First Move: Harvey’s Water Effects, Disaster Aid Surge, Pruitt Audited


One giant concern for Texans living and working in Harvey’s path: water contamination.

Though the EPA is prioritizing search and rescue efforts for those in immediate danger, the agency will soon take floodwater samples and work with wastewater treatment plants to get them up and running after the storm.

Each response team and company operating in the affected area is dealing with limited transportation options: ports are shut down and trucks and trains can’t get through.

In addition, once the floodwaters recede, project managers will assess every Superfund site in the hurricane-affected area for damage, David Gray, acting deputy regional administrator for the EPA’s south central region, told Bloomberg BNA.

Trump Promises Disaster Aid

Nearly half a million Texans are expected to apply for disaster aid in the aftermath of the hurricane.

President Donald Trump, speaking Monday at a joint press conference with Finnish president Sauli Niinisto, said he expects to see “rapid action” from Congress in response to the storm.

“You’re going to get your funding,” Trump said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”

Vice President Mike Pence sought to tamp down worries that Congress might be slow to reach for its wallet, telling Houston-based radio station KHOU Monday he’s “very confident” that Congress “is going to be there to provide the resources necessary” to get the state back on its feet.

Pruitt’s Travel Audited

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his travel budget now face scrutiny from a new source—the agency’s inspector general. The independent office wants to look at the frequency and cost of his trips, including his flights home to Oklahoma.

Three Democratic members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee called for the review.

EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham defended Pruitt’s travel schedule in a statement to Bloomberg BNA.

The administrator is traveling to “hear directly from the people impacted by EPA’s regulations outside of the Washington bubble,” Graham said. “This is nothing more than a distraction from the administrator’s significant environmental accomplishments.”

What Else?

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to eliminate several special envoy positions, including one for climate change.
  • EPA’s schedule for deciding whether areas are meeting federal sulfur dioxide air quality standards will remain unchanged following a court ruling Monday.
  • Shell is ignoring the effects of climate change and endangering communities near its Providence River terminal, according to a lawsuit filed by the Conservation Law Foundation.
  • China is creating the world’s largest power company with a merger of giants: Shenhua Group Corp., the country’s top coal miner, and China Guodian Corp., one of its largest power generators.

Today’s Events

10:00 a.m. | EPA Science Advisory Board | Advisory panel discusses costs and benefits of environmental regulations

11:30 a.m. | Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) will tour a manufacturing plant that modified its operations to avoid higher regulatory costs under a pending OSHA rule on beryllium exposure

1 p.m. | EPA webinar | Reducing plastic pollution with replacement products

From Our Inbox

  • EPA is seeking comments on nominees for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which offers the agency scientific advice on national standards for ozone and other pollutants.
  • EPA is offering grants to promote environmental health for children living along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • EPA’s Inspector General: The agency needs to keep a closer eye on employees’ requests to use paid time off from the agency’s leave bank program.

All About: Biofuel Blending Exemptions

The oil industry is cheering on the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback. But in at least one policy area, the industry is preparing for internal conflict.

Nearly all refineries complain about the financial and logistical costs tied to the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard. However, a recent court decision and new congressional instructions are paving the way for more biofuel blending exemptions for small oil refineries.

If that happens, larger refiners would see increased obligations under the RFS program. That’s because exemptions don’t affect the aggregate blending requirements that EPA sets for the industry each year.

“The exemptions take that obligated volume out of the stream, and you can’t wave a magic wand and take that biofuel out of the total requirement,” Haynes and Boone LLP attorney Suzanne Murray told Bloomberg BNA. “Maybe with a couple of guys on the margins, it’s OK, but when you start getting more and more folks, sooner or later it adds up to real volume.”

 

Around the Web

NYT | How did Hurricane Harvey become so destructive?

AP | A chemical haze on the English coast left breathing problems and sore throats in its wake.

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Minnesota is fighting pollution in its lakes with billions of dollars invested in cleanup.