Selected category: Health

Four Important EPA Programs Threatened by President Trump’s “Skinny Budget”

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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) critical mission to protect health and the environment is strongly supported by the public, which is why it is incredibly alarming to see that President’s Trump’s new “skinny budget” would cut EPA’s funding by 31 percent.

Half of EPA’s budget goes to states, tribes, local agencies, and non-profits, which help carry out EPA’s lifesaving mission and provide significant benefits to communities in the process. EPA also provides essential technical guidance, assistance, scientific research, coordination, and more to help states and others protect health and the environment. Budget cuts to EPA would jeopardize Americans’ health and the safety of their communities.

In addition to the vital programs that protect our air and water, these are a few examples of programs that EPA oversees – and that are now at risk.

Cleaning Up Pollution from School Buses

School buses take 25 million American children to and from school every day. Many of these buses are old and their exhaust includes harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and toxics.

Children are particularly vulnerable to pollution given their faster breathing rates and developing respiratory systems. Exposure to this pollution can aggravate asthma and cause other health problems.

Newer diesel engines are 90 percent cleaner than the old ones, however. So EPA administers a program for school districts to help them fix the problem. School districts can apply for rebates to replace or retrofit older buses under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) – a broadly bi-partisan program enacted by Congress. More than 500 school districts applied for this program in 2016 and 88 school bus fleets from 27 states were selected. More than 400 older diesel buses will be retrofitted or replaced thanks to DERA.

The 2016 grant recipients include:

  • Marana Unified School District #6 in Arizona, which received $465,000 to replace or retrofit 20 buses
  • Three school districts in Michigan (Haslett, Hudsonville, and Whittemore) that received $180,000 for nine buses
  • Three school districts in Pennsylvania (Carlisle, Glenmoore, and Philadelphia) that received $305,000 for 17 buses

The school bus program provides essential funding to school districts that need it. And we know that cleaning up buses is working – a recent study found that children in schools that had adopted cleaner fuels and technology were absent less and had improved lung function. Experts estimate that there are 250,000 older, dirtier school buses still in operation, indicating that we – and EPA – have much more work to do to protect children’s health.

(The school bus program is just one part of the DERA program to reduce diesel emissions. Find total DERA allocations to all states, from 2012-2016, here.)

Chesapeake Bay Program

The Chesapeake Bay ecosystem provides more than $100 billion in economic benefits each year to the region’s 18 million residents, yet has for years been threatened by air and water pollution.

The Chesapeake Bay Program, created in 1983, is a partnership of six states (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia), the District of Columbia, the federal government, and numerous local governments and NGOs dedicated to restoring this iconic feature of the Mid-Atlantic.

EPA plays a vital coordination and technical advisory role for the Chesapeake Bay Program, setting goals and assisting local jurisdictions’ efforts to meet them. About two-thirds of the $70 million or so EPA dedicates to the Chesapeake Bay Program flows to state and local governments as grants.

Successful — yet ongoing — cleanup efforts include:

  • Between 1985 and 2015, the Chesapeake Bay Program has reduced harmful nitrogen water pollution by 30 percent, phosphorus by 40 percent, and sediment by 25 percent.
  • The outlook for fish and blue crab habitats, as well as key wetlands and underwater grasses, is also improving.
  • A new agreement signed in 2014 launched a more robust, accelerated restoration pathway that is still being implemented and just starting to show signs of progress.

Budget cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program would jeopardize these encouraging trends.

Cleaning up Brownfields and Toxic Sites

Brownfields – properties contaminated by a hazardous substance – present a significant challenge to communities.

There are almost half a million Brownfields sites across the country. EPA provides technical assistance and administers several grant programs for states, local governments, and tribes to clean these sites up, conduct assessments, do job training, develop plans for use of the properties, and more.

These projects not only protect a community’s health and citizens, they also provide valuable economic and societal benefits by bolstering redevelopment efforts in existing communities —turning abandoned properties and eyesores into engines for job creation and economic growth.

In fiscal year 2016, projects created $16.11 per EPA dollar expended. Brownfields projects have overall created more than 117,000 jobs nationwide and have been found to increase residential property values near a Brownfields site by as much as 15.2 percent when a cleanup is completed.

A few projects funded or completed include:

  • $600,000 awarded for cleanup of a former tannery in Berwick, Maine. The vacant property was used for 100 years for leather tanning, woolen milling, and shoe and carriage manufacturing. Contaminants include VOCs, PAHs, and metals in soil and groundwater.
  • In Shelby, Montana, a largely abandoned historic school building was assessed for environmental issues, and asbestos and lead were cleaned up as part of a $200,000 EPA grant. The school was turned into a community center and was estimated to create 15 permanent jobs.
  • With $250,000 in EPA grant funding, the town of Fletcher, North Carolina turned a former log home manufacturing facility into a town hall. The project included clean-up of dioxin (a chemical that can cause reproductive and developmental problems and cancer) and pentachlorophenol (a chemical associated with cancer and other harmful impacts to human health).

According to EPA and U.S. Census data, approximately 104 million people (one-third of the U.S. population) live within three miles of a Brownfields site that received EPA funding, including more than one-third of all children under the age of five.

Reducing Lead

Thanks to the EPA's decades-long effort to address the threat of lead pollution, blood lead levels across the country have declined more than 90 percent since the mid-1970s (see this interactive EDF graphic to learn more about the policies that helped). These efforts have protected countless children from the lifelong burden of diminished IQ from early childhood lead exposure.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least four million households have children living in them who are still being exposed to high levels of lead —highlighting the need for continued EPA efforts and funding in this area.

Over the past five decades, EPA has worked to reduce or eliminate the use of lead in gasoline, paint, plumbing pipes, and soil. EPA provides lead reduction grants to states, territories, and tribes to help them implement programs to mitigate lead-based paint in homes. EPA also conducts extensive outreach to educate the public about the health risks of lead exposure, and manages a national certification program for contractors who work on homes containing lead. Last year, EPA took more than 100 enforcement actions to require property managers and contractors to protect vulnerable communities from the dangers of lead.

A few examples of funded EPA programs include:

  • $243,007 awarded to the Arkansas Department of Health to administer and enforce the state's lead based paint program, which will support training for lead inspectors and lead enforcement activities, and will help protect children from lead poisoning.
  • One of EPA’s regional offices (representing Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and 66 tribes) provided $898,384 in grants for work on lead abatement programs,  which include providing training for lead inspectors, conducting outreach, conducting inspections of contractors engaged in lead-based paint abatement activities, and enforcement action.
  • The Ohio Department of Health was awarded more than $55,000 to develop and refine its state lead licensing program and almost $375,000 to administer its lead accreditation and certification program in FY 2016.

These programs are just a small snapshot of the lifesaving programs EPA implements to protect public health. Programs like these could be completely eliminated or severely cut if the “skinny budget” is adopted by Congress.

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America’s Leaders Weigh in on the Dangers of Proposed EPA Budget Cuts

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Details of President Trump’s budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have started leaking out — and they are alarming, to say the least.

The reported budget cuts outline a disturbingly stark vision for the nation’s guardians of human health and the environment, cutting EPA staff by one-fifth and resources by 25 percent.

This budget would reportedly slash funding to restore the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, for state air quality grants, for environmental justice programs, for safe drinking water grants to states, and much more.

It would also reportedly gut EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the office responsible for guiding the agency’s approach to science. The Office of Research and Development includes vital work like the Safe and Sustainable Water Resources program.

This short-sighted budget proposal would mean dirtier air and water. It would mean more deaths among American citizens, and more asthma attacks among American children.

That’s why reports of a budget proposal this alarming has drawn criticism from all corners of America, from red and blue states alike.

As Jim Brainard, the Republican Mayor of Carmel, Indiana put it:

I haven't met a Republican or Democrat yet that wants to drink dirty water or breathe dirty air.

Members of Congress from both parties, former EPA administrators serving under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, experts from state and local air agencies, environmental justice groups, and others all agree:

William Ruckelshaus, EPA Administrator for Presidents Nixon and Reagan:

A strong and credible regulatory regime is essential to the smooth functioning of our economy… Budget cuts that hurt programs that states now have in place to meet those duties run the risk of returning us to a time when some states offered industries a free lunch, creating havens for polluters. This could leave states with strong environmental programs supported by the public at a competitive disadvantage compared to states with weak programs. In other words, it could lead to a race to the bottom.

Christine Todd Whitman, EPA Administrator for President George W. Bush:

I haven’t ever really seen anything quite like this,” and on the enforcement of environmental rules, “a lot of that enforcement is protecting people.

Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator for President Obama:

This budget is a fantasy if the administration believes it will preserve EPA’s mission to protect public health… It ignores the need to invest in science and to implement the law… It ignores the lessons of history that led to EPA’s creation 46 years ago. And it ignores the American people calling for its continued support … This is actually going to be devastating for the agency’s ability to protect public health.

WE ACT for Environmental Justice:

Trump's proposed cuts to EPA's programs are racist and an attack on EJ communities nationwide.

Dominique Browning, founder of Moms Clean Air Force:

No mom — whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent — voted for air pollution. No mom voted for anything that would endanger her children’s health. We’ve come a long way in cleaning up air pollution, and cutting back EPA’s efforts to enforce the rules that protect us — in favor of polluters’ profits — runs completely against what mothers and fathers across the country want: safe and clean air.

National Association of Clean Air Agencies director Bill Becker:

These cuts, if enacted by Congress, will rip the heart and soul out of the national air pollution control program and jeopardize the health and welfare of tens of millions of people around the country… I can guarantee with certainty that at least in the air pollution area, there will be many more people who will die prematurely and tens of thousands, perhaps millions more, who will get sick unnecessarily… [the cuts will have] a direct and serious adverse health impact on almost every major metropolitan area in the country.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho):

There’s not that much in the EPA, for crying out loud. (Simpson also noted that Republicans had already reduced EPA’s budget significantly in recent years.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma):

EPA has been cut by over 20 percent in the last few years. The discretionary budget has been lowered pretty dramatically compared to how it was in 2009, and it’s under what [Speaker] Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) thought it would be in his budget.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware):

Reckless cuts to the EPA — the agency responsible for protecting public health and our environment — are not what Americans voted for in November.

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio):

[W]e’re not going to let that happen, we’re going to continue to oppose cuts to the [Great Lakes Restoration Initiative] and we’re going to mobilize our voting forces to let them know that this isn’t going to stand.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI):

[Proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are] outrageous … this initiative has been critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes and waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, and fighting invasive species, like Asian carp… I call on President Trump to reverse course on these harmful decisions.

John Stine, Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

It would cut across every area of our work… It would hurt the people who look to [our] programs for protecting the quality of their health and the quality of the places they live… We need people to understand that this work is not just … abstract, these are all people and places that are at some level of risk.

American Lung Association:

Slashing funding for programs that are proven to save lives is a disastrous strategy; cuts to key lung health programs at EPA and HHS make Americans less secure and less protected from known health threats such as the next influenza pandemic and air pollution. Our nation's scientists and doctors will be less likely to find cures and better treatments for the millions of Americans with lung cancer, COPD and asthma.

Clean air, water, and other environmental safeguards are essential to Americans’ lives. The vast majority of Americans across the country support EPA’s mission – a mission the agency has been carrying out under both political parties for almost half a century, and one that that has led to incredible progress in cleaning and protecting our air and waters.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, News, Partners for Change, Policy, What Others are Saying| Comments are closed

In Early Action, EPA Administrator Pruitt Moves to Block Communities’ Right to Know about Oil and Gas Pollution

Last Thursday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt withdrew the agency’s Information Collection Request (“ICR”) for the Oil and Natural Gas Sector, abruptly halting the gathering of information on harmful methane, smog-forming and toxic pollution from these industrial sources.

In announcing the move, Administrator Pruitt hailed the benefits for the oil and gas industry, but notably ignored the interests of everyday Americans right to know about harmful pollution from oil and gas facilities.

Pruitt’s action also stops EPA from obtaining information that can inform future safeguards against this pollution. Even though cost-effective, common-sense best practices and technologies exist to reduce emissions from oil and gas facilities, most existing facilities in this sector are largely exempt from any requirements to control the vast quantities of pollution they emit.

This flawed decision is at odds with the core tenets of the agency Administrator Pruitt is entrusted to lead and inimical to the health and environmental laws he has committed to faithfully execute. Unfortunately, it is also altogether predictable. Indeed this action—which allows oil and gas companies to withhold vital pollution data from thousands of sites across the country— reflects and reinforces concerns raised about Administrator Pruitt’s ability to lead an agency that he has persistently sought to undermine.

