Thursday, July 3, 2014

EPA Reportedly Sets Sights on Fireworks Displays

Not content with killing off the coal industry, a new set of rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could end up putting the kibosh on 4th of July fireworks throughout the USA. The changes reportedly ask for further clarification of which streams and wetlands would fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.

However, in a letter to the EPA a number of GOP lawmakers have expressed concerns that these rules would leave small towns open to nuisance lawsuits from environmental groups seeking to shut down 4th of July fireworks displays.

"We are concerned, on the eve of the celebration of this great nation’s founding, that the EPA is set to foster expanded efforts to undermine this form of celebration," says a letter sent to EPA chief Gina McCarthy from 10 GOP senators.
"If finalized, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to expand the Clean Water Act’s definition of the 'waters of the United States' may enable litigious environmental groups to jeopardize fireworks displays throughout the country," the letter, spearheaded by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), adds.

Republicans in Congress have called the rules a "power grab," but the EPA has stressed the proposal does not expand protections.

The rules require that the EPA and Army Corps approve any project that might pollute the protected waterways already under their jurisdiction, keeping in place exemptions for farming, ranching and forestry practices.

But the 10 signatories claim the proposal would encourage environmental groups to challenge firework displays at lakes and recreational water areas legally.

In California, the Lake Murray July 4 fireworks show has been canceled three consecutive years due to litigation uncertainty, the letter states.

A number of newspapers have run op-eds supporting bans 4th of July on fireworks displays, citing fire hazards and air quality concerns.

The rules wouldn't leave just small towns vulnerable to such nuisance litigation- large cities such as New York City, San Diego and New Orleans launch their fireworks from barges strategically placed along a river or in a harbor for the 4th of July- although they would be better equipped to handle nuisance lawsuits than smaller towns or counties that launch fireworks from an adjacent river or lake.

However, in addition to nuisance lawsuits, numerous firework displays have been cancelled out west due to increased danger of wildfire and a number of 4th of July fireworks displays are threatened up and down the east coast this year with the approach of Tropical Storm Arthur.

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