Lawmakers are poised to approve billions of dollars in funding for disaster aid and other environmental efforts. We’ll also look at a new lawsuit over alleged PFAS contamination and potentially fatal risks from extreme winter weather.
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What the omnibus includes for energy, sustainability
The agreement came as Democrats sought to get a bill across the finish line while they still held both houses of Congress — giving the GOP a fair amount of leverage in the negotiations.
The mammoth funding package includes boosts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and billions in natural disaster aid, among other provisions.
What’s in the package: A statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee said the package included $40.6 billion to help communities recover from “drought, hurricanes, flooding, wildfire, natural disasters and other matters.”
- About $4 billion for farm aid
- $520 million to help Western power districts buy fuel to make up for hydropower shortfalls
- $2 billion for emergency wildfire funding
- About $1.6 billion to repair the damaged water system of Jackson, Miss., and address other impacts from Hurricanes Fiona and Ian.
Another $5 billion will go to replenishing the disaster relief funds at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $2.5 billion to repair damages on public lands, including the National Park system.
Much of the remaining funding pays for repairs to federal property essential to both plan for and respond to disasters. For example, $820 million will go to the National Science Foundation for both research and repairs while more than $500 million will go to NASA.
Another $500 million will pay for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to repair and replace equipment used to track and respond to disasters like hurricanes.
The measure includes just more than $10 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency — a $576 million increase over 2022. The allowance is nearly $2 billion less than the approximately $12 billion sought by the Biden administration.
Michigan sues over alleged PFAS contamination
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) this week announced a lawsuit against paper manufacturer Domtar, alleging the company’s defunct Port Huron operation contaminated the community with “forever chemicals.”
- In the complaint, Nessel’s office alleged that Domtar disposed of waste from production that it knew to be contaminated by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), falsely representing the waste as inert.
- PFAS do not biodegrade or break down in either the environment or human bodies, and have been linked to liver damage, fertility issues and cancer in humans.
What are the allegations? Domtar operated a disposal site for the waste from production from 1998 to 2020, when the Port Huron plant closed.
Regardless of whether the company was aware of the PFAS contamination from the start, the lawsuit argues, Domtar learned of it over the course of the site’s two decades of operation.
- “Domtar’s fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions were material to the [state Department of Environmental Quality’s] authorization, which expressly provided that Domtar shall be responsible for ensuring that the paper sludge continues to meet the inert criteria specified in Michigan status and rules and that Domtar is subject to liability for any discharges of contamination to the environment, including groundwater, surface water, air, and natural resources,” the lawsuit states.
The site in question is located in Michigan’s St. Clair County, already the site of a state investigation into PFAS contamination in drinking water, groundwater, lakes and streams. State officials said in February there was no evidence of impact on municipal drinking water.
“Michigan residents should not be left holding the bag for the impacts of corporate PFAS contamination, nor for the costs of cleaning it up,” Nessel said in a statement. “My efforts to hold companies accountable for contaminating our communities will continue where corporations are not taking adequate remediation efforts or responsibility for their actions.”
FEDERAL AGENCY: STORM RAISES RISK OF CARBON MONOXIDE DEATH
An incoming winter storm set to pummel the central U.S. could also raise the risk of carbon monoxide deaths, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned on Wednesday.
The so-called bomb cyclone is expected to cause heavy snow, below-freezing temperatures and dangerous wind chills — conditions that could lead to power outages and increase the use of portable generators, according to the CPSC.
- The intense winter storm will “produce a multitude of weather hazards” and generate “life-threatening wind chills,” with temperatures poised to drop 20 or more degrees Fahrenheit within the span of just a few hours.
- “What better way to kick off the official start of astronomical winter than with numerous winter weather hazards impacting a majority of the nation,” the NWS stated.
Wind chill hazards could plunge as low as minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the central High Plains, while widespread wind chills below zero could extend as far south as Texas, according to the NWS.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Arizona gets serious about piping water from Mexico in nonbinding desalination resolution (The Arizona Republic)
- 7 reasons our planet might not be doomed after all (Vox)
- Keystone pipeline raises concerns after third major spill in five years (The Guardian)
- Big cat safety law ends ‘Tiger King’-style attractions (E&E News)
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