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Daily News

November 15, 2018

EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine is rejecting calls from Maryland environment director Ben Grumbles for the agency to level “enforcement-related consequences” on Pennsylvania if it continues to fall short of its water pollution reduction goals in the multi-state Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, saying the conflict is not “an enforcement question.”

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Despite Democrats' control of the House next year, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) faces continued uncertainty about its future as its supporters fear the Trump administration may deprive it of a quorum to operate by not nominating new board members to replace those whose terms expire starting at the end of 2019.

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November 14, 2018

After years of debate, the Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan deal that that maintains EPA's authority to set ballast water discharge standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and recognizes invasive species concerns in the Great Lakes, but limits most states' ability to set stricter standards.

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EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine says officials are wrestling with how to apply a Department of Justice (DOJ) policy memo limiting when the administration can enter consent decrees with state and local governments and how long they can last, saying the impact on EPA is “unclear” but doubting it will significantly limit environmental decrees.

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EPA has released new draft toxicology assessments for two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) known as GenX and PFBS, long-awaited by state agencies and other stakeholders, but the numbers -- a stricter level than North Carolina recently adopted for GenX and a weaker level than Minnesota adopted for PFBS -- continue the regulatory patchwork that EPA and states have created.

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EPA has issued an interim final rule that conditionally exempts auto dealers and salvage vendors from hazardous waste requirements when removing and handling recalled and other airbags from vehicles, in a measure aimed at expediting the removal of millions of defective Takata airbag inflators under an ongoing federal recall.

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A municipal wastewater group is charging the Obama administration committed “fraud” when it told a federal appeals court it had made no final decision on its policy for regulating wastewater “blending” and convinced the court to reject the group's suit over the policy, urging judges to recall the mandate in the case and restart the litigation.

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California and Trump administration officials are again ramping up negotiations over changes to vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy rules, with the parties hosting a Nov. 13 meeting -- the first of its kind in more than six weeks -- to discuss the issue amid EPA claims that the state has submitted a “counter-proposal.”

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November 13, 2018

EPA's plan to develop new rules to limit nitrogen oxide (NOx) from heavy-duty trucks could provide the sector leverage to negotiate flexibilities with California, which is planning its own rules, but the plan is also prompting cautious praise from environmentalists and others who suggest the effort may avoid the kind of clash occurring in the light-duty sector.

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The head of a federal health agency that earlier this year recommended stricter risk levels for perfluorinated chemicals than EPA's told a Senate hearing that regulators face significant scientific uncertainty assessing the substances' risks, and raised doubts about whether federal agencies will be able to reach agreement on the risks.

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The indictment of EPA Region 4 Administrator Trey Glenn on criminal charges of violating Alabama's ethics laws is likely to bolster House Democrats' plans to strengthen federal ethics law, which they are already justifying based on concerns that former EPA chief Scott Pruitt was able to escape scrutiny due to inadequate requirements.

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The coal ash reuse sector is pressing EPA to extend its regulatory deadlines for ash impoundments to shut down as it revises the 2015 Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) rule governing the waste, arguing that a longer timeframe will broaden their window to “harvest” previously disposed ash to reuse in products such as wallboard.

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EPA and New Mexico have released a draft white paper aimed at facilitating the use of produced water from oil and gas drilling in the state by identifying regulatory or policy gaps, but the state's ability to make any changes outlined in the paper could be limited by EPA's pending decision on how to manage wastewater from onshore oil and gas extraction.

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Congress is poised to conduct oversight of EPA's efforts to implement the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) but prospects for bipartisan scrutiny of the agency's actions appear limited, sources say, despite broad support for the law's passage and concerns from both industry and environmentalists about different aspects of the program.

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November 12, 2018

An EPA union official says the agency's upcoming restructuring of its regional offices appears designed to overhaul existing enforcement policies and chains of command, likely bolstering political leadership's ability to push reduced regional enforcement and more-lenient compliance while limiting the national enforcement office's oversight of regions.

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EPA on Nov. 13 is poised to announce a Cleaner Trucks Initiative that is expected to include plans for a future rulemaking to update nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions standard for heavy duty trucks, a measure long sought by state and local officials though the measure could also include some important flexibility for manufacturers.

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EPA is facing starkly different interpretations of the legality of its plan to ease the threshold for triggering strict new source review (NSR) air permits for coal plants complying with its proposed utility climate rule, reviving a decades-old debate with pro-coal industry groups backing the changes and environmentalists strongly opposed.

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In a reversal, EPA has struck a deal with its Inspector General (IG) to conduct annual reviews of state compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) and is crafting a National Compliance Initiative (NCI) for drinking water, though environmentalists say the effort will take significant resources that the Trump administration may not be willing to provide.

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EPA's limited response to the Flint, MI, drinking water crisis has prompted several states in the Northeast and Midwest to enact state laws to address lead contamination in municipal water supplies and schools, and while these state actions still fall short of what is needed, the results of the recent election could drive new state and federal efforts to address the issue, a new report says.

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November 09, 2018

Environmentalists and the power sector are waging an 11th-hour effort calling on the White House and EPA to preserve the Obama-era mercury emissions rule for utilities, with environmentalists aiming to keep the rule intact while utilities that have invested millions of dollars to comply want it retained with changes to ease some requirements.

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