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Daily News

January 19, 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the agency has sufficient funds to fully operate at existing levels until Jan. 26 if the government, as expected, shuts down at midnight Jan. 19, although if the shutdown continues beyond next week the fate of the agency's regular operations is uncertain and Pruitt says further updates would come at that time.

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EPA is asking federal judges to combine all litigation over the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill including potentially “hundreds” of future cases that victims of the spill might bring if their administrative claims for damages are denied, but plaintiffs in the current suits say the agency fails to meet the high bar for granting consolidation.

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Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is peppering EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt with numerous queries -- on topics including climate change, vehicle rules, toxics and the agency's spending practices -- previewing concerns he and other Democrats are likely to air at a Senate environment committee hearing with Pruitt later this month.

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The Constitution Pipeline Company is asking the Supreme Court to review and overturn a lower court ruling that upheld New York's denial of a Clean Water Act (CWA) certification for its proposed natural gas pipeline, charging that state authority under the CWA is superseded by federal energy regulators' exclusive jurisdiction over interstate pipelines as well as provisions of energy and natural gas laws.

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EPA's announcement that it will reconsider aspects of its long-running regional haze rule that requires states to reduce air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas in order to improve visibility is spurring environmentalists' fears that the changes will lead to weaker emissions controls on sources of haze-forming pollution.

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EPA's just-announced reconsideration of the Obama administration's revised regional haze rule signals how Administrator Scott Pruitt is pushing toward greater state autonomy under the Clean Air Act's system of “cooperative federalism,” where states have the primary role in implementation of clean air policy.

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A chemical industry coalition is urging EPA to forgo regulating new chemicals' risks to workers and use new authority under the revised toxics law to instead inform the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) enforcement, an approach environmentalists say is “patently illegal” and would undermine worker protections due to OSHA's limited reach and resources.

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January 18, 2018

A pending Supreme Court petition challenging EPA's rule exempting transfers of one body of water to another from Clean Water Act (CWA) permit protections poses a test for how Justice Neil Gorusch will balance his opposition to deferring to agencies' decisions with his support for the rights of the states that back the rule, observers say.

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EPA is bracing for a looming possible federal government shutdown that would furlough the vast majority of agency staff -- and which could have highly disruptive effects on agency operations both within Washington, D.C., and the agency's regional offices -- unless Congress extends government funding that expires at the end of Jan. 19.

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House Republicans on the Energy & Commerce environment subcommittee are signaling interest in considering legislation to address frustrations over the slow pace of Superfund cleanups, including weighing potentially new authorities for states.

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The Trump administration in a new legal brief is defending an Obama-era rule “updating” the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule emissions trading program, rejecting some states' claims that the rule is unnecessarily stringent and other states' and environmentalists' arguments that the update should have imposed stricter air pollution limits.

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EPA has withdrawn its prior approval of Ohio's decision to leave the open waters of Lake Erie off the state's 2016 list of impaired waters after finding that Ohio's initial submission was incomplete, but environmentalists who have sued EPA over the initial approval are urging a federal court to compel the agency to develop a cleanup plan for the lake.

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Environmentalists and industry lawyers say they expect a new wave of lawsuits against EPA and other agencies seeking deadlines for rule updates based on the recent appellate decision ordering EPA to craft new hazard standards for lead dust, though industry holds out hope that the precedent it set can be limited to that circuit.

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January 17, 2018

EPA has released an initial list of 31 Superfund sites at which the agency plans to promote reuse opportunities for developers and businesses, an effort that may be aimed at overcoming difficulties the agency has previously faced getting cleanup sites "ready for anticipated use" due in part to difficulties implementing institutional controls.

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The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) is waging a last-minute push for Congress to block a looming Jan. 22 deadline for thousands of animal feeding operations (AFOs) to being reporting their hazardous air emissions for the first time, and some lawmakers are looking to include the ban in pending budget legislation.

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The ongoing federal budget stalemate that has left EPA and other agencies without final spending plans more than 100 days into fiscal year 2018 is reviving talk of a seemingly unlikely scenario in which lawmakers approve a year-long continuing resolution (CR) that only slightly tweaks current EPA funding levels, allowing it to avoid the steepest cuts to many programs.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's close oversight of high-profile Superfund cleanup decisions, as well as strict remedies he has supported for some sites, is drawing concern among potentially responsible parties (PRPs) that the administrator is signaling plans to embrace costlier excavation remedies at some sites.

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Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) at the West Lake Landfill site in Bridgeton, MO, are urging EPA officials to avoid a broad excavation remedy as Administrator Scott Pruitt prepares to announce a cleanup remedy at the high-profile Superfund site.

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January 16, 2018

State regulators are asking EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to work with states and the Defense Department to address a number of concerns related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, including ensuring that state and federal agencies avoid different risk values when addressing the chemicals.

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EPA is signaling that it intends to take a flexible approach when implementing a court remand of its renewable fuel standard (RFS) volumes rule for 2016, advising refiners and importers that they need not withhold 2016 vintage credits required for compliance with the 2017 RFS to cover possible additional fuel blending mandates for compliance year 2016.

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