Congressional Research Service. October 7, 2014.

This report provides an overview of the statutory framework, key players, infrastructure, resources, tools, and operations associated with enforcement and compliance of the major pollution control laws and regulations administered by EPA. It also outlines the roles of federal (including regional offices) and state regulators, as well as the regulated community. Understanding the many facets of how all federal pollution control laws are enforced, and the responsible parties involved, can be challenging. Enforcement of the considerable body of these laws involves a complex framework and organizational setting. [PDF format, 56 pages].

Center for American Progress. September 26, 2014.

Oil drilling in the Arctic poses numerous environmental risks, one of which is increasing emissions of soot- and smog-forming pollutants. Air pollution from offshore drilling operations poses unique risks in the Arctic—risks not found in the Gulf of Mexico, the other federal body of water under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s jurisdiction. For example, the Inupiat people and other native Alaskans spend days, if not longer, hunting, whaling, and fishing as part of their subsistence culture. And oil drilling releases black carbon, a light-absorbing component of particulate matter 2.5, or soot. Although black carbon—a super greenhouse gas—is also released in the Gulf, reports have shown that it is a particularly potent accelerator of warming and snow and ice melt in the Arctic. Given this reality, federal regulators need to ensure that any offshore drilling proceeds as safely and as responsibly as possible. [Note: contains copyrighted material]. [PDF format, 6 pages].

Congressional Research Service. May 12, 2014.

In the wake of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, federal agencies, state and local government agencies, and responsible parties faced an unprecedented challenge. An oil discharge continued for 87 days, resulting in the largest ever oil spill in U.S. waters. The incident tested the public and private response capabilities, as well as the legal framework of liability and compensation under the Oil Pollution Act. The oil spill cleanup, natural resource damage assessment (NRDA), and compensation processes continue today. This report provides a summary update of selected issues related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Oil Spill Response; Gulf Coast Restoration; Economic Claims and Other Payments; Civil and Criminal Settlements; Safety Reforms; Congressional Activity; and Investigations and Reports. [PDF format, 19 pages].

Congressional Research Service. March 7, 2014.

On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced a national “Climate Action Plan” to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG), as well as to encourage adaptation to climate change. During his speech, the President made reference to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project—a pipeline that would transport crude oil derived from Canadian oil sands deposits in Alberta to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. He stated that an evaluation of the proposed pipeline’s impacts on climate change would be “critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.” Members of Congress remain divided on the merits of the project, as many have expressed support for the potential energy security and economic benefits, while others have reservations about its potential health and environmental impacts. Though Congress, to date, has had no direct role in permitting the pipeline’s construction, it has oversight stemming from federal environmental statutes that govern the review. Further, Congress may seek to influence the State Department’s process or to assert direct congressional authority over approval through new legislation. [PDF format, 19 pages].

Congressional Research Service. February 27, 2014.

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. Issues such as Arctic sovereignty claims; commercial shipping through the Arctic; Arctic oil, gas, and mineral exploration; endangered Arctic species; and increased military operations in the Arctic could cause the region in coming years to become an arena of international cooperation or competition. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial political, economic, energy, environmental, and other interests in the region. Decisions that Congress, the executive branch, foreign governments, international organizations, and commercial firms make on Arctic-related issues could significantly affect these interests. [PDF format, 118 pages].