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CHEJ Responds to Pruitt’s Plans for Superfund

The Trump Administration and newly-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt claim to desire to return Superfund cleanups “to their rightful place at the center of the EPA’s core mission”1, however their actions speak differently: their proposed budget includes a 30% cut in funding to the Superfund. In April, Pruitt assembled a Task Force to provide recommendations for the future of Superfund, chaired by Albert Kelly, a prior bank chairman with no environmental experience. On June 22nd, the report was released and the recommendations it contains raise major concerns decreasing cleanup oversight, privileging corporate interests over public health, and a lack of community involvement.
In response, CHEJ has prepared a point-by-point rebuttal of the key recommendations of Pruitt’s report. We intend to share this document with members of our coalition to serve as a guide in the on-going process of organizing together in the pursuit of Superfund reform and Environmental Justice.
Read our response to Pruitt’s plan for Superfund here:
Response to the EPA Superfund Task Force Report (1)

Backyard Talk News Archive

Wilmington Demands Clean Water, Clean EPA

Don’t drink the water. That’s something you’d expect to hear when you travel to a developing country. But that’s what people are saying in Wilmington, a historic beach, tourist and retiree destination and the eighth-largest city in this state. It also happens to be one of my favorite places to go when I need a reprieve from the heat and humidity of central North Carolina. With its charming historic riverfront, shops, delicious restaurants, parks, water sports and beautiful beaches, it’s a great place to relax and unwind. The last thing one should have to worry about is the safety of the local drinking water.
Over the past couple of months, Wilmington residents have learned that DuPont and its spinoff company Chemours have been dumping unregulated chemicals into the Cape Fear River for decades and only recently stopped at the request of the governor. The result: Disturbing levels of chemicals like 1,4-dioxane, GenX and PFOA have been found in the drinking water of residents in Wilmington, Brunswick and the surrounding area.
These types of of chemicals, called fluorinated compounds, have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease and obesity. GenX and other fluorinated compounds are used in the making of Teflon, Scotchgard and other stain-resistant and water-repellant products. They are designed so that they are water- and oil-repellant, which means that they are extremely difficult to treat in water-treatment plants before they hit our taps.
While GenX has received a lot of the attention, the chemical 1,4-dioxane – which is much more well-studied – has been found in some places to be in excess of 35 parts per billion, a level at which, when consumed regularly over the course of a lifetime, cancer risk becomes two orders of magnitude higher than that at generally acceptable levels. Many Wilmington residents have been drinking this water their whole lives. Now they must worry about the risks to their and their children’s health.
Wilmington has asked the EPA to start looking into GenX and investigating the safety of its water. But with asbestos denier Scott Pruitt and chemical industry representative Nancy Beck overseeing EPA’s program in charge of regulating these chemicals, I don’t have much faith in their investigation. Now, the Trump Administration has nominated Michael Dourson to lead the entire toxics program at the EPA. Will Mr. Dourson provide hope for Wilmington?
A look at his background also leaves me skeptical. In 2002, DuPont hand-picked Dourson’s firm Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA) to advise West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality on setting health levels for PFOA, one of the same chemicals now found in Wilmington’s water. His firm came up with a level that was thousands of times less protective than a later EPA assessment. 1,4-dioxane is currently under review by the very office that Mr. Dourson has been nominated to lead. Yet he also published research on that chemical paid for entirely by PPG, a company responsible for discharging this chemical and contaminating Ohio’s waterways.
Saturday, I went to a Rally for Clean Water in Wilmington to talk with residents about their concerns. They want what we all want – to know that when they open up the tap, they can drink the water without worrying about toxic chemicals. And they deserve better: corporate polluters that are held accountable for egregious pollution and government officials who will protect their health and safety at the local and the national level.
By Ansje Miller resides in Hillsborough and is the director of policy and partnerships for the Center for Environmental Health.


