Tuesday, August 28, 2018

EPA to end special focus on pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations, oil and gas production sites

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to stop focusing on enforcing pollution rules for certain industries such as concentrated animal feeding operations and the oil and gas industry, and instead prioritize broader compliance with environmental problems like air pollution. Because the new plan includes expanded opportunities for industries to self-report, some fear it signals weakening enforcement, Mike Soraghan reports for Energy & Environment News.

"This initiative historically focused on one industrial sector, implying that the EPA considers all problems in this sector — large or small — to be a priority," EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine wrote in a letter this week to the agency's regional administrators. Under the new approach, "an animal feeding operation that contributes to water quality impairment or an oil and gas facility that contributes to non-attainment with air quality standards or that creates exposures to air toxics would be a priority because of those impacts, not because of the industry sector."

Instead of focusing on enforcing rules on certain industries to meet agency goals, the EPA plans to work more with states and tribes to give them options for how to best comply with those goals, Soraghan reports. Those goals are:
  • Keeping industrial pollutants out of the nation's waters
  • Preventing animal waste from contaminating surface and ground water
  • Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of our nation's waters
  • Reducing air pollution from the largest sources
  • Reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities
  • Cutting hazardous air pollutants
  • Ensuring energy extraction activities comply with environmental laws
  • Reducing toxic air emissions from hazardous waste facilities
Bodine said two of those goals, "Reducing air pollution from the largest sources" and "Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of our nation's waters," will end after the coming fiscal year because they are both nearly complete, Soraghan reports.

"The move comes amid other efforts at the agency to present a friendlier face to industries, including oil and gas," Soraghan reports. "For example, Bodine is expanding to the oil field a program that waives or reduces penalties for companies that self-report air emissions violations. Farmers and rural voters were a key constituency for Trump in his 2016 election bid. Oil companies have become key backers since he took office and began promoting an 'energy dominance' agenda. Both groups complained bitterly about regulatory overreach by the Obama administration."

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