EPA rule exempts many industries from future air regulations
The Hill – January 12
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this Tuesday finalized a rule that would effectively exempt all stationary sources within industrial sectors other than power plants from greenhouse gas emissions limitations under the Clean Air Act. The exempt sectors would include the oil and gas industry, iron and steel manufacturers, and other industries whose operations emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The rule states that only sectors whose emissions account for more than three percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are “considered to contribute significantly to dangerous air pollution.” The rule will not take effect for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The incoming Biden administration can be expected to take action to prevent the rule from becoming effective.
Environmental groups sue in bid to block EPA 'secret science' rule
The Hill – January 11
Environmental groups this Monday filed a lawsuit over the EPA’s new “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule, also known as the “secret science” rule, which restricts the use of studies that are based on non-public underlying data. The agency has billed the rule as a transparency measure, but its opponents argue that it will prevent consideration of important public health studies that rely on data that is not available to the public due to privacy rights. The suit alleges that the rule itself and its immediate effective date violate the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the rule should not go into effect immediately upon publication as a procedural rule, but only after a 30-day period as a substantive rule.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service slashes critical habitat for northern spotted owl by 3.4 million acres
OPB – January 13
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced this Wednesday that it would remove 3.4 million acres of critical habitat protections for the northern spotted owl in Oregon, Washington, and California. The FWS has said the bird warrants uplisting to “endangered” from its current status as a “threatened” species because of continued population declines. The agency nevertheless refused to uplist the spotted owl by the end of last year, a decision currently facing a legal challenge. The spotted owl population decreased approximately 3.8% annually rangewide from 1985 to 2013.
California toxics agency may take aim at zinc in tires
ABC News – January 12
California is considering asking tire manufacturers to look at ways of eliminating zinc from their products because studies have shown the mineral, which is used to strengthen rubber, may wash into storm drains and wind up in rivers, lakes, and streams, harming wildlife. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will begin preparing “a technical document for release in the spring” and will seek public and industry comment before deciding whether to create new regulations, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday. The move follows a petition by the California Stormwater Quality Association to add tires containing zinc to DTSC’s Priority Products list under the state’s Safer Consumer Products Regulations program.
Toyota settles DOJ probe into delayed emissions defect reports for $180 million
U.S. News & World Report – January 14
Toyota Motor Corp. settled a lengthy U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) civil probe into its delayed filing of emissions-related defect reports in violation of the Clean Air Act, the government said this Thursday. Over a 10-year period ending in 2015, Toyota “routinely filed emission defect reports to EPA materially late and, in many cases, failed to file such reports at all until a self-disclosure of non-compliance” in 2015, the DOJ said in a court filing. The $180 million fine Toyota agreed to pay in the settlement is the largest ever levied for violation of EPA’s emission-reporting requirements.
$2.5 billion Pacheco Dam project moves forward, despite cost increase
The Mercury News – January 12
Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) board members decided on Tuesday to move forward with a plan to build a $2.5 billion dam near Pacheco Pass — despite learning that the cost has doubled due to unstable geology on the site. The project, which would create the largest new reservoir in the Bay Area in 20 years, calls for a 319-foot-high dam to be built along Pacheco Creek in the rural canyons just north of Highway 152 near Henry W. Coe State Park. The SCVWD considers the dam to be a key part of the future water plans for 2 million people in the South Bay. The new reservoir would hold more than 23 times as much water as the existing reservoir.