One order directed federal agencies like EPA to identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed to offset the costs of any new regulations. The other directed agencies to review various environmental rules and determine how they might be changed to help industry or be repealed altogether. Numerous changes have been proposed that will affect the Chesapeake Bay and the implementation of the Blueprint, the historic federal and state partnership to restore the Bay. CBF is actively monitoring these developments and opposes any rollbacks that will impede efforts to restore the Bay.
November 1, 2018 Update: More than 14,400 CBF advocates submitted comments to EPA, urging them to reject the Safe Affordable Fuel-Efficient, which would freeze automobile fuel efficiency standards, and the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which would repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan.
We expect several changes to regulations that will impact the health of the Chesapeake Bay over the next year. One likely change is EPA's new definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
WOTUS (WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES)
In 2015, EPA finalized a new definition of 'Waters of the United States (WOTUS) that provided clarity about what types of wetlands require Section 402 and Section 404 Clean Water Act permits that are essential to Bay restoration. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed repealing this 2015 definition and CBF opposed that measure. The Agencies now propose to change the definition of WOTUS in a new rulemaking.
Among other things, this proposal narrows the definition of WOTUS so that features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall (ephemeral features), groundwater, many ditches (including most roadside or farm ditches), prior converted cropland, stormwater control features, and waste treatment systems would not be included. This limited reading will have the greatest impact upstream and is a significant problem for Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia which are governed by federal law. This loss of these safeguards will have impacts to the watershed as a whole.
CBF is monitoring these developments as they could have an impact on how wetlands are protected in the watershed.
CBF opposed the following proposals over the last year and we are waiting to see whether the Administration takes additional or final action on these issues.
MOTOR VEHICLE OR CAFE STANDARDS
Cars and light-duty trucks are a large source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and NOx. If vehicles can travel farther on a gallon of gas, they will burn less fuel and emit less GHGs and NOx.
EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced changes to the current Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and GHG efficiency standards (tailpipe emissions). If implemented, those standards would have resulted in significant decreases to nitrogen deposition to the Bay and would have helped to address climate change issues from which the Bay is suffering. Their new proposal, entitled the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule (SAFE) would relax standards for Model Year 2021-2026 vehicles. One of the proposals is to freeze these standards at the levels set for 2020.
CBF submitted comments opposing this proposal because it will impede the success of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and lead to worsening climate change. Go to the docket
THE REPEAL AND REPLACEMENT OF THE CLEAN POWER PLAN
The 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. It would have resulted in significant reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector, but it was never implemented.
In 2017, EPA proposed to repeal the CPP and change the legal interpretation of Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, upon which the CPP was based. EPA recently announced its replacement plan, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. Among other things, this proposal relaxes the requirements of the CPP and rather than establishing emission reduction targets, allows the states to determine how much, if at all, to cut emissions at plants.
CBF submitted comments opposing the repeal of the CPP and will submit comments opposing ACE because, for one, it will not achieve the same reductions in GHG emissions as the CPP would have. We are relying upon those reductions for the implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and for the associated benefits in addressing climate change. Go to the docket
SCIENTIFIC STUDIES AND COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS
EPA proposed a new rule that would limit the use of scientific studies when issuing regulations. As one example, human health studies that don't reveal the identity of patients would no longer be considered when issuing regulations regarding air pollution. There is also a proposed exemption clause that allows the Administrator to determine -separately from the requirements of the proposed rule—when he/she can consider science that doesn't meet the parameters of the proposed rule. Should this rule be finalized it will result in a loophole that allows EPA to consider what is has called "secret science" selectively.
In another EPA notice, the Agency suggests that it will review its policies regarding how cost-benefit analysis are to be conducted in issuing regulations. One concern that CBF has is that EPA will propose a rule that narrows or limits the consideration of ancillary benefits in its rulemaking. For example, in looking at the costs and benefits of reducing pollution from power plants, it is important to consider both the human health benefits as well as the benefits of reducing pollution to local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.
In response to these two proposals, CBF submitted comments encouraging EPA to consider all available science and all of the benefits associated with environmental regulations when promulgating its rules. We continue to monitor developments for both of these proposals.
NEPA (THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT)
NEPA is often referred to as the "Magna Carta" of environmental laws. It provides the public with an opportunity to weigh in on the development of major federal actions, like the approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) requested comment on whether, among other things, these processes should be streamlined. They hinted at efforts to reduce opportunities for public participation and reducing the thoroughness of environmental reviews.
CBF opposes any efforts that weaken NEPA and reduce opportunities for citizens to be involved in decisions that will impact the Chesapeake Bay. We continue to monitor developments and await CEQ's announcement of a proposed rule.
AIR EMISSIONS FROM ANIMAL WASTE AT FARMS
EPA proposed amending its regulations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to exempt farms from reporting air emissions from animal waste. This includes the reporting of ammonia emissions that are problematic for the Bay and for the health of those living and working within the watershed.
CBF opposed this change as the reporting under EPCRA is important for an environmental accounting of the emissions and as a source of information for local authorities and those that live and work near Confined Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs). We also questioned EPA's application of a similar reporting exemption under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to EPCRA. while the exemption was granted for CERCLA reporting under the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARM Act), Congress did not intend to apply this exemption to EPCRA reporting requirements.
CBF signed on to comments with other organizations opposing EPA's regulatory rollback weakening the 2016 Methane Standards. Methane emissions from oil and gas sources are a danger to human health and welfare and are a potent greenhouse gas that contribute to climate change. The Agency's proposal ignores these harms and, if finalized and implemented, will result in a loss of hundreds of thousands of tons of methane emissions reductions that were anticipated under the 2016 standard.
We encourage our members to get involved and to check our website often for updates regarding regulatory changes that will impact the Chesapeake Bay. Visit our Take Action page for more ways you can help.