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Daily News

May 18, 2018

Former EPA officials and others say there is little possibility that Administrator Scott Pruitt's array of ethics and spending scandals will be enough to turn the GOP against him absent a damning investigators' report, but instead see greater odds for Pruitt to leave the agency voluntarily as soon as the end of the year, likely to run for office.

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The Trump administration plan to scrap the Obama-era rule strengthening EPA's facility accident prevention program and wait for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to advance a similar rulemaking could stall changes to facility oversight for the foreseeable future, as OSHA has shelved plans to update its companion rule.

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States opposed to the Obama EPA's 2015 rule tightening the ozone air standard are asking a federal appeals court to revive currently stayed litigation over the standard, saying the Trump administration appears to have backed off possible plans to reconsider the standard and instead proceed with a regular Clean Air Act-mandated review of the limit.

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In an unusual loss for EPA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has vacated the agency's decision to place an Indiana waste site on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), finding that EPA ignored evidence that a contaminated aquifer is not connected to other groundwater.

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Auto industry suppliers are detailing their call for the Trump administration to embrace “robust” vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards with more flexibility for automakers, urging agencies to formally seek comment on an “advanced technologies flexibility option” that would recognize California's “critical role” in limiting emissions and possibly prevent years of litigation over the program.

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Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the energy committee's environment panel, says he is pushing ahead with long-running efforts to craft legislation overhauling EPA's renewable fuel standard (RFS) despite a deal brokered by the White House that will see the agency make several immediate administrative changes to the program.

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May 17, 2018

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is suggesting Congress create “a good legislative fix” to prevent states from using their authority under Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 to stall federal projects such as construction of natural gas pipelines, drawing support from Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James at a May 17 hearing.

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The Trump administration is proposing to scrap most requirements of the Obama-era final rule updating EPA's facility accident prevention program, rescinding numerous new safety requirements in response to industry and state petitions, and arguing that EPA failed to adequately coordinate with other agencies in issuing the costly changes.

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After years of additional study and scientific review, EPA has again found that formaldehyde poses leukemia and other cancer risks, though Democratic senators say the draft finding has prompted Trump EPA appointees to block release of the assessment and they are urging Administrator Scott Pruitt to quickly release it.

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Democrats are taking the rare step of using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), the law that eases Congress' ability to repeal EPA and other agencies' rules, to block a Trump administration rule rolling back Obama-era 'net neutrality' mandates, despite criticism from environmentalists that it legitimizes use of a poorly-written law that Republicans and industry have long-used as a deregulatory tool and which they are seeking to repeal.

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May 16, 2018

EPA's top air official says he plans to meet with California regulators next week regarding the Trump administration's pending plan to roll back vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards, amid reports that officials may not be as committed to working out a deal with the state before issuing their plan as some had previously believed.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told Senate appropriators that he plans to take quick action on a host of issues from Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction and climate rollbacks to new limits on drinking water contaminants and other chemicals, including setting an aggressive goal of enacting new CWA and power plant climate rules in 2018.

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Senate Democrats used a May 16 EPA budget hearing to renew their attacks on Administrator Scott Pruitt's many ethics and spending scandals, with Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) claiming that one of Pruitt's answers to his questions effectively admits that he broke federal law by having a top aide house-hunt for him outside of agency work hours.

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EPA air chief William Wehrum is offering strong support for pending House legislation to overhaul and ease the Clean Air Act new source review (NSR) permitting program by claiming it would provide long-sought regulatory clarity, but the bill appears to face dim prospects as Democrats expressed uniform opposition to the measure.

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EPA and state regulators are planning to craft a clearing house of environmental research to improve states' access to EPA's Office of Research and Development data and tools, part of states' ongoing push to bolster their collaboration with federal regulators on implementing environmental laws, which has gained traction under the Trump administration.

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The House's pending fiscal year 2019 spending bill for EPA revives a prior Trump administration effort to fund workforce “reshaping” at the agency that union officials fear could lead to massive staffing cuts, in contrast to FY18 omnibus funding legislation that did not provide backing for an effort to buy out experienced staff.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is urging states to ramp up use of loan guarantees and issuance of bonds to help close the gap between identified wastewater and drinking water infrastructure needs and available federal funding, noting in a new publication that only a handful of states are taking advantage of the funding options.

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May 15, 2018

Top EPA science advisors, including Administrator Scott Pruitt's hand-picked chair of the agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB), are strongly criticizing the administrator's controversial plan to require only publicly available research to justify its regulations, charging it will undermine rules' integrity and was developed without adequate review.

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GOP House members, including a former Trump energy adviser from the 2016 campaign, are floating a proposal to sharply narrow the scope of Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction as an amendment to the Farm Bill, a potential hint at EPA's pending proposal to replace the Obama-era CWA policy that is prompting alarm from environmentalists.

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Facing bipartisan pressure from Congress, the federal health agency that the White House blocked from releasing draft risk values for four perfluorinated chemicals because they were stricter than EPA levels says it is now preparing to issue the chemical profiles for public comment.

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