Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Environment & Energy,The latest news and information on energy, environment, and everything in between. Subscribe here thehill.com/newsletter-signup.
Today, we’re going to be looking at the new Environmental Protection Agency program. It aims to increase monitoring environmental hazards in the South. We also examine the state-level barriers to “forever chemical” lawsuits and the latest rollback by the Trump-era permitting by the Biden administration.
Let’s get started.
Southern communities are at risk of being polluted
Tuesday evening, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced a large-scale monitoring project to monitor compliance with regulations in a variety of South South communities.
According to the agency the program, called the Pollution Accountability Team (POLAT), will monitor air pollution and clean up groundwater.
Regular follow-ups will be conducted by regional inspectors to monitor site-specific emissions. According to the announcement, the program will focus on newer and more dangerous contaminants such as ethylene oxide and chloroprene.
Details: EPA Administrator Michael ReganOn a conference call with reporters, he also stated that he had directed the enforcement arm of the agency to increase unannounced inspections at suspected noncompliant facilities.
Regan announced further a number of city- and local efforts in the communities covered by this program. They include Jackson, Miss. water contamination, where the EPA issued a Notice of Noncompliance Tuesday to the city in response to allegations that it had not properly maintained its water potability infrastructure.
The team will also install air monitoring in Mossville (La.) and Louisiana’s St. James or St. John the Baptist churches. The agency will provide $600,000 for mobile air pollution monitoring equipment in these three communities.
Regan made the announcement during a November 2021 trip to several vulnerable communities throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas.
Regan said that EPA is taking immediate action to address what he had seen and heard on the ground. “Underserved Communities… have been waiting too long and they are counting upon us to make it right. This administration has already begun to show these communities that it sees them. We have listened and are responding.
PFAS lawsuit state bills face hurdles
This is Part 2 in a four-part series about “forever chemicals”. Check out TheHill.com More.
State-level efforts to compensate victims of “forever chemicals” exposure have been met with resistance from both industry and governments. This has been especially true in Republican-led states.
An official from Vermont’s governor’s offices coordinated with a lobbyist to “waterdown” a bill that was intended to make polluters cover for health screenings. Emails obtained via The Hill show.
And in Michigan, a bill aiming to add more time to the clock to allow people to sue over contamination has languished in the Republican-controlled legislature.
These pieces of legislation would have covered multiple types of contamination. However they are often referred to a toxic class of forever chemicals called per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). This is a group of thousands of compounds which have been linked with health issues like thyroid disease, kidney cancer, and thyroid disease.
In Vermont: The 2019 Vermont billThe S.37 law was created to allow communities affected by pollution to sue companies for medical monitoring costs. Plaintiffs who have been exposed but are not yet sick by toxic substances can receive medical monitoring to help prevent future illness. In late 2019, A Vermont court ruledAlthough medical monitoring can be used in legal solutions for industrial pollution, the legislation was vetoed before it was made. It would have sought state law to enshrine that right.
However, the legislation was criticized by the business community.
The Hill received an email from Ethan Latour (then a staffer to Vermont Gov.), which was sent to The Hill. Phil Scott (R), a recap of a conversation that they had. The email indicated that it was intended as a draft for a governor’s update.
What did it mean? Latour stated that Coleman and others had been working to amend the legislation. This included exempting activities performed in compliance with federal and state permits from being used as a basis for medical monitoring claims.
He wrote in April 2019 that “these changes would make medical monitoring’s legal standard more consistent with judicial decision made in other states… but would be perceived by some as watering down of the bill.”
Latour stated in the same email that Coleman had been working with state legislators and sway them towards “his/our” – pointing toward a joint venture of the governor’s office, the lobbyist.
“Warren has been diligently working with the House Judiciary Committee in an effort to help them see and appreciate the benefits of his/our proposition around strict liability, medical monitoring,” he wrote.
