Clean Air Act Digest 11.30.12
Congressional leaders and the Administration have begun negotiations over the “fiscal cliff” – tax increases and federal budget cuts that will take effect at the beginning of January unless Congress passes legislation setting a different course. The fiscal cliff includes deep cuts to federal discretionary funding, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which raised the federal debt ceiling, set up a special congressional committee to reduce the budget deficit, and mandated automatic cuts (“sequestration”) to the federal budget when the committee failed to reach an agreement.
These budget cuts would have a significant impact on agencies tasked with protecting public health and the environment, including the Environmental Protection Agency. The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates that sequestration would result in an 8.2 percent reduction in funding for agencies such as EPA (“non-exempt nondefense discretionary funding”). Congress and the Administration should prevent automatic budget cuts to programs that protect our health and environment. For more information, see Frances Beineke‘s blog on the fiscal cliff.
Environment and public health advocates are also concerned that legislation to prevent the fiscal cliff could become a vehicle for anti-environmental riders to block Clean Air Act standards and authorities. Please stay tuned!
The EPA is expected to release its final National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter no later than December 14, 2012, a court-ordered deadline. The standards, proposed in June 2012, would lower standards for fine particulate matter — also known as soot — of 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller. The NAAQS updates would reduce fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) to between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter. While these levels are higher than some health and environmental groups would advise, this rule will take a step in the right direction towards reducing the significant health impacts caused by particulate pollution.
EPA Administrator Jackson signed the proposed technical changes to Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) for new power plants on November 16, 2012. These standards, developed under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, regulate the release of certain heavy metals and toxic pollutants from power plants. The proposed changes would apply only to new power plants and would not alter MATS standards for existing power plants. In addition to reducing mercury and particulate matter pollution, MATS is expected to reduce carbon pollution by 15 million metric tons per year by 2015. EPA submitted the signed proposal for publication in the Federal Register, and subsequent to this publication, the public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed changes. Additionally, if requested within 10 days of publication in the Federal Register, EPA will hold a public hearing in Washington, DC on December 18, 2012. EPA is expected to issue its final reconsideration of the standards in March 2013.
New Poll Shows the Public Wants EPA to Set Stricter Soot Health Standards, American Lung Association, 11.29.12
Senator Inhofe and the Heartland Institute Roll Out Underwhelming Campaign to Slash the EPA, Stephen Lacey, ThinkProgress.org, 11.27.12
Fiscal Cliff Threatens Environmental Protections that Voters Supported, Natural Resources Defense Council Blog, 11.12.12
The State of Texas and TCEQ Fight Against Cleaner Air For Texans, Environmental Defense Fund Blog, 11.28.12
Obama Finally Talks Climate Change. Now What Will He Do About It?, Brad Plumer, Washington Post, 11.27.12
Above is a sampling of the most recent resources related to upholding the Clean Air Act. Don’t forget USCAN has a series of pages that compile items like these and much more:
Clean Air Act Digest is a publication put together by US Climate Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council. Please contact Lara Levison at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Click here for past issues.