State air regulators ask to be part of EPA settlement discussions

Noting that they are responsible for actually implementing about 90% of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements, air-quality regulators from 48 states have asked to be included when EPA tries to settle lawsuits brought by environmental organizations.

“States are in the best position to determine how to allocate their scarce resources to advance the interests of clean air, clean water, and clean land,” Thomas W. Easterly, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s commissioner, told the US House Judiciary Committee’s Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law Subcommittee.

“Addressing requirements imposed by consent decrees or settlement agreements entered into by EPA with a citizens group on a single issue diverts state resources from their larger goals—and actually can slow states’ progress in improving our environment,” he said during the subcommittee’s June 5 hearing on HR 1493, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2013.

Easterly, who also chairs the Environmental Council of the States’ compliance committee, said ECOS passed a resolution at its Mar. 6 meeting urging EPA to notify all affected state environmental agencies of citizen suits filed against the federal environmental regulator alleging a failure to perform its nondiscretionary duties.

“The issue is coming up more often because we’re dealing with acts that are 30-40 years old, and their implementation deadlines have passed,” Easterly said. “That gives environmental and other organizations an opportunity to sue. It took us 2 years to discuss this problem before we passed our resolution. We believe people should be able to hold government accountable, but we’d also like a seat at the table.”

Bill’s purpose

Subcommittee member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said he introduced the bill on Apr. 11 to assure that individuals and businesses with legal standing because they would be affected by a negotiated lawsuit settlement and court order would be notified that discussions were taking place and able to intervene.

Committee Democrats protested that this intervention provision was too broad and would effectively allow anyone who drinks water to intervene if EPA was sued for not implementing Clean Water Act provisions on schedule.

Another witness—John D. Walke, who directs the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate & Clean Air Program—said the bill was completely unnecessary. “The product of consent decrees and settlements is initiation of a full rulemaking process that involves full public input under the Administrative Procedures Act,” he indicated.

Congress establishes deadlines when it passes environmental laws, he explained. Consent decrees result when agencies don’t meet those deadlines, and provide schedules for rulemakings with ample time for public comments, Walke said.

“These settlements are a natural and long-accepted part of our legal system,” he said. “Every administration in the modern era has entered into them so agencies can use money they’d spend in court for more urgent matters. Saying settlements are inherently bad turns the whole process upside down.”

US Chamber’s report

He noted that “Sue and Settle,” a report issued by the US Chamber of Commerce on May 20, was seriously flawed because it covered only settlements EPA reached during Barack Obama’s presidency and ignored others from George W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s terms. It also alleged, but did not substantiate, collusion between agencies and litigants, Walke and some committee Democrats said.

William L. Kovacs, the Chamber’s senior vice-president for environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, quickly disputed the collusion characterization. “There were no such allegations in our report,” he said. “We heard from every manufacturer that they didn’t become involved early in the process. When you’re a regulated industry, and you don’t know where the government is heading, a notice of intent to sue is important.”

Kovacs also disputed Walke and the Democrats’ suggestions that the Chamber and its members merely want to delay having to meet tougher environmental requirements by becoming part of the negotiations and slowing the process down.

“We don’t oppose regulations,” he declared. “But we believe there should be transparency. If the Administrative Procedures Act was working, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” The Chamber’s researchers developed the report because federal agencies testified at a congressional hearing last year that they did not know how many negotiated settlements they’d reached with litigants, Kovacs said.

The fourth witness—Allen Puckett III, president of Columbus Brick Co. in Mississippi—noted that his family-owned firm, which has operated since the 1890s, would have to spend $8 million for new equipment and $2 million/year to operate it to satisfy a new EPA rule under a negotiated settlement in which Columbus Brick was not involved.

“If I walked into any of my lenders and asked to borrow that money with no prospect of making it back, I’d be laughed out of there,” he told the subcommittee.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Shell cuts $15 billion in spending for 2015-17

01/30/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has curtailed more than $15 billion in potential spending over the next 3 years, but is not “not overreacting to current low ...

Victoria extends drilling, fracing ban

01/30/2015 The new Victorian Labor government of premier Daniel Andrews has extended the coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and hydraulic fracturing ban in the s...

Chevron’s $35 billion capital budget down 13% from last year

01/30/2015 Chevron Corp. will allocate $35 billion in its capital and exploratory investment program for 2015, including $4 billion of planned expenditures by...

US Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL pipeline project

01/30/2015 The US Senate has passed a bill approving construction of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline by a 62-36 vote after 3 weeks of debate. Nine...

Oxy cuts capital budget by a third

01/30/2015 In the midst of falling oil prices, Occidental Petroleum Corp., Houston, expects to reduce its total capital spending for 2015 to $5.8 billion from...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX natural gas prices drop after storage report

01/30/2015 US natural gas closed at its lowest price in more than 2 years on the New York market Jan. 29 following the government’s weekly gas storage report,...

Pennsylvania governor reinstates state forest drilling moratorium

01/29/2015 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed an executive order fully reinstating a 2010 moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state forests and parks. ...

PwC: Low oil prices might drive surge in restructuring in 2015

01/29/2015 Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the oil and gas industry hit 10-year highs in terms of deal value and volume in 2014, according to a report f...

DOE could meet 45-day LNG export decision deadline, Senate panel told

01/29/2015 The US Department of Energy would have no trouble meeting a 45-day deadline to reach a national interest determination for proposed LNG export faci...
White Papers

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...

6 ways for Energy, Chemical and Oil and Gas Companies to Avert the Impending Workforce Crisis

As many as half of the skilled workers in energy, chemical and oil & gas industries are quickly he...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Oil & Gas Journal’s Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015

Fri, Jan 30, 2015

The  Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015 Webcast will address Oil & Gas Journal’s outlooks for the oil market and pipeline construction in a year of turbulence. Based on two annual special reports, the webcast will be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and OGJ Managing Editor-Technology Chris Smith.
The Forecast & Review portion of the webcast will identify forces underlying the collapse in crude oil prices and assess prospects for changes essential to recovery—all in the context of geopolitical pressures buffeting the market.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected