Thursday, February 21, 2019

Federal Briefs

Obama Administration Cracks Down on Coal with Stream Regulations

Department of the Interior sealThe Obama administration on Thursday toughened rules to protect waterways from coal mining by requiring mining activity to take place at least 100 feet from streams.

The administration said the updated regulations, which clarify earlier rules, require mines to monitor streams near their operations and call for companies to restore areas impacted by earlier operations. The Interior Department estimates that the rules will safeguard 6,500 miles of streams in the next 20 years.

Industry supporters denounced the new mandate. “It’s no secret that this overreaching rule is designed to help put the coal country out of business,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). He called the regulation “job-crushing” and “anti-coal.”

More: National Journal

EPA Watchdog Says Agency Should Track Fracking Chemicals

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General recommended the agency improve oversight of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The OIG said the agency needed to crack down on the unlicensed use of diesel fuel in fracking and figure out whether to mandate public disclosure of fracking chemicals.

Although EPA’s oversight on fracking is limited by a 2005 law, it does have control over the use of fuels and chemicals that could affect the quality of drinking water. The agency has approved the use of diesel fuel in some fracking operations, but the OIG said there are instances where “EPA and primacy states have not been fully successful in their efforts to effectively control the use of diesel fuels for well stimulation.”

The OIG also said the agency should also address calls for the mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in fracking. “To date, however, the agency has not addressed the comments or developed a plan of action for the next steps,” the report said, adding that EPA “needs to develop an action plan with a timeline to address the public comments and determine whether to propose a rule to obtain information on chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracking.”

More: The Hill

Former DOE Official Tapped for NRC by Obama Admin



The Obama administration nominated a former Bush administration official to fill an empty seat on the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

If confirmed by the Senate, Jessie Hill Roberson, who served in the George W. Bush administration as an assistant secretary for environmental management, would be the third new commissioner on the NRC since September.

Roberson has been vice chairwoman and a member of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board for the last five years. She has held positions with several utilities, including nuclear-power giant Exelon.

More: Washington Examiner; Nuclear Energy Institute

NOAA, Others Say Oceans Hot and Getting Hotter

An annual report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Meteorological Society said the world’s oceans are warm and getting warmer.

According to the report, the ocean surface temperatures are the warmest in the 135 years that records have been kept. One reason: About 93% of the heat from burning fossil fuels goes into the oceans, which serve as giant heat sinks. The seas are holding record levels of thermal energy as deep as 2,300 feet below the surface.

The trapped heat in the oceans provides energy that feeds into tropical cyclones, according to NOAA oceanographer Greg Johnson. The report was compiled by more than 400 scientists.

More: Associated Press

Federal Judge Dismisses Oklahoma’s Second Lawsuit Against Clean Power Plan



A federal judge on Friday dismissed Oklahoma’s second attempt to block the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants, saying the state cannot challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation until it becomes final.

“The court finds no exceptional circumstances that would warrant judicial intervention at this time, and plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” ruled U.S. District Court Judge Claire Egan of the Northern District of Oklahoma.

It is the second time in two months a federal judge has dismissed an Oklahoma challenge to the Clean Power Plan, both for similar reasons. EPA is expected to issue its final rule next month.

More: The Hill

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