Wednesday, June 25, 2014

AZ Senator Flake Introduces Bill to Prevent EPA Penalties Due to Dust Storms, Other Natural Events

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Press Release
Washington, D.C.U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today introduced S. 2526, the Commonsense Legislative Exceptional Events Reform (CLEER) Act. The bill would streamline Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations intended to ensure that states and localities are not considered in violation of federal air-quality standards due to uncontrollable, naturally occurring events – otherwise known as “exceptional events” – such as the dust storms and wildfires that occur in Arizona. Flake had previously introduced the bill as member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“States shouldn’t face heavy-handed penalties from the EPA for events such as dust storms and wildfires that are part of the natural climate and terrain,” said Flake.

The CLEER Act is the second of three bills Flake will introduce during a weeklong effort to highlight federal air regulatory overreach in Arizona. On Tuesday, Flake introduced S. 2514, the Ozone Regulatory Delay and Extension of Assessment Length (ORDEAL) Act, which would give the EPA more time to review and revise air quality standards, ensuring a more certain regulatory environment for state air-quality agencies and businesses.
Background: In 2005, Congress amended the Clean Air Act so states and localities could get off the regulatory hook when uncontrollable, naturally occurring, “exceptional events” impact air quality.
The resulting Exceptional Event Rule, promulgated by the EPA in 2007, has proven to be broad and vague, sapping state and local air quality agencies of limited resources to prove that even routine naturally occurring events are not the result of manmade pollution. States and localities are burdened with a cumbersome and sometimes indefinite process that often seems to consider states and localities guilty of air quality violations until proven innocent.
Even the EPA admits that the Exceptional Events Rule is broken. The agency has previously released guidance documents to clarify the rule and in March 2012, the EPA went so far as to announce a formal rulemaking to revise the Exceptional Events Rule. Initial indications were that a draft rule would be proposed by early 2014.
To ensure that Arizona’s interests and concerns were well-represented in the rulemaking process, Flake organized and participated in a listening session between Arizona stakeholders and the EPA in November 2013.
However, the EPA recently announced that the proposed rule will now be delayed until at least 2015.
The CLEER Act is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Sand, Stone & Gravel Association, Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Rock Products Association, Arizona Farm Bureau, Arizona Cattlemen’s Association, Arizona Cattle Feeders' Association, Agri-Business Council of Arizona, Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, and the American Petroleum Institute