Posts Tagged ‘EPA’

Climate Change Dominates ECOS Meeting

September 24, 2013

By Mark Anderson, Esq. and Sarah E. Hunt, Esq.

Greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pollution control created a heated atmosphere at last week’s 2013 Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) annual meeting. Climate change drove the agenda from the start to finish.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy’s luncheon keynote remarks focused on the EPA’s commitment to implement President Obama’s recently unveiled climate policy. McCarthy pledged that EPA will meet individually with each state to develop their own greenhouse gas strategy. She praised the states for already identifying carbon pollution solutions, “that are practical and achievable.” McCarthy further promised the ECOS delegates that, “There is flexibility under the law to allow states to design cost effective solutions.” But, McCarthy hinted at ever-expanding EPA authority when she mentioned using Clean Water Act jurisdiction to address climate change.

State leaders expressed skepticism toward McCarthy’s promise to give states any control when it comes to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. “It was great hearing the new Administrator talk about relying on sound science and working with the states to develop policy and enforcement. I just hope it really happens,” commented Virginia Natural Resources Secretary, Doug Domenech.

At Tuesday morning’s ECOS air subcommittee meeting delegates deliberated over a controversial resolution on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The resolution sets forth a position of the states on EPA’s pending regulations governing carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Several states vehemently opposed the resolution, fearing that EPA will view an ECOS resolution on the matter as a collective state endorsement of EPA’s divisive carbon pollution control agenda. Bryan Shaw of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality stated that EPA has “repeatedly denied and ignored,” input from his state on climate policy. Potential inclusion of references to state and regional emission trading programs were a key controversy. A North Dakota official remarked that “just mentioning” such programs could be interpreted by EPA as an endorsement, even though many states oppose such cap and trade programs for carbon emissions.

After contentious deliberations, the states were unable to reach an agreement on compromise language. They voted to table the greenhouse gas resolution. Later in the day, ECOS members reconvened the discussion and opted to continue the deliberation via e-mail. Commissioners are now expected to vote on an amended greenhouse gas resolution later in September.

The delegates enjoyed a respite from the climate change debate during sessions on hazardous waste and Toxic Substances Control Act reform (TSCA). The recent National Academy of Sciences report, Alternatives for Managing the Nation’s Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites, provided a starting point for the hazardous waste discussion. Representatives from states, and the federal government, discussed moving from active remediation to passive strategies at complex hazardous waste sites. The consensus of the group was that scarce financial resources should only be invested in clean-up strategies that make a meaningful difference. TSCA reform was on everyone’s mind, including McCarthy, who stated TSCA is a, “broken statute that needs to be fixed.” Broad pre-emption language in the TSCA reform presently bill before Congress, however, concerned many of the delegates and speakers.

For the first time, ECOS held a natural resources discussion immediately following the annual meeting. Climate change adaptation and hydraulic fracturing were the major topics. Nathan Richardson of Resources for the Future shared his research on the effectiveness of state regulation of hydraulic fracturing. Richardson reported that the states with the most fracked wells have the most comprehensive regulations. The effects of climate change on water resources, however, was the center of attention. Ben Grumbles, former EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, expressed the theme of the afternoon saying, “Climate change is water change. Adaptation will be about managing water quantity and water scarcity.”

The ECOS member divide over the appropriate state response to EPA’s bold climate agenda is wide, and in some cases, stark. Conference attendees looking forward to the spring ECOS meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, expect this subject to continue to be both prominent and contentious at future meetings.

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Mark Anderson is Senior Vice President working at Stateside Associates managing the Regulatory Services Division. He advises clients on engagement strategy and directs educational and “grasstops” campaigns directed at governors and regulatory officials. Mr. Anderson also has created issue advocacy coalitions and facilitates work group meetings of state and federal stakeholders addressing environmental issues.

Sarah E. Hunt is Manager, State Issues at Stateside Associates. Prior to joining Stateside, she was part of boutique political law practice that advised clients in all aspects of direct democracy, from compliance to campaign management. The veteran of dozens of ballot measure campaigns, she is co-author of several state and local ballot measures, including Oregon’s Ballot Measure 73. She is a member of the Oregon and the District of Columbia bars.

