Wednesday, May 22, 2013

House of Reps Set to Vote on "Reliability" Legislation that Could Limit EPA Authority to Protect Breathers

This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote -- under a special "suspension of the rules" -- on legislation that could limit EPA authority to protect breathers.

The bill, H.R. 271, is opposed by major environmental groups who argue it is "Not only vague and overly broad" but "takes the unprecedented step of authorizing total civil and criminal amnesty from all federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations for electric power producers under special orders from the Department of Energy."



As noted by the House Majority Leader's office, http://majorityleader.gov/floor/daily.html this is on the calendar this afternoon for "Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules":

1) H.R. 271 - Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act of 2013 (Sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson / Energy and Commerce Committee)


(Once a member makes a motion to "suspend the rules" and take some action, debate is limited to 40 minutes, no amendments can be offered to the motion or the underlying matter, and a 2/3 majority of Members present and voting is required to agree to the motion.)
 Here is a letter in opposition submitted by major environmental groups noted below:
May 14, 2013
 Dear Representative:
On behalf of our millions of members, activists and supporters, we urge you oppose H.R. 271, the “Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act of 2013.” This legislation is unnecessary, overly broad, and harmful.
H.R. 271 takes the unprecedented step of authorizing total civil and criminal amnesty from all federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations for electric power producers under special orders from the Department of Energy. The bill waives health and environmental safeguards when the Department of Energy issues orders under section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act (“202(c) orders”). Troublingly, based on the bill’s text as drafted, it is unclear just how many statutes, both civil and criminal, the bill waives.
Further compounding this broad amnesty is the fact that the bill fails to provide an enforceable role for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or any other environmental agency in determining whether the public is protected against pollution or even to ensure modest mitigation measures. Instead, the bill places legal authority with the Department of Energy to determine when and for how long these orders and renewed orders should remain in force and the amnesty periods continue. Indeed, the bill provides no outside time limit on how many times 202(c) orders may be renewed.
Not only is this legislation vague and overly broad, but also it is unnecessary and ignores currently available legal remedies for resolving compliance issues relating to 202(c) orders. These available options include enforceable consent decrees with the EPA. A consent decree between EPA and a power producer operating under a 202(c) order would create a legally enforceable understanding with EPA regarding environmental compliance issues. This would allow a plant to operate without meeting the legal requirements of one or more environmental laws while still satisfying the needs of the electricity grid that prompted the 202(c) order. Critically, however, a consent decree preserves the ability and legal authority to include operational conditions and mitigation measures to protect the public against health hazards caused by power plant pollution. This more finely-tailored, balanced approach would eliminate the need for H.R. 271 and its blunt weapon of conferring amnesty to power plant companies while leaving the public unprotected.
Once again we urge you to oppose H.R. 271 due to its vague terms and overly broad language.
Sincerely,
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Water Action
Environment America
Environmental Law and Policy Center
Friends of the Earth
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
Southern Environmental Law Center
 

3 comments:

Frank O'Donnell, Clean Air Watch said...

Footnote: The House of Representatives did pass this legislation by a voice vote. 1.usa.gov/16bdqit

Anonymous said...

Can you provide a record of the voice vote - who voted for or against?

Frank O'Donnell, Clean Air Watch said...

There was no recorded vote -- only the voice vote.