Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> Independent Organizations -> EPA

ItemIndependent Organizations
The Promise: "Will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "New Energy for America" dated 09/06/08.
Status:The proposed "Cap-and-Trade Bill", a two-part regulatory system in which the "cap" is a government-imposed limit on carbon emissions, and the "trade" is a government-created market to buy and sell greenhouse gas credits. This bill (H.R. 2454) was passed by the House on 06/26/09.

The above bill did not pass the Senate before the 111th Congress adjourned at the end of CY2010. Had it passed Congress and been signed into law, the above bill would have fallen far short of the "zero emissions" or efficiency goals in "all new buildings" promised by 2030.

On 10/05/09, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 entitled: "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance." This document mandates that 100% of all new "federal" buildings meet a "zero-net-energy" goal by CY2030.

This campaign promise was originally directed toward "all new buildings," and not only toward new federal buildings. As of end-CY2016, the Obama Administration had not established the stated goal on a national scale.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "As President, I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming - an 80% reduction by 2050...I will also commit to interim targets toward this goal in 2020, 2030, and 2040. These reductions will start immediately..."
When/Where: Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Real Leadership for a Clean Energy Future, Portsmouth, NH , 10/08/07.
Status:Reductions didn't exactly start "immediately" as Candidate Obama promised. The proposed "Cap-and-Trade" initiative was included in President Obama's FY2010 budget proposal of 02/26/09, but warranted no mention in his FY2011 budget proposal.

Proposed "Cap-and-Trade" legislation (H.R. 2454) was passed by the Democrat-led House 06/26/09. The Democrat-led Senate did not take any action on this bill before the 111th Congress expired at the end of CY2010. In essence, Senate Democrats abandoned a 7-year effort to pass some version of "Cap and Trade" legislation that would have addressed climate change by regulating and taxing the carbon emissions of power plants and other companies.

With Republicans in control of the House since the 11/10 elections, it was unlikely that they would support any new version of the "Cap and Trade" bill prior to the end of President Obama's first term in 01/13. This was supported by the view of many (rightly or wrongly) that the setting of artificial caps on carbon dioxide emissions would not be as effective as the employment of practical solutions such as the pursuit of natural gas by drilling into shale formations (i.e. fracking).

Draft legislation entitled the "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" was unveiled on 02/02/11 by Congressman Fred Uption (R-MI). One of the stated purposes of this proposed act was to prevent the EPA from "imposing a backdoor cap-and-trade tax" on industries identified as polluters that would ultimately raise the cost of gasoline, electricity, fertilizer and groceries for the American consumer.

Meanwhile, a U.S.-Finnish study revealed in 07/11 that the extent of global warming during the period CY1998-CY2008 was less than publicized by other studies. Despite an increase in carbon dioxide emissions during that period, global temperatures reportedly dropped slightly, a condition attributed to China's increased use of coal-fired power plants that release sun-blocking sulfates.

Further, the 7th International Climate Change Conference held in Chicago, IL in 05/12 concluded that global temperatures had cyclically declined since CY2000 and that this decline would continue through at least CY2030.

The bottom line, however, was that President Obama promised to address the setting of a "hard cap" on carbon emissions "immediately" (meaning shortly after his 01/09 inauguration). This was not done.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "Will increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per year ..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America entitled: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are U.S. regulations enacted in CY1975 to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks sold in the USA. Resources under the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Federal Vehicle and Fuels Standards and Certification program are responsible for issuing certificates and ensuring compliance with these CAFE standards, as established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

From CY1990 to CY2010, CAFE requirements for passenger cars were flat at 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg). Starting with CY2011, CAFE requirements for passenger cars increased as follows:
CY2011....30.4 mpg (a 10.6% increase over preceding year)
CY2012....33.3 mpg (9.5% increase)
CY2013....34.2 mpg (2.7% increase)
CY2014....34.9 mpg (2.1% increase)
CY2015....36.2 mpg (3.7% increase)
CY2016....37.8 mpg (4.4% increase)
Average increase per year: 5.5%

CAFE requirements for light duty trucks for CY2009 and CY2010 were 23.1 and 23.5 mpg respectively. Starting with CY2011, CAFE requirements for light duty trucks increased as follows:
CY2011....24.4 mpg (a 4.0% increase over preceding year)
CY2012....25.4 mpg (4.1% increase)
CY2013....26.0 mpg (2.4% increase)
CY2014....26.6 mpg (2.3% increase)
CY2015....27.5 mpg (3.4% increase)
CY2016....28.8 mpg (4.7% increase)
Average increase per year: 3.5%
Combined passenger car and light duty truck average increase per year: 4.5%

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "I am committed to pursuing greater funding for the EPA."
When/Where: Candidate Obama letter to the National President, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, dated 10/20/08.
Status:The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) FY2009 budget authorization under President George W. Bush was $7.633B. Under President Obama, this was supplemented by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 in the amount of $7.220B for a total FY2009 budget of $14.853B.