1. Pruitt Chooses Secrecy Over Transparency.

EPA has a long bipartisan history of providing data to the public about pollution in their communities. Indeed, during the Reagan Administration, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, which included provisions for EPA to create a publicly-available inventory of toxic chemicals down to the local level. Similarly, President George W. Bush signed a bill requiring EPA to collect and disseminate greenhouse gas emissions data from industrial sources across the country.

By withdrawing the ICR, Administrator Pruitt aims to shield the oil and gas sector from public scrutiny. Unfortunately, his penchant for secrecy with respect the oil and gas sector is familiar. During his controversial Senate confirmation process, Pruitt sought to withhold thousands of emails related to his ties to major energy interests who have donated to his political causes. While a number of those e-mails have been released, many more remain hidden from public view.

In the face of last week’s action by Administrator Pruitt, EDF has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all ICR data that has been submitted along with all records related to EPA’s decision to halt data collection.

2. Pruitt Places a Premium on the Views of Industry and Their Allies

In recent years, EPA has undertaken a careful, data-driven process to put in place protections to reduce pollution from the oil and gas sector. Often, EPA undertook such extensive data gathering to address industry concerns. The ICR was the latest data gathering effort, designed to ensure EPA had the full complement of information on existing oil and gas facilities. These existing facilities account for the vast majority of the sector’s pollution in coming years, yet remain largely exempt from any methane pollution control requirements.

To tailor its data request, EPA carried out two rounds of public comments, assessed significant stakeholder feedback, and substantially altered the request in response in order to leverage existing data and use electronic reporting frameworks.

In contrast to this careful and deliberative process, Administrator Pruitt withdrew the ICR with just one paragraph of explanation, just one day after receiving a request to do so from the Texas and Oklahoma Attorneys General and others.

Coincidentally, when Pruitt was Oklahoma Attorney General, he was aligned with the oil and gas industry in legal challenges seeking to undermine EPA’s oil and gas methane standards. It is disappointing, but not surprising, that he did not solicit input or wait to hear from any of the many other stakeholders involved in this process. Pruitt’s decision to withdraw the ICR may likewise raise conflicts of interest and should be closely scrutinized in light of his ethical obligations as administrator of EPA.

The Administrator has taken similar approaches in the past. As Oklahoma AG, for example, Pruitt simply copied and pasted industry requests and sent them to senior government officials under his own official seal.

EPA is legally required to protect the public from harmful pollution from oil and gas facilities. In carrying out that obligation, it is critical that public officials base decisions that affect our health and safety on careful review of the most rigorous scientific information available—and not simply accept, without any deliberation or inquiry, the recommendations of parties that have a vested interest in weakening health protections.

3. Pruitt’s Selective View of States Rights

As reason for withdrawing the ICR, Administrator Pruitt pointed to the request from the Texas Attorney General and the need to, in his words, “strengthen … our partnership with the states.”

But Pruitt’s notion of cooperative federalism bears no resemblance to the collaborative approach that EPA and states have taken to solving air pollution problems over the last four decades. Indeed, the Administrator seems comfortable with states’ rights when those states are seeking to hide emissions information and block clean air safeguards, but opposes states’ rights when they want stronger protections for their citizens.

For instance, large oil and gas producing states like Colorado and California have in place standards to reduce oil and gas sector emissions. Last Thursday, Ohio adopted stronger standards for certain sources. Eleven states – including major energy-producing states like New Mexico and California – have intervened in court to defend the same EPA emission standards for the oil and gas sector that the Texas Attorney General and his allies attacked in their letter. And many states have likewise supported EPA’s information collection request.

The Administrator’s decision ignores these views and undermines stronger state-level partnership. This is the very same disregard for state efforts to reduce pollution that Administrator Pruitt demonstrated when, during his confirmation hearing, he conveyed reservations about California’s longstanding authority to adopt vehicle emissions standards to address the state’s unique air pollution problems. And, over the weekend, additional reports surfaced suggesting that the Administration was planning attacks on California’s authority, which could be initiated as soon as this week.

This concept of states’ rights as a one-way justification to erode clean air protections is both dangerous and inconsistent with the Clean Air Act’s framework.

The underminer

During his confirmation hearing, Administrator Pruitt committed to carrying out EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment using rigorous data.  Unfortunately, with one of his first actions, he chose to undermine both.

