memo also identifies a number of issues –such as statutory requirements, national security interests, and how to deal with cross agency actions or other special cases –that will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, adding significant uncertainty to the fate of many regulations.
ACWA Sends Letter on Proposed Budget to Appropriations
This week ACWA, ASDWA, and GWPC sent letters to Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall and Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum of the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Subcommittees on Environment, Energy, and related agencies. The letters urged appropriators to consider the importance of federal grants to surface water and drinking water programs at the state level: it explained how §106 grants play a critical role allowing states to have resources necessary for adequate water quality protection programs, how §319 funds used to improve nonpoint source impaired waters are specifically designed to complement USDA programs and are not at all duplicative. Finally, the letter also goes into detail about just how much responsibility states have, by law, under the CWA, how states agencies must be well funded to accommodate infrastructure expansion, and the importance of strong cooperative federalism for healthier waters and stronger local economies.
EPA’s Back-to-Basics Agenda
Administrator Pruitt announced a new agency wide agenda focused on protecting the environment; engaging with state, local and tribal partners; and creating sensible regulations that enhance economic growth. Under the Back-to-Basics agenda, EPA will focus on restoring states’ important role in environmental regulation. Under the agenda EPA will work to review and, if appropriate, to revise or rescind major, economically significant, burdensome rules including the clean power plan and WOTUS. The agency will also focus on clearing chemical approval backlogs, help states achieve high air quality targets, clean up toxic waste sites and improve America’s water infrastructure. EPA will also provide funds for vital environmental projects that go directly to the health of our citizens, such as providing $100 million to upgrade drinking water infrastructure in Flint, MI. Finally, the plan includes the newly launched EPA Regulatory Reform Task Force to perform extensive reviews of misaligned regulatory actions.
Stayed Steam Electric Rule
On Nov. 3, 2015, EPA issued a final rule amending several sections of 40 CFR part 423 that addressed limitations and standards on various wastestreams at steam electric power plants: fly ash transport water, bottom ash transport water, flue gas mercury control wastewater, FGD wastewater, gasification wastewater, and combustion residual leachate. Earlier this month, the Utility Water Act Group and the SBA Office of Advocacy petitioned EPA to reconsider the Steam Electric ELG and to suspend the compliance deadlines from 2018 – 2023. The petitions raise several objections to the Rule, some of which overlap with the claims in the ongoing litigation challenging the Rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
On April 12, 2017 Administrator Pruitt announced in a letter to the petitioners EPA’s decision to reconsider the Steam Electric ELG and confirmed a stay of any of the compliance dates that have not yet passed. Official notice will be provided in the Federal Register in the very near future.
Large Farms Must Report Waste
This week in Waterkeeper Alliance, et al v. EPA, et al the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided against EPA’s 2008 rule exempting reporting requirements for air releases from animal waste under CERCLA and EPCRA. Both laws have reporting/disclosure requirements where large quantities of hazardous materials (e.g,, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide) are released into the environment. The court determined that, “[b]ecause the EPA’s action here can’t be justified either as a reasonable interpretation of any statutory ambiguity or implementation of a de minimis exception” Final Rule should be vacated. Per the rule’s preamble, EPA had reasoned that these “reports are unnecessary because, in most cases, a federal response is impractical and unlikely.” A number of environmental groups objected, claiming EPA’s delegated authority did not allow the agency to create such an exemption, the reports do in fact provide value, and the rule was arbitrary because it treated air releases at farms more favorable than from other sources.
Call for USGS Water Mission Area Nominations
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine put out a call for nominations for committee members to serve on a new study that will help guide research at the USGS Water Mission Area.