Using the pre-ARRA budget authorization for FY2009 ($7.6B) as a marker, the EPA's enacted budget authority during the ensuing years was as follows:

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will restore the strength of the Superfund program by requiring polluters to pay for the cleanup of contaminated sites they created."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Supporting Urban Prosperity", dated 09/11/08.
Status:The "Superfund" moniker came about after the passage into law of the "Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980." Under this Act, the U.S. Government was able to collect nearly $4B in taxes from the chemical and oil industries. These funds were used by the EPA to clean up some of the approximately 650 orphaned sites (toxic sites for which there is no longer an identifiable Potentially Responsible Party (PRP)). This tax was left to expire in CY1995, at which time the fund had about $6B. This $6B ran out in CY2003 and any EPA cleanups since (one or two dozen per year) have been paid by the U.S. taxpayer through funds appropriated by Congress.

President Obama's FY2010 budget proposal called for the reinstatement of excise taxes to collect $1B to clean up the nation's most toxic sites under the EPA's Superfund program. But, the taxes were deferred "until CY2011, after the economy recovers." The taxes were forgotten after CY2011.

During President Obama's two terms in office, Congress did not act on the prerequisite reinstatement of some form of excise tax on the oil and chemical industries. Bills such as the "Polluter Pays Restoration Act" (S.461) introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on 03/02/11, or the "Superfund Reinvestment Act" (H.R. 1596) introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on 04/15/11, had little-to-no chance of getting beyond preliminary committee reviews.

The "Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act of 2014" (S.2679) was introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) on 07/29/14 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reinstate the financing for the Hazardous Substance Superfund in the form of excise taxes levied on polluters to pay for the cleanup of contaminated sites. This legislation expired with the 113th Congress at the end of CY2014. Senator Booker reintroduced this Act on 12/14/15 and it expired without enactment at the end of CY2016 with the 114th Congress.

Under CERCLA 106 (42 U.S.C. Section 9606), PRPs can be ordered to clean up their own toxic sites. The EPA is also empowered to fine non-compliant entities up to $25,000 per day for each non-compliant day.

As of end-CY2016, no legislation had been passed/enacted to strengthen the Superfund by reinstating excise taxes to be levied on polluters.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will reinvigorate the drinking water standards..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: Promoting a Healthy Environment" dated 10/08/08.
Status:The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 remains the principal legal vehicle under which the EPA sets legal limits of contaminents in drinking water. SDWA allows individual states to set their own drinking water standards, so long as those standards meet the EPA's standards.

Reinvigoration of the nation's drinking water standards under President Obama started with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which provided a supplementary $6B to the EPA for its Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF).

On 02/02/11, the EPA announced that it would regulate the presence of perchlorate and 16 other cancer-causing chemicals (referred to as "volatile organic compounds") in drinking water, reversing a Bush Administration decision not to regulate perchlorate. As of end-CY2016, the EPA had not yet established a maximum contaminant level goal for perchlorate, nor had it published definitive rules or regulations to address the presence of numerous cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water.

On 02/04/16, Congressman Daniel Kildee (D-MI) introduced the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act (H.R. 4470) which immediately passed the House with 416 yes and 2 no votes. This bill was primarily drafted to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require public water service operators to notify customers if more than ten percent of customers have more than 15 parts per billion of lead their water. This bill was never passed by the Senate. Instead, its provisions were incorporated into the Senate's Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act (S.612) introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) on 02/27/15. The WIIN Act provided for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the USA and provided for the conservation and development of water and related resources, and for other purposes among which were the provisions of H.R. 4470. President signed the WIIN Act into law on 12/16/16.

This promise was partially fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will continue leadership in protecting national treasures like the Great Lakes from threats such as industrial pollution, water diversion, and invasive species."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: Promoting a Healthy Environment" dated 10/08/08.
Status:For the last budget enacted under President George W. Bush, no funds were appropriated specifically for Great Lakes Restoration Initiatives (GLRI).

President Obama's FY2010 budget submission to Congress included $475M for an "interagency Great Lakes restoration initiative, which will target the most significant problems in the region, including invasive aquatic species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment." This was the amount ($475M) enacted by Congress for the GLRI for FY2010.

