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

US House panel grills PHMSA’s interim chief over pipeline safety delays

07/14/2015 Members of a US House Energy and Commerce subcommittee asked US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Interim Executive Director S...

Market seen balancing with OPEC at target

07/14/2015 Target-level production of crude oil by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would balance the oil market in 2016, accordin...

MARKET WATCH: Crude oil futures prices settle lower on Iran uncertainty

07/14/2015 Crude oil futures prices alternated between gains and losses in July 13 trading before settling lower on both the New York and London markets on un...

PHMSA issues state pipeline excavation damage prevention programs rule

07/14/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a final rule to establish the process for evaluating state excavation damage p...

Halliburton, Baker Hughes agree to extend DOJ review of planned merger

07/13/2015 Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc. reached a timing agreement with the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division to extend DOJ’s review of H...

EIA’s estimates for state crude oil production to be helped by direct survey

07/13/2015 Understanding how crude oil production in US key states has been affected by recent changes in crude oil prices and drilling activity is of great i...

Russia’s Rosneft inks deal for stake in Indian refinery

07/13/2015 OAO Rosneft has entered a preliminary agreement to purchase as much as 49% interest in Essar Energy PLC subsidiary Essar Oil Ltd., including its 20...

MPLX, MarkWest to merge in $15.8 billion deal

07/13/2015 MPLX LP, a Findlay, Ohio-based master limited partnership (MLP) formed by Marathon Petroleum Corp. in 2012, and Denver-based MarkWest Energy Partne...

EPP completes acquisition of EFS Midstream

07/13/2015 Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPP) said it has completed the purchase of EFS Midstream LLC from Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Reliance Holdi...
White Papers

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

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
Available Webcasts

On Demand

OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Predictive Analytics in your digital oilfield - Optimize Production Yield and Reduce Operational Costs

Tue, Jul 7, 2015

Putting predictive analytics to work in your oilfield can help you anticipate failures, plan and schedule work in advance, eliminate emergency work and catastrophic failures, and at the same time you can optimize working capital and improve resource utilization.  When you apply analytic capabilities to critical production assets it is possible to reduce non-productive time and increase your yield.

Learn how IBM's analytics capabilities can be applied to critical production assets with the goal of reducing non-productive time, increasing yield and reducing operations costs.

register:WEBCAST


Cognitive Solutions for Upstream Oil and Gas

Fri, Jun 12, 2015

The oil & gas sector is under pressure on all sides. Reserves are limited and it’s becoming increasingly expensive to find and extract new resources. Margins are already being squeezed in an industry where one wrong decision can cost millions. Analyzing data used in energy exploration can save millions of dollars as we develop ways to predict where and how to extract the world’s massive energy reserves.

This session with IBM Subject Matter Experts will discuss how IBM Cognitive Solutions contribute to the oil and gas industry using predictive analytics and cognitive computing, as well as real time streaming for exploration and drilling.

register:WEBCAST


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

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