The Environmental Protection Agency will be busy proposing, finalizing, implementing and defending one rule after another in 2012. Of course, Election Day makes a big difference in the implementation of rules.
• In the remaining weeks of 2011, the agency will finalize rules regulating emissions for boilers and solid waste incinerators and to curb mercury and toxic emissions from power plants. The EPA also will move forward with automakers and the Department of Transportation to set new miles-per-gallon standards for automobiles and lower the amount of sulfur in gasoline.
• On Jan. 1, the agency’s rule governing air pollution that blows across state lines will take effect, amid a flurry of paperwork in a massive lawsuit driven by 45 petitioners. The lawsuit was brought by states beholden to more stringent requirements and utilities that will have to implement them. The EPA is joined in the case by downwind cities and states that will benefit from the new air pollution limits, along with environmentalists and some other utilities.
• April 3, the EPA will finalize air standards for wells that use hydraulic fracturing to access natural gas and for oil and natural gas processing plants.
• The EPA will set greenhouse gas emission standards for fossil-fueled power plants and petroleum refineries.
• Under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget are rules to reconsider air emission standards at chemical manufacturing plants, and a review of risk and technology for emission standards for shipbuilding and ship repair.
• The EPA plans to decide during the summer how to regulate coal ash — the byproduct that is often reused in housing products but has been the subject of national attention after some dangerous spills from huge retention ponds.
• In July, the agency also will finalize a rule for water discharge permits for cooling towers that keep power plants and manufacturing facilities from overheating. Such towers pull water from rivers and streams, posing dangers to fish and fish eggs that become caught in intake screens. The issue prompted a Supreme Court ruling that says the EPA may consider costs and benefits in its regulations because the Clean Water Act does not explicitly forbid it. (More)
• The EPA has agreed to judicially mandated deadlines for acting on plans to cut haze-causing pollution from coal-fired power plants in 45 states. The deadlines run from this December to November 2012.
• Meanwhile, several rules are caught up in an ongoing lawsuit over EPA’s climate “endangerment finding” in which the agency determined that carbon dioxide emissions threaten public health and the environment. The finding became an underpinning of EPA climate regulations. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral arguments for that case Feb. 28-29, and many expect that the case will be decided in the summer.