EPA Funding, Rollbacks & Federal Legislation (5)
- Wednesday, 02 August 2017 09:52
- Written by Robin Broder
EPA’s Action to Delay Protections Means Dire Local Impacts & Is Illegal
Waterkeepers Chesapeake strongly oppose EPA’s proposal to delay compliance deadlines for the Steam Electric Effluent Limitations and Guidelines (ELG), which became final in November 2015 and went into effect at the beginning of 2016. EPA should immediately reinstate all compliance deadlines for the 2015 ELG rule. EPA should also notify state permitting authorities and power plant utilities that the ELG rule is in effect and must be implemented according to the compliance deadlines outlined in the 2015 rule, which already allow utilities plenty of time to come into compliance.
“By allowing toxic pollutants from power plants, such as toxic metals, arsenic, selenium, and lead, into our waterways there will be a tremendous impact on our entire region. Our waterways, communities and children will be irreversibly harmed if EPA delays the compliance deadlines of the ELG rule,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director, Waterkeepers Chesapeake.
Prior to being finalized in 2015 these standards had not been updated since 1982, despite the fact that coal-burning power plants and other steam electric power plants are THE largest toxic water polluters in the country, responsible for approximately 30% of all toxic pollution dumped into surface waters by industries regulated under the Clean Water Act. The 1982 rules didn’t place limits on toxic pollutants in power plant discharges. Delaying the new toxic water pollution protections sets us back three and a half decades.
The Delay Has Dire Local Impacts
In June, the Trump administration proposed delaying the compliance dates, explaining they would be postponed until the EPA “completes reconsideration of the 2015 rule,” a rule that took years to draft, with several opportunities for public review and input. After the short 30-day comment period ended, the EPA held one public hearing on July 31st in Washington, DC, only after environmental groups demanded it. Phillip Musegaas from Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Angela Haren, Gunpowder Riverkeeper Theaux LeGardeur and Betsy Nicholas gave testimony highlighting how since the EPA proposed the delay in complying with the guidelines, some states and utilities have pulled back on preparing to limit the amount of toxins in their wastewater. Utilities that were planning to clean up polluting facilities are now putting those plans on hold while they wait to see the fate of the rule.
Dominion Energy Virginia’s Chesterfield Power Station, located on the James River near Richmond, adjoins the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, a popular site for fishing, swimming, hiking, and other recreational activities. Wastewater from the coal ash ponds and other waste streams at Chesterfield discharge into Farrar Gut, part of the conservation area. The state permitting agency relied on the ELG Rule in its decision to reissue the Chesterfield VPDES permit, and significant resources have already been expended at Chesterfield to ensure compliance with the ELG Rule within the prescribed deadline. The feasibility of compliance is already well established at Chesterfield and any further delay in enforcing the ELG Rule’s provisions, including any weakening of the standards themselves, would be harmful to the public and to the environment surrounding the plant.
In Maryland, NRG’s Dickerson and Morgantown coal power plants on the Potomac River and Chalk Point on the Patuxent River are under a federal court settlement which requires these plants to comply with the new ELG limits on mercury, arsenic and selenium. Once EPA stayed the deadlines for these limits, Maryland regulators quickly walked back their commitment and will not require new limits on these toxic metals until a new rule or deadlines are set. Despite the state’s clear authority to set protective limits on these metals regardless of EPA’s stance, Maryland is cowing to industry pressure and blaming EPA for its failure to protect the Potomac and Patuxent and millions of people who depend on these rivers for clean drinking water. This is what happens when EPA removes the “floor” of environmental protection - states are unwilling to take up the fight in the absence of EPA leadership.
Along the Patuxent River, communities are faced with severe environmental justice issues due to coal waste and coal by-products. In Waugh Chapel near Crofton, MD, residents have been drinking bottled water for years because Constellation Energy and its contractors poisoned their well water and then the coal pit was “capped” with a commercial shopping center, which of course gave a fresh profit windfall to the folks responsible for that toxic mess. Further south, is Chalk Point power plant operated by NRG where in 2000 the plant flooded thousands of gallons of bunker fuel oil into the river, which was blown by hurricane force winds downriver, essentially killing what remained of one of the most productive shellfish areas in the state. Today Chalk Point’s coal ash goes into nearby rural Brandywine where the company’s discharge reports indicate they have managed to contaminate the groundwater at fifty times the Federal drinking water standard for cadmium, arsenic and selenium with its coal byproducts also leaching into nearby Mattaponi Creek---a significant sub-tributary of the Patuxent River. Moreover, the Brandywine coal waste site has rarely been in legal compliance over the past two decades with the waste haphazardly piled up in mounds. The dust from those mounds of coal dust blowing on windy days in great black/gray clouds into the surrounding neighborhood where researchers claim that you can likely find coal dust in the vacuum cleaner bags located in people’s homes. The legacy of coal waste in the Patuxent watershed is so egregious it will take several lifetimes to clean up the mess with an unknown toll of human health.
