Your Daily Docket – Thurs. April 27, 2017: Special Guest Contributor Post

EPA Regulatory Reform Sample Comment Scripts for the Savvy Citizen.

ACTION ALERT: EPA REGULATORY REFORM – PUBLIC COMMENTS ENDS 5/15/17. Comment Early and Often!

Click here to submit your comments:  Proposed Rule (Evaluation of Existing Regulations) and Comment Submission Link  

What The EPA Does:  One Person’s View – Special Guest Contributor Post for Thursday, April 27, 2017:

The Environmental Protection Agency is under attack by the current administration. This administration has made it clear that it does not believe in regulating for climate change and will not allow a science based approach to regulation. It does not believe in regulation at all. It believes that industry is burdened with regulations and industry will self-regulate to protect us and our environment. Our experiment with almost 50 years of regulating the use of toxins, controlling toxic discharges to our land and water, protecting our wetlands and endangered species continues to prove this attitude is wrong. We need a strong economy supported by responsible industry. Ruining our health and our planet to line the pockets of shareholders is no longer acceptable.

In response to Presidential Executive Order 13777, the EPA has set up a site for public comments on its evaluation of existing regulations. This site is specifically for public input on what laws and regulations should be eliminated as ineffective or burdensome to industry. The deadline for these comments is May 15th. While the public at large has been encouraged to comment, the Agency says that it is interested in specifics – hard to do if you are not up to speed on the science and regulations that make up EPA’s world.  Many professionals spend whole careers working on them.  But this is our Agency. We, the American people, demanded its creation back in the late 1960s. We have a lot at stake in its future, and our voices need to be heard.

DISCLAIMER: What I am writing here is just my personal understanding and is, at best, very simplistic. I hope what follows is accurate. I encourage others to chime in, add to this conversation and correct me. But after reading, please submit your comments to the Open Docket at EPA Regulatory Reform – they need your voice!

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In the late 1960’s, the American public was fed up with rivers contaminated with raw sewage and untreated industrial effluent, groundwater ruined from buried industrial waste, and unbreathable air in our cities. Untreated wastewater flowed into Lake Washington. South Seattle, once a marshland along the shore where the Duwamish River flowed into Puget Sound, had been long filled in and was now bustling with industry.  Shops doing metal plating and fabrication, chemical plants, boat repair yards and cement plants dotted the landscape. Toxic metals like chromium and lead, solvents, cement ash, and PCBs leaked or were dumped into the soil and groundwater. Across the Sound at scenic Bainbridge Island, a company had been busy preserving wood for ships and telephone poles since nearly the turn of the century, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of carcinogenic creosote in the process. The creosote seeped into the soil and followed the flow of groundwater under the site coating the floor of the harbor beside it. You could watch the creosote sheen flowing across the beach at low tide.

Everywhere our wetlands and freshwater sources were disappearing at an alarming rate. This was America, and these were common events that happened in every town and city across the nation. We were a country strong with industry but weak on environmental controls. The health and safety of our workforce and of our citizens was at risk but not considered within the balance sheets of our companies. For an example of what that America looked like then, look at China today.

In 1969 a river in Ohio caught fire. The Cuyahoga River fire was the result of routine industrial runoff and this fire was not unique. Industry was not doing its job of self-regulating or protecting its workers and the environment from the chemicals it used. But the press was there to document the scene with dramatic photos of billowing black clouds of toxic gasses sprayed by fire hoses. This one iconic fire (our rivers are burning? how can that be?) stirred people to action. Richard Nixon was president, and in 1970 he signed the EPA into law. The Clean Water Act, passed by congress in 1972, gave EPA the authority to regulate discharges into Waters of the United States and serious regulation of industry for controlling environmental pollution was born.

EPA’s early focus was point-source wastewater control. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA created the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting system to regulate the discharge of pollution to waters of the U.S. A whole industry was born. Jobs were created to build today’s modern wastewater treatment infrastructure; municipal wastewater treatment plants for our cities and towns, and industrial waste treatment processes to protect our rivers, oceans and drinking water sources from sewage and industrial chemicals.

The NPDES permits include not just wastewater but storm water as well. This means discharges from our roadside drainage systems are under permit; that slotted storm grate in the street near your driveway is covered under a municipal NPDES permit that requires specific maintenance from the city or county that is responsible for that road. While the permit may be managed by the state, EPA created and requires this permit system to protect our water and is ultimately responsible for overseeing its compliance.

