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Daily News

March 27, 2020

EPA is taking a case-by-case approach in deciding whether to proceed with cleanup activities at Superfund sites in the face of concerns that continuing remedial work could spread the coronavirus, though the agency is maintaining its ability to respond to “health or environmental emergencies” at Superfund or other waste sites.

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EPA says the coronavirus pandemic is prompting it to retain renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers already granted to small refiners despite an appellate ruling that will strictly limit future issuance of such exemptions, and the agency is also extending a deadline for introducing less-polluting summertime gasoline because of the virus.

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Despite some divisions, many of EPA’s toxics advisors appear to be backing the agency’s controversial approach for assessing the risks of trichloroethylene (TCE), the widely used solvent, likely clearing a path for EPA to finalize a less-conservative evaluation under the toxics law than what many environmentalists and other public health advocates favor.

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March 26, 2020

EPA is pledging to exercise “enforcement discretion” if facilities cannot meet certain legal obligations under agency regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, but environmentalists and former top Obama EPA officials fear the temporary plan will become an indefinite “nationwide waiver of environmental rules.”

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Left out of the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill, the water sector is continuing its push for federal assistance to help utilities and low-income customers pay for their services, redoubling efforts to engage with congressional staff and lawmakers and eyeing potential future rounds of legislation, water utility sources say.

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A federal district judge is rejecting as insufficient under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) the Army Corps’ streamlined environmental assessment (EA) of the Dakota Access Pipeline, citing a new appellate court precedent requiring a more in-depth environmental impact statement (EIS) for “controversial” projects.

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EPA’s draft evaluation of trichloroethylene (TCE) is driving new calls from its science advisors and a top former OSHA official to strengthen its analyses of occupational exposures to chemicals in the first 10 evaluations, suggesting the agency more fully address protections beyond personal protective equipment (PPE).

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California air board chief Mary Nichols says the board remains on track to finalize in May its landmark rule to require medium- and heavy-duty truck makers to sell zero-emission models despite the COVID-19 crisis, while noting that officials are reviewing “a lot” of requests by industries to ease or suspend other rules during the pandemic.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) is urging the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to deny rehearing a three-judge panel’s split ruling dismissing a novel youth constitutional climate change case, arguing that the panel’s decision was correct and that the case does not satisfy the high standard for en banc review.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) is urging the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to deny rehearing of a three-judge panel’s split ruling dismissing a novel youth constitutional climate change case, arguing that the panel’s decision was correct and that the case does not satisfy the high standard for en banc review.

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March 25, 2020

A coalition of mostly auto and energy companies is recommending that leaders in states and at the federal level pursue new policies and programs to bolster hydrogen use in energy, transportation and other major economic sectors as a replacement for conventional fossil fuels to help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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The waste and recycling industry is asking EPA to suspend enforcement of numerous rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest in a series of sectors seeking relief from EPA in a guidance that is expected to be issued as soon as March 26.

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EPA is taking steps to address widespread industry fears over fees the agency must levy to pay for upcoming risk evaluations under the revised toxics law, including creating waivers so some firms may be exempted from future obligations and issuing an enforcement waiver for those companies that fail to self-identify ahead of a May deadline.

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EPA in a new draft guidance document is easing the path for industry to start building projects that may increase air emissions, without first obtaining a new source review (NSR) air permit, but while environmentalists oppose the move they also doubt it will have much real-world impact and is a “largely ineffectual favor” from EPA to industry.

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EPA toxics chief Alex Dunn sought to assure advisors reviewing draft risk evaluations that the agency is “listening to you,” but during a March 24 meeting to review the agency’s draft evaluation of trichloroethylene (TCE) some advisors renewed long-running concerns that have spanned multiple evaluations.

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Supporters of climate and environmental measures are turning their hopes to a potential “phase 4” bill to respond to the coronavirus pandemic after lawmakers spurned a suite of proposals in an unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus package speeding toward approval this this week.

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March 24, 2020

Environmentalists are stepping up calls for EPA to extend comment deadlines for major deregulatory plans during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing in the case of its coal ash rule that failing to act risks violating constitutional Due Process rights and statutory requirements.

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In a potential setback for environmentalists, a federal district court judge has put on hold their novel litigation challenging the lack of climate change considerations in a Clean Water Act (CWA) discharge permit for an ExxonMobil oil terminal, finding it is appropriate to wait until EPA finalizes a renewed permit for the facility next year.

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Lower prices for California greenhouse gas allowances on the secondary market due to the coronavirus pandemic are leading some experts to predict reduced credit sales at the next quarterly joint California-Quebec auction scheduled for May, which could significantly reduce revenue for the state to lower GHGs through various programs.

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The American Petroleum Institute (API) and other industry groups are pressing EPA and other agencies for a slew of regulatory exemptions to ease the impact of the ongoing economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, prompting alarm from environmentalists who warn the move is intended to serve as a pretext for further deregulation.

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