“Strict liability” refers to thatA defendant would be held liable for an action, regardless of intent. If S.37 was adopted as originally proposed, Vermont could have been the first state that explicitly placed polluters on the hook to contamination and its consequences via a strict responsibility standard. But, the provision was dropped from the final bill.
What do they have to say? Coleman wrote to The Hill to express his concern about the bill’s potential effects on industry.
He stated that the state wanted to give medical monitoring the legal right to sue. However, business groups were pushing to change the law to be “consistent” with existing court precedents rather than to create a new legal test.
Scott spokesperson Jason Maulucci directed The Hill A message from GovernorHis veto was explained by him as he stated that the bill lacks the clarity Vermont employers need to provide good jobs.
Scott also stated that there was a “path forward” for the bill. touting a bipartisan amendmentAlthough it was not included in final version, it would have raised the threshold for medical monitoring compared to the thresholds suggested in the legislation.
An update! Last year, a different version of the bill was introduced. Now called S.113, was added. This version does not contain any strict liability provisions. Additional changes were made to the language to specify that it only applies to “exposure substantially greater than the general population” and not to exposure more generally.
The Vermont Senate’s Judiciary Committee took up the new legislation During a hearing last Wednesday.
Learn about the efforts to allow PFAS lawsuits These are the same people who are playing in other states.
Interior cancels two Minnesota mining leases
The Interior Department announced Wednesday that it had cancelled two Minnesota mine leases granted under Trump’s Trump administration.
The leases of Twin Metals Minnesota for hardrock mineral mining in the Boundary Lakes Canoe Area Wilderness, northeastern Minnesota, were renewed by the department in 2019. Wednesday’s legal opinion by the Department of Solicitor stated that the department had improperly renewed the leases for Twin Metals Minnesota’s hardrock mineral mining near northeastern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The company had been denied renewal by the Obama Interior Department in December 2016. However, the Trump administration reversed that decision in 2018 and allowed an environmental review to be conducted.
Although the company was granted leases in the area for the first time in 1966, no mineral production has taken place at either location. Environmentalists have expressed concerns that mining activity could expose the area, which covers almost 1.1million acres, to toxic chemical leaching.
Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes, principal deputy solicitor, stated in the Wednesday opinion that the department had “issued Twin Metals’ 2019 leasing renewals in contravention of multiple legal authorities.” Trump-era officials, she wrote in the Wednesday opinion, issued 2019 renewals to Twin Metals’ leases using customized legal form that altered standard leasing terms. Interior did not correctly recognize the consent authority of the U.S. Forest Service during the process, and they did not consider all possible scenarios in their environment analysis as required, Downes found.
TASK AT HAND
House Democrats want to draw more attention to three climate related issues. They announced Wednesday that they are forming new task force to address the issue.
The House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, a group made up of 71 lawmakers, announced that the task force would be focusing on agriculture and national security.
Representatives Chellie Peingree (D. Maine), and Kim Schrier, (D. Wash.) will lead Climate and Agriculture Task Force. They will engage farmers on climate issues leading up the Farm Bill. This is legislation that Congress takes up every five year that deals with agriculture and related policy. It will also consider other areas of food policy as well as climate change’s impacts on agriculture and forests.
Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), will co-chair Climate and National Security Task Force. This task force will focus on making the military climate-resilient and reducing military emissions, as well as foreign policy issues that are affected by climate change.
Raja Krishnamoorthi (D.Ill.), as well as Sean Casten (D.Ill.), will head the Power Sector Task Force. This task force will focus on reducing the emissions from the electric and transmission sectors and reforms to the transmissions systems.
WHAT WE’RE READING
After 2005 wildfires, Boulder was warned by officials that underground mine fires could pose a long-term risk.9News)
Los Angeles moves to stop oil drilling in the cityThe Los Angeles Times)
That’s all for today. Thank you for reading. Check out The Hill. Energy & Environment pageFor the latest news and coverage. We’ll be there You Thursday.