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Comments are closed

Less Science, More Cost: Why the Misguided “Secret Science” Bill Is Bad Policy

shutterstock_3243574012It’s a good idea for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rely on the best, most up-to-date science in making its decisions.

Seems like a fairly basic point — but recent legislation aims to thwart EPA’s ability to do so.

Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) “Secret Science Reform Act” will reportedly be back again this year and soon be on the move.  The bill would prohibit EPA from finalizing an action unless “all scientific and technical information relied on to support” the action is “publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.”

Like so many misleadingly-named bills of the past, this bill tries to sound like common sense – but in fact, it would do great damage to human health and the environment, as well as to a predictable regulatory environment for business.

A Blindfolded EPA

Here’s the first problem: to make informed decisions, some of the data EPA needs to use can’t be made public without doing damage to real people or to businesses.

Almost all of EPA’s work touches on issues of human health — relying, for example, on research that uses health records of asthma sufferers and their asthma attacks to see if they are associated with air pollution.

Data that involve private medical records of individual patients cannot – ethically or legally – be made fully public.

Here’s another example: businesses sometimes claim that information about their operations is legally protected from public release because it is “confidential business information.”

But under this legislation, EPA would be barred from relying on any study or any analysis unless they made all the underlying information publicly available.

What would be the real-world result for the safety of our air and water and the products we use?

Under this legislation, EPA decision-making would grind to a halt. For instance:

  • EPA would no longer be able to establish limits on emissions of hazardous air pollution into our air if a business claimed that any of the information EPA used to create the Clean Air Act protection was “confidential business information” that could not be released.
  • EPA could no longer issue national air quality standards that rely on studies about the health impacts of pollution if the studies relied in any part on confidential patient health data.
  • EPA could not make decisions about the safety of chemicals because such decisions would necessarily rely on information representing industry trade secrets.

EPA properly relies on peer-reviewed scientific research, and industry studies and data, to inform its efforts to protect public health and the environment. Particularly for health research, studies often involve confidential data that researchers are prohibited by law from disclosing. This legislation would force EPA to pretend that none of this valuable research exists when making substantial agency decisions.

The end result? Our health and environment is put at risk.

Congressional Budget Office Says It Will Cost Hundreds of Millions of Dollars to Implement

Here’s a second problem: even setting aside the enormous confidentiality problems in this legislation, it would be extremely costly to implement.

The “Secret Science” bill authorizes just $1 million in expenditures per year. But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing this bill would cost approximately $1 billion to implement over the next four years — and that’s their middle estimate.

CBO estimates that EPA relies on about 50,000 scientific studies every year to accomplish its mission — so providing public online access to all of the underlying data and information is an expensive proposition.

Alternatively, if EPA presses ahead on the basis of a smaller number of studies, EPA protections would be less well-informed and may not reflect the latest science. They could also be inaccurate or incomplete — and thus more vulnerable to legal challenges that would delay the implementation of important public health protections or timely decisions affecting industry operations.

CBO’s own predicted result?

  • “CBO expects that EPA would modify its practices, at least to some extent, and would base its future work on fewer scientific studies, and especially those studies that have easily accessible or transparent data.”
  • “On balance — recognizing the significant uncertainty regarding EPA’s potential actions under the bill — CBO expects that the agency would probably cut the number of studies it relies on by about one-half … CBO estimates the incremental costs to the agency would be around $250 million a year initially, subject to appropriation of the necessary amounts. In our assessment that figure lies near the middle of a broad range of possible outcomes.”
  • “If EPA continued to rely on as many scientific studies as it has used in recent years, while increasing the collection and dissemination of all the technical information used in such studies as directed by H.R. 1030, then implementing the bill would cost at least several hundred million dollars a year.”

The challenges of meeting these huge expenses are enormous. They’re even more daunting in light of simultaneous efforts by EPA’s opponents in Congress to dramatically curtail the agency’s budget.

Bedrock Safeguards Subject to Delay and Uncertainty

Here’s a third problem: the bill would prohibit EPA from finalizing an action unless all information relied on is “publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.” Yet for many key health studies, it could take years — decades even — to “reproduce” some key research.

Some of the most rigorous, crucial health studies are based on health data that is collected over many years — for example, studies that follow a group of people over time to understand how their health is affected by environmental conditions. Such data is how we recognized that smoking causes cancer, to cite just one example.

