Disasters and Superfund Sites • Clean Air Bills Moving • EPA to Get Earful at Hearing

From Environment & Energy Report

December 6, 2017

By Chuck McCutcheon

Senators will talk today about toxic waste sites and what to do after natural disasters inflict damage on them.

The Senate Environment and Public Works’ subcommittee on Superfund and waste management will look not only at the impact on toxic-waste sites from the recent hurricanes in the southeastern U.S., but also how California’s record-setting wildfires affected toxic sites.

California Sen. Kamala Harris, the top Democrat on the subcommittee, told David Schultz she’ll be highlighting the need for greater accountability at Superfund sites from both the EPA and the companies that are responsible for dumping waste on them. But South Dakota GOP Sen. Mike Rounds, the subcommittee chairman, emphasized he wants to avoid a “gotcha” hearing, in which lawmakers seek only to make federal officials look bad.

The problem of natural disasters affecting Superfund sites predates this year’s hurricane and wildfire season. In 2011, floods caused by Hurricane Irene threatened berms for benzene-laden lagoons at a New Jersey Superfund site, requiring reinforcement of the structures to withstand similar floods.

It’s a productive day for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will mark up seven bills for eventual House floor action.

Four of those bills are meant to relax clean air rules for industry. One throws a lifeline to plants powered by coal waste that can’t conform to EPA’s mercury rule; another extends the date by which brick makers have to control hazardous air pollution from their kilns.

A third clean-air bill gives manufacturers three more years before their heaters have to meet more stringent emissions standards under the Clean Air Act. A final one excludes cars made or modified for racing from being regulated as motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act. Stephen Lee is tracking.

The EPA is likely to get an earful from all sides today when it discusses at a public meeting how it’s changed its reviews of new chemicals following changes Congress made last year to the primary U.S. chemicals law.

Chemical manufacturers remain frustrated with how long it takes the EPA to review chemicals they’d like to bring to market. Meanwhile, environmental and health advocates are frustrated the agency isn’t being more rigorous or transparent. Steve Gibb is covering.

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Pope Francis appears with Cardinal Peter Turkson at the Vatican in November 2016.
Photographer: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Quote of the Day

“America First. America can be first, only you have to ask the question of who must be number two? What does it take for one to be first and for another one to be number two?”
—Cardinal Peter Turkson, who led the drafting of Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical letter on climate change and the environment, in calling for the European Union or China to fill the void left by the U.S. after President Trump’s decision to pull the country out of the Paris Agreement.

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