→ Reconsideration of Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants

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The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that it is not “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and hazardous air pollutants produced by coal- and oil-fired power plants (‘electric generating units’) under the Clean Air Act. This proposal comes ‘after considering the cost of compliance relative to the… benefits of regulation,’ from which the Agency concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits of regulation. The Agency is soliciting comments ‘on whether the [Environmental Protection Agency] has the authority or obligation to delist [electric generating units]’ and / or ‘rescind the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Coil- and Oil-Fired Electric Generating Units, commonly known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.’

The Environmental Protection Agency is also accepting comments on ‘establishing a subcategory for emissions of acid gas hazardous air pollutants from existing coal refuse.’

→ Standards of performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Electric Utility Generating Units

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to amend a 2015 rule “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.” The proposed amendments by the EPA include:

  1. ‘Its previous determination that the best system of emission reduction for newly constructed coal-fired steam generating units is partial carbon capture and storage. Instead, the EPA proposes to find that the [best system of emission reduction] for this source category is the most efficient demonstrated steam cycle.’

  2. Separate standards of performance for large and small steam generating units that have been newly constructed or reconstructed.

  3. ‘Separate standards of performance for newly constructed and reconstructed coal refuse-fired electric utility generating units.’

  4. ‘The maximally stringent standards for large modifications of steam generating units’ so that the standards are ‘consistent with the standards for reconstructed large and small steam generating units.’

→ Proposed public access rule for Environmental Protection Agency regulatory science

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting public comment on a proposed regulation which 'provides that, for the science pivotal to its significant regulatory actions, [the Environmental Protection Agency] will ensure that the data and models underlying the science is publicly available in a manner sufficient for validation and analysis' by any third party. The intention of this regulation is 'to strengthen the transparency of EPA regulatory science.' The EPA is particularly looking for comments on a variety of details related to how such a regulation can 'best be promulgated and implemented in light of existing law and prior Federal policies that already require increasing public access to data and influential scientific information used to inform federal regulation.'

→ Feedback on Proposed Path Forward for Future Offshore Renewable Energy Leasing on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf

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'The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) invites the public to contribute to the development of a path forward for future renewable leasing offshore the United States Atlantic Coast.' To date, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 'has issued 13 commercial leases on the Atlantic from North Carolina to Massachusetts. BOEM is now conducting a high-level assessment of all waters offshore the United States Atlantic Coast for potential additional lease locations. BOEM proposes to rely on various factors described below to help it assess which geographic areas along the Atlantic are the most likely to have highest potential for successful offshore wind development in the next three to five years. BOEM is seeking input on all aspects of its proposed path forward, but particularly on the merits of these factors and any other factors BOEM should consider. '

→ Proposed repeal of the 2015 "Clean Power Plan"

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The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a proposed repeal of the 2015 regulation known as the "Clean Power Plan" (officially the Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units). The Clean Power Plan established measures to cut power sector emissions to 32% of 2005 levels by 2030. In a review of the 2015 regulation, initiated by the March 2017 Executive Order 13783, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the Clean Power Plan 'exceeds the Agency's statutory authority', primarily regarding the interpretation of a section of the Clean Air Act that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to establish 'emission guidelines for existing sources that reflect the best system of emission reduction.'

*On November 8, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency published a notice extending the comment period to January 16, 2018. 

*On February 1, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency published a notice extending the comment period to April 26, 2018; the notice also announced three public listening sessions. 

→ Energy Conservation Standards Program design

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The U.S. Department of Energy 'is evaluating the potential advantages and disadvantages of additional flexibilities in the U.S. Appliance and Equipment Energy Conservation Standards program.' "Flexibilities" could include 'market-based approaches (such as those used to set average efficiency standards), feebate programs, or other approaches that may reduce compliance costs and/or increase consumer choice while preserving or enhancing appliance efficiency.' This is a request for information regarding the key issues and possible design of such a program. The Department of Energy is particularly looking for (1)'feedback on possible economic efficiency gains,' (2) 'impacts on consumer and manufacturer costs,' (3) 'impacts on energy savings,' and (4) 'suggestions for a pilot product category and/or phase-in of revisions across the Appliance and Equipment Energy Conservation Standards program.' Information on the 'potential challenges associated with designing and implementing any of these flexible program approaches as well as possible solutions' is also welcome.


*Comment period was extended 30 days from February 26 to March 26, 2018, by stakeholder request. 

