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Daily News

November 09, 2018

EPA in new draft guidance is floating a new definition of “ambient air” that would make it easier for industries and regulators to exclude facilities from Clean Air Act requirements if the general public has no access to them, because the revised definition expands the scope of when areas deter or preclude access by the general public.

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The federal court decision rejecting the State Department's environmental review of the Keystone tar sands pipeline has delivered a fresh rebuke of Trump administration's efforts to reverse Obama-era climate and other policies, and could preview or even boost other battles where critics fault the administration for failing to adequately justify policy rollbacks.

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Utilities are urging EPA to launch a comprehensive site-specific review of which coal ash disposal facilities that were formerly exempt from the Obama-era ash waste rule should now be subject to disposal standards, following an appellate ruling that ended the waivers and that environmentalists say justifies a broader, stricter rule.

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Environmentalists plan to make the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's order for EPA to strengthen its 2015 coal ash disposal rule a centerpiece of two recently-filed challenges to the agency's Trump-era ash policies, offering an early signal of how environmentalists plan to broaden the precedent set by the order.

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House Democrats are expected to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) -- the law historically used by Republicans to rescind swaths of the Obama administration's regulatory agenda -- as a political weapon to challenge the Trump administration's deregulatory efforts at EPA and other agencies when they formally assume control of the chamber in 2019.

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November 08, 2018

The Supreme Court is fast-tracking petitions over whether the Clean Water Act (CWA) limits groundwater pollution that flows into surface waters, setting a Nov. 30 date to consider whether to take up the two pending cases testing the issue within hours of the parties filing their final briefs.

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Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has quietly issued new guidance that limits agency oversight of states' delegated programs and calls federal intervention a “last option” even when states allow for significant noncompliance, an approach that is drawing criticism from environmentalists who say it ignores statutory mandates to review some permits.

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EPA is facing growing calls from states and other stakeholders to set surface water standards for perfluorinated compounds, but the agency currently has no plans to establish such standards, an EPA water official told state waste managers recently.

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EPA's final rule for how states should implement the 2015 ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) expands their ability to cite international emissions as a reason to waive some emissions control requirements, but the regulation sidesteps key legal questions on weakening air pollution controls raised by an appeals court's ruling.

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November 07, 2018

As Democrats prepare to re-take control of the House following their Nov. 6 midterm victories, party leaders are pledging to intensify a focus on climate change but they must also perform a tricky balancing act between responding to pent-up pressure for legislation against the steep odds of enacting a major measure and the possibility for electoral blowback in 2020.

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A just-filed Supreme Court petition could provide a vehicle for the justices to set a new standard on the Clean Water Act's (CWA) scope or even strike down a notoriously vague provision that governs federal jurisdiction under the law, which could end a “thicket” of litigation on the issue and short-circuit EPA's rule to clarify the law's reach.

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EPA is reverting to a 2009 definition of “project aggregation” for Clean Air Act permitting that may help facilities avoid stringent new source review (NSR) permits, because the revived policy uses several tests that make it easier to argue that facility activities should not be aggregated, or combined, and therefore are exempt from NSR permits.

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In the wake of the midterm elections, Congress is gearing up for a debate in the upcoming lame duck session on whether and how to fund EPA and several other agencies for the rest of fiscal year 2019 ahead of an early December deadline -- amid signs prior to the election that lawmakers appear likely to provide the agency with level funding.

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Democrats have regained control of the House for the first time since 2010, giving them new oversight power to scrutinize the Trump administration's deregulatory agenda, even as Republicans made gains in the Senate, according to early election results.

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November 06, 2018

EPA is threatening to challenge California's plan to set new water quality standards for parts of the state's Bay-Delta, an effort that appears aimed in part at bolstering the re-election of a vulnerable GOP lawmaker, but environmentalists say the agency is unlikely to follow through because it would set a precedent that would increase the universe of state standards subject to review.

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The Trump administration is ramping up its legal campaign to prevent a federal district court trial in a high-profile youth climate case, filing a flurry of new motions to scuttle the litigation after its prior appeals were rejected by the Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

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EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) is preparing to peer review a long-awaited update to a model for estimating concentrations of lead in adults and children exposed to the potent neurotoxin, estimates that could help advance a court-ordered rule on renovations in public and commercial buildings as well as a host of site-specific cleanup decisions.

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EPA is proposing to ease stringent sediment cleanup levels at a high-profile Oregon Superfund site due to an updated risk review for the chemical benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), but the risk revisions are unlikely to trigger modifications to cleanups at many other, if any, Superfund sites, according to an EPA official.

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November 05, 2018

Representatives from more than a dozen children's environmental health research centers are asking Congress to ensure EPA renews its “longtime commitment to children’s health” by renewing key grant funds, warning that EPA's failure to provide new grants imperils critical research into environmental triggers for certain childhood diseases.

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Washington state's carbon “fee” ballot initiative is being closely watched nationally for its potential to set up a first-of-its-kind state carbon tax, though supporters of a federal approach would likely downplay the measure if it were to fail, given that the state policy omits assumed elements of a compromise many expect is needed for such a national plan.

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