The hazardous waste laws that track chemical contaminates ‘from cradle to grave’ started with passage of the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) and the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976. These laws, all fought vigorously by industry, address handling and disposal of waste chemicals so they are no longer stored unsafely, poured on the ground or buried. To ensure compliance, RCRA laws came with aggressive compliance requirements and oversight. Fines for violations are stiff and jail time for intentional violations are real. Those laws have been revised, tightened and adopted with some modification by the State of Washington, and they are still in full force today.

Love Canal burst into the public consciousness in 1978. A company had buried massive amounts of toxic chemicals in an illegal landfill and moved on. Houses were built on the landfill and residents became sick. Money and expertise were required to clean up this industry-created disaster. In response, Congress signed into law the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund Laws. The Superfund law is controversial due to the monetary blame it assigns to parties deemed responsible for a clean-up. Unfortunately, the EPA – which means our government and our tax dollars – are left holding the bag for far too many places like Love Canal and the creosote plant on Bainbridge Island.

Back on Bainbridge Island, EPA has estimated that after years spent removing hundreds of thousands of gallons of creosote off of the site and capping the contaminated floor of the harbor, as much as 650,000 gallons of toxic material still remain in the soils on the property. An aging sheet pile wall is all that is protecting the harbor from this contamination. The cost of a final solution – solidifying the waste in place with a cement slurry and reinforcing the sheet pile with an interior cement wall – will cost millions. Can we afford to walk away from this? More information on EPA’s role of the EPA Eagle Harbor/Wyckoff cleanup can be found here.

The lower Duwamish River, those tidelands converted to industrial use, is under a Superfund cleanup plan. Monetary assessments to responsible parties is underway and no one is particularly happy about the cost. But riverbed sediments still contain pollution from decades of uncontrolled chemical releases, and the resident fish in the river are unsafe to eat. Information on river clean up and fish toxicity can be found here. Here is a list of EPA Cleanup Sites in Washington State. And you can search for sites where you live here.

In the 1980s people were realizing that lakes in the North Eastern U.S. were dying, becoming sterile and unable to support fish. The suspected culprit was acid rain caused by nitrogen and sulfur compounds in emissions from coal burning power plants and vehicle exhaust. Ronald Reagan was President. It took significant public pressure but finally, instead of denying the problem existed, he chose to have it studied extensively by the EPA. While this delayed a more immediate response in addressing the problem with tighter controls on emissions, he did put his faith in science and the EPA.

Other things that EPA does include funding for local cleanups and training through the Brownfields Program and grants for research in a myriad of scientific topics including climate change, water quality, toxics, testing protocol, to name a few.  Local programs that EPA grants have supported include Puget Sound restoration projects that totaled 28 million dollars last year alone.  And now this funding is at risk.

Editorial: Everett beach an example of what could be lost. Everett Herald (April 20th, 2017)

This has been an extremely short list of some of the things EPA does that directly affect the health of our community, and I have not even scratched the surface of the climate change research that the EPA engages in. But look at the world around you. Yes, there are serious environmental problems everywhere, and we have no choice but to approach climate change head on. However, imagine what our world would look like without the work of the EPA, the agency that our parents fought to create almost forty years ago. Our world is their legacy, their gift to us. Now we get to fight for it all over again.

Thank you for your time. Please submit your comments.

Guest Contributor – J.C., Bothell, Washington

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Background Information – Regulatory Reform Summary

What is “Your Daily Docket”?

 – 3 weeks of daily scripts until the Public Comment period closes May 15, 2017 –

Your Daily Docket provides 3 weeks of daily scripts for public comments for the Proposed Rule, Evaluation of Existing Regulations, aka (in Trump/Pruitt’s minds) “how best to gut the EPA”.  Trump/Pruitt are likely expecting industry to flood the public comments docket with their wish lists, and call it a day on May 15 when the comment period closes. However, a quick look at the comments submitted so far have been more to the tune of, “I like to breathe. When I can’t breathe I get scared. I also like to drink water.”  https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190

We want to encourage you and your neighbors to enter comments on the open docket early and often until the public comment period closes on May 15.

Your Daily Docket provides daily scripts for ideas and inspiration for your own comments. Take the daily comments and make them your own. We aim to make each Your Daily Docket speak to a particular issue.

Let’s use our collective voice for ourselves, our planet and future generations!

Featured image information: William Ruckelshaus swearing in as the first Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Seen from left to right: President Richard M. Nixon, William Ruckelshaus, Jill Ruckelshaus (wife), Chief Justice Warren Burger.  4 December 1970. Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda, CA.

 

 

 

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