→ Proposal Draft & Scoping for Environmental Impact Statement on 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing program

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is requesting comment on the Draft Proposed Program for the 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 'is also announcing its decision to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Program,' and is initiating 'the formal scoping process.' The new 2019-2024 Program is a key aspect of the implementation of the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy (E.O. 13795). The Proposed 2019-2024 Program 'would make more than 98 percent of the [outer continental shelf] resources available to consider for oil and gas leasing during the 2019-2024 period.' Comments received during this scoping period will help 'determine the appropriate content and scope for a focused and balanced programmatic environmental analysis by ensuring significant issues are identified early and properly studied during development' of the Environmental Impact Statement. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 'expects to consider environmentally sensitive areas... that could be considered for exclusion.'

→ Fourth National Climate Assessment

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The U.S. Global Change Research Program is calling for public comment on a third-order draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (Vol. II). The second volume of the National Climate Assessment “summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future” (GlobalChange.gov). The Assessment reviews information specific to different regions of the United States, 'while also evaluating climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation on 17 national-level topics. 

Chapter 2: Our Changing Climate; Chapter 6: Forests; Chapter 8: Coastal Effects; Chapter 9: Oceans & Marine Resources; Chapter 24: Northwest Region

*Check back for upcoming summaries on Chapters 5,6 & 10*

→ Proposed rule for renewable fuel standard program: grain sorghum oil pathway

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The Environmental Protection Agency 'is providing an opportunity to comment on an analysis of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with certain biofuels that are produced from grain sorghum oil.' Comments are specifically sought on the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed assessment that: (1) 'using distillers sorghum oil as feedstock results in no significant agricultural sector greenhouse gas emissions' (2) 'biodiesel and heating oil produced from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process... would meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reduction threshold of 50 percent required for advanced biofuels, and biomass-based diesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program,' and (3) 'renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process,' would also meet the Renewable Fuel Standard program requirements. 

→ Notice of availability of the Deepwater Horizon Spill Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment

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Federal and state agencies  for the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (TIG) have prepared a Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment #2. This draft 'describes and proposes restoration project alternatives considered by the Louisiana TIG to compensate for recreational use services lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Louisiana TIG evaluated these alternatives under criteria set forth in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 natural resource damage assessment regulations, and also evaluated the environmental consequences of the restoration alternatives in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.' This notice informs the public 'of the availability of the Draft' and calls for public comment on the Assessment. 

→ Application for long-term authorization to export liquefied natural gas to non-Free Trade Agreement nations

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The Office of Fossil Energy of the Department of Energy has received an application from Fourchon LNG LLC 'requesting long-term, multi-contract authorization to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas in a volume equivalent to 260 billion cubic feet per year.' Fourchon will be exporting this liquefied natural gas to countries in, and not in, a free trade agreement with the United States. 'Fourchon LNG seeks authorization to export this [liquefied natural gas] from a proposed natural gas liquefaction facility to be located on Port Fourchon at Belle Pass in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. Fourchon proposes to site, construct, own, and operate this Facility... [which] will be developed in phases.' Fourchon is requesting authorization with non-free trade agreement countries for a term of 20 years. Fourchon 'is requesting this authorization on its own behalf and as agent for other entities who hold title to the natural gas at the time of export.' Protests, motions to intervene, notices of intervention, and written comments are invited.

→ Grant notification from Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

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The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement have released a notice of their intent 'to grant funds to eligible applicants for purposes authorized under the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program.' The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program authorizes the Office to provide grants that address the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations. The Office also intends to grant funds 'for regulating coal mining within their jurisdictional borders.' Eligible applicants are those states and Indian Tribes with a regulatory program, regulatory development program, and/or reclamation plan approved under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. All grants will be awarded during the 2018 fiscal year.

→ Proposed rule to adjust rates for wholesale electricity sales

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The Secretary of Energy has issued a notice on its directive to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to impose a rule to adjust rates for electricity sales in order to 'improve the operation of organized wholesale electric power markets.' The proposed rule requires Commission-organized markets to develop and implement market rules that 'accurately price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our Nation's bulk power system.' This notice states that 'fuel-secure generation units' like 'reliable nuclear and coal-[fired] plants' contribute to the reliability and resilience of the electric grid due to on-site fuel supply. However, 'the mix of resources' contributing to the US electric grid is 'evolving in response to changing market conditions, including low natural gas prices [and] state and federal policies encouraging the entry of renewable resources.' There is concern that 'premature retirement' of 'fuel-secure generation units' will make the electric grid less reliable, particularly after natural disasters and during the 'winter heating season.' The notice states that the proposed tariffs do not require an environmental analysis (under the National Environmental Policy Act) or a consideration of alternatives that are less burdensome to small entities (under the Regulatory Flexibility Act), and so the Commission will take final action on the proposed rule within 60 days of the publication of this notice.

