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IMA-NA Comments on EPA's National Compliance Initiatives

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Tuesday, March 12, 2019

On Monday, March 11th, the Industrial Minerals Association - North America (IMA-NA) submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the proposed National Compliance Initiatives for FY20-23 (NCI). In August the EPA signaled a shift in the Agency's approach to protecting our nation's air, land, and water by changing the "National Enforcement Initiatives" to the "National Compliance Initiatives". The change to compliance from enforcement is meant to improve environmental outcomes by utilizing all the various tools and resources available to attain compliance, rather than relying on punitive enforcement measures to act as deterrents to non-compliance. This shift will make several important changes to how environmental regulations are enacted, in the Agency's own words:

"In the transition from NEIs to NCIs, EPA has made these important adjustments: (1) modifying our selection criteria for the FY2020–2023 NCI cycle to better align with Agency Strategic Plan measures and priorities; (2) engaging more fully with states and tribes in the selection and development of the initiatives; (3) enhancing EPA’s use of the full range of compliance assurance tools in an NCI; and (4) extending the priorities cycle from three to four years (FY2020–2023) to better to align with the Agency’s National Program Guide cycle."

In addition to expressing support for the shift in focus from enforcement to compliance as a way for all stakeholders to work collaboratively towards better outcomes, IMA-NA focused our comments on the request for feedback on Transitioning “Keeping Industrial Pollutants Out of the Nation's Waters” NCI to “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Significant Non-Compliance (SNC) Reduction”. The Association supports the initiative to reduce non-compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. It is the Association's belief that using NPDES permits as the base rather than the term "Industrial Pollutants" allows the EPA to address discharges from all activities that could impact our nation's waters. Reducing rates of non-compliance will greatly improve environmental stewardship across the board. IMA-NA looks forward to collaborating with EPA towards our shared goal of decreasing negative environmental outcomes across all industries. 

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Tags:  compliance  EPA  npdes  permits  Regulations  waters 

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IMA-NA Statement on the Publication of WOTUS in the Federal Register

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Washington, DC—Today, the Industrial Minerals Association – North America (IMA-NA) released the following statement after publication of the new definition for the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in the Federal Register. The publication of the new rule in the Federal Register officially begins the 60-day comment period that will conclude on April 15, 2019.

 

“Now that the proposed definition of the Waters of the United States has been officially published, IMA-NA is looking forward to providing meaningful comments,” said Vice President Ariel Hill-Davis. “This is an important opportunity for stakeholders to provide feedback on the direction the EPA and Corps have chosen to take in defining WOTUS in accordance with cooperative federalism. We remain committed to working with the Administration to ensure the final definition provides long lasting clarity on the scope of federal jurisdiction according to the intentions of the Clean Water Act.”

 

As we said in our statement on publication, “IMA-NA looks forward to our continued partnership in the important work of preserving our water quality through responsible stewardship and practical regulation.” Furthermore, we encourage all supporters of clean water and clear rules to participate in the public comment period by submitting comments to the record.

 

IMA-NA is a non-profit trade organization representing industrial minerals producers throughout North America.  IMA-NA represents a diverse set of member companies engaged in mining and processing of ball clay, barite, bentonite, borates, calcium carbonate, diatomite, feldspar, industrial sand, kaolin, soda ash, talc, and wollastonite.

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Tags:  Army Corps of Engineers  Clean Water Act  EPA  Regulations  wotus 

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IMA-NA Welcomes Proposed New Water Rule

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Washington, DC—Today, the Industrial Minerals Association – North America (IMA-NA) released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the proposed new definition for Waters of the United States (WOTUS):

“Yesterday’s release of the new proposed definition of Waters of the United States is an encouraging next step in the decades-long push for a WOTUS definition that empowers communities to protect their own water resources while providing regulatory clarity for our industry,” said Vice President Ariel Hill-Davis. “The announcement reiterates President Trump’s commitment to rein in federal overreach and provide regulatory certainty for the mining industry. IMA-NA is pleased to note that both the EPA and Corps remain focused on protecting our nation’s water through cooperative federalism.”

