Congress's Latest Assault on the EPA

On July 9, Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced H.R. 5034, the Stop the EPA Act of 2014. Incorporating the worst aspects of previous attempts to undermine the ability of federal agencies to address needed public protections, this bill would require a joint resolution of congressional approval for any standard developed by the U.S.

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The Problem With EPA's "Healthy Air" Designation For Ozone Pollution

Along with summertime heat and long hours of intense sunshine comes higher levels of ozone pollution. This is the "bad ozone" in the air we breathe, not the "good ozone" in the upper atmosphere that provides protection from ultraviolet rays. An extensive body of scientific information has documented health problems related to ozone pollution, including premature death, hospital admissions for heart and respiratory problems, more frequent asthma attacks, and emergency room visits for respiratory problems.

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Calls for Required Safeguards from Disasters Grow as Obama Administration Releases Report on Chemical Plant Safety and Security

While we are pleased the Working Group report included some of the recommendations made by the most endangered communities and workers, if the Obama administration is serious about protecting workers and communities, the president must stand up for prevention requirements that include safer chemicals and processes. The people of West, Texas deserve better than the voluntary half-measures in today's report. They, and millions of Americans like them, deserve real safeguards from the threat of chemical disasters that are adopted as enforceable requirements – not just voluntary recommendations that the industry can ignore until the next disaster. The true test of President Obama's call to action will come with the EPA's Request For Information (RFI), due to be issued in the Federal Register in the coming weeks.

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EPA Proposes New Air Pollution Standards for Oil Refineries

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new proposals on May 15 to limit air pollution from petroleum refineries, a major source of air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and benzene that cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, including cancer. The proposed standards are intended to reduce the levels of toxic air pollution for fenceline communities (those living in close proximity to refineries) who suffer the highest air pollution exposures and related health risks. Minority and low-income populations are disproportionately represented in these fenceline communities.

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New Report Documents Black and Latino Communities at Higher Risk for Chemical Catastrophe

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014—The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance (EJHA), a national coalition of grassroots groups working on toxic chemical exposures that impact communities of color, released a new report today in collaboration with the Center for Effective Government and Coming Clean. The report – Who's in Danger? A Demographic Analysis of Chemical Disaster Vulnerability Zones – uses data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Census to demonstrate an association between lower average housing values, incomes, and education levels, higher rates of poverty, and that many Black, Latino, and low-income populations are living within chemical disaster "vulnerability zones" of 3,433 industrial facilities across the U.S. The risk of danger is much greater for Black & Latino communities than for the U.S. as a whole – the very definition of an unequal or disproportionate danger.

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Expected Budget Cuts Prompt EPA to Reduce Performance Targets in Five-Year Strategic Plan

Just over one year ago, a fertilizer facility in West, TX exploded, killing 15 people and injuring hundreds more. In January, approximately 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals leaked from a storage tank at a Freedom Industries facility in Charleston, WV into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water supply of over 300,000 nearby residents. And in February, thousands of gallons of coal ash spilled from unlined ponds at Duke Energy's coal plant into the Dan River in North Carolina. More environmental incidents like these are happening regularly, risking the public's health and the environment. We need stronger national standards for toxic chemicals and hazardous waste, and these standards need to be enforced. But the federal agency charged with issuing and enforcing national environmental standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been subjected to significant budget cuts over the past several years that have restricted its ability to carry out its mission.

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E-Gov Spotlight: Informing the Public about Air Quality

During the week of Jan. 20, the air quality in Utah's Salt Lake City region and parts of California hit red-alert status – meaning that the air was unhealthy for everyone and was especially harmful to sensitive groups like children, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forecasts and posts air quality levels in an easy, color-coded format on a website called AIRNow.

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Rules to Watch (and Wait) for in 2014

Just before Thanksgiving, the White House quietly released the 2013 Unified Agenda, which contains information on a broad range of upcoming regulatory actions, as well as agencies’ regulatory plans detailing the most important significant regulatory and deregulatory actions they expect to propose or finalize during the coming year. On Jan. 7, agencies published in the Federal Register their regulatory flexibility agendas describing a subset of regulatory actions under development that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. While some important health and safety rules are slated to move forward, the Unified Agenda indicates that many long-awaited actions will not advance as proposed or final rules this year.

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Citizen Access to Information: A Rollercoaster in 2013

What a rollercoaster of a year it was for citizen access to public information. Early in the year, a flurry of activity around improving freedom of information requests took place but then slowed down. Likewise, we are being teased with the possibility of serious improvements in the accuracy of federal spending datasets. We thought we were going to get better disclosure of fracking chemicals on federal lands, but good rules failed to materialize. After 38 years, legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act has been introduced, but with preemption clauses, it could actually end up reducing protections. The information leaked by Edward Snowden has led to tough questions and pressure for better oversight of our national surveillance agencies, but to date no action has occurred. And the government shutdown shut down federal agency websites, leaving citizens in the dark. Here is our take on the biggest ups and downs in open government for 2013.

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Coal Ash Waste Standards Inch Forward, But Industry Opposition Strong

This December will mark the fifth anniversary of a massive spill of coal ash in Tennessee that destroyed three houses and damaged more than 40 others. This event sparked intensified calls for the regulation of coal ash, a waste by-product produced when coal is burned. Federal efforts to deal with the problem of coal ash have progressed slowly, but agency action on the issue may be gaining momentum in light of recent policy developments. Meanwhile, coal industry proponents in Congress are revamping legislative efforts to thwart national protections against coal waste.

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