Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Trump Administration Again Proposes Massive Cuts to EPA

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jul 04, 2017

On May 23, the Trump Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 (October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018), subtitled “A New Foundation for America’s Greatness”. The proposal includes a 31% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget, from $8.2 billion in FY 2016 (stable in FY 2017 under a Continuing Budget Resolution rather than a fully-new federal budget), to $5.7 billion for FY 2018, with corresponding personnel cuts from 15,376 full-time-equivalent employees (FTE) to 11,611. Although presidents’ annual budget proposals are rarely enacted in full, they do mark the formal start of annual considerations of federal policies and staffing. It’s therefore useful to review how President Trump and EPA Administrator Pruitt hope to proceed.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, climate change

What Will U.S. Withdrawal From Paris Accord Mean For Climate Change?

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 20, 2017

On June 1, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, and then seek to “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.” Most of the strong reactions I’ve seen – pro and con – express only superficial approaches to the implications of the decision. In this note I’ll dig a little deeper, and propose two different less-superficial ways to watch these implications play out.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, climate change

Citizen Suit Against Exxon Yields $20 Million Penalty For Refinery’s Clean Air Act Violations

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 06, 2017

On April 26, a federal district judge in Houston issued an order assessing Exxon Mobil nearly $20 million in civil penalties for thousands of Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at Exxon’s massive Baytown, Texas refinery and petrochemical complex. This decision is the latest in a long-running “citizen suit” enforcement case, seeking additional penalties to claw back the “economic benefits from noncompliance,” on top of nearly $1.5 million in civil penalties already assessed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the same violations. This decision illustrates the power of these private enforcement cases, which may become more important if the Trump Administration eases its own enforcement efforts.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, ghg, climate change

Circuit Court Strikes Down Bush-Era Reporting Exemptions

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, May 16, 2017

How long can a new President’s policy changes take? I’ve been writing about President Trump’s attempts to roll back environmental requirements, and cautioning that some changes can be fast (like immediate repeal of his predecessor’s executive orders regarding climate change) while others will require multi-year rulemakings to revise finalized regulations (like EPA’s review of the greenhouse gas emission limits under the Clean Air Act, both extremes appear in a recent Executive Order I discussed here). On April 11 the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a reminder that regulatory changes can take a long time. The Court revoked several environmental reporting exemptions adopted by EPA in the last month of George W. Bush’s administration (December 2008, effective on the day of President Obama’s inauguration January 20, 2009) – culminating a year-long rulemaking and setting of 8 years of administrative and judicial appeals. So this regulation-reducing effort took 9 years to fail.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, climate change

EPA’s “Back-to-Basics” Agenda

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, May 09, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been on a tour to publicize his efforts to get EPA “back-to-basics.” He launched the tour with a visit to a Pennsylvania coal mine in April. The agency issued a press release about that visit, which also summarized its “Back-to-Basics Agenda.” The press release summarizes the Agenda as “Protecting the environment; engaging with state, local and tribal partners; and creating sensible regulations that enhance economic growth.” The Agenda provides a convenient rhetorical framework for the new Administrator’s efforts to re-boot EPA’s activities.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, Hazcom, Oil & Gas, climate change, tsca, clean water

The Latest Climate Change-Fighting Innovations

Posted by Jane Dunne on Tue, May 02, 2017

All over the world, our brightest and most creative minds are finding ways for us to produce fewer greenhouse gases and use renewable energy to its greatest potential with fascinating new technologies.

Sustainable Job Innovators

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Tags: climate change, clean water

Trump Executive Order Rolls Back Obama’s Climate Initiatives

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Apr 04, 2017

Candidate Trump promised to reverse President Obama’s climate initiatives, which he variously described as based on uncertain science and/or as a “war on coal.” Since taking office, President Trump has moved expeditiously to make good on those promises. On March 28 he issued an executive order (EO) “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” packaging a large set of repeals and re-directions to move US federal policies firmly away from climate change and toward domestic fossil fuels.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, climate change

The World Decides To Help The Climate By Helping The Ozone Layer

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

Last month I blogged about basic provisions of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and ongoing negotiations to expand it to require phaseout of chemicals that harm the stratospheric ozone layer and contribute to climate change (click here, and included links to early blogs on Montreal Protocol issues). At that time, proposals all focused on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). At that point, global HFC use was increasing by roughly 10% annually, driven primarily by expanding use for air conditioning as hot developing countries sought to catch up with comfort levels in their developed counterparts. Proposed timelines and end-targets for reversing that expansion varied considerably.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, ghg, climate change

California Tightens Restrictions On High-Impact Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 11, 2016

Attempts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are more complex than they first appear. Reports in the mass media tend to focus on carbon dioxide (CO2). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Framework Convention) focuses primarily on six GHGs, including CO2 as well as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). Climate change scientists have identified hundreds of GHGs, with widely varying sources, relative contributions to climate change (numerical “global warming potential (GWP)”, where CO2 is defined as 1.0), and total contribution based on emitted volumes.

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Tags: California Legislation, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, Hazcom, climate change

U.S. and China Renew Climate Change Vows to Jumpstart Paris Agreement

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Sep 27, 2016

In recent years, the United States and China have found a rare basis for cooperation in their joint efforts to accelerate international efforts to manage and reduce climate change. The first significant step in this cooperation was the two countries’ bilateral agreement in November 2014 to manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within their boundaries (I blogged about it here). At the time, the two countries offered their commitments as a way to reinforce international climate change negotiations underway to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In December 2015, those negotiations produced the Paris Agreement, which established global mechanisms for countries to declare self-enforcing national GHG management commitments (I blogged about the Paris Agreement here).

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Tags: EPA, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, climate change