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Daily News

March 12, 2020

A federal district court judge is rejecting two major claims by the Trump administration that California’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program link to Quebec is unconstitutional, handing the Department of Justice (DOJ) a major defeat in the case and forcing it to decide whether to proceed with a pair of lower-profile claims or advance an appeal.

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A House Energy & Commerce panel is advancing legislation requiring EPA to implement a 15-year phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), chemicals that act as potent greenhouse gases, though partisan clashes over the measure are highlighting the difficulties of approving even modest GHG reduction mandates in Congress.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democrats are seeking to create a new $20 billion EPA grant program for states to clean up drinking water and groundwater contaminated by certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a new emphasis in their ongoing efforts to address the issue in the absence of EPA rules.

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Federal agencies are scrambling to protect the U.S. workforce from the coronavirus threat, with EPA announcing that its staff should be prepared to soon start teleworking to reduce exposure risks and OSHA detailing a range of voluntary steps companies can take to reduce employees’ risks depending on their potential exposure.

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The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is touting a new report that “proves” wind power plants can significantly bolster renewable integration on the state’s electricity grid while enhancing reliability, a finding that may aid the operator’s years-old push for an expanded Western grid system.

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Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee, is pressing EPA to release an economic analysis he says shows billions of dollars in consumer benefits from bipartisan legislation to establish a 15-year phasedown of the potent greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

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Various CalEPA boards and departments are rescheduling and altering public meetings and workshops to reduce or eliminate in-person attendance and cut the risk of spreading the coronavirus that is becoming an increasing public health threat across the country and globe, according to officials.

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Environmentalists have filed a new lawsuit claiming soda makers and other manufacturers of plastic-packaged items are effectively lying to their customers by continuing to use “virgin” plastics and painting recycling and litter reduction as solutions to a growing waste problem, echoing similar “nuisance” suits over fossil fuel and lead paint pollution.

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March 11, 2020

The Defense Department (DOD) is estimating that its costs for cleaning up the two most studied per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) will be approximately $3 billion, an estimate that is 50 percent higher than its previous rough estimate, but the department expects that number to grow as it further investigates contamination.

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With the federal chemical security program’s power slated to expire next month, its future is in doubt as lawmakers are at an impasse over whether to eliminate and replace it with a voluntary effort that the Trump administration and some Senate Republicans favor, or temporarily extend it as House Democrats and some industry groups prefer.

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California lawmakers are pursuing bipartisan legislation to create a new state subsidy to bolster sales of renewable diesel and biodiesel to replace petroleum diesel in on- and off-road trucks and equipment, aiming to significantly cut greenhouse gases, particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants primarily in disadvantaged communities.

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Democratic lawmakers, former EPA officials, a large coalition of environmental groups and states are urging the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to drop its plan to scale back how federal agencies implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), renewing a series of sharp critiques in formal comments on the policy.

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Senators at a March 11 confirmation hearing pressed Doug Benevento, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be EPA’s next deputy administrator, on a host of contentious EPA policies including the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and rule reviews but they did not make direct threats to hold up his nomination over the policy concerns.

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Utilities, manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are fighting New York’s legal bid to force direct EPA regulation of hundreds of upwind air pollution sources that hinder downwind states’ attainment of federal air standards, with the opponents saying the effort unlawfully tries to create a regional interstate emissions program.

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Backers of legislation authorizing EPA to phase down potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are not giving up efforts to move the measure through the Senate, even though a broader energy bill has derailed amid disagreements about whether to add the HFC restrictions as an amendment.

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March 10, 2020

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), chair of the appropriations subcommittee overseeing EPA, is urging her Rules Committee colleagues to boost the fiscal year 2021 allocation for her panel so that she can hike funding levels for key agency water programs including its state revolving funds (SRFs), regional water protection, and others.

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With the window narrowing for Congress to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program before it expires next month, a House panel is moving to extend the current authorization for another 18 months as broader legislation that seeks to strengthen the program has lagged.

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EPA science advisors are criticizing the narrow scope of exposures that EPA assessed in its draft risk evaluation of n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) and are urging the agency to better support some of its threshold determinations for environmental and occupational risks that would trigger risk management actions if finalized.

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EPA is taking tentative steps to address growing concerns about the adverse impacts the coronavirus could have on its workforce, pursuing plans that include notifying some regional office employees they are eligible for unscheduled telework and leave even as the full impact of the virus on EPA remains unclear.

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Legal experts are debating whether it is appropriate for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to justify much of its proposal to vastly limit the reach of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on a single, unique Supreme Court ruling.

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