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Daily News

November 28, 2018

On the eve of EPA's release of its final 2019 renewable fuel standard (RFS) production goals, the agency is said to have decided to “freeze” its controversial use of RFS waivers for small refiners, reportedly suspending its issuance of waivers pending a review of its methodology following pressure from biofuels groups and fuel retailers.

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As EPA prepares to consider its long-awaited plan to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of rural utilities is urging acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler “to resist calls for a national” drinking water standard for PFAS, asking the agency instead to focus on alternative methods to deal with contamination rather than regulation.

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A new carbon tax bill lays out the most ambitious bipartisan carbon pricing plan in nearly a decade, as proponents seek to remain relevant ahead of next year's congressional agenda and perhaps turn the page from the recent defeat of a state-level carbon tax ballot measure that omitted industry-favored compromises in the federal plan.

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Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the United States is on track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals under the Paris Agreement even as it prepares to withdraw from the international climate deal, though a new United Nations report contradicts that claim, finding the U.S. to be far from its reduction pledges.

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The Army's installations and environment office has ordered the service's commands to immediately seek to reduce the open-burning of explosives waste in the face of ongoing pressure from citizens groups to end the practice just as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is slated to suggest demilitarization alternatives to open burning/open detonation (OB/OD) of munitions.

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Alexandra Dunn, President Donald Trump's second nominee to serve as EPA's toxics chief, is not likely to face the same level of opposition during her Nov. 29 confirmation hearing that the administration's first nominee, Micheal Dourson, drew in his failed bid but sources expect that Dunn will still face tough questions on the Trump EPA's implementation of the revised federal toxics law and other issues.

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November 27, 2018

EPA is seeking to limit information the agency requests from industry or states in enforcement and regulatory proceedings under federal air, waste and water laws, in a bid to ease burdens on industry and the agency, though the actions are reviving accusations that the Trump administration is curtailing environmental oversight.

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A second federal district judge has ruled that EPA's delay of the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule was unlawful and scraps the Trump administration's order blocking the rule's enforcement nationwide, solidifying a regulatory patchwork on the CWA's reach as various court decisions have now revived the rule in 22 states.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is explaining its October decision to vacate the Army Corps of Engineers' use of a Clean Water Act (CWA) dredge-and-fill permit to construct a portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a major natural gas pipeline, in West Virginia, saying in a hard-hitting ruling that the Corps lacked authority to unilaterally change the permit's conditions.

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The Trump administration's newly released assessment warning of significant economic damages from global warming also cites the social cost of carbon (SCC) metric the Obama administration used to estimate the benefits of emission cuts, even as the Trump EPA and other agencies are significantly curtailing use of the tool.

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EPA has quietly issued a new policy that sets a schedule for political officials to review Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) releases and also requires prompt disclosures of the review, a policy that the agency is citing to head off a pending lawsuit challenging the practice as well as a possible subpoena from House Democrats in the next Congress.

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Utilities are asking a federal appeals court to let them intervene in environmentalist groups' suit over the Trump EPA's first round of revisions to the Obama-era coal ash disposal rule, in which the groups are alleging that the agency ignored its duty to avert harms to health and the environment when it extended compliance deadlines.

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November 26, 2018

The Trump administration's recently released national assessment outlining increasingly serious effects from climate change is giving critics fresh political ammunition to challenge officials' efforts to dismiss the issue, and could also provide legal fodder for those fighting EPA's various climate rule rollbacks.

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EPA's recently released draft assessment of pigment violet 29 (PV29), the first such study of an existing chemical under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is likely to pose a test of the new law's data standards as environmentalists and others doubt the agency has enough information on which to base its conclusion that the substance does not pose an “unreasonable risk.”

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EPA is proposing to delay full implementation of Obama-era emissions limits for some wood-burning heaters through May 2022 and seeking input on potentially delaying implementation of other limits for similar devices, while also eyeing a possible broader delay or weakening of emissions limits that are slated to take effect in 2020.

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Former members of EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) are attacking what they say is the agency's “harmful” decision to shorten its national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) review process, warning that it will weaken CASAC's input on the standards and undermine the quality of its advice and its reputation.

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Recent negotiations between the White House and California on light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards are boosting optimism -- albeit slightly -- that the two sides can reach some kind of deal to avert a legal collision over the Trump administration's pending plan to freeze standards after model year 2020.

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November 21, 2018

House Republicans are floating draft legislation that would create a national standard to boost the octane rating of fuel in order to promote ethanol while phasing out EPA's contentious renewable fuel standard (RFS) program, on the eve of the agency's release of its 2019 RFS goals for producing ethanol and other fuels.

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EPA is preparing to ask a federal district court to stay a Dec. 17 deadline to develop a cleanup plan for the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest while the Justice Department (DOJ) decides whether it will appeal the court's order requiring development of the plan, which aims to control water temperature that is expected to increase due to climate change.

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Top Democrats on the House energy committee aren't waiting until they officially take control of the chamber in the next Congress before starting aggressive oversight of Trump EPA climate rule rollbacks -- an effort that appears to both signal plans for 2019 as well as preserve jurisdiction in the event that party leaders create a special climate panel.

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