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Daily News

June 07, 2019

Biofuels industry officials are warning that EPA’s ongoing issuance of waivers to small refiners from having to meet renewable fuel standard (RFS) biofuel blending mandates could make the agency’s imminent proposed 2020 RFS fuel production targets “meaningless” because the exemptions undermine biofuels production levels.

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EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) is planning to review a broad range of Trump administration deregulatory policies in a relatively quick fashion in order to provide advice on the agency’s regulatory timeline, efforts that SAB Chairman Michael Honeycutt acknowledges will be difficult but adds that the board has voted to undertake.

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Over strenuous objection of states, EPA has issued new guidance limiting states’ powers to review federally approved permits under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), setting tight timelines for completing the reviews and warning officials against blocking or restricting projects for any reason other than its direct water quality impacts.

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Critics of the Trump administration say EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation (OAR) staff shuffle that removes longtime transportation air quality chief Chris Grundler from his post may be retaliation for agency career employees pushing back on efforts to undo Obama-era rules, including vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards.

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June 06, 2019

Nearly all major auto manufacturers in a late-hour pitch are urging the White House and California to “resurrect” negotiations toward a “compromise” vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas plan, despite widespread doubts that policymakers can forge such a deal that averts a legal war over the rules.

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State, tribal and individual plaintiffs suing EPA over the 2015 Gold King wastewater spill have won their bid for broad fact-finding into the failed cleanup that released over 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from the site after a special court master rejected the agency’s argument for a more limited process that could have quickly ended the suit.

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The interstate commission that governs water pollution controls in the Ohio River Valley has voted to convert its mandates for discharge permits in the region into a voluntary program for the eight member states, boosting regulators’ freedom to craft their own policies in a move that environmentalists say will spur a “race to the bottom” in the region.

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The Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) is beginning to formally withdraw as a party in dozens of lawsuits -- the first public step in the industry group’s “unwinding” activities that were announced last month when it said it would disband in the midst of high-profile scrutiny over its ties with EPA air chief Bill Wehrum and other matters.

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EPA’s final guidance on how states can exclude calculations of air pollution precursor impacts from plans and permits for attaining federal fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standards retains several provisions from the proposed version that environmentalists said were too weak, which might prompt critics to file suit over the guide.

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California lawmakers are advancing landmark legislation that would establish a target of reducing plastic waste from single-use containers 75 percent by 2030, but the measure faces a growing list of industry and business opponents who are ramping up lobbying efforts to kill the effort.

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California lawmakers are weighing new eligibility restrictions under the state air board’s popular zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) purchase rebate program, following warnings by the board that the program is on the brink of “collapse” due to substantial oversubscription and an inadequate amount of money.

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An expert panel is urging California lawmakers to replace the state’s strict “inverse condemnation” liability standard for utilities that cause wildfires with a softer “fault-based” standard, though the Legislature appears likely to punt on the issue this year and instead potentially advance bills addressing utility cost recovery and compensating fire victims.

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June 05, 2019

EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) has formally decided to seek review of several major deregulatory measures listed in the agency’s Spring regulatory agenda, suggesting continuing scrutiny of the pending proposals either before or after they go final.

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Several members of EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) are raising concerns with Administrator Andrew Wheeler's push for planning office staff to create a new process for agency interactions with the board when advisors review the science underlying pending regulations.

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Environmentalists say an imminent vote by the interstate body that oversees water permitting for the Ohio River Valley is a decision between keeping or “disbanding” protections for the region, arguing that if states agree to less-stringent water rules it would demonstrate a “race to the bottom” under the Trump EPA.

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Electric utilities and automakers are making a final push for California regulators to delay a first-time “voluntary” rule for certifying zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty powertrains, arguing that implementing the rule too soon could thwart the expansion of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by making it a de facto requirement for complying with other vehicle fleet regulations and qualifying for lucrative incentives.

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EPA’s local government advisors are calling for a “shared governance” approach under the agency’s pending Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule, seeking an overarching policy with regional flexibility for some states and other entities to make jurisdiction findings, rather than requiring states to approve laws to fill any policy gaps the rule might create.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden’s climate platform signals an effort to achieve broad support for his 2020 presidential bid by endorsing technologies backed by key unions, adopting a tough line against China to woo Trump voters, and touting his experience by embracing and pledging to “go well beyond” Obama-era policies.

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June 04, 2019

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit appeared sympathetic to first-time arguments by 21 youth plaintiffs that the government is violating their due-process constitutional rights by promoting fossil fuels and exposing them to climate change harms.

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EPA has sent for White House review its contentious guidance expected to narrow states’ authority to reject or modify federal Clean Water Act (CWA) permits under the law’s section 401, teeing up release of the new guide by the president’s June 8 deadline and a likely legal challenge from states that oppose any new curbs on their authority.

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