In the Baltimore area, the C.P. Crane power plant (now owned by Middle River Power) continues to request leniency regarding wastewater and stormwater discharge limits, while parts of the Middle River continue to experience large fish kills from contaminated sediment.
The upper Gunpowder River has a nationally recognized population of wild trout, and provides drinking water for 1.8 million people in the Baltimore metro area. The lower River has fish consumption advisories and various impairments including PCB’s and heavy metals as it empties into the imperiled Chesapeake Bay. The current ELG rule provides certainty that meaningful reductions in toxic and bioaccumulative pollutants will be implemented and would greatly benefit Maryland residents that work, live and recreate by crabbing, fishing and swimming in these waters.
These are just a few examples of the egregious harm toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants have caused in our region. A delay in complying with the 2015 ELG Rule will mean lasting harm to people’s health and a loss of jobs.
The Delay is Illegal
Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. countered the utilities’ claims that making these investments would cause harm, comparing the harm to industry profits to the lasting developmental harm that mercury has on children. He also questioned the basis for EPA’s hearing, stating: “This hearing is illegal. I know the Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedure Act backwards and forwards. Nothing in there gives you authority to suspend a rule. There has already been a rulemaking that gave us the limits that EPA is now trying to destroy.”
EPA lacks authority under both the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedures Act to postpone these compliance deadlines. As a federal administrative agency EPA only has the authority granted by Congress through statutes.
The Clean Water Act also prohibits compliance dates beyond three years following the issuance of new ELG standards. The intent of the Clean Water Act is to require more stringent discharge limits on pollutants over time to reflect advances in pollution control technologies. Indefinitely delaying compliance standards that have already been issued clearly contradicts this intent.
EPA’s proposal to delay compliance deadlines is based solely on costs the power plant industry will allegedly incur in order to comply with these new standards, and completely ignores the public health, environmental, and economic benefits of reducing water pollution from power plants.
EPA is expected to finalize their decision on delaying the requirements of the ELG rule in August. Waterkeeper Alliance joined several other national and regional groups who filed a lawsuit to challenge EPA in court if it continues this process of rolling back crucial water protections.
- Friday, 28 July 2017 12:04
The Trump administration launched its assault on our clean water and drinking water protections with a proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule. A lengthy, deliberate, and inclusive process led to the 2015 Clean Water Rule, a rule protective of vital waterways and based in sound law and sound science. By comparison, the Administration’s scheme to repeal and eviscerate the 2015 Clean Water Rule has been hasty and haphazard, ignoring the strong legal and scientific basis for the Rule, disrespecting its broad public support, and providing little opportunity for the many clean water stakeholders to voice their interest in inclusive Clean Water Act coverage to protect the nation’s waters.
This proposed rulemaking contradicts the law and science that is the foundation for the Clean Water Act successes of the past 40 years, will remove Clean Water Act protections for millions of wetland acres and stream miles, and will cripple federal and state clean water initiatives for the foreseeable future. This rulemaking ignores the robust record in support of the Clean Water Rule, and intentionally limits the opportunity for affected communities to express their views about this proposal.
We oppose this heartless scheme to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule and to gut the protections that have prevented reckless pollution of the nation's waterways for decades. The repeal will mean more pollution to the lakes and streams we rely on for drinking water supply or for fishing and swimming, and a green light for the rampant destruction of wetlands that prevent dangerous flooding. We urge the Administration to withdraw its proposal immediately. If the agencies decide to consider any potential revisions to the 2015 Clean Water Rule, they must engage in a thoughtful, inclusive, science-based, and legally sound process for doing so.
Make your voice heard! The Clean Water Rule was published in the Federal Register. Comments must be submitted to the docket by August 28, 2017.