EPA Conspicuously Absent at ECOS Spring Meeting

March 27, 2012

By Mark Anderson, Senior Vice President

The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) convened its Spring Meeting last week in Austin, Texas.  I would sum up the theme of the meeting by quoting the first lunch speaker, Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Mark Vickery, stating that the relationship between EPA and the states requires “complete reformation.”  Two trends conspired to make this so—dissatisfaction with EPA over increasing mandates and policy changes with little state input, and the dramatic decline in EPA participation with ECOS.  The second-day lunch keynote speech, always reserved for the EPA Administrator or an appropriate high-level designee, was absent a speaker. 

Throughout the three-day meeting, issue after issue was raised by ECOS members about states not having the resources to carry out many EPA directives.  Yet there was not sufficient high-level EPA involvement in the meeting to have a meaningful dialogue about it.  A state and federal co-regulator relationship that should be built on trust and cooperation has clearly deteriorated. 

The problem was apparent not only in the rhetoric, but also in the specific policy discussions undertaken during the meeting.  At the opening plenary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer brought up his support for HR 3867, the “Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2012.”  This legislation addresses the concern of the states that EPA, with increasing frequency, will settle lawsuits by organizations by agreeing to initiate rulemakings behind closed doors.  As such, by the time states are allowed to comment on the subsequent rulemaking, EPA responds by claiming that they are bound by the lawsuit.  The legislation would require EPA to allow comments by affected parties prior to agreeing to settlements.

Another more heated example of this lack of communication was a discussion over new air monitoring requirements.  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp spoke about the lack of clarity with EPA’s requirements.  Many states chimed into the discussion both about the lack of adequate guidance from EPA in the face of substantial new requirements and the importance of good modeling.  Again, the focus of the discussion was not on whether modeling is important, but the fact that EPA mandates policy changes for the states and then provides little communication or support about how to achieve them.

Which brings me to what I think is the most significant event during this meeting—passage of the resolution, “Challenges of Achieving Significant Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Reductions.”  The resolution discusses the challenges that face the states in meeting the US-ratified United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change GHG emissions reduction mandate.  The mandate calls for an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050—a massive undertaking by any metric.   The resolution calls on EPA to provide scenarios in which states could achieve these reductions and provide a study of the costs and benefits of doing so.  As I discussed in an earlier blog, true discussion amongst the states about the costs associated with complying with climate change requirements had been unprecedented.  The resolution passed unanimously. 

States discussing challenges posed by EPA has been a mainstay at ECOS meetings.  The difference at this meeting was the level of frustration, and the lack of significant participation by EPA officials to listen and respond.  This is particularly troublesome for the states during times of great budget strain at both the state and federal level, and it represents one of the most fundamental hurdles in the EPA-state relationship.

As a result, “you should contact your federal delegation,” was a suggestion offered by ECOS members to their peers far more frequently at this meeting than I have ever witnessed.  EPA is no longer engaging meaningfully with the states and is forcing states to look elsewhere for guidance and support.

All good relationships require trust.  When dealing with any state and local officials group, I always advise my clients to participate consistently and respect the organization and its members through open and honest communication.  EPA has violated these principles and the relationship is suffering as a result.

Growing Issues at State Departments of Agriculture Meeting

February 10, 2012

By Michael Behm, Senior Vice President

State agriculture commissioners and directors representing nearly 40 states convened in Washington, DC for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Winter Meeting to discuss a variety of state and federal policy issues facing farmers, ranchers and agribusiness.

While perhaps not attracting the same media attention as governors or legislators, the states’ chief agriculture officials play a critical role in sustaining America’s agribusiness.

The US agriculture industry is booming. Demand is up for agricultural products, commodity prices are near all-time highs and the value of US agricultural exports increased approximately 21% from 2010 to 2011. All of that said, the attending commissioners and directors acknowledged an equal number of challenges —a dwindling agricultural workforce and disappearing farmland, myriad regulatory challenges at the state and federal levels of government, shrinking federal subsidies and the ever-present danger of another economic downturn. Like the agriculture industry as a whole, NASDA’s members recognize…

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