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Daily News

February 10, 2020

The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposes to cut EPA’s budget by 26 percent, including a 16 percent reduction in the agency’s core Environmental Programs and Management (EPM) account, as well as steeper cuts in Superfund, science and other programs, prompting warnings that the plan is dead on arrival in Congress.

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Even as EPA rolls back its facility safety rules, the White House is proposing to eliminate fiscal year 2021 funding for two key chemical safety programs -- the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, worrying industry officials who fear the plan will undermine protections.

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Former EPA officials, state drinking water regulators and drinking water utilities are raising a series of concerns with EPA’s proposed update to its Safe Drinking Water Act lead and copper rule (LCR), though they agree that aspects of the proposal are unclear and may not be implementable, thereby undermining its effort to cut lead in drinking water.

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An industry attorney is warning of a broad judicial and public pushback to the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) plan overhauling National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rules, which he says will create unintended consequences, including novel lawsuits to hamstring the rule, a loss of deference and agency confusion.

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EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is weighing a major overhaul of the agency’s policy for issuing renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers to small refineries following an appellate ruling that rejected several exemptions, with some refining sector officials fearing the decision will force EPA to dramatically cut the number of waivers it issues.

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The Trump administration is calling for $6.7 billion for EPA in its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, a 26 percent cut-in funding over FY20 levels, and elimination of over 50 programs -- a reprise of past budget plans that have been rejected by Congress.

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February 07, 2020

EPA is planning to issue a proposal to retain the agency’s suite of existing national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and larger “coarse” particles (PM10), ignoring a call from agency staff to tighten the annual health-based PM2.5 limit to adequately protect human health, an informed source says.

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The Trump administration and its critics are at odds over whether a district court can proceed with litigation challenging the Trump administration’s rule preempting state vehicle greenhouse gas rules after an appellate court issued an order denying the parties’ competing requests to pause or speed its consideration of the dispute.

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The Justice Department (DOJ) has reportedly dropped its antitrust inquiry into four auto companies that agreed to a voluntary “framework” agreement with California to meet more stringent vehicle greenhouse gas standards than the Trump administration is poised to finalize, though it is unclear if other companies will now back the state’s plan.

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Mike Stoker, the EPA Region 9 administrator who was abruptly fired this week, says he often clashed with leadership in the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters over both policy and non-policy issues and was frustrated that top officials made many key decisions for the large Pacific Southwest region without his input.

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EPA and other federal agencies are exploring new ways to analyze nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf of Mexico, looking to better track water quality trends in sub-basins in addition to measuring the annual size of the hypoxic, or “dead,” zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by excess nutrients.

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House Democrats are seeking fixes to proposed legislation to expand carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) -- including more protection for drinking water and ensuring carbon dioxide is actually kept from the atmosphere -- signaling the need for further negotiations on the bill that could delay moving it this year.

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February 06, 2020

EPA will “probably” do a supplemental risk evaluation on legacy uses of asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), according to the agency’s toxics chief, in an effort to address the recent appellate decision requiring officials to assess such uses while not delaying work agency staff have already done analyzing asbestos' ongoing uses.

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EPA will “probably” do a supplemental risk evaluation on legacy uses of asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), according to the agency’s toxics chief, in an effort to address the recent appellate decision requiring officials to assess such uses while not delaying work agency staff have already done analyzing asbestos' ongoing uses.

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With the Trump administration slated to release its fiscal year 2021 budget request Feb. 10, House appropriators are signaling that they could use their next spending bill to give more resources to EPA’s recycling program, although waste chief Peter Wright downplayed any need for a funding boost at a recent hearing on the subject.

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Facing legal and administrative deadlines, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has finalized a first-time rule that mandates reports from chemical facilities in the wake of accidental chemical releases, despite industry claims that the rule is unnecessary or that the board should rely on other accident reports that facilities submit to other federal entities such as EPA or OSHA.

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EPA has issued a final rule approving Texas’ Clean Air Act compliance plan that includes an “affirmative defense” shielding industrial facilities from civil liability for excess emissions that violate agency air standards, an effort critics say is part of a broader strategy to undo an Obama-era policy forcing states to stop using the exemptions.

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The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) is urging EPA to strengthen its enforcement of Clean Air Act toxic emissions rules for refineries after a review of refinery fenceline monitoring data shows air toxics at levels exceeding the agency’s “action level” that requires facilities to correct excess pollution.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is defending his approach of negotiating voluntary water supply agreements with the agriculture industry and local water districts, charging that environmentalists seeking tougher water quality and supply mandates to protect fish should stop filing counterproductive lawsuits and seek more compromises.

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EPA has formalized advice that the widely used herbicide glyphosate poses no risks to human health and is not a carcinogen, a finding that industry is expected to cite in suits seeking to overturn California’s cancer warning rules and Monsanto’s appeal of a precedent-setting damages award for consumers who allegedly got cancer from exposure to the substance in Roundup.

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