U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) this week introduced a bill that would provide clarification to a poorly defined environmental law in an effort to lessen arbitrary fines issued against energy producers and manufactures by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"As we've seen repeatedly the past four years, this administration's agencies and the EPA in particular, have overstepped regulatory limits to further burden our nation's energy producers and manufacturers," said Roberts. "Despite never completing a rule making process or defining important terms necessary for proper compliance, the EPA has continually issued fines throughout the country for failure to comply with the General Duty Clause. If we as a nation want to move towards true economic recovery, we must begin reigning in these agencies that continually impose unauthorized fines on America's job creators."
The bill mirrors companion legislation that Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last month.
The bill targets a provision in the Clean Air Act known as the "General Duty Clause." It states that facilities using, possessing, storing or distributing chemicals have a "general duty" to identify hazards that might result from a chemical release and to take precautions to prevent such releases from happening. Facilities affected by this provision include oil and gas producers, refineries, chemical manufacturers and distributors, and others.
Even though the EPA has yet to define this provision in detail, it has still fined numerous facilities hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years that they deemed have violated the General Duty Clause.
Senator Roberts' bill would require the EPA to complete a rulemaking process before finding any facility in violation of the General Duty Clause. It would also require definitions for extremely hazardous substances, appropriate hazard assessment techniques, and how to design and maintain a safe facility. The bill also requires EPA to issue guidelines ensuring its enforcement procedures are uniform across the country. It also requires clarification that EPA's mission is environmental protection, not homeland security, by prohibiting EPA from regulating chemical facility security and reinforcing exclusive jurisdiction under the Department of Homeland Security.
So far the legislation has the support of 17 business trade associations, including the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.