By their very nature, results from such “longitudinal studies,” which may involve thousands of people, cannot be readily and rapidly “reproduced” as a laboratory study on mice might be. Yet such studies, when carefully designed and executed, can be among the most powerful in shedding light on how pollution impacts our health.

The troublingly vague language in this bill could be interpreted to mean that research results can only be used if time has been allowed for reproduction of research results. This presents EPA with an array of bad options: incurring enormous delay and expense to reproduce even the most sound, rigorous studies, even when other research already supports their findings; moving ahead on the basis of limited science and ignoring crucial health insights from the latest research and from longitudinal studies; or moving ahead with the benefit of insights from these studies—but facing needless uncertainty and litigation risk due to the troublingly vague language in the bill. Whichever way, EPA’s ability to protect human health and the environment would be undermined.

Best Available Science

Why would anyone support this legislation that would force EPA to rely on less science at more cost to taxpayers?

Well, it would benefit big polluters who would be handed more ways to pick apart EPA safeguards in court — or stop their creation in the first place. But for the rest of America’s businesses, it could increase uncertainty and economic challenges, because EPA would be hindered in using the industry’s own information in making decisions. And for American families, who would be put at risk by less informed safeguards, the “Secret Science” bill is a bad idea for science and for public health.

It’s just plain wrong to suggest that EPA relies on “secret” data. EPA depends on the best, most up-to-date science – including university research and industry analyses that are available to the public, but that rely on confidential data and information properly protected from disclosure under the law and under common decency.

Also posted in Science| Comments are closed

Western Leaders, Attorneys General Support BLM’s Oil and Gas Waste Policies in Court

8362494597_b5e016f63f_z-300x169By Jon Goldstein and Peter Zalzal

(This post originally appeared on EDF Energy Exchange)

The legal fight to defend the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recent efforts to prevent oil and gas companies from wasting methane on public and tribal owned land continued yesterday.

EDF and a coalition of local, regional, tribal and national allies filed a brief opposing efforts by industry organizations and a handful states to block BLM’s protections before they even come into effect. 

The states of New Mexico and California also sought to participate in the legal challenges, likewise stepping up to defend BLM’s common sense standards. Notably, New Mexico is the largest producer of oil from public lands in the U.S. and the second largest producer of natural gas.

In seeking to stay BLM’s protections, the industry associations have claimed the standards have no benefits – so blocking them won’t have any impacts on the communities they are designed to protect.

But BLM’s oil and gas waste standards are about ensuring that operators use common sense technologies to capture natural gas that would otherwise be wasted. That preserves a valuable natural resource and cleans up the air, all while putting additional royalty payments in the pockets of Western communities that can be used to fund schools, roads and important infrastructure.

For example, a recent analysis found that in 2013, oil and gas companies operating on public and tribal lands wasted more than $330 million worth of gas – more than $100 million of that from New Mexico alone. This translates to lost royalty revenues for local communities. One report estimates that without action to reduce this waste, taxpayers could lose out on more than $800 million in royalties over the next decade.

The challengers’ legal claims stand in stark contrast to the facts on the ground. Evidence of the broad-based benefits of BLM’s Waste Prevention Rule was readily apparent in yesterday’s court filings supporting the protections..  Current and former state and county officials and everyday Westerners alike let their voices be heard about the importance of common sense measures to preserve public resources and protect the environment.

For example, in their filing seeking to participate in the case, the states of New Mexico and California emphasized:

Implementation of the Rule will benefit the States of California and New Mexico by generating more annual royalty revenue . . . . In addition, the Rule will benefit the health of the states’ citizens who are exposed to harmful air contaminants leaked, vented and flared from federally-managed oil and gas operations . . . . The People of California and New Mexico have a strong interest in preventing the waste of public resources, as well as in reducing the emission of harmful air pollutants that threaten the health of the states’ citizens, the integrity of their infrastructure, protection of their unique environments and ecosystems, and the continued viability of their economies. ( Filing, pages 2 and 3)

And in their filing opposing the preliminary injunction, these states claimed:

Because the Rule is likely to result in the stronger protection of federal lands and greater prevention of the waste of natural resources, which belong to the People, the public interest weighs strongly in favor of denying the injunction. (Filing, page 16)

The benefits that New Mexico and California identified are broadly shared and were likewise reflected in declarations submitted by county officials and former state officials in support of the standards.

