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Daily News

February 12, 2019

EPA air chief Bill Wehrum is downplaying the recent government shutdown's effect on the agency's ability to finish its replacement greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants, though the agency is still acknowledging the shutdown caused some slowdown in issuing a rule originally slated for sometime in March.

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Conservative and free-market groups that have long urged EPA to repeal its finding that greenhouse gases are a public endangerment -- because they say that is the only way to prevent the agency from having to regulate GHGs -- are backing away from that stance and now say it may be good enough for EPA to not strictly enforce the finding.

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Industry and other sources are lowering their expectations that Congress will enact major infrastructure legislation because lawmakers have made little progress toward a deal on new project funding, though the White House is pressing ahead on eased rules for environment and climate reviews that many infrastructure projects must undertake.

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February 11, 2019

State water regulators are threatening a “vast increase” in the number of federal permits for pipelines and other projects they plan to block under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in response to a recent Army Corps of Engineers memo directing that Corps' district officials limit states’ reviews under the law to 60 days in most cases.

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EPA is facing broad criticism from environmentalists on its proposal to give areas around the country an additional year to attain a 2008 federal ozone standard and avoid a “bump-up” to more stringent emissions control requirements, with critics saying the areas’ ozone problems are so bad they do not justify the extensions.

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EPA and environmentalists are pushing competing interpretations of the appellate order that scrapped key exemptions in the Obama-era coal ash disposal rule for being too weak, as both sides seek a new decision from the court on whether it meant to order the immediate closure of disposal sites that cannot meet the rule without the waivers.

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The White House appears to still be on track to finalizing its plan to freeze light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy rules, despite automakers' stated preference against such a rollback in favor of a modest annual rate of improvement in vehicles.

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At least 22 states are ramping up efforts to approve chemicals management legislation despite the sweeping overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that some proponents hoped would end a patchwork of state chemicals rules, with observers saying states are “filling in” regulatory gaps EPA cannot address under the toxics law.

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February 08, 2019

EPA's just-released report on its fiscal year 2018 enforcement efforts includes sharp drops in civil and criminal penalties, site inspections and other measures that appear to bolster claims from Democrats and environmentalists that the Trump administration is significantly paring back enforcement compared to prior administrations.

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Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is declining to reveal to senators whether the agency will certify the Hudson River cleanup as complete despite continued calls from stakeholders for more remediation, although Wheeler is underscoring such a declaration would have a limited purview and says reopening the cleanup to add requirements is within EPA's authorities.

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Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler plans for the agency to publish its proposal to narrow the scope of Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction in the Federal Register the week of Feb. 11, a long-awaited move that will formally start the 60-day clock for public comments at least two months after the rule was first unveiled.

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Wastewater and stormwater utilities are eyeing a future House infrastructure package as a vehicle to address their priorities including reauthorization of a key EPA infrastructure funding program, assisting low-income customers with their water bills, and building resilience to natural disasters, financial challenges and workforce changes.

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Farm groups, environmentalists and state wildlife agencies are pushing back against a quietly-issued interim rule that expands the Agriculture Department's (USDA) designations of former wetlands as “prior converted cropland,” posing a hurdle for EPA's plan to align its Clean Water Act (CWA) exclusions for converted cropland with USDA's rule.

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Progressive lawmakers are formally launching a long political push to enact a “Green New Deal,” (GND) with backers of the effort projecting unity among left-leaning groups by combining an aggressive push for “zero-emissions” energy with calls to reverse a slide in the fortunes of blue-collar workers.

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Some lawmakers on the Senate energy committee are tentatively embracing calls from outside experts to adopt a centrist climate change agenda that recognizes the need for government action to reduce greenhouse gases while incorporating a wide range of low-carbon technologies, including some that progressive groups find objectionable.

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February 07, 2019

Legal experts say if EPA follows through on an expected plan to list two commonly found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law, it would trigger Superfund liability for releases of the chemicals and likely aid plaintiffs' PFAS tort cases, but it would also still leave communities without a national, uniform cleanup standard.

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The Air Force is disputing Michigan's allegation the military violated a state water quality standard for a perfluorinated compound at a former military base, in part contending the state lacks jurisdiction because the substance at issue is not a “hazardous substance” under the federal Superfund law.

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EPA is considering “locking in” reductions in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions achieved by modern heavy-duty trucks in a forthcoming regulation as part of its “Cleaner Trucks Initiative,” says a top agency official.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has granted EPA’s request for rehearing of a panel’s ruling that vacated former Administrator Scott Pruitt's reversal of an Obama-era proposed ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, raising the possibility the court could undo the order and reject environmentalists' bid to block the substance from the market.

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House Democrats are eyeing a long-term legislative strategy to develop a “carbon price solution” to climate change, part of a “two-track” approach to the issue that will initially focus on “low-hanging fruit” policies that have a better chance of garnering bipartisan support.

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