Repeal of Clean Water Rule: What’s At Stake, SELC, June 2017
Putting Drinking Water First: Restoring Clean Water Act Protections to Streams and Wetlands, Clean Water Action, Spring 2017
We All Live Downstream, National Wildlife Federation, March 2017
New Attempt to Muddy Clean Water Protections, National Wildlife Federation, June 2017
Clean Water for All Campaign, http://protectcleanwater.org
Hashtags: #DefendWater #ProtectCleanWater #DirtyWaterRule
- Thursday, 20 July 2017 16:27
- Monday, 20 March 2017 11:10
- Written by Mitchelle Stephenson
Blog published by Waterkeeper Alliance, March 17, 2017, written by Mitchelle Stephenson, Waterkeepers Chesapeake
We asked our 19 Waterkeepers, who know their watersheds better than anyone, their greatest fears about Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. With Pruitt’s history of climate change denial and his close ties to the oil and gas industry, there are serious concerns.
1. Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips: The multi-billion dollar coastal resort and fishing economies of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia depend on clean water and healthy fish populations. These coastal resorts drive a $1.5 Billion economic engine for the state of Maryland alone. Expanding offshore fossil fuel extraction and permitting seismic blasting will leave our ocean beaches polluted and our coastal fisheries destroyed. It is not worth the potential loss.
2. Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Carol Parenzan: The impacts of energy exploration, extraction,delivery, consumption, and exportation are important to residents in central Pennsylvania. Fracking, hazardous chemicals in the river and most recently, oil spills from crumbling infrastructure threaten fisheries, habitat and drinking water. The Susquehanna River needs stronger oversight, not lax federal regulations that favor the oil and gas industry.
3. Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Angela Haren: Stormwater runoff, sewage overflows, trash clogging up our waters – the Baltimore Harbor faces many serious threats. But we know how to meet those challenges – we have the tools; it’s not a mystery. We can clean up our Harbor and its tributaries. We just need the budget and personnel. That’s what makes this even more devastating. The savage cuts we expect to see under Pruitt’s EPA will make this vital work so much harder, and threaten all the progress we’ve made.
4. Miles/Wye Riverkeeper Jeff Horstman: The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or “pollution diet” that aims to keep pollutants out of the Chesapeake Bay was a target of Scott Pruitt when he was Attorney General of Oklahoma. Now that he heads the EPA, our concern is that he won’t sue to overturn the TMDL, he’ll simply unravel it — giving polluters a green light to destroy the United States’ largest estuary and its already-imperiled tributaries.
5. Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf: The Shenandoah is known as a great recreational river in one of the prettiest natural places in America. Alongside the river, people camp and hike. In the river, they tube, kayak, canoe, and fly fish. I monitor nutrient pollution and runoff that can drive algae blooms and fish kills. However, if we don’t stop those nutrients from coming into the river from the land, there isn’t a whole lot we can do to save the river and the fish once it gets to the water. We need the EPA to hold the state accountable.
6. Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls: We have legacy energy issues, like acid drainage from abandoned mining operations, heated water coming directly into the river from paper manufacturing, and agricultural runoff from farming operations. The Upper Potomac is in a multi-state area (West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland). A strong federal entity could arbitrate across jurisdictional boundaries. That’s not likely to happen in a Pruitt EPA.
7. Lower James Riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow: The James River was the site of European settlements as early as 1571. At the time, Native Americans called it the Powhatan, but English colonists renamed it James after King James I when they established the Jamestown settlement in 1607. Today, those colonists would barely recognize the place. Fish have been cut off from spawning grounds, toxic coal ash leaches into the river, seeps into drinking water supplies and percolates to groundwater. Power plants and industrial operation intakes suck up spawning fish, making it near impossible for restored fisheries that are either threatened or endangered. We need the EPA to not backtrack on coal ash regulations that took years of compromise to finalize.
8. Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks: The Potomac River feeds into the Chesapeake Bay about 75 miles north of where the Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. At that location, it is 11 miles wide. Upstream, the Potomac is the closest river in proximity to the headquarters of the EPA. Administrator Scott Pruitt should be aware that the Potomac faces threats from sewage overflows, stormwater runoff, coal ash pollution (remember hexavalent chromium from Julia Roberts as Erin Brochovich? The same stuff is in the Potomac, the river most closely associated with the nation’s capital). The EPA needs to strengthen the regulation of toxic compounds — not weaken them.
