US EPA

Notes from the Kakistocracy: The final days of Andrew Wheeler

Moving to cripple the Biden administration's corrective measures:

Current and former E.P.A. staff and advisers close to the transition said Mr. Biden’s team has focused on preparing a rapid assault on the Trump administration’s deregulatory legacy and re-establishing air and water protections and methane emissions controls.

Racing against those efforts is Mr. Wheeler, who has a long list of priorities that aides and confidants said he is determined to complete before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. He has also maneuvered legally to erect time-consuming hurdles that Mr. Biden will have to clear to unwind some Trump administration policies.

While I find much comfort in knowing there are many career employees in the EPA who are actively opposing Wheeler at this juncture, I fear it will get ugly before it's finally over in late January. Republicans would refer to these folks as "Deep State" operatives, but I prefer the term "Fifth Column." They are fighting for the integrity of the Agency, and for the health and well-being of American citizens. I'm sure many will say they should have done so sooner, but the only "outsiders" who wield influence in Trump's administration are industry lobbyists and conspiracy theorists. Being fired takes you off the gameboard completely. Back to Wheeler's crusade to destroy the environment:

The Triad's Dioxane pollution problem

Who are the mystery men dumping carcinogens into our water shed?

“I’m assuming that it’s coming from the Haw River, from the Greensboro area,” Christiansen said this week in a telephone interview. “My wishful thinking is that they are going to find the source and eliminate it. It seems to me it would to be pretty easy to backtrack. I would think it would be pretty easy to have a list of what the industries are (that might use dioxane).

In line with Christiansen’s thought about the ease of putting together a list of industrial sites likeliest to be 1,4 dioxane sources, Drew said “we do have an idea of who a few of the largest contributors of 1,4 dioxane to our sewer collection system might be.” But city officials don’t want to “name or implicate possible dischargers while they perform their due diligence and investigative work.”

Like many industrial chemicals, the "acceptable" level in drinking water varies by regulatory agencies. Some have set it as low as .07 parts per billion, while others go up to 3 PPB. But Sanford is dealing with twice that higher level all the way downstream, because the levels upstream are huge:

EPA takeover of DEQ's authority a distinct possibility

Stifling the voice of the public is not an acceptable practice:

North Carolina’s recent tactic of blocking citizens from challenging state permits for industrial polluters could result in a federal takeover of the state’s regulatory program. The EPA regional administrator stated that court rulings prohibiting the groups from seeking judicial review of the permits “cast serious doubt” on whether North Carolina meets minimum federal requirements to protect its residents from environmental pollution.

This is the first such warning to North Carolina since the federal government authorized the state to oversee air and water regulation in the 1970s. If the federal government were to follow through, North Carolina would be among a handful of states that have been deemed incapable, or unwilling, to enforce federal anti-pollution laws.

And DEQ's initial and contradictory reactions of denial and deflection simply drive the nails deeper into their casket. On the one hand they claim the EPA "misunderstood" their findings, and needs to be "instructed" on what the law really means. But then the other hand, which can't pass up a political opportunity, tries to pass the blame to Roy Cooper. This illogical, self-defeating type of argument is a product of both hubris and incompetence, a rare combination usually only witnessed on a middle-school playground. Needless to say, they are not the characteristics of an effective regulator.

NC (DEQ) joins lawsuit against EPA Clean Power Plan

And immediately starts spewing industry propaganda:

"This federal overreach presents a clear choice: do you want Washington, D.C., or North Carolina to control energy generation in our state?" North Carolina Secretary of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart said in a statement. "We have shown that North Carolina's leadership, not federal intervention, has resulted in reduced emissions, cleaner air and affordable energy. This administration remains committed to protecting ratepayers from expensive and unnecessary federal regulations."

Under the Clean Power Plan, the average utility bill in North Carolina is expected to increase by $434 a year by 2020, state officials said.

They didn't get that number from their own calculations or the EPA, that dollar figure was derived from a painfully flawed industry-funded study:

DENR doesn't want expanded water protections

And is suing the EPA to stop them from doing so:

DENR officials said in their lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal court in Georgia, that the new definition could expand the jurisdiction by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers over a significant portion of North Carolina. The move would stifle economic growth with little environmental benefit, they said.

"North Carolina’s water quality programs, many of which go beyond federal requirements, are a model for the nation and have contributed to the steady improvement of the quality of the state’s waters," DENR general counsel Sam Hayes said in a statement.

Really? I guess that's why the Jordan Lake Rules have yet to be implemented, making NC something like ten years late in taking positive steps to improve the impaired status of the reservoir. The bottom line is, when waters flow, they flow into our drinking water system. And since about 60% of our drinking water flows through intermittent streams and other "non-navigable" water systems, we either expand our quality control into those areas or continue to struggle to process enough potable water for our needs. And contrary to the scare tactics employed by ALEC and their agri-business cohorts, farm ponds will not be included in this expansion:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Weak containment and even weaker Federal rules

Apparently the term "hazardous" is hazardous to profits:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the rules "a pragmatic step forward that protects public health." But environmentalists say the regulations fail to protect communities adequately and will allow disasters like Kingston and Duke Energy's Dan River spill that occurred in North Carolina earlier this year to happen again.

"EPA's coal ash rule is too little and too late," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Too little because its standards are minimal, vague, and unenforceable. Too late, because damage from collapsing dikes and leaking ash dumps has accumulated in the absence of common sense rules designed to prevent those disasters."

I'm beginning to really detest that word "pragmatic." It's most often used by people who can't bring themselves to do the right thing, for fear it will offend an idiot or cut into somebody's profit margin. And considering that "retiring" coal plants will vastly outnumber newly-constructed ones in the next few decades, parts of this new rule package are simply pointless:

Polluters get a free pass with "Biological Trump" rule

Not unlike throwing a suspected witch into a river to see if she drowns:

Proposed revisions to state surface water quality standards, including the numbers the state uses to evaluate metals, have been approved by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission in response to the federally-required Triennial Review of Surface Water Quality Standards. Also included in approval of the recommendations made during this standards review are:

•Health protective water quality standards for 2,4-D, a widely used herbicide.
Updated aquatic life protective concentrations for arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium III, chromium VI, copper, lead, nickel, silver and zinc.
•Clarity on allowing site-specific standards to be developed when studies are done in accordance with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bolding mine. I'm still perusing this massive document (1,000+ pages), but the gist of this "aquatic life" modification is to throw out previous toxicity levels and wait to see just how massive the fish-kills are after contamination:

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