Congress Considering $700,000 OSHA Penalties

National Law Review Washington, DC

A Congressional committee has approved maximum penalties of $700,000 per item for violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. The move would mean more than a fivefold increase of maximum “willful,” “repeated,” and “failure-to-abate” violations from $136,532. Minimum penalty amounts for such infractions would increase from today’s $9,753 to $50,000. “Serious” violations would increase from a current maximum of $13,653 to $70,000. 

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EPA Rescinds Previous Administration’s Guidance On Clean Water Act Permit Requirements

EPA Washington, DC

EPA is rescinding a guidance document entitled “Applying the Supreme Court’s County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund Decision in the Clean Water Act Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program” that was issued by the Trump administration on January 14, 2021. The previous Administration’s Maui guidance reduced clean water protections by creating a new factor for determining if a discharge of pollution from a point source through groundwater that reaches a water of the US is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge to such water. The addition of that factor skewed the “functional equivalent” analysis in a way that could reduce the number of discharges requiring a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The agency determined that this is inconsistent with the Clean Water Act and the Supreme Court decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund

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How Gas Stoves Are Related to Indoor Air Quality and Climate Change

NPR by Jeff Brady

National – Gas stoves have become a focal point in a fight over whether gas should even exist in the 35% of U.S. homes that cook with it. Environmental groups are focused on potential health effects. Burning gas emits pollutants that can cause or worsen respiratory illnesses. Residential appliances like gas-powered furnaces and water heaters vent pollution outside, but the stove is the one gas appliance in your home that is most likely unvented. The focus on possible health risks from stoves is part of the broader campaign by environmentalists to kick gas out of buildings to fight climate change. Commercial and residential buildings account for about 13% of heat-trapping emissions, mainly from the use of gas appliances. 

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Office Air Quality May Affect Employees’ Cognition, Productivity

Harvard School of Public Health

Boston, MA – The air quality within an office can have significant impacts on employees’ cognitive function, including response times and ability to focus, and it may also affect their productivity, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The one-year study, which included participants in offices across six countries working in a variety of fields, including engineering, real estate investment, architecture, and technology, found that increased concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and lower ventilation rates (measured using carbon dioxide (CO2) levels as a proxy) were associated with slower response times and reduced accuracy on a series of cognitive tests. The researchers noted that they observed impaired cognitive function at concentrations of PM2.5 and CO2 that are common within indoor environments. 

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Daines Could Play Key Role As the First GOP Sponsor of Asbestos Ban Bill

Montana Standard David McCumber

Washington, DC – For the first time, an asbestos-ban bill in Congress may have the sponsorship of a Republican senator — Montana’s Steve Daines — signaling improved chances of passage. Even though asbestos has been a known human carcinogen for more than a century, it is legal in the United States to import, manufacture, and market products containing the deadly fibers. The issue is of particular concern in Montana because of widespread contamination and hundreds of deaths in and near Libby from a vermiculite mine, the ore of which was contaminated with a particularly dangerous form of asbestos. Click here for the full article.