Friday, January 28, 2011

EPA Administrator's Latino Texas EJ Tour

EPA Administrator Jackson and Representatives from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Wrap Up Texas Visit with Focus on Environmental Justice

Two-day visit highlights EPA efforts to protect human health and facilitate clean energy innovation

Today U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and representatives from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrapped up a two-day trip to El Paso and San Antonio, Texas. The trip is a part of the administrator’s ongoing effort to highlight the benefits of clean energy innovation for all Americans and draw attention to environmental pollution’s disproportionate health impacts on poor and minority communities.

Administrator Jackson discussed the agency’s work safeguarding Americans from health threats like toxic air and water pollution and observed clean energy innovation in action. The administrator kicked off the trip on Thursday in El Paso, where she was joined by representatives from Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) member U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes’ office. (Congressman Reyes was unable to attend after bad weather in Washington, D.C. grounded his flight)

The administrator started the visit with an on-site briefing on the cleanup of the former ASARCO smelting plant. After that she met with local leaders to talk specifically about water quality and access concerns. The administrator also hosted a forum on environmental justice issues at El Paso Community College on Thursday where she listened to and spoke with citizens about their environmental concerns and addressed the health and economic benefits of clean air and water for communities. Administrator Jackson also visited the El Paso Water Utilities Desalination Plant and Tech H2O Center, which is expanding El Paso’s access to clean water and creating jobs in the region. Today, the administrator was joined by CHC chair U.S.

Representative Charles Gonzalez in San Antonio for meetings with local community members, business leaders and students. She and Gonzalez toured St. Philips College, where they got a first-hand look at the college’s green jobs training program and sustainable power infrastructure efforts. Later, Administrator Jackson hosted a round table discussion on environmental justice issues with community members. She finished the Texas tour at St. Mary’s University where she hosted a student forum and answered questions about winning the future through investment in green job innovation and other major environmental issues.

Over the past several months, Administrator Jackson has visited a number of impacted communities across the country and met with local leaders and community members to discuss EPA’s work to address these environmental concerns. More information about EPA’s environmental justice efforts. (EPA)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Court Blocks EPA From Controlling Texas GHG Regulations

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has blocked until Friday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to seize control of greenhouse gas permits from Texas.

The first federal rules on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases took effect Sunday. Texas is the only state to refuse to implement the new rules — a position that prompted the EPA's intervention.  In its petition, the state accuses the EPA of abusing its powers by taking control of the permitting program without proper notice. The agency, in response, criticized Texas officials for filing suit instead of working with it to protect public health.

The federal rules require new controls for reducing emissions from power plants, oil refineries and other large industrial facilities. Such rules would have a profound impact on Texas, which pumps more carbon dioxide into the air than any other state. The EPA has said that 167 facilities in Texas would be subject to the new permitting requirements. (Chron, 1/4/2010)

Texas To Import Low-Level Nuclear Waste From 36 States

The Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, which manages the state's radioactive-waste dump, voted 5-2 to approve rules governing the process for accepting importation of low-level radioactive-waste from 36 other states.

The waste will be stored at the 1,338-acre site in concrete-reinforced underground units. The site will permanently store low-level radioactive waste—contaminated materials and equipment from nuclear plants, research laboratories and hospitals. The material includes everything from parts from dismantled nuclear-energy plants to booties worn by scientists working in labs where radioactive materials are present. More highly contaminated waste, such as spent fuel from power plants, wouldn't be stored at the site. Waste Control Specialists LLC is the site owner.  In the Oct. 14, 2009 photo at left, canisters filled with uranium byproduct waste are placed into a burial pit at at Waste Control Specialists near Andrews, Texas. The 1,340-acre site is the nation’s only dump licensed to take all three categories of low-level waste, which come from nuclear power plants, hospitals, universities and research labs, but not nuclear fuel or weapons material. (AP)

States are responsible for handling low-level radioactive waste produced within their own borders, but space for it is limited. And the three disposal sites for it in the U.S. don't take all kinds of materials within the low-level category or can only take waste from certain states. That leaves 36 states without a permanent storage place.

Controversy had surrounded the proposal in part because the dump, set to open by year's end, was conceived and built to take waste from only two states—Texas and Vermont. Opponents also note that the site is near the Ogallala aquifer that provides drinking water to several states. Texas regulators already deemed the site safe, and thus granted a license for the project. The state will receive a cut of disposal fees as well as a $136 million fund to help pay for any future liabilities, he added.

The commissioners agreed to reserve 20% of the space for Vermont. (WSJ, 1/5/2010)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Court Gives Texas Temporary Greenhouse Gas Reprieve

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit temporarily blocked EPA's plan to strip the state of GHG permitting authority. The court agreed to an emergency request by Texas officials to stay "pending further order of the court" EPA's plan to take over GHG permitting responsibility from the TCEQ.

According to the judges:
"The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for a stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion,"
They directed EPA to respond to Texas' request by Thursday and for Texas officials to file any reply to that response one day later. Just before Christmas, as it announced new GHG rules, EPA also said it planned to assume responsibility for Texas' greenhouse gas-related permitting January 2. Texas AG Greg Abbott and Gov. Rick Perry have been on an anti-EPA rampage lately, filed several lawsuits to block EPA action against Texas. The recent stay came a day after a New Orleans-based federal appeal court rejected Texas's request to stall the agency's plans. (Frank Maisano)