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Daily News

February 18, 2021

The Justice Department (DOJ) is asking a federal appeals court to stay for 60 days an appeal of a district court ruling that blocked implementation of the Trump-era definition of waters of the United States (WOTUS), arguing that opposition to a stay from a coalition of industry groups and an Idaho couple is without merit.

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EPA is considering whether to broaden any evaluation of four chemicals known as ethanones beyond the conditions of use manufacturers proposed in their request for the agency to conduct the study, marking an early sign of how the Biden administration could strengthen Trump-era TSCA actions that environmentalists say are too narrow.

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February 17, 2021

Newly introduced legislation in California to ban most oil drilling in the state is elevating debate over the potential environmental and economic impacts of such a move, which lawmakers are expected to scrutinize in upcoming committee hearings on the legislation.

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Environmental and equity groups are attacking a move by the California toxics department to enter mediation with the Boeing Co. over the firm’s responsibilities in cleaning up the former Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), charging it marks a reversal of the Newsom administration’s promises to get tough on parties responsible for the contamination.

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California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) officials are projecting potentially significant utility customer cost increases due to the state’s pursuit of transportation and building electrification that are critical components to meet its greenhouse gas and climate goals, with lower-income residents likely to be saddled with a higher proportion of the price shocks.

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Key California lawmakers appear unlikely to propose any significant changes to the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program in 2021, despite continued complaints by some that the system needs to be tightened with higher credit prices and fewer free allocations to industry sectors if the state is to reach its 2030 and longer-term emissions targets.

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California lawmakers have begun debating how they should spend about $1.4 billion in revenue from the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, with some arguing more money should be used to sell zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and build ZEV charging infrastructure and others highlighting the need for forest-management projects to prevent catastrophic wildfires that have been exacerbated by climate change.

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California’s attorney general (AG) is detailing the state’s arguments as it appeals a potentially precedential ruling permanently blocking the state from requiring companies to provide Proposition 65 cancer warning labels on products containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in many herbicides, because it violated their First Amendment rights.

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EPA has released new guidance outlining the process for facility self-audits, drawing praise from industry attorneys who see the move as a sign that the Biden administration will continue to back the compliance policy after its use grew dramatically during the Trump era, even as the agency looks to ramp up enforcement.

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Nearly a dozen major industry groups are pressing the Biden administration to provide “ample” public comment opportunities as it strengthens the social cost of carbon (SCC) metric over the next year, even as White House officials in the coming days are poised to release “interim” revisions that will boost Trump-era estimates.

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A federal district court judge has stayed part of long-running litigation over EPA’s approval of a variance to strict numeric nutrient water quality standards in Montana, agreeing with the state and municipal and industry groups that a pending appeal of a 2019 ruling in the case should be allowed to play out first.

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Former EPA and California air regulators are joining automotive groups in backing Volkswagen’s effort to have the Supreme Court overturn a ruling that the Clean Air Act does not preempt state and local governments from enforcing against post-sale updates to vehicle emissions systems, saying such enforcement is a federal responsibility.

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Environmentalists are looking to the Biden administration to push for more significant reductions in haze-forming air emissions when states submit their second round of pollution-cutting compliance plans this summer under EPA’s regional haze program, after the Trump administration eased haze controls in some states.

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Over a dozen Senate Democrats, including key appropriators, are detailing steps the Biden administration should take to boost federal procurement of electric vehicles (EVs), including accounting for avoided climate damages from such purchases and reworking a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) vehicle fleet plan.

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February 16, 2021

The Biden EPA’s focus on environmental justice (EJ) as a cornerstone of the agency’s actions could face an early test with the first five-year review of a former lead smelter Superfund site in East Chicago, IN -- a site where advocates for years have urged a greater EPA focus on various sources of lead pollution affecting the local EJ community.

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EPA is abandoning the Trump-era approach to systematic data review that guided the first TSCA evaluations of existing chemicals and will craft a new model based in part on a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that said the current approach lacked objectivity “at each step” and “compromised” the program’s transparency.

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States are urging EPA to withdraw what they say is an outdated policy issued in 1986 for how the agency will pursue Clean Air Act enforcement actions against illegal aftermarket catalytic converters, and instead incorporate catalysts into its newly revised anti-tampering policy finalized late last year.

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Automakers are unlikely to win significant new regulatory flexibility from the Biden administration beyond California’s greenhouse gas deal with five companies that is already weaker than Obama-era rules, according to early appraisals from observers, amid signs of an ongoing auto sector split over the scope and stringency of future vehicle GHG rules.

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Michael Regan, President Joe Biden’s nominee for EPA administrator, is vowing in written responses to Senate environment committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) to protect agency scientists from political interference and to make environmental justice (EJ) a cornerstone of EPA actions, echoing commitments from his confirmation hearing.

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February 12, 2021

The Biden administration is facing industry pressure to reissue a scrapped EPA draft rule that would declare woody biomass to be carbon neutral for Clean Air Act permitting purposes, including a request to expand the types of biomass that qualify for the declaration to also include agricultural residues.

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