Tuesday 11 December 2018

On January 5, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require congressional approval on all major regulations.  Any major regulation that does not get the approval of Congress and the President after 90 days will effectively die.

This is just one of the many “regulatory reform” bills currently before the U.S. Congress. The package of reform bills, taken together, could seriously undermine the current regulatory process – leaving the public and the environment less protected, while opening the doors for the political system to be subject to more abuse by those with political and economic power.

Another reform bill – the Midnight Rules Relief Act – also passed the House in the first week of January.  If enacted, this bill would enable Congress to swiftly undo groups of finalized regulations without any consideration for the merits of each regulation.  Any group of regulations passed during the last few months in office by a president will be subject to this law. GOP leaders said that their top targets will be President Obama’s rule to decrease the environmental impact of coal mining on nearby streams and his rule to reduce methane emissions.

The most sweeping regulatory reform bill – the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 – will have a dramatic impact on the way federal agencies implement new regulations.  This omnibus bill imposes more than 60 new analytical requirements for agencies that are already subject to a robust system of vetting for every new regulation.  The bill, among other things, would require agencies to supply exaggerated justification for proposed regulations, add in more checkpoints for parties to delay the whole rulemaking process through evidentiary hearings, expand the scope of judicial review, and override the Supreme Court’s longstanding principle of judicial deference to agencies’ statutory interpretations.

With expanded ability to sue the agency, the bill also stipulates that no “high-impact rule” will take effect until all judicial challenges to the rule are resolved. With the typical amount of time courts take to resolve these types of lawsuits, this effectively will delay the implementation of such rules for several years.

The impact of all these new provisions, taken together, will severely impede the ability of federal agencies to promulgate new regulations.  It’s not surprising that some are calling into question the constitutionality of the bill.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake are following these bills. We will make sure to keep you posted as the bills move through Congress. 

Waterkeepers Chesapeake Calls on MDE to Prohibit Fracking in Maryland

The EPA has reversed it’s earlier conclusion of it’s 5-year fracking study and now concludes that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances and identifies factors that influence these impacts.

The report identified several vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, including water withdrawals for fracking in drought-stricken areas; inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below-ground migration of gases and liquids; inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and spills of hydraulic fluids and wastewater.

The EPA removed the “widespread, systemic” language because it “could not be supported due to data gaps and uncertainties” and “did not clearly communicate the topline finding of the report.” The EPA had inserted the earlier statement about “no widespread systemic” contamination under pressure from the oil and gas industry.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake issued this statement:

“We applaud the EPA for basing the conclusion of their 5 year study on science, instead of oil and gas industry spin. The EPA now concludes what we have known all along: our drinking water sources have been contaminated with toxic compounds from fracking activities.

This conclusion would not have happened without all of the public feedback and participation on the report, especially from the impacted people from across the country who shared their stories with the Science Advisory Board. This highlights the increased need for citizen engagement and enforcement to hold regulators and polluters accountable.

In our recent comments on Maryland’s draft fracking regulations, we called on the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to prohibit fracking. Under state law, MDE has an obligation to protect public health and the environment. By adopting the proposed regulations despite increasing scientific evidence documenting the risk fracking presents to public health and the environment, MDE will fail to meet this legal obligation.

EPA’s conclusion along with mounting evidence from other states demonstrates that no amount of regulation is capable of preventing harm from fracking. Thus, the only way MDE can fulfill its legal obligation to keep its citizens safe and to protect the State’s environment is to prohibit fracking in Maryland.”

For more information on the campaign to ban fracking in Maryland, go to www.DontFrackMD.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Dec. 8, 2016): We at Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a coalition of 19 Riverkeepers, Coastkeepers and Shorekeepers from around the Chesapeake Bay watershed, ask the U.S. Senate to scrutinize and reject the selection of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the incoming Trump administration.

The appointment of Pruitt, a self-confessed climate change denier and mouth piece for the oil and gas industry, is an insult to Americans who not only deserve, but have a right to clean air for breathing and clean water for drinking. This appointment will take America in the wrong direction. We urge the United States Senate to block confirmation of this appointment.  

The science of climate change is clear. With the rise of fake news, it is easy to muddle facts and confuse the public. Alongside the scientific community, the U.S. military has acknowledged and is preparing for a future with conflicts resulting from rising seas, population migration, severe drought, increasingly violent storms and more. 

“Our Waterkeepers are on the front lines seeing the impacts of pollution, rising sea levels and climate change,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “The leader of the EPA should be someone who believes in the core mission of the Agency. Pruitt is not the man for the job.”

We recognize that most Americans want to be proactive when faced with threats. In the 1950s, we worked to beat back smog and air pollution by passing the Clean Air Act. When faced with significant impairment of our nation’s waterways, we passed the Clean Water Act. We banned HFCs to protect the ozone layer and even retrofitted major American cities with public sewer and water to eliminate public health threats of diseases like typhoid and cholera.

The fact is, EPA is our top pollution-fighting agency. Unfortunately, the president-elect has selected a fox to be in charge of the EPA henhouse. We strongly believe that the person administering the agency should not only understand and acknowledge the threats of fossil fuels, pollution and climate change, but be willing to administer the laws that he is sworn to uphold. 

Waterkeepers throughout the Chesapeake and coastal bays watershed have remained vigilant to enforce local, state and federal laws. We work with citizens across five states to monitor watersheds and hold polluters accountable. We have significant work to continue to clean up the Chesapeake Bay from both point and non-point sources of pollution.

We will continue to do our job. 

We urge the Senate to do theirs. 

Contact: Mitchelle Stephenson, Communications Manager • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.