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Environmental Groups Sue to Close EPA Loophole

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By: Andrea Sears

Harrisburg, Pa. – Clean-air advocates want the federal courts to stop a new rule that would allow major polluters to turn their pollution controls off.

Since 1990, the Clean Air Act has required major sources of pollution to reduce their emissions by the maximum amount possible.

But, according to Tomas Carbonell, director of regulatory policy and lead attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, a new rule issued in January, with no opportunity for public comment, allows those major polluters to reclassify themselves as smaller sources.

“In doing so, they avoid complying with the most protective emission standards that EPA has issued to reduce emissions of pollutants like Mercury, benzene, arsenic and other dangerous compounds,” he says.

The EPA claims the rule is required by its new interpretation of the Clean Air Act. But environmentalists say Congress intended tighter emission controls to be permanent.

Carbonell says under this new interpretation of the Clean Air Act, once polluters achieved required emission reductions, they may be subject to weaker standards or none at all.

“Simply by virtue of complying with these standards, under this new loophole these major sources can avoid those standards entirely and actually increase their emissions up to the point where they would become major sources again,” he explains.

The Environmental Integrity Project estimates the loophole will allow a dozen large industrial facilities they studied to more than quadruple their emissions of toxic pollutants.

Carbonell points out that eleven years ago the EPA proposed a similar interpretation of the Clean Air Act, and EPA’s own staff and regional offices submitted comments raising concerns about the change.

“They raised the same concerns that we’re raising now about the potential for this policy change to lead to significant emission increases at major industrial facilities across the country,” he adds.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

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Comment Period on Delaware Watershed Fracking Regulations Ending

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The Delaware River watershed provides drinking water to 17 million people. (Perkons/Pixabay)

The Delaware River watershed provides drinking water to 17 million people. (Perkons/Pixabay)

 

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The period for submitting written comments on the Delaware River Basin Commission’s draft natural-gas drilling regulations ends Friday.

Environmental groups are enthusiastically supporting the commission’s proposal to ban all high-volume hydraulic fracturing in shale within the boundaries of the Delaware River watershed. But according to Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, they are adamantly opposed to draft regulations that would let gas and oil companies withdraw millions of gallons of Delaware watershed water for fracking in other locations, and allow the treatment, storage and disposal of fracking wastewater within the watershed.

“Fracking wastewater is so toxic that even the industry barely knows what to do with it. For the most part, they either re-frack or they send it off to places where they try to inject it into the ground to try to hide it away,” she says.

The Commission says the new rule actually would tighten restrictions on bringing fracking waste into the watershed. Help in filing written comments is available through the Delaware Riverkeeper website.

Van Rossum points out that even the Commission’s material supporting the proposals clearly says all aspects of fracking are dangerous, so allowing any waste to come into the watershed, or water for fracking to be removed, makes no sense.

“It would allow our watershed to be used to induce and support drilling and fracking in other watersheds,” she says, “wreaking the horrible havoc on communities and on the environment that’s happening there.”

In 2010, the Delaware River Basin Commissioners voted to delay any decisions on gas drilling in the Basin until new regulations were adopted.

Van Rossum says that constituted a moratorium on all fracking activity in the watershed that has been in effect ever since.

“We want the moratorium that we have in place today to be turned into a complete ban, which means a complete ban on all aspects of the industry,” she says.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service – PA

Eastern Panhandle Pipeline Expansion Raises Concerns

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A TransCanada pipeline extension is the subject of protests from Pennsylvania through Maryland to West Virginia. It would enter Maryland just west of Hancock. (Stacy Miller)

A TransCanada pipeline extension is the subject of protests from Pennsylvania through Maryland to West Virginia. It would enter Maryland just west of Hancock. (Stacy Miller)

March 28, 2018

BALTIMORE – A natural-gas pipeline expansion that would run from Pennsylvania through Maryland and into West Virginia is raising concerns about its potential environmental impact.

TransCanada wants to build the Eastern Panhandle Expansion, and says increasing the natural-gas supply in the area will support growth.

Opponents call it the “Potomac River Pipeline” because it would run underneath the river, with the potential of affecting the drinking water in and around Washington, D.C.

Rianna Eckel, a Maryland organizer for the group Food and Water Watch, said reliance on fossil fuels is moving backwards from a healthier environment.

“We believe that further investing in pipeline infrastructure, natural-gas infrastructure, locks us into a system where we are then dependent on fossil fuels,” she said.

Food and Water Watch called on Gov. Larry Hogan to begin an investigation into whether the pipeline would negatively affect water quality, but the governor declined. Emergency legislation has been filed in Annapolis to require that the more extensive Water Quality Certification be conducted, and currently is in the House Rules Committee.

If the legislation doesn’t pass, only the federal government would have the ability to halt the pipeline’s progress.

Environmental groups are worried about the method known as horizontal directional drilling that TransCanada would use to dig under the Potomac. They have said that on previous pipelines, thousands of gallons of drilling fuel leaked into water sources. In this case, Eckel said, that would affect millions of local residents.

“The Potomac River is the main drinking-water supply of more than 6 million people who live downstream,” she said, “so anything that happens to that water can quickly impact the drinking water of almost 6 million people.”

The pipeline would connect with the Mountain Valley Pipeline that begins in northwestern West Virginia, which also has been the subject of recent protests by environmental groups.

Information about House Bill 1826 is online at mgaleg.maryland.gov.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service – MD