→ Safety of underground natural gas storage facilities

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is reopening the comment period on an interim final rule titled: “Pipeline Safety: Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities,” in response to a petition for reconsideration filed jointly by the American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, and the American Public Gas Association. The rule 'revises the Federal pipeline safety regulations to address critical safety issues related to downhole facilities, including wells, wellbore tubing, and casing, at underground natural gas storage facilities.' According to the text of the interim final rule, 'the promulgation of minimum federal standards would, for the first time, establish safety standards under the Pipeline Safety Regulations... for the currently unregulated downhole facilities at 197 interstate underground gas storage facilities and provide consistent, minimum standards for the remaining 203 intrastate facilities.'

→ Draft Environmental Impact Statement available on Liberty Development and Production Plan in Beaufort Sea planning area

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'The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is announcing the availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Liberty Development and Production Plan in the Beaufort Sea Planning Area. The proposed action would recover and process oil from the Liberty oil field and transport sales-quality oil to market.' This involves constructing 'a Liberty Drilling and Production Island to recover reserves from three Federal leases in Foggy Island Bay of the Beaufort Sea,' as well as 'a new pipeline linking the [Liberty Drilling and Production Island] to the Badami Sales Oil Pipeline. The applicant would bury the subsea portion (approximately 5.6 miles) of the pipeline along a route leading south from the [Liberty Drilling and Production Island] to the Alaska coastline west of the Kadleroshilik River. The pipeline would transition to an above-ground portion (approximately 1.5 miles) of the pipeline that would continue south to tie into the existing Badami pipeline. The applicant would produce oil from the [Liberty Drilling and Production Island], transport it through the Badami pipeline to the existing common carrier pipeline system, and on to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.'

→ Review of petition regarding regulation of naturally-occurring and accelerator-produced radioactive materials

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The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received a petition for rulemaking from Matthew McKinley on behalf of the Organization of Agreement States. The Organization of Agreement States consists of state radiation control directors and staff 'who are responsible for the implementation of their respective Agreement State programs.' Their petition requests that the Nuclear Regulatory Committee 'revise its regulations to add radionuclides and their corresponding activities to the list of “Quantities of Licensed Material Requiring Labeling,”' which the petitioners believe to be 'outdated.' The Nuclear Regulatory Committee is 'examining the issues raised by [the petition]' to determine whether the Committee should initiate a rule to address the petition's concerns. 

Specific comments are being requested on four questions, which can be found here.

→ Department of Transportation Regulatory Review

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The Department of Transportation 'is inviting the public to provide on existing rules that are good candidates for repeal, replacement, suspension, or modification during their regulatory review process. This is in accordance with the Department's 1979 Regulatory Policies and Procedures, Executive Order 12866, and section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. 

→ Draft Environmental Assessment and preliminary finding on Borrego Pipeline (TX) permit application

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The US Department of State has published a draft Environmental Assessment for the Borrego Pipeline Presidential permit application. The Assessment evaluates 'the potential environmental impacts of the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of a proposed new pipeline at the US-Mexico border in Webb County, Texas.' The Department is announcing its preliminary 'Finding of No Significant Impact' for this project.  Per the National Environmental Policy Act, a non-significant finding on a final Environmental Assessment ends the National Environmental Policy Act process and allows the permit application to move forward. The Department of State is soliciting comments on both the draft Environmental Assessment and their preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact. 



→ Nuclear Criticality Safety Standards for nuclear materials outside reactor cores

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is issuing for public comment draft regulatory guide DG-3053, “Nuclear Criticality Safety Standards for Nuclear Materials Outside Reactor Cores.” This draft regulatory guide would be published as a revision to Regulatory Guide 3.71. The proposed revision would provide methods that are acceptable to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff for criticality safety standards used with nuclear materials outside reactor cores. The revision would provide up-to-date guidance based on changes to American National Standards Institute/American Nuclear Society-8 standards. The revision would also endorse International Organization for Standardization Standard 7753:1987, “Nuclear Energy—Performance and Testing Requirements for Criticality Detection and Alarm Systems.”