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Daily News

November 17, 2017

EPA's top political appointee in the enforcement office says states will play a major role in a looming potential overhaul of the agency's enforcement priorities in order to help identify and scrap goals that are outdated or already achieved, while floating possible new target areas for enforcement such as drinking water contamination.

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EPA's Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA) is weighing a “refreshing” of its self-audit policies that gives facilities incentives to report violations to the agency, says OECA's top political deputy Patrick Traylor, but he is strongly backing an existing policy that expands incentives for new facility owners to report past violations.

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Environmentalists are faulting draft legislation backed by the pesticide industry that would limit EPA's reviews of pesticides' harms to endangered species, while the Trump administration urges a federal court to delay by two years a deadline for completing the first reviews under an Obama-era process that industry is aiming to scrap.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is defending his rollbacks of Obama-era policies as “clarification” not deregulation, pledging that the agency will take its first step toward replacing its greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants “very, very soon,” and vowing to move quickly on repealing the 2015 Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule.

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Pennsylvania environment regulators and public health groups are faulting EPA's omission of climate change from its recent draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2022, calling it a “glaring oversight” that shirks the agency's responsibility to help tackle a global challenge and will harm efforts to achieve the plan's other goals.

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November 16, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is “freezing out” technical input from his Office of Transportation & Air Quality (OTAQ) as the agency reopens Obama-era greenhouse rules for heavy-duty trucks and passenger cars, say sources who fear the agency's vast engineering expertise on emissions controls it has built up over decades could be marginalized.

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The Justice Department's (DOJ) acting environment chief is vowing the Trump administration will pursue a “strong program” of civil and criminal Clean Water Act (CWA) enforcement while promoting “a compliance assistance mindset” as many states and localities have done, downplaying concerns about possible enforcement cuts.

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EPA Region 2 is deferring on whether it will enforce a unilateral cleanup order against a baby food manufacturer after the company took the rare step earlier this year of refusing to comply with the order, with the agency announcing Nov. 16 that a New York county has agreed to voluntarily dispose of the asbestos contamination at issue.

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EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are proposing to retroactively delay the 2015 Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule's effective date into 2019 or beyond, in order to avoid having to apply the Obama-era policy they are seeking to repeal, if a Supreme Court ruling dissolves a nationwide stay blocking the rule's implementation.

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EPA is pledging to finish an overhaul of the Obama-era Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) coal ash disposal rule no later than December 2019 but could finalize a first step of revisions much sooner by combining them with another set of revisions the agency started work on in 2016 but is yet to formally propose.

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A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit at Nov. 16 oral argument appeared inclined in principle to back EPA's approval of emissions trading as an alternative to source-specific regional haze controls, which would bolster the agency in several pending suits over haze plans relying on trading.

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Scientific and policy questions are posing major lingering hurdles for state regulators, utilities, industry groups and others as they aim to craft recommendations for how EPA should develop a Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule to replace the Obama-era jurisdiction regulation that critics say failed to resolve many of those questions.

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November 15, 2017

Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states in the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) area are faulting what they see as EPA's overly optimistic projections that no areas outside California are likely to exceed the 2008 ozone air standard in 2023, calling on the agency to instead pursue a “full remedy” policy to curb interstate ozone transport.

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Michael Dourson's controversial nomination to head EPA's toxics office appears in doubt after GOP North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis announced late Nov. 15 that they would oppose him, because along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) as a likely no vote, Democrats can kill the nomination if they all vote against Dourson.

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The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is backing parts of the Obama EPA's facility safety prevention rule to help facilities better prepare for worsening risks from flooding, saying companies should reassess their emergency planning and coordination with first responders and communities to ensure adequate planning for extreme weather.

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Manufacturers are calling for an overhaul to ease EPA's Clean Air Act new source review (NSR) permitting program to help promote technologies that can improve facilities' efficiency and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and conventional pollutants, arguing that NSR discourages installation of such technology.

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EPA is proposing for public comment multiple approaches to prioritize existing chemicals to enter the pipeline for high- or low-priority designation and potential risk evaluation as part of its new responsibilities under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), with some of the proposals reflecting ideas that have enjoyed industry support in the past.

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An EPA brownfields official is warning state officials of expected cuts to the grants the agency gives states annually to support brownfields programs -- even if Congress restores some of the funding the Trump administration proposed to eliminate -- noting the likely reductions come as demand among states and tribes for the grants continues to rise.

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Eight Senate Democrats have introduced a bill seeking to ban asbestos -- even as EPA is working on a precedential risk evaluation of the substance under new responsibilities in the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) -- in part because of concerns that President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the agency's toxics office wouldn't ban its use.

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November 14, 2017

The heads of three EPA regions are downplaying reports of contamination from Superfund sites and facility leaks in the aftermath of this year's disastrous hurricane season, saying any contaminated sites have been contained and did not pollute drinking water in damaged areas despite early reports to the contrary.

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