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Daily News

June 18, 2019

Oregon’s landmark legislation to establish an economy-wide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that would link to the California-Quebec carbon market is facing an uncertain vote in the state Senate after being approved by the House, according to media reports.

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A regional clean air agency in Washington state is developing a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) proposal that would apply to the greater Seattle metropolitan area, or roughly half of the state’s population -- a move that experts say may heighten pressure on state lawmakers to set up an overriding statewide LCFS.

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A new ruling from EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) sets a high bar for litigants to overcome deference to a state’s interpretation of ambiguities in its own Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting rules, holding that Idaho environmentalists fell far short of the standard in their challenge to a CWA discharge permit.

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EPA says it may provide guidance to its regions on facilitating the use of what has been a little-used “look first” approach -- where regulators first pursue third parties, such as environmental remediation contractors or real estate investors, after potentially responsible parties (PRPs) transfer their cleanup obligations to them in settlements.

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Environmentalists and other critics of the Trump EPA’s deregulatory agenda are citing plans to roll back vehicle greenhouse gas and power plant mercury rules as high-profile examples of a double standard in which officials ignore “co-benefits” that strengthen rules but embrace them when they help justify weaker standards.

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June 17, 2019

State air regulators are warning that EPA’s imminent Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) power plant greenhouse gas rule will, if finalized as proposed, leave them vulnerable to suits from regulated utilities, their competitors and environmentalists because it does not set an GHG reduction target against which their plans would be assessed.

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Environmentalists say EPA’s issuance of state-specific waivers for industry emissions spikes during startup, shutdown and malfunction (SSM) events in lieu of issuing a final national rule approving such waivers appears to be a bid to evade a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit case that could block such a policy.

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Environmentalists are urging EPA science advisors ahead of their upcoming meeting to examine whether the agency provided adequate data for its draft conclusion that pigment violet 29 (PV29) does not pose unreasonable risk, stepping up their long-running effort to challenge EPA’s first assessment of an existing chemical under the revised toxics law.

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The Justice Department is defending the scoring method EPA used to justify one of the agency’s first listings of a site to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) based solely on the presence of vapor intrusion, rejecting a lawsuit by industry groups that could determine the parameters for such listings.

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Major industry groups are backing EPA’s issuance of “significant impact levels” (SILs) that states can use to exempt industry air permit applicants from extensive permit review, backing the agency’s defense of the screening tools against environmentalists’ lawsuit that claims SILs allow unlawful violations of federal air quality standards.

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CalEPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are defending the board’s protocol for issuing U.S. forest greenhouse gas offset credits and declining to undertake an independent review of the rules, in a response to lawmakers who argued a recent academic analysis shows the protocol significantly over-credits forest projects.

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June 14, 2019

A federal appeals court has dismissed environmentalists’ suit over an EPA policy shift that bars the agency from “second-guessing” states’ Clean Air Act Title V permit decisions, boosting the policy in the short-term although the court rejected the suit on procedural grounds so a future lawsuit could still challenge the policy’s merits.

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EPA has quietly withdrawn its appeal of a federal district court’s order that backed environmentalists’ petition to expand the universe of facilities subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) stormwater discharge permits, signaling that it will move to comply with the order though officials have made no formal statement on how they plan to proceed.

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Key EPA advisory committees governing air quality policy, children’s health, environmental justice and environmental finance are among more than a dozen facing elimination after President Donald Trump issued an order requiring EPA and other agencies to disband one-third of their federal advisory committees (FACs) by Sept. 30.

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Top leaders of the Senate environment committee have reached a bipartisan deal requiring EPA to craft a series of new drinking water, toxics and reporting rules governing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and are seeking to attach the legislation as an amendment to a pending defense bill that is slated for floor debate as soon as next week.

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EPA’s interim draft guide for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in groundwater is drawing wide-ranging criticisms, with environmentalists charging it is too weak, industry questioning its scientific basis and the agency’s procedures in developing it and states charging it does not adequately preserve their requirements.

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June 13, 2019

EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is investigating complaints that Trump administration officials suppressed Region 5 staff’s critical comments on Minnesota regulators’ draft Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for a controversial mine, escalating a dispute that is seen as a major test case for the agency’s efforts to accelerate permitting.

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Judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit appear to be leaning toward EPA’s view that the agency should not “second guess” states’ decisions on underlying requirements included in Clean Air Act Title V air operating permits, in the second lawsuit to test the Trump administration’s change of policy on such agency review.

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The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has agreed to excavate coal ash from a leaking waste impoundment that was at the center of both a closely watched Clean Water Act (CWA) citizen suit and a state enforcement action, handing environmentalists a win on the issue even after a federal appeals court rejected their CWA claims.

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) is citing the state’s aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gases and climate change as key arguments in his office’s opposition to a draft federal environmental impact statement (EIS) for a plan that would allow new oil and gas leases to be issued in California for the first time since 2013.

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