9. Anacostia Riverkeeper Emily Franc: There might not be a river that has come so far in such a short period of time. Although it still has an annual inflow of two billion gallons of sewage plus stormwater, there are signs that fish, birds and aquatic habitats are rebounding. The river itself is pretty short. It starts in Maryland, is under 9 miles long, and all fits snugly inside the Washington, DC Beltway. Anacostia fish, covered with toxic lesions from industrial pollutants may be poisonous to eat, but are frequently consumed by the river’s 17,000 subsistence anglers, mostly poor residents of the District of Columbia.
10. Sassafras Riverkeeper Emmett Duke: The watersheds of the upper Chesapeake Bay are making progress. We worry that a Pruitt EPA will take us back to an era where the loudest voices were the polluters with the most money.
Waterkeepers Chesapeake are doing their best to monitor their rivers and make the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed swimmable, fishable and drinkable. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Scott Pruitt during his tenure at EPA — and keeping him accountable. We hope you will be too.
- Monday, 06 March 2017 13:26
- Written by Mitchelle Stephenson
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cuts proposed by the Trump Administration have been released, and according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies release of the information, the EPA would cut the workforce by 3,000 employees and the overall budget by $2 billion. Below is the list of agency programs and proposed reductions.
Tell your members of the United States Congress that you oppose these cuts. Take the action to send a letter right now.
All figures in millions of dollars.
|SF Bay (EPA)||4.8||0||-100%|
|Great Lakes restoration (EPA)||300||10||-97%|
|Endocrine disruptors (EPA)||7.5||0.445||-94%|
|Enviro education (EPA)||8.7||0.555||-94%|
|Chesapeake Bay (EPA)||73||5||-93%|
|Puget Sound (EPA)||28||2||-93%|
|US Mexico border (EPA)||3||0.275||-91%|
|Gulf of Mexico (EPA)||4.5||1||-78%|
|Environmental justice (EPA)||6.7||1.5||-78%|
|Small minority business assistance (EPA)||1.7||0.4||-76%|
|Climate protection (EPA)||95||29||-69%|
|Research – air climate energy (EPA)||92||46||-50%|
|Sustainable and Healthy Communities (EPA)||140||76||-46%|
|Safe & sustainable water resources (EPA)||107||70||-35%|
|Research – chem safety & sustainability (EPA)||89||62||-30%|
|Lead RRP (EPA)||13.3||9.4||-29%|
|Leaking underground storage tanks (EPA)||11.3||8||-29%|
|Right to Know (TRI) (EPA)||13.9||10.7||-23%|
|Tribal capacity building (EPA)||14.4||11.8||-18%|
|Marine Pollution (EPA)||10.1||8.6||-15%|
|Compliance monitoring (EPA)||101||88||-13%|
|Civil Enforcement (EPA)||171||153||-11%|
|Diesel emissions reduction act (state grants)||50||0||-100%|
|Multipurpose grants (state grants)||21||0||-100%|
|Targeted airsheds (state grants)||20||0||-100%|
|US-Mexico border targeted watershed (state grants)||10||0||-100%|
|Beach water quality testing (state grants)||9.5||0||-100%|
|Radon (state grants)||8||0||-100%|
|Brownfields (state grants)||48||33||-31%|
|Tribes – air quality management (state grants)||12.9||8.9||-31%|
|Pesticides implementation (state grants)||12.7||8.8||-31%|
|Toxic substances compliance (state grants)||4.9||3.4||-31%|
|Wetlands (state grants)||14.7||10.2||-31%|
|Underground injection (state grants)||10.5||7.3||-30%|
|Drinking water grants (state grants)||102||71||-30%|
|Nonpoint source pollution (state grants)||165||115||-30%|
|Air quality grants (state grants)||228||159||-30%|
|Water pollution control (state grants)||230||161||-30%|
|Lead (state grants)||14||9.8||-30%|
|Tribal general assistance program (state grants)||65||46||-29%|
08.18.2017 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Tour the Shore with Midshore Riverkeeper
08.18.2017 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Friday Night Fishing with Anacostia Riverkeeper
08.25.2017 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
RiverPalooza- Shenandoah River Snorkeling Float with Potomac Riverkeeper Network
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