Current La Plata County Colorado Commissioner Gwen Lachelt identified both the problem of resource waste on public lands and the benefits for Western counties like hers in addressing it:

The San Juan Basin, in which La Plata County is situated, has one of the highest rates of wasted gas and methane loss in the country, accounting for nearly 17% of U.S. methane losses.

In addition to wasted methane, oil and gas sites in La Plata County and the San Juan Basin release dangerous pollutants such as benzene and ozone-forming pollutants that can lead to asthma attacks and worsen emphysema . . . . This air pollution continues to be a regional public health hazard, and has contributed to La Plata County receiving a low grade for poor ozone air quality from the American Lung Association…

The Rule will benefit La Plata County by providing additional royalties that we can use to fund key County priorities—including infrastructure, roads, and education—while also helping to clean up the air in the San Juan Basin, which will have health benefits for our citizens. (Filing, page 4 and 5)

Lachelt points out that unlike other leading oil and gas states like Colorado, New Mexico has no policies to reduce methane waste and other pollution from oil and gas wells, and that BLM’s efforts will help to provide uniformity across state lines.

Sandra Ely, a former Chief of the New Mexico Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau likewise submitted a declaration describing the importance and benefits of the BLM standards. She particularly focused on the long-standing problem of resource loss in the San Juan Basin. The region made headlines in recent years when NASA scientists discovered a 200-square-mile methane cloud over the region – the largest methane cloud uncovered in the U.S. Subsequent studies determined that oil and gas emissions were the main contributor to the methane “hot spot.”

I am aware of a recent study, focused on the San Juan Basin, which suggested that BLM’s proposed leak detection and repair requirements alone would result in anywhere from $1–$6 million dollars of additional revenue for New Mexico… Absent the Waste Prevention Rule, I am concerned that resource loss and poor air quality associated with oil and gas development will continue unabated in New Mexico (Sandra Ely, Filing, page 7)

Western leaders have been vocal in their support for BLM’s sensible standards that take an important energy resource out of the air and deliver it responsibly to the American public. At public hearings that the BLM held across the west these rules were supported by more than 3 to 1 margins. More than 80 local officials across the West, including county commissions in La Plata, Park and San Miguel counties in Colorado and Bernalillo, Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties and the Santa Fe city council in New Mexico, all support the protections. And these rules enjoy broad bipartisan public support as well (more than 80 percent of Westerners in a recent poll).

Given this cross-cutting support and yesterday’s forceful legal filings, it’s no wonder that industry challengers in this case don’t even want the judge to hear the views of New Mexicans and Californians. Yesterday, they indicated that they would oppose these states’ efforts to protect the interests of their citizens by participating in the case. While this reflexive obstructionism isn’t surprising—industry petitioners filed their legal challenges within 40 minutes of the rule being finalized and tried to block the standards’ effectiveness shortly thereafter—it certainly reveals their very one-sided view of what is in the public’s interest.

The Wyoming Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in this case on January 6. We look forward to continuing to defend these standards that will clean the air and prevent waste.

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Latino Voters Agree: Now is the time to reduce pollution and invest in clean energy

By Lucía Oliva Hennelly, EDF Campaign Manager, New Climate Partnerships & Andy Vargas, EDF Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellow.

How important do you think it is that the next President and new Congress take steps to reduce smog and air pollution? What about actions to develop clean energy sources like wind and solar power?

These are a questions asked by Latino Decisions, a leading national polling firm, in a representative national poll of Latinos who voted in the 2016 elections. Latino Decisions research released this week shows that 75 percent of Latino voters believe it is extremely or very important that the next President and Congress take steps to reduce smog and air pollution. And 71 percent of Latino voters believe it is extremely or very important that the next President and Congress take steps to pass legislation to aggressively combat climate change. This was also found in key states including Arizona, Colorado,  North Carolina, and Nevada.

While the results should not be surprising, they are noteworthy in a month when President-elect Donald Trump has nominated an environmental antagonist to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the CEO of ExxonMobil to lead the State Department.capture

These findings demonstrate that Latino communities care deeply about our environment, our changing climate, and how this impacts our families. The assumption that Latino voters only care about immigration reform — despite being disproportionately impacted by issues like air pollution and toxic exposure – needs to be discarded. Read More »

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