Environmental and Policy Focus

Trump Administration proposes rule requiring deletion of two regulations for every new regulation adopted

Washington Post - Jan 30

President Trump signed an order Monday aimed at cutting regulations on businesses, saying that agencies should eliminate at least two regulations for each new one. The order directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which currently reviews federal regulations, to provide guidance on how to estimate costs and set standards for what qualifies as new and offsetting regulations. The order could be difficult to implement under current law and would concentrate greater power in the OMB. Any effort to scrap a regulation triggers its own process, complete with draft rules, comment periods, and regulation rewriting, which then can be subject to litigation. At the least, the executive order would add a new time-consuming requirement for any new congressional legislation or agency regulation on topics as varied as banking, health care, environment, and labor conditions. Critics of the order have questioned its legality and, with respect to environmental regulations, have raised concerns as to its forcing choices between equally-important environmental considerations, such as clean air, water, drinking water quality and vehicle emissions.

Senate Committee approves Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head EPA

New York Times - Feb 2

Senate Republicans pressed forward on Thursday with the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), suspending the Environment and Public Works Committee’s rules to approve the cabinet pick despite a Democratic boycott. The 11-0 vote sends the nomination to the full Senate, where Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, is likely to be approved next week. Democrats and environmental groups have waged a fierce campaign against his confirmation, noting that he has led or taken part in 14 lawsuits aimed at blocking EPA regulations, including Obama administration policies aimed at climate change.

State hearing on Aliso Canyon wraps up with more calls to shut down gas field

Los Angeles Daily News - Feb 2

State oil and gas regulators held a two-day public hearing this week at which they outlined sweeping safety measures conducted at the Aliso Canyon gas field near Porter Ranch and at which they sought public feedback on the feasibility of resuming gas injections. Residents and public officials urged regulators to determine what caused the leak before ruling on a SoCalGas request to refill the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility with natural gas. They also called for a seismic safety review, completion of a required community health study, and preparation of a risk management plan that would govern the response to a future leak. Nearly a year ago, a ruptured well at Alison Canyon released a record 100,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere before the leak was sealed in February 2016. A decision by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources on whether to allow the facility to reopen could come as early as next week, officials say. SoCalGas applied last fall for a permit to reopen the gas field, claiming it is safe enough to use again after undergoing comprehensive safety improvements.

Walmart to pay nearly $1 million in suit over product labels

San Francisco Chronicle - Feb 1

Walmart agreed on Wednesday to pay almost $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 23 District Attorneys throughout the state of California, who alleged Walmart illegally sold plastic products in stores and online that were misleadingly labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable.” The settlement bans Walmart from selling plastic products labeled biodegradable or compostable, unless such claims are backed by scientific certification. Included in the settlement payment is $50,000 to be paid to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to fund testing of plastic products.

California lawmakers seek stricter enforcement, more transparency at state toxics control agency

Los Angeles Times - Jan 31

Assembly Democrats unveiled a package of five bills Tuesday aimed at reforming the state agency tasked with regulating toxic substances. The Department of Toxic Substances Control has been roundly criticized for its response in regulating and cleaning up pollution from the now-closed Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon. A Los Angeles Times review in 2015 found that the department knew for years that the plant was violating environmental regulations, but was slow to address them. The proposed legislation package includes measures that would increase financial assurance and permitting renewal requirements for hazardous waste facilities, revise the maximum penalties the department can assess so that they match federal penalties for the same violations, and create a statewide task force focused on reducing lead poisoning in the state.