Senate Bill for Patent Reform Looks Hopeful

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve a bill that was designed to limit the number of court cases filed by “patent trolls,” firms that buy old patents and sue businesses for infringing on them, in the hopes of financial gain. The Committee has also agreed to expand the scope of the bill to protect patents from being easily challenged and revoked after already given approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies hope that this bill will prevent their intellectual property rights from being undermined. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be refining the language before intro- ducing the bill. See: http://cen acs org/articles/93/i24/Patent-Reform-Bill-Clears-Hurdle.html.

Court Allows EPA’s Vision for Clean Power Plan to Proceed

The Clean Power Plan, one of President Obama’s main climate initiatives, was recently challenged in a federal appeals court by a coalition of energy and fossil fuel companies. The lawsuit sought for the court to assess the Plan’s legality. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the challenge pre- mature because the rules of the Plan are not yet final. Through the Plan, the EPA ultimately hopes to set a separate carbon-cutting goal for each state based on current emissions and capacity. Though even the Pres- ident acknowledges that executing the Plan will be “tough,” he and the EPA believe that carbon pollution in the U.S. must be cut. See: http://news sciencemag org/ policy/2015/06/wake-court-defeat-opponents-obama-s- climate-rule-tee-seven-more-attacks.

EPA’s Fracking Study Is Not Definitive

Five years after the federal government’s request for a report on the drinking water quality impact of hydraulic fracturing, the EPA released its study. “Fracking” is the practice of injecting many gallons of water, mixed with other chemicals, into geological formations at high speed, breaking the formations and extracting oil and gas from within. While the study concludes that there is no evidence of fracking being inherently harmful to drinking water, the EPA does say that in some areas, contamination can occur (i.e. areas of oils spills, poorly constructed wells, etc.). However, environmental groups argue that there is very little field data in the study that supports the conclusion. The EPA plans to use tracers to monitor whether the chemicals used in fracking are leaking into drinking water supplies. This data would indicate whether fracking is in fact causing contamination or not. See:

An international vs. domestic approach to U.S. aircraft emission regulation policy

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labeled greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft as a serious danger to human health. Given that the United States is responsible for one-third of the world’s air- craft emissions, U.S. aviation-emissions policies will have a large impact on global greenhouse gas levels. According to the Energy Information Administration, American travelers use approximately six times as much jet fuel as the average world citizen. Whether the U.S. will produce a national standard of aircraft emissions or attempt to form a regulatory policy on an international level remains to be seen. In an industry that crosses international borders millions of times on a daily basis, a country-by-country approach may prove both impractical and ineffective. However, a regulatory policy that applies solely to U.S. domestic flights is being considered as a worthwhile first step.

Chemical Regulation Bill Passes House Committee

On June 3, the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2576), which would provide new regulatory guidelines for commercial chemical management, was passed through the House of Representatives Energy & Com- merce Committee with near unanimity. An attempt to improve upon the ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, the proposed legislation would provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the tools necessary to guarantee that chemicals used in every-day products are safe to consume. The bill lays out precise scientific standards by which a chemical’s risk-level will be determined, and sets strict deadlines for the EPA to take action when a chemical is deemed hazardous. The House is set to vote on the bill prior to the July 4th recess.

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