For FY2011, the EPA's budget for GLRI was annualized under Continuing Resolution conditions at $475M.

The promise to "continue leadership" in this area was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will call for full and stringent enforcement of all applicable laws related to Florida's water resources, including the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Protecting Florida's Waterways" dated 10/16/08.
Status:In 01/10, the EPA issued a proposed rule establishing nutrient criteria for Florida's water resources. In doing so, the EPA committed to issue a final rule by 10/15/10 for lakes and flowing waters. The final rule entitled "Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters" was published in the Federal Register on 12/06/10.

The final rule for Florida's estuaries and coastal waters was published in the Federal Register 12/18/12.

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will encourage federal partnership with the state of Florida and local municipalities in researching new and innovative ways to insure the health and safety of Florida's waters."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Protecting Florida's Waterways" dated 10/16/08.
Status:As of end-CY2016, there is no sign of any new, formal "federal partnership" between a U.S. Government entity (i.e. the EPA) and the State of Florida to protect Florida's waters.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will establish policies to help high-growth regions like Northeast Florida with the challenges of managing their water supplies...will restore better federal financing for water and wastewater treatment infrastructure so we can protect the St. John's..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Protecting Florida's Waterways" dated 10/16/08.
Status:The St. John's River Water Management District (SJRWMD), operating largely under Florida's Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act of 1987, and in partnership with the City of Jacksonville, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and other local government partners, implemented a $700M plan on reclaimed water projects. Under a River Accord signed in 07/06, SJRWMD also spent $150M on water reuse cost-share projects over a 10-year period ending in CY2016.

The goals of SJRWMD's efforts were to reduce point source (wastewater and industrial discharges) pollution, reduce nonpoint source (stormwater) pollution, reduce bacteria in the tributaries, restore degraded aquatic habitat, increase water quality compliance and enforcement, and increase public awareness of river issues.

More than 20 reclaimed water projects were expected to remove from the St. John's River approximately 1.6M pounds of nitrogen per year and 32M gallons of wastewater per day (or 10B gallons of wastewater per year by CY2025, without direct federal involvement.

As of end-CY2016, there was no sign of any "policies" established by the Obama Administration to help Northeast Florida manage its water supplies.

Federal financing assistance for the SJRWMD was minimal during the Obama Administration. For FY2010, federal funding accounted for only 0.7% of the SJRWMD's budget of $254M. For the FY2011-2012 budget cycle, federal funding accounted for only 0.4% of the reduced SJRWMD budget of $204M. The reduced SJRWMD budget trend continued for the remainder of President Obama's two terms in office, culminating in federal financing of only about 1% of the SJRWMD's $132.9M budget for the FY2016-17 budget cycle.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...amending the Clean Water Act to clarify that it protects isolated wetlands."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Sportsmen" dated 08/06/08.
Status:The Clean Water Restoration Act of 2009 (S. 787), introduced by Senator Russel Feingold (D-WI) on 04/02/09, was reported on by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on 06/18/09. This proposed bill would have clarified that the Clean Water Act includes protection of the nation's wetlands. This legislation was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on 12/10/10 where it sat when the 111th Congress expired at the end of CY2010.

No similar legislation was introduced during the remainder of President Obama's two terms in office.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work to provide low-income communities the legal ability to challenge policies and processes that adversely affect the environmental health of low-income and minority communities."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: Promoting a Healthy Environment" dated 10/08/08.
Status:Executive Order 12898 signed by President Clinton on 02/11/94 directs federal agencies to develop environmental justice strategies to address environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.

On 03/21/11, the Deloitte Consulting firm issued its report entitled "Evaluation of the EPA Office of Civil Rights" in which it found that the EPA's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) had not adequately adjudicated Title VI complaints (allegations of discrimination against communities affected by the EPA's environmental rules). In some cases, complaints had been queued for adjudication for over eight (8) years.

A 04/05/11 report by the Environment News Service (ENS) further stated that the OCR staff suffered from "the absence of the rudiments of organizational infrastructure - well-documented policies and procedures, standardized processes, and effective systems...staff members are often confused about their job duties."