“IMA-NA appreciates the Administration’s efforts to solicit feedback from all stakeholders prior to drafting the proposal and commitment to crafting a commonsense and workable WOTUS definition. We look forward to our continued partnership in the important work of preserving our water quality through responsible stewardship and practical regulation.”

 

IMA-NA is a non-profit trade organization representing industrial minerals producers throughout North America.  IMA-NA represents a diverse set of member companies engaged in mining and processing of ball clay, barite, bentonite, borates, calcium carbonate, diatomite, feldspar, industrial sand, kaolin, soda ash, talc, and wollastonite..

 

 

 

 

Tags:  Clean Water Act  EPA  regulation  water  wotus 

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Federal Court Rules Against EPA on WOTUS Applicability Date

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Friday, August 17, 2018

Yesterday, the United States District Court in South Carolina issued a nationwide injunction against the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Waters of the United States (WOTUS or the 2015 rule) Applicability Date Rule. The court found that the EPA violated rule-making procedures in finalizing a rule to push the implementation date of the 2015 rule back to 2020. The Applicability Rule was the EPA's attempt to ensure continuity of standards across the country while the new definition is finalized, in the face of the Supreme Court decision which overturned the nationwide stay of the 2015 Rule. Thursday's decision, in effect, creates a regulatory patchwork related to the WOTUS. There are 26 states that will now operate under the 2015 Rule, while 24 states still have injunctions against the 2015 Rule. 

The EPA is currently in the process of finalizing the full repeal of the 2015 Rule, but the ruling in South Carolina creates a situation of extreme regulatory uncertainty related to the Clean Water Act. Additionally, there is still the slim possibility that WOTUS could be repealed legislatively as the Banks Amendment is attached to the House Farm Bill. The Farm Bill will be going through conference this fall, so there is a chance, albeit a small one, that the repeal could happen legislatively rather than through the EPA. IMA-NA and other stakeholders are working to get decisions as quickly as possible. 

This court decision could cause serious problems for companies, organizations, and individuals working through a permitting process in any of the 26 states now functioning under the 2015 Rule. If you already are holding water permits in these 26 states, this will not cause immediate impacts, but the process is likely going to become more complicated and difficult as states are forced to comply with the old WOTUS rule. Below is the list of the 26 states impacted by yesterday's decision. 

  1. California
  2. Connecticut
  3. Delaware
  4. Florida
  5. Hawaii
  6. Illinois
  7. Iowa
  8. Louisiana
  9. Maine
  10. Maryland
  11. Massachusetts
  12. Michigan
  13. Minnesota
  14. New Hampshire
  15. New Jersey
  16. New York
  17. Ohio
  18. Oklahoma
  19. Oregon
  20. Pennsylvania
  21. Rhode Island
  22. Tennessee
  23. Texas
  24. Vermont
  25. Virginia
  26. Washington

Tags:  Clean Water Act  court  EPA  injunction  Regulations  wotus 

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Reminder Nanoscale Materials Webinar - This Wednesday

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Monday, July 9, 2018

As follow up to the strategic call IMA-NA hosted on June 13th related to the upcoming deadline for the new EPA reporting and record keeping practices related to the production of nanoscale materials, we would like to remind you to participate in an EPA Nanoscale Reporting Rule 101 webinar. The webinar will take place on July 11th from 1-2pm EST and will be led by Michael Boucher, an expert in TSCA and the regulatory landscape of nanoscale materials and an attorney with Crowell & Moring.

Click here to register

Tags:  EPA  nanomaterials  nanoscale  webinar 

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Senate Confirms Andrew Wheeler as 2nd at EPA

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Friday, April 13, 2018
Yesterday the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by a vote of 53-45. Democratic Senators Manchin (WV), Heitkamp (ND), and Donnelly (IN) broke party lines to vote in favor of Andrew Wheeler.  Neither Senator Duckworth (IL) nor Senator McCain (AZ) were in town to vote. Wheeler has been one of several controversial nominees President Trump has put forward to lead the EPA. The controversy stems from Wheeler's previous work both for as Chief of Staff for Senator Inhofe, a vocal climate change skeptic, and his work as a lobbyist for Murray Energy, a coal company. As Deputy Administrator Wheeler will be Administrator Pruitt's second in command of the EPA. Critics argued Wheeler's existing relationships made him unfit to help lead the agency in charge of protecting the environment. He was nominated in November and was voted out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) in February. This Administration continues to have many vacancies in important roles throughout the government. IMA-NA is happy to see Andrew Wheeler confirmed and hopes this allows the EPA to continue its important work unrestricted by gaps in staffing. 

Tags:  Administration  Andrew Wheeler  confirmation  EPA  nomination  Pruitt 

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Final Agency Action on CERCLA 108(b) Rulemaking

Posted By Mark Ellis, Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Through a Federal Register notice published today, EPA took final agency action on its rulemaking under Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) with respect to the hardrock mining industry.  EPA decided not to issue final regulations because the agency determined that final regulations are not appropriate.  EPA analyzed the need for financial responsibility based on the risk of taxpayer funded cleanups at hardrock mining facilities under modern management practices and modern environmental regulations, i.e., the type of facilities to which financial responsibility regulations would apply.  EPA determined that the degree and duration of risk associated with modern production, transportation, treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous substances does not present a level of risk of taxpayer funded response actions that warrant imposition of financial responsibility requirements for this sector.  The several billion dollars in financial assurance estimated under the proposed rule at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars would have severely impacted the mining industry in the U.S.  Today’s Federal Register notice is the agency’s final action on the proposed rule.  Environmental groups may challenge the agency’s final action, but given the broad discretion granted the EPA under the statute they will face an uphill battle.

A copy of the Federal Register notice is attached.


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Tags:  108(b)  CERCLA  EPA  hardrock mining  Superfund 

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President Trump Releases FY19 Budget Proposal & Congress Passes 2-Year Budget

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Monday, February 12, 2018

This morning President Trump released his Administration's budget proposal for FY19. The Administration's budget comes on the heels of the passage of Congress's 2-year budget package. President Trump signed the deal into law Friday morning following it's passage late Thursday night. Congress's package raises budget caps by $300 billion in the next two years, increases the debt ceiling and includes nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Of the $300 billion, roughly $165 would go to the Pentagon with $131 billion earmarked for non-defense programs. 

President Trump's budget lays out plans for a $3.6 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years while simultaneously directing more funding to the Department of Defense. In many ways the FY19 budget proposal is similar to the FY18 proposal. It is interesting to note the Administration is pushing a focus on infrastructure across it's budget proposal, most likely as a way to sync the budget requests up with the infrastructure package. Below are some specific points of interest from the proposal, as each Department holds listening sessions IMA-NA staff will keep you updated on aspects of importance.

EPA

  • The Administration is asking for a further reduction of 34% in funding for the EPA. This would cap the Agency's budget at $5.4 billion for FY19. 
  • There is an emphasis on water infrastructure programs, to provide clean drinking water and provide necessary updates on wastewater infrastructure.
  • There is an increased focus on cooperative federalism as a way to improve EPA's enforcement efforts. This also includes a return to the EPA's core mission, and the continued defunding of "lower priority programs". 

Department of Commerce

  • The Administration is asking for $9.8 billion for the DOC, which would be an increase of 6% over FY17 enacted funding.
  • There is increased funding for the International Trade Administration to "allow ITA to conduct robust investigations into alleged trade violations, aggressively advocate for U.S. businesses facing tariff and non-tariff barriers abroad, and increase the capacity to closely review proposed foreign investments in U.S. businesses."
  • DOC's focus will continue to be promoting free and fair trade which has been a cornerstone of President Trump's vision for the country. 

Department of Labor

  • The Administration is asking for $9.4 billion for DOL, a $2.6 billion or 21-percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level.
  • The President is asking for a budget of $376 for MSHA in FY19. The number is consistent with the FY18 request from the Administration.
  • There is a renewed focus on using DOL funding to help move the needle on workforce development. There is $200 million flagged for increasing apprenticeship programs, language to reform Job Corps, and simplify and consolidate existing federal workforce development programs. 

