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W E E K L Y  U P D A T E February 4 , 2019
 
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NEMWI'S Great Lakes Environmental Summit to Provide Policy Update and Preview for 2019

The Northeast-Midwest Institute's Great Lakes Washington Program hosts the annual Great Lakes Environmental Summit on Thursday, February 7, convening an array of Great Lakes-focused environmental organizations for a high level briefing on Great Lakes policy.

The annual convening brings together an array of federal policy-makers to brief stakeholders on key Great Lakes issues and the Great Lakes policy agenda for the year ahead.  Speakers include staff from the Senate Appropriations Committee and Environmental and Public Works Committee, and from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Also making presentations are representatives of the Great Lakes Task Force, the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, and the Congressional Task Force on PFAS.  Members of Congress with leadership roles on Great Lakes policy also will speak.

NEMWI provides briefings at the Summit on fiscal year 2019 appropriations, other legislative updates, and its ongoing research agenda on Great Lakes focused policy needs.

Participation in the Summit is by invitation only and is not open to the public.  For more information, contact Matthew McKenna, Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute, at mmckenna@nemw.org.

The Northeast-Midwest Institute and the Great Lakes Washington Program receive support from the Erb Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Mott Foundation.
Northeast Corridor's Cap-and-Trade Program Signals Need for Innovation within Energy Sector

Nine states in the Northeast corridor and the District of Columbia have agreed to implement a cap-and-trade system designed to limit carbon emissions. The new system will place a cap on the amount of carbon emitted and will likely target fuel suppliers to mitigate the effects of climate change produced by the transportation industry.

States that have agreed to adopt the cap-and-trade regime include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The nine states and Washington D.C. account for 12 percent of the nation's carbon emissions. Although the new program is a productive step towards reducing carbon emissions that lead to climate change, it highlights a greater need for innovation within the energy and transportation sectors.

The new program, which will operate under the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), will target the transportation sector in an effort to reduce carbon emissions in a region that heavily depends on commuters travelling to work daily by car. Placing caps on the amount of carbon emitted by fuel suppliers will likely lead to further efforts to produce long-term solutions based on a shift towards clean energy. "The transportation sector is so interlinked throughout the country. [Cap-and-trade] is a step forward, but it's got to be a bridge to broader, stronger action at the federal level to be successful in the end." says Noah Kaufman , a researcher at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. The northeastern bloc's commitment to reducing carbon emissions would be bolstered by New York joining the agreement, given that the state accounts for 3 percent of total carbon emissions nationwide.

As it stands, the agreement would allow for companies to sell carbon allowances to those that exceed the mandated cap on emissions, in turn allowing states to use the revenue generated from the allowances to invest in efforts based on clean energy, such as vehicle charging stations and public transit.

The regional agreement is a promising step towards embracing cleaner energy, but the program's limitations illustrate the need for further innovation within the energy and transportation sectors. Senator Michael Barrett (D-MA) expressed his concerns about states' accountability in enforcing the new measures and urged state legislatures to hold hearings to ensure that the program's intended results are achieved, stating "[t]he reports on climate change are increasingly alarming. There are a lot of questions here. We are looking at [a] proposal that seeks to defer action on the part of everyone else."

It remains to be seen whether the new system's aim to hold fuel suppliers accountable will translate into corresponding legislative action. Consequently, suppliers have effectively been put on notice. Cap-and-trade could force them to reassess their emissions profile and develop technology that will result in cleaner, more sustainable energy.

For more information, please contact  Eric Heath , Senior Policy Counsel for the Mississippi River Basin Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute .

EPA Vague on Setting a Drinking Limit on Two Toxic Chemicals

Chemicals PFOA and PFOS (often collectively known as perfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS) have been known to cause certain types of cancer, hypertension, and other ailments, but the EPA has still not yet decided if it plans to impose a federal drinking limit for states to follow, according to POLITICO. In November 2016, the EPA set an unenforceable health advisory at 70 parts per trillion in drinking water, but some studies have found that smaller amounts still have an effect on the human body. 

According to a leaked copy of the draft PFAS management plan, EPA does not plan to set enforceable standards for these chemicals and therefore most water utilities will have no obligation from the federal government to test for or remove these dangerous chemicals. Democrats and Republicans have both expressed concern about the EPA's lack of action and have requested that they do more to ensure Americans have clean drinking water. The chemicals will be listed as hazardous substances, however, under the proposed management plan, allowing communities impacted by PFAS pollution to request federal funding for cleanup under the superfund program.

Some states have taken it upon themselves to begin testing, limiting, and removing PFOA and PFOS, but most have still taken no action to protect citizens from these chemicals. According to POLITICO, "states have lacked the scientific expertise to act on their own, and have struggled to explain to their residents why their limits differ from those in neighboring states." 

Without the implementation of federal requirements on these chemicals, there will continue to be fragmented or even no standards to protect citizens from the health consequences caused by them. According to advocates from the Environmental Working Group, up to 110 million Americans have these chemicals in their bloodstream and this number could continue to rise without proper regulation.

For more information, please con tact  Dr. Sri Vedachalam , Director of the Safe Drinking Water Research and Policy Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute.
116th Congress: Committee Leadership Profiles

As the 116th Congress gets into full swing in the coming weeks, the Northeast-Midwest Institute will profile the Chair and Ranking Member of the Congressional committees most relevant to the region.  This newsletter will include the House Agriculture Committee. 

Rep. Frank Pallone, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee:

Frank Pallone Jr. is the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 6 th Congressional District. Pallone has been serving in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1988, representing both the 3 rd and 6 th districts of New Jersey. According to Pallone's website he "led Democrats in passing key health care and environmental bills that were signed into law by President Obama." He served as Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee during the 114 th and 115 th Congress and played a major role in updating the Toxic Substances Control Act, passing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, and passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. According to Pallone's website, he was inspired to join Congress so he could clean up the Jersey Shore and ensure that citizens have clean water to drink. As Chairman he plans to encourage forward thinking energy, health, and environmental policies.


Rep. Greg Walden, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee:

Kenneth Michael Conaway is the U.S. Representative for Texas's 11th Congressional District. He assumed office in 2005 and was Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture from 2015-2019. He is also a veteran who served in the Army from 1970-1972, where he was awarded an Army Commendation Medal. Conaway serves in a district that heavily relies on agriculture and has continually emphasized the importance of ensuring that the American agricultural sector continues to grow. Conaway highlighted his objectives as Ranking Member by saying, "I will focus on aggressive oversight and review of the programs and policies within the jurisdiction of the committee, including federal crop insurance and nutrition assistance programs." As Ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture, he also plans on assisting with the proper implementation of the new Farm Bill.

For more information, please contact  Eric Heath , Senior Policy Counsel for the Mississippi River Basin Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute .

This Week in Washington

In the Senate:





In the House:


NEMWI: Strengthening the Region that Sustains the Nation