In 08/11, the heads of 17 government departments and agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898. While this MOU ultimately helps low-income communities to more effectively engage with Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJIWG) members on environmental justice issues, no proof can be found substantiating that any work has been done by the Obama Administration to provide low-income and minority communities the "legal ability" to challenge what they deem to be negative environmental health policies.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work to strengthen the EPA Office of Environmental Justice and expand the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, which provides non-profit organizations across the nation with valuable resources to address local environmental problems."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: Promoting a Healthy Environment" dated 10/08/08.
Status:While the EPA does not publicize its break down of manpower resources for Environmental Justice (EJ) functions, it is clear from online data that the EPA's enacted budget in FY2010 ($10.3B) had fallen to $8.0B by President Obama's last budget year of FY2017. At the same time, the EPA's total personnel strength fell from 17.2K in FY2010 to 15.4K by FY2017. With these cited budget and personnel reductions, it is likely that the EPA's EJ Office was not strengthened in any significant way.

The EPA's Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants Program supports and empowers communities working on solutions to local environmental and public health issues. The program is designed to help communities understand and address exposure to multiple environmental harms and risks.

Grants not exceeding $30K each are awarded to support:
a. - Activities designed to educate, empower and enable communities to understand the environmental and public health issues and to identify ways to address these issues at the local level, and
b. - Research activities related to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Section 311(c).

In FY2009 (President George W. Bush's last budget year), the EJ Small Grants Program was funded at the $800K level. During President Obama's two terms in office, funding was provided at the following levels: FY2010 - $1M, FY2011 - $1.2M, FY2012 - $1.5M, FY2013 - $0, FY2014 - $0, FY2015 - $1.2M, FY2016 - $0, FY2017 - $1.2M. Since the EJ Small Grants Program was not funded during all eight budget cycles of President Obama's two terms in office, an average of those eight years reveals that the grants program was funded at an average of $762.5K per year, a decrease when compared to President Bush's last budget year ($800K).

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...the Environmental Protection Agency will strictly monitor and regulate pollution from large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)...with fines for those who violate tough air and water quality standards."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: Promoting a Healthy Environment" dated 10/08/08.
Status:Under the Clean Water Act, an Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) is a facility in which livestock or poultry are housed in confinement for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period and crops are not grown over the facility for feeding/grazing purposes. A CAFO is an AFO with more than 1,000 animals. A facility with 300-999 animals may be classified as CAFOs if pollutants are discharged from a manmade conveyance or are discharged directly into waters near the animal housing area. Facilities with fewer than 300 animals may also be classified as CAFOs if the EPA or State permitting authority determines that the facility contributes to water pollution.

On 05/28/10, the EPA released its guidance document entitled "Implementation Guidance on CAFO Regulations - CAFOs That Discharge or Are Proposing to Discharge" (EPA-833-R-10-006). While this document is not legally enforceable, it does provide clarification of regulatory requirements.

As part of the EPA's 2008-2010 CAFO enforcement strategy, a CAFO that discharges pollutants under the Clean Water Act must have a State/National Polution Discharge Elimination System (S/NPDES) Permit. EPA regulations also require permits for CAFOs that "propose" to discharge at some point in the future, whereas CAFOs that have the "potential" to discharge pollutants do not require a permit.

Sanctions for CAFO S/NPDES permit violations include severe civil and criminal penalties for each day of violation. Basic monetary penalties could be up to $32,500 per day. Stiffer criminal penalties of up to $50,000 per day or three years' imprisonment, or both, could be levied for negligent or knowing violations of the Act. A fine of up to $250,000 or 15 years' imprisonment (or both) could be levied if a violation is considered "knowing endangerment" and leads to the imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury of another person.

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work with my scientific advisors to develop a strategy to protect marine life and ensure that the mechanisms we choose to implement that strategy are effective. My administration will ensure that sound science -- not ideology or profits -- guides federal environmental policy."
When/Where: Candidate Obama response to Greenpeace letter dated 12/03/07.
Status:On 06/12/09, President Obama unveiled his "Ocean Protection Plan," dovetailing the standards set by President Bush in CY2006. In doing so, President Obama announced the creation of an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to be led by his chief environmental advisor, Ms. Nancy Sutley, to come up with a recommended policy/strategy for protecting and restoring "the health of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources."

The Task Force issued its interim report on 09/10/09. This interim report recommends (1) a national policy emphasizing the importance of our oceans, (2) the establishment of an interagency National Ocean Council, and 9 categories for action to manage the largest issues facing our oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes. Among these proposals is coastal and marine "spatial planning" as the answer to protecting marine life.

The final Task Force recommendations report was released by the White House on 07/19/10. With it, President Obama signed Executive Order 13547 entitled "Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes." That Executive Order establishes the policy for the United States to "use the best available science and knowledge to inform decisions affecting the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, and enhance humanity's capacity to understand, respond, and adapt to a changing global environment."

This promise was fulfilled.