Department of Interior

  • The Administration is requesting $11.3 billion for DOI, which is a $2.2 billion or 16-percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level.
  • The DOI will continue to focus on the President's call for Energy Dominance, working to manage development of public lands, increase revenues, and streamlining permits.
  • There is a focus on infrastructure in this request, noting that DOI manages an infrastructure portfolio valued at over $300 billion and much of it is in need of maintenance and investment.
  • Secretary Zinke gained the President's support to massively reorganize the Department. The budget asks for $18 million to fund the internal restructuring of DOI.
  • Funding for USGS is being cut by approximately $218 million overall, but the Administration asked for an increase of $11.5 million for the Minerals and Energy Resources Program.

To look at the President's Budget Proposal click here

Tags:  administration  budget  commerce  department of interior  EPA  msha  usgs 

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EPA and Corps Finalize WOTUS Applicability Date

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Today, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers announced they have finalized the WOTUS applicability date proposal. The importance of the finalization of this extension of the applicability of the 2015 WOTUS rule cannot be understated. Last week's Supreme Court ruling opened the possibility for the 2015 Rule to go into effect, once the 6th District's nationwide stay was lifted.  Since the nationwide stay was issued, waters have continued to be protected under the pre-existing WOTUS definition and state rules, and the government has issued over 21,000 determinations establishing federal jurisdiction under the pre-existing WOTUS definition.  Luckily Administrator Pruitt and the EPA had the foresight to issue a proposal to push the applicability of the 2015 Rule for two years, while the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers propose and finalize a new version and interpretation of "waters of the US". Just last week the applicability proposal was sent over to OMB for review and there was a question whether the Administration would be able to finalize the applicability date in time.

This rule is a prudent and measured step to preserve the status quo and provide regulatory continuity for all stakeholders while EPA and the Corps engage in rulemaking to consider whether to repeal the 2015 rule and, if so, how to replace the 2015 Rule with a new well-founded, protective, and clear definition of WOTUS.

IMA-NA and our coalition partners are pleased by the EPA’s and the Corps’ quick action to avoid needless regulatory uncertainty and legal risk for mining and farming operations, developers, small businesses, and other land owners.  Absent this action by the agencies, the result would be months of additional litigation, regulatory chaos, and legal risk for countless land owners. 

To read the Final Rule click here

To read the Press Release click here

Tags:  Army Corps of Engineers  Clean Water Act  EPA  Regulations  Regulators  WOTUS 

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EPA Announces Withdrawal of "once-in, always-in" policy

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Monday, January 29, 2018

On Friday, the EPA announced the withdrawal of a decades old classification policy under the Clean Air Act. The policy of "once-in, always-in" has been the standard for designating sources of air emissions as either "major sources" or "area sources", since 1995. The EPA defines the two classifications in the following manner: 

a “major source” as a one that emits, or has the potential to emit, 10 tons per year of any hazardous air pollutant, or 25 tons per year or more of any combination of hazardous air pollutants. Sources with emissions below this threshold are classified as “area sources.” Different control standards apply to the source depending on whether or not it is classified as a “major source” or an “area source.”

The policy of "once-in, always-in" meant that if sources crossed the threshold into the major source designation, the facility could never be considered an area source again. Stakeholders have argued this policy disincentivizes companies from working towards lowering their emissions once they've been classified as "major sources". The ability for companies and facilities to bring their emissions down to lower levels and have their status reflect those efforts is a positive step in providing more regulatory flexibility. The EPA hopes this will incentivize emissions reductions and will reduce regulatory inefficiency and burden. Opponents of this decision hold the opinion this change in policy is simply loosening air emissions standards for polluters. 

IMA-NA is supportive of EPA's ongoing work to update and revise their regulatory framework to provide commonsense policies that balance environmental protections with good business practices.

To read the press release click here

Tags:  clean air act  environment  EPA  Regulations  regulatory agenda 

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