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Daily News

June 25, 2020

A fiscal year 2020-21 budget deal reached between California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is restoring funding for some key air quality programs, while deferring action until later this year on how to spend revenue from the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program and sweeping reforms at the toxics department.

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The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is urging EPA to allow the industry to pay fees to help cover the costs of upcoming TSCA risk evaluations in installments, the latest proposal from industry officials seeking to overcome resistance from the agency to ease fee requirements in the face of the pandemic.

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EPA’s top political research official is asking the agency’s science advisors to assist staff in updating and crafting new chemical risk assessment guidance for the agency, saying that the project will be challenging and years-long but also necessary and overdue as some of the existing guidance documents were crafted in the 1980s.

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June 24, 2020

Capitol Hill testimony from a current Department of Justice (DOJ) official is lending new weight to claims that the Trump administration’s attacks on California and other states’ vehicle climate rules are driven by politics rather than substance, potentially bolstering a legal fight against the administration’s move, according to observers.

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Pharmaceutical giant Bayer June 24 announced it is settling massive multi-faceted tort litigation brought against its subsidiary agrochemical company Monsanto, committing to pay as much as $12.12 billion to remedy claims allegedly linking cancer to its herbicide Roundup and claims from states and localities over polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) water contamination.

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A top California energy official and the former climate adviser for Gov. Jerry Brown (D) say it is likely inevitable that the state mandates electric appliances in new homes and commercial buildings -- and bars natural gas models -- to help achieve aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

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Former EPA officials and some local air regulators are criticizing the legal basis and implications of EPA’s proposed rule placing new restrictions on guidance documents, arguing the plan continues a pattern by Trump officials of using vague statutory authority to issue deregulatory actions.

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EPA is grappling with its options for providing policy “clarity” to the Supreme Court’s decision finding discharges of pollutants that travel through groundwater to surface waters can require a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, says Region 4 chief Mary Walker, including potential rulemaking, guidance, and other measures.

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California is expanding its defense against the Trump administration’s remaining claim that the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program link to Quebec is unconstitutional, detailing multiple arguments before a federal district court that the connection does not violate the Foreign Affairs Doctrine.

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EPA has decided not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down its policy barring scientists receiving agency grants from serving on its advisory panels but is suggesting it may instead seek to codify the policy in a new supplemental ethics regulation.

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EPA, in a just-issued report, says some of its existing policies will need to be “further refined or explained” in order to implement ambitious goals set by Administrator Andrew Wheeler to increase use of new alternative methods (NAMs) as part of a paradigm shift when testing the toxicity of chemicals over the next 15 years.

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EPA toxics chief Alex Dunn and other top officials appear to be downplaying expectations that the agency will be able to comply with the revised Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) ambitious statutory deadlines, describing the law as a “jacket” that the agency is trying to tailor so that it can be implemented over the long-term.

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Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), a top House Republican and one of the lead authors of the revised toxics law, is criticizing EPA’s failure to issue orders to force additional industry data and testing of chemicals and its handling of new chemical applications, signaling bipartisan criticism over the landmark 2016 law’s implementation.

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June 23, 2020

As EPA headquarters and several regional offices begin the first phase of reopening, the agency’s largest employee union is urging staff to continue working from home due to concerns about unsafe working conditions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

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Electric utilities and 16 mainly Democratic-led states are seeking to intervene in a coal company’s suit challenging the Obama EPA’s mercury and air toxics standards (MATS), aiming to defend the agency’s landmark air toxics policy and fearing the Trump administration will not “zealously” defend the rule because of its deregulatory agenda.

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The energy sector is backing the Justice Department’s (DOJ) call for the Supreme Court to stay a district court’s vacatur of a federal Clean Water Act (CWA) general permit for constructing new oil and gas pipelines, citing numerous alleged legal flaws with the lower court’s ruling and claiming widespread harms from the resulting halt in permitting.

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In a potentially precedent-setting decision, a federal judge has permanently blocked California from requiring companies to provide Proposition 65 cancer warning labels on products containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in many herbicides and the popular weed killer Roundup, finding the mandate violates their First Amendment rights.

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Environmentalists are rebutting a California energy agency’s appeal of a court ruling that struck down the process for challenging approvals of new natural gas-fired power plants as unconstitutional, emphasizing that a change in state law since the process was first approved cements their case.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit is backing other circuits in easing the ability to shift litigation from state courts to federal courts for actions that government contractors connect to federal government orders, in a case over exposure to hazardous substances at a Superfund site in Indiana that will now be heard in federal court.

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House Democrats are formally introducing a sweeping $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that includes numerous environmental and clean energy provisions, including a mandate to factor greenhouse gas emissions into transportation planning, extend clean energy tax credits and study whether EPA data could be used to impose future carbon fees.

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