Vitter reshuffles GOP staff on environment panel
The new top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has kicked off the new year by revamping the panel's staff.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has let go several of outgoing ranking member James Inhofe's (R-Okla.) personnel. In fact, Vitter is holding on to only two of Inhofe's staffers so far.
The most notable departure is Inhofe's lead transportation staffer, James O'Keeffe, who played a pivotal role in shepherding the highway bill through Congress last year. Also leaving is Todd Johnston, who handled coal issues for Inhofe since 2007.
Luke Bolar, a spokesman for Vitter, said that despite the staff shakeup, the Republican plans to continue in the direction set by Inhofe and plans to work with Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on major water legislation.
Boulder County wants federal lawmakers to address local oil, gas concerns
BOULDER -- Boulder County commissioners are calling for strengthened federal oversight of the oil and gas industry and its potential impacts on air and water quality.
That's among the high-priority policy positions the Board of County Commissioners plan to pursue with the members and staffs of Boulder County's congressional delegation that's part of a "federal legislative agenda" the commissioners adopted last Thursday.
Boulder County will be presenting that legislative agenda to U.S. Sens. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and Michael Bennet, D-Denver, as well as to the two U.S. House members whose districts include parts of the county, Reps. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, and Cory Gardner, R-Yuma.
EPA draft cites potential health threats from home improvement products
U.S. EPA warned today of potential human health threats posed by three common ingredients in home improvement products.
In the first draft chemical assessments in its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) "work plan," EPA found that two paint stripper products -- methylene chloride or dichloromethane (DCM) and n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) -- as well as trichloroethylene (TCE), when used as a degreaser and spray-on protective coating, create human health concerns when used in specific ways.
James Jones, EPA's acting administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, emphasized that the assessments are only in draft form and are still works in progress.
"The draft risk assessments released today for public review and comment highlight the agency's ongoing commitment to ensure the safety of chemicals we encounter in our daily lives," Jones said in a statement.
Industry praises EPA moves on frack study
The oil and gas industry's biggest lobbying group praised U.S. EPA today for making "course corrections" in its closely watched hydraulic fracturing study.
The American Petroleum Institute said it was pleased to see the agency had honored its request to involve industry officials more closely.
"EPA has begun constructive course corrections, including the formation of technical roundtables that include industry expertise," Stephanie Meadows, API upstream senior policy adviser, said in a statement. "More collaboration, continued transparency and stakeholder involvement are essential elements for any scientifically sound study, and we hope that the rest of this process remains open and any data released has the necessary context."
EPA tweaks its big fracking study
U.S. EPA announced "significant" changes today to its study of the safety of hydraulic fracturing, including deferring to the Department of Energy on how fracturing fluid interacts with shale underground.
It has also incorporated the FracFocus chemical registry into its multiyear investigation and dropped one of its planned case studies.
The progress report on the closely watched study, released late this morning, offered no conclusions about the safety of fracturing.
Today's report was at one point billed as the initial study, then as an interim report, but its significance dwindled as the size of the project and its political implications have grown.
"While this progress report outlines the framework for the final study, it does not draw conclusions about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, which will be made in the final study," the agency states in a release.
EPA officials say the final report is due in 2014. It will assess how fracturing affects water quality.
Calif. takes step toward fracking regulation with draft rules
California regulates hydraulic fracturing less than any other oil and gas-producing state in the nation -- which is to say, not at all. But after state officials released draft rules this week, that is set to change.
The state's Department of Conservation, which regulates the broader drilling process, released a discussion draft yesterday that proposes requirements for well construction, wastewater management and chemical disclosure, all hot topics as states have scrambled to regulate the controversial method of blasting chemical-laced water and sand deep underground to untrap oil and gas.
GOP governors, attorneys general urge withdrawal of BLM fracking rule
Republican state officials are urging President Obama to withdraw an impending rule regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, arguing that it would cost industry too much money and that oversight of the oil and natural gas extraction process should remain solely in the hands of states.
"The strong and efficient track record of states to regulate oil and natural gas production -- as well as the rule's significant and destructive impacts on our states -- should not be ignored, and needs to be taken into serious consideration," wrote Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt in the letter to Obama today.
Progress report on hydraulic fracturing safety due out this week
U.S. EPA is expected to release a progress report this week on its closely watched study on the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
This year's report was at one point billed as the initial study, then as an interim report, but agency officials say the document to be released this week will have no conclusions about fracturing, only descriptions of what researchers are doing.
"While the progress report will not make any final findings or conclusions, it will provide the public with an update on study activities and future work," agency officials wrote in a "stakeholder engagement roadmap" issued in the fall.
Tougher Fracking Regulations Backed by 66%, Poll Shows
Support for regulation of hydraulic fracturing has increased in the past three months, a sign that the gas-drilling practice is facing greater public scrutiny.
A Bloomberg National Poll found that 66 percent of Americans want more government oversight of the process, known as fracking, in which water, chemicals and sand are shot underground to free gas trapped in rock. That's an increase from 56 percent in a September poll. The poll found 18 percent favored less regulation, down from 29 percent three months ago.
"More people are aware of fracking, and they are a little bit more opposed to it," Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the University of Texas Energy Poll, said in an interview. The school's polls also have asked questions on the topic, and "it's becoming more familiar," she said.
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