Top FERC To-Do List – Gas Pipelines

Now that its quorum has been restored, one of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission‘s top priorities will be breaking the logjam of natural gas pipeline projects needing approval that built up over the six months since the body was last able to perform its duties. 
The U.S. Senate brought FERC back to fighting shape earlier this month with the confirmation of commissioners Republicans Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and Neil Chatterjee, a senior energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The two men, along with sitting Commissioner and acting Chair Cheryl LaFleur, a Democrat, give the five-member agency the three commissioners it needs to decide on any action requiring a vote.
While there’s a lot for the commission to catch up on, from projects to policy and regulatory matters, gas pipeline proposals are likely to be at the top of the list for quick action, said David Wochner, a partner at K&L Gates LLP and the firm’s policy and regulatory practice area leader.
“Pipeline infrastructure in the natural gas space … certainly provides one of the best opportunities for a newly constituted FERC,” Wochner said. “It’s an opportunity to really advance President Trump’s infrastructure initiatives, which obviously he talked about all through the campaign.”
There are five projects that are ready to be reviewed by the commission:
·        The $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a Dominion Energy Inc. project
·        The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline — a joint effort between EQT Midstream Partners LPNextEra Energy Inc. subsidiary NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Consolidated Edison Inc. subsidiary Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Holdings Inc. unit WGL Midstream, and RGC Resources Inc. unit RGC Midstream LLC
·        The $2.2 billion Nexus Pipeline, a DTE Energy Co. and Enbridge Corp. venture
·        The $1.8 billion Mountaineer Xpress Pipeline, a TransCanada Corp. project
·        The $1 billion PennEast Pipeline, a joint effort between Southern Co. Gas subsidiary AGL ResourcesNew Jersey Resources Corp. subsidiary NJR Pipeline Co., PSEG Power LLC, South Jersey Industries Inc. unit SJI Midstream, Enbridge Corp., and UGI Corp. subsidiary UGI Energy Services LLC

All have received their final environmental impact statements from FERC and are waiting for commissioners to decide whether to issue certificates of public convenience and necessity. Those certificates, issued under Section 7 of the federal Natural Gas Act, convey the power of eminent domain to the project owners to use as they construct a pipeline along a right-of-way approved by FERC.

Wochner said he thinks the Nexus and PennEast projects are the best candidates to be handled first, saying they’re both significant infrastructure projects that should be prioritized.
Dena Wiggins, president and CEO of the Natural Gas Supply Association, said there’s no FERC meeting until September, so that would be the earliest any project could be aired in a public meeting. She said the projects could be certified “notationally,” meaning the members can vote on paper — outside of a meeting — and issue a certificate that way. But she added that’s unlikely.
“For big orders, usually staff makes a presentation to the commissioners,” Wiggins said. “Sometimes commissioners will want to make public statements.”
While the pipeline projects have made it through most of the FERC process so far, Kelly Martin, deputy director for the Sierra Club‘s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said that won’t be the end of the story.
“There is major pushback from communities around use of eminent domain, especially in Virginia and in West Virginia,” Martin said. “There are landowners that don’t want their land taken through the use of eminent domain when there’s no public good in the state where they are, or any need.”
In fact, both the Mountain Valley and Nexus pipelines are the subject of new lawsuits, both targeting FERC’s authority to grant eminent domain powers to pipeline companies.
Ohio residents are suing FERC and Nexus Gas Transmission LLC, the company created by DTE and Enbridge to develop the project, alleging the pipeline will primarily export gas, disqualifying it from meeting the “necessity” component of a FERC certificate of approval. The plaintiffs say exporting gas is not a public use for purposes of the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment and is beyond the scope of the Natural Gas Act and FERC jurisdiction in cases involving eminent domain.
Separately, Virginia residents are suing FERC and Mountain Valley LLC, the company created to carry out the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, in another Fifth Amendment takings clause constitutional challenge to the eminent domain provisions of the Natural Gas Act.
Eugene Elrod, a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, said the lawsuits show that landowners and other parties are looking for new ways to stop pipeline projects.
“If the lawsuits are successful, they would have far-reaching effects, because all pipelines that get certificates of public convenience and necessity from FERC need to exercise this power of eminent domain to condemn the property over which the pipeline will run,” Elrod said.
Martin said groups like the Sierra Club could also ask FERC to reconsider any authorizations granted on climate change or cumulative impact grounds.
“A major concern for us is the climate impacts of methane, which is released at the drilling site, from the pipelines along the way and then from a power plant, if that’s the end use,” she said.
–Additional reporting by Adam Lidgett, Michael Phillis and Keith Goldberg. Editing by Philip Shea and Katherine Rautenberg.
By Juan Carlos Rodriguez  Law360, New York (August 14, 2017, 8:48 PM EDT) —


Skeptics voice concerns over EPA plan for worst toxic waste sites

“The whole thing has so little to do with the core missions, which is protecting citizens and the environment we live in.” said Lois Gibbs, founder of the Virginia-based CHEJ. “It really is like a blueprint for redevelopment and investors, not ‘how do we protect the environment, how how do we make responsible parties pay.’”
Gibbs pointed to a section in the report that encourages private investment as an example of this redevelopment blueprint, and said the report does not lay out how companies that were already reticent to get involved with clean-ups would change their minds, particularly with the Trump administration’s proposal to slash the Superfund budget, which could hamper federal enforcement.
“Why is company X suddenly going to play differently than they played in the past?” Gibbs said. “There is no money to use